Visiting Kyoto should definitely be on your bucket list if you’re planning a trip to Japan. This city offers an incredible blend of historical sites, natural beauty, and cultural experiences. From exploring ancient temples and gardens to indulging in delicious Japanese cuisine and immersing in the world of geishas, there’s something for everyone in Kyoto. Here are 10 exciting things to do in Kyoto that will make your trip an unforgettable one.
Explore Historic Temples and Shrines
Japan is a country that is steeped in tradition and history, and nowhere is this more evident than in the many temples and shrines that dot the landscape. Visitors to Kyoto, in particular, will be delighted by the city’s many beautiful and historic temples and shrines, each with its own unique story to tell.
Kinkaku-ji: The Golden Pavilion
Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kyoto. It was originally built in the 14th century as a retirement villa for a shogun and later converted into a Zen temple. The temple’s most striking feature is its brilliant gold leaf covering on the top two floors, which reflects beautifully on the surrounding pond. Visitors to Kinkaku-ji can explore the temple’s interior, which houses many important Buddhist relics, and take a stroll around its perfectly manicured gardens. The gardens are particularly beautiful in the spring, when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
One of the most interesting things about Kinkaku-ji is its history. The temple has been the target of several attacks over the years, including a fire that destroyed the original structure in 1950. The current building is a faithful reconstruction of the original and is considered a masterpiece of Japanese architecture.
Fushimi Inari Taisha: The Thousand Torii Gates
Fushimi Inari Taisha is an incredible shrine located at the base of Mount Inari in Kyoto. It’s famous for its thousands of orange torii gates that form a trail up the mountain. The hike to the top of the mountain is quite steep and can take up to 2-3 hours, but the breathtaking views of the city and forests make it all worth it. Along the way, visitors will pass through several smaller shrines and temples, each with its own unique charm.
The shrine is dedicated to the god of rice and sake and is one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan. Visitors to Fushimi Inari Taisha can participate in traditional Shinto rituals, such as washing their hands and mouth before entering the shrine and making offerings of coins and prayers.
Kiyomizu-dera: The Pure Water Temple
Kiyomizu-dera, located on a hillside overlooking Kyoto, is another must-visit temple in the city. The temple’s name translates to “Pure Water Temple” and is named after the waterfall within the complex. Visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the city while exploring the temple’s stunning architecture and gardens. The temple is especially beautiful during the cherry blossom and autumn foliage seasons, when the surrounding trees are ablaze with color.
One of the most interesting features of Kiyomizu-dera is its wooden stage, which juts out from the main hall and offers visitors a stunning view of the surrounding landscape. Legend has it that if you jump from the stage and survive, your wish will be granted. Of course, this practice is now prohibited, but visitors can still enjoy the breathtaking view from the stage.
Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply the natural beauty of Japan, Kyoto’s temples and shrines are sure to enchant and delight you. So why not plan a visit to Kinkaku-ji, Fushimi Inari Taisha, and Kiyomizu-dera today?
Stroll Through Traditional Japanese Gardens
Japan is known for its beautiful and serene gardens that offer a glimpse into the country’s rich culture and history. The gardens are designed to be a representation of the Buddhist paradise and are meticulously crafted to create a peaceful and harmonious environment.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Arashiyama is a district situated on the western outskirts of Kyoto that is known for its stunning bamboo grove. The bamboo grove is one of the most photographed attractions in Kyoto, and for a good reason. Taking a stroll through the grove feels like walking in a magical forest, surrounded by towering bamboos that sway gently in the breeze. The sound of the rustling leaves and the chirping of birds create a peaceful and serene atmosphere that will transport you to another world.
As you walk through the grove, you’ll come across several small shrines and temples that are hidden among the bamboo trees. These shrines offer a glimpse into the country’s rich religious history and are a must-visit for anyone interested in Japanese culture.
Ginkaku-ji: The Silver Pavilion and Garden
Ginkaku-ji, also known as the Silver Pavilion, is a Zen temple that dates back to the 15th century. The temple’s garden is its main attraction, and it’s designed to be a representation of the Buddhist paradise. The garden features meticulously designed scenery, including sand mounds and moss-covered rock formations. Visitors can also enjoy a cup of matcha tea while enjoying the serene ambiance of the temple and its surroundings.
One of the most unique features of the garden is the “Moon Viewing Platform,” which offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The platform is especially beautiful during the autumn months when the leaves of the surrounding trees turn a vibrant shade of red and orange.
Ryoan-ji: The Zen Rock Garden
Ryoan-ji is a serene Zen temple that’s well-known for its rock garden. The garden consists of 15 rocks that are arranged carefully on white gravel. The design of the garden is said to represent a tiger carrying her cubs across a river, but it’s open to interpretation. The temple’s minimalist architecture and tranquil ambiance make it an ideal place for meditation and introspection.
Aside from the rock garden, the temple also features a beautiful pond garden that’s filled with koi fish and surrounded by lush greenery. Visitors can also explore the temple’s main hall, which features beautiful artwork and intricate wood carvings.
No trip to Japan is complete without a visit to these stunning gardens. Each garden offers a unique and unforgettable experience that will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Discover Kyoto’s Geisha Culture
Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, is a city steeped in history and tradition. One of the most fascinating aspects of Kyoto’s culture is its geisha heritage. Geishas are highly skilled entertainers who are trained in traditional Japanese arts such as dance, music, and tea ceremony. They are known for their beauty, grace, and hospitality.
Gion District: Geisha Spotting and Teahouses
Gion is Kyoto’s most famous geisha district and is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in learning about Japanese culture. The district is located in the heart of Kyoto and is famous for its machiya houses, which are traditional wooden townhouses that line the streets. These houses are often adorned with lanterns and other decorations, creating a magical atmosphere that transports visitors back in time.
Visitors to Gion can catch a glimpse of the elusive geishas as they make their way to appointments or performances. Geishas are easily recognizable by their distinctive hairstyles and makeup, and they often wear beautiful kimonos that are works of art in themselves. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a geisha walking with her apprentice, known as a maiko.
The district is also home to numerous teahouses, where visitors can enjoy a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. These teahouses are often tucked away down narrow alleyways and offer a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The tea ceremony is a highly ritualized affair that involves the preparation and serving of matcha, a type of powdered green tea. Visitors can learn about the history and significance of the tea ceremony while savoring the delicate flavors of the tea.
Miyako Odori: The Geisha Dance Performance
Miyako Odori is a geisha dance performance that takes place annually in Kyoto during the cherry blossom season. The show features talented geishas performing traditional dances while wearing stunning kimonos. The performance is a fascinating insight into the world of geishas and the intricate art of traditional Japanese dance.
The Miyako Odori has been held since 1872 and is one of the most highly anticipated events on Kyoto’s cultural calendar. The dances are accompanied by live music played on traditional Japanese instruments such as the shamisen and taiko drums. The costumes worn by the geishas are intricately designed and reflect the changing seasons, with cherry blossoms featuring prominently in the springtime performances.
Maiko Makeover Experience
The Maiko Makeover experience is a unique opportunity to transform into a geisha yourself. Visitors can get their hair and makeup done by professional stylists and wear a traditional geisha outfit for a day. The experience also includes a photo shoot and a tea ceremony, giving visitors a glimpse into the geisha lifestyle and culture.
The Maiko Makeover experience is a popular activity among tourists and locals alike. It allows visitors to immerse themselves in the world of geishas and gain a deeper understanding of their traditions and customs. The experience is also a lot of fun and provides a unique souvenir of your trip to Kyoto.
Overall, Kyoto’s geisha culture is a fascinating and captivating aspect of Japanese culture. Whether you’re watching a performance, sipping tea in a teahouse, or undergoing a transformation yourself, you’re sure to be enchanted by the grace and beauty of these talented entertainers.
Savor Authentic Japanese Cuisine
Kaiseki: The Art of Japanese Fine Dining
Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese fine dining experience that’s known for its artful presentation and seasonal ingredients. The meal typically consists of multiple courses, including appetizers, sashimi, grilled fish, and a hot pot dish. The dishes are carefully prepared to highlight the flavors and textures of each ingredient.
Nishiki Market: A Foodie’s Paradise
Nishiki Market is a bustling indoor market that sells a diverse range of Japanese food products. Visitors can sample different types of sushi, pickles, tea, and snacks while exploring the market’s narrow lanes. The market is a foodie’s paradise and is an excellent place to buy souvenirs and gifts.
Tea Ceremony Experience
A tea ceremony is a traditional Japanese ritual that symbolizes the principles of harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility. The ceremony involves preparing and serving a bowl of matcha tea to guests in a ceremonial tea room. The tea is made with powdered green tea leaves and is known for its unique flavor and health benefits. The tea ceremony experience is a fascinating insight into Japanese culture and is an opportunity to enjoy a tranquil moment in a serene environment.
These are just a few of the exciting things you can do in Kyoto. The city offers endless possibilities for travelers, and every corner is steeped in history and culture. Whether you’re interested in exploring ancient temples, immersing in the world of geishas, or savoring authentic Japanese cuisine, Kyoto is a destination that won’t disappoint. Plan your next adventure and experience the magic of this incredible city!