10 Amazing Things To Do In Kyoto, Japan

All the reasons why every corner in Kyoto seems to whisper a story from the ancient world, full of colorful and lush heritage.

Kyoto – the cultural capital of Japan – was indeed, the headquarter of the old kingdom during Heian Period (794-1185.) Traveling throughout the vibrant city is a full-fledge journey back in time, as Kyoto is the foundation of Japanese traditions and cultural beliefs. From stunning temples displaying breathtaking architectures, to the mystical lives of geishas and samurais; here’s a list of truly amazing things to do in Kyoto that’ll grant a greater appreciation for the finer things in life.

 

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Kinkaku-ji

1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan

Toggle the table of contents Kinkaku-ji
Photo by David Klein on Unsplash

Kinkaku-ji is the ultimate attraction in Kyoto, with its magnificent golden exterior. Often referred to as the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple, not only a World Heritage Site but also designated as a National Special Historic Site and a National Special Landscape that attracts millions of visitors every year. The gold-leaf layers glitter under the sun, Kinkaku-ji sits tranquilly yet glamorously above pristine Japanese gardens. An absolute dazzling sight.

Fushimi Inari Taisha

68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 612-0882, Japan

Fushimi Inari-taisha is an extravagant shrine located at the base of a mountain. Proudly embellishing the city at 233 meters above sea level, Fushimi Inari-taisha is a place of worship for abundance in businesses. A Japanese entrepreneur donated 10,000 torii as a gesture of gratitude while 800 of them are planted in a tunnel-like row, making Fushimi Inari-taisha the perfect scenery for unforgettable photos with striking blood orange hue. To climb the entire landmark requires 2-3 hours, so put on your walking shoes and prepare to be wowed away.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Sagaogurayama Tabuchiyamacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8394, Japan

Located in the northern part of Kyoto, Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is a vision of nature at its best, as it consists of mōsō bamboo (Phyllostachys edulis) with trails designed as walkways for visitors to peacefully stroll through. The entire forest spans over 6.2 square miles, showcasing the beauty of the bamboos, not solely in its soaring height but also the quiet rustling whispers of the bamboos. It’s no wonder that locals have called it, “100 Soundscapes of Japan.”

Kiyomizu-dera

1 Chome-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862, Japan

Kiyomizu-dera is another must-see Buddhist temple, also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Situated in the east part of Kyoto, Kiyomizu-dera overlooks the city via 139 stilts. During the Edo Period, hopeful residents would jump from the temple so their wishes would come true. Don’t miss the Otowa Waterfall where you can make your wish today, replacing the ancient belief. A drink from the waterfall can grant wishes in three different categories: long life, academia, or love. This is also a popular spot for cherry blossom viewings during springtime.

Kiyomizu-dera
Photo by ZHIJIAN DAI on Unsplash

Nijō Castle

541 Nijojocho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8301, Japan

Nijō Castle consists of Ninomaru Palace and the ruins of Honmaru Palace. This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a throwback peek into the home life of Tokugawa shoguns (military rulers.) Throughout the grounds, there are beautiful murals, gorgeous chambers with tatami floors and detailed wood carvings that revealed the power and wealth of a shogun.

Nishiki Market

Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8055, Japan

Nishiki Market, Kyoto
Photo by Dex Ezekiel on Unsplash

For a change of pace, eat your heart out at Nishiki Market. The iconic institution is bustling with food stands and souvenir shops, in addition to encompassing much of the city’s local traditions since it’s nicknamed as “Kyoto’s Kitchen.” Try as many foods as you can, including: kushiage (deep-fried skewers,) fish cake with quail eggs, baby octopus, wagyu steak, soy milk doughnuts…and so much more! With more than 100 restaurants, you certainly won’t run out of options.

Saihōji (Kokedera) Temple

56 Matsuojingatanicho, Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto, 615-8286, Japan

Saihō-ji is a Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple that features gorgeous and lush moss, hence it’s often referred to as the “Moss Temple.” With more than 120 types of moss in its verdant garden, the temple oozes a particular charm unlike any other. Multiple shades of green and brown create a storybook-like ambiance, no wonder it inspired David Bowie’s 1977 track: Moss Garden.

Koke-dera, Kyoto
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Gion District

Fire Station, Mohammed Bin Thani, Doha, Qatar

Historically, Gion District was home to geisha and maiko, high-class entertainers. Trained since youth, geishas can sing, dance, converse, partake in tea ceremonies and arrange alluring flowers. Kyoto’s five hanamachi, or “flower towns,” are districts that are deeply embedded with geisha culture. These districts welcome visitors with numerous teahouses, where geishas entertain. Today, you can admire performances at Kyoto Geisha Show & Experience GION MAIKOYA.

Hōkan-ji Temple (Yasaka Pagoda)

Japan, 〒605-0862 Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, 清水八坂上町388

Yasaka Pagoda is best viewed from ancient alleys adorned with paper lanterns and wooden doors. The five-story pagoda towers over Higashiyama-ku district, carrying a legend that if someone can crawl under the massive stone, bad spells can be undone. Not only is the temple a popular tourist attraction, many Japanese couples take their wedding photos with the Yasaka Pagoda in the background.

SAMURAI NINJA MUSEUM KYOTO With Experience

Japan, 〒604-8043 Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, Higashidaimonjicho, 292Utanokoji-bldg

It’s not a myth that samurais played a significant role throughout Japanese history, if you’d like to learn more then head over to Samurai and Ninja Museum. Situated near Nishiki Market; the museum displays weapons, armors and artifacts that guide visitors into the world of Japanese military nobility. The museum also offers samurai sword show, or experiences where travelers can be trained like a ninja. Quite touristy, but it’s a fun hour for children and families.

SAMURAI NINJA MUSEUM KYOTO
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Wendy Hung

CEO, FOUNDER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

As the founder of Jetset Times, Wendy is an avid traveler and fluent in five languages. When she's not traveling, Wendy calls Paris and Taipei home. Her favorite countries so far from her travels have been: Bhutan, Iran, and St. Bart's because they were all so different!

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