Where is Kyoto?
Japan's capital for over 1,000 years, Kyoto remains awash with remnants of its past glory. The city's stunning collection of UNESCO World Heritage sites alone would be enough to set it apart, but Kyoto also boasts a still-working geisha district, some of Japan's most exquisite cuisine, and a whole lot of Zen. Not that it's all temples and tradition: the city also hosts its share of hip cafes and modern art. Think of it as the cultural yin to Tokyo's yang, but with a sprinkling of modernity. Here's how to get a taste of it all.
When's The Best Time To Go To Kyoto?
What's the best time to go to Kyoto? What are the most interesting seasons? What's the weather like in Kyoto in each month? When are the best festivals in Kyoto? Read on for our comprehensive guide. As for weather condition, the best times to visit Kyoto could be October/November (fall) and March/April/May (spring). However actually you can visit Kyoto at any time of year because the weather is temperate. As for your information summer (June/July/August) in Kyoto is hot and humid and winter (December/January/February) in Kyoto is cold. The rainy season goes from mid-June to late July, but it does NOT rain every day and you can travel.
Must see and do in Kyoto
Nijo Castle was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period (1603-1867). His grandson Iemitsu completed the castle's palace buildings 23 years later and further expanded the castle by adding a five story castle keep. Its palace buildings are arguably the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan's feudal era, and the castle was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994. Nijo Castle can be divided into three areas: the Honmaru (main circle of defense), the Ninomaru (secondary circle of defense) and some gardens that encircle the Honmaru and Ninomaru. The entire castle grounds and the Honmaru are surrounded by stone walls and moats. Nijo Castle is also well known as one of great Kyoto Cherry Blossom Spots.
Sento Imperial Palace
Sento Imperial Palace is Imperial palace with beautiful gardens and a secondary palace complex across from the Kyoto Imperial Palace in Kyoto Imperial Park. It was built in 1630 as the retirement palace of Emperor Gomizuno, and became the palace for subsequent retired emperors. The original palace buildings burned down in 1854 and were not rebuilt. Instead, Omiya Palace was constructed on the Sento grounds in 1867 and now serves as the lodging place for the current prince and princess during their visits to Kyoto. The palace garden's South Pond
Nishi Hongan-ji Temple
Nishi Hongan-ji or the "Western Temple of the Original Vow", is one of two temple complexes of Jodo Shinshu in Kyoto, the other being Higashi Honganji (or "The Eastern Temple of the Original Vow"). Today it serves as the head temple of the Jodo Shinshu organization. Nishi Honganji was established in 1602 by the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu when he split the main Honganji in Kyoto in two (Higashi Honganji being the other) in order to diminish its power. The main entrance to Nishi Hongangi is to the east, located on Horikawa St., and the temple occupies almost the entire rectangle bounded by Hanayachō St. to the north, Horikawa St. to the east, Shichijō St. to the south, and Omiya St. to the west. As the name says, it is west of Higashi Honganji temple. It is older than the latter and has more integral architecture. It is also listed as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Directly to the west of the north side of the temple, along Hanayachō St., is the defunct courtesan's district of Shimabara.
The Kyoto International Manga Museum
The Kyoto International Manga Museum was opened in November of 2006. It consists of three floors and a basement, and most of its walls are lined with shelves of manga. Browsing this massive collection of manga is one of the museum's main attractions. A small section of the books is dedicated to foreign and translated manga, but the vast majority is in Japanese. The building, which now acts as the Manga Museum, was previously an elementary school. Some relics of the former school are on display for visitors.
Access: The Kyoto International Manga Museum is located a two minute walk from the Karasuma-Oike Subway Station (5 minutes, 210 yen from Kyoto Station)
Nishiki Market is Fresh food market street in central Kyoto and known as "Kyoto's Kitchen" . It is a narrow, five block long shopping street lined by more than one hundred shops and restaurants. This lively retail market specializes in all things food related, like fresh seafood, produce, knives and cookware, and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties, such as Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood and sushi. Nishiki Market has a pleasant but busy atmosphere that is inviting to those who want to explore the variety of culinary delights that Kyoto is famous for. The stores found throughout the market range in size from small narrow stalls to larger two story shops. Most specialize in a particular type of food, and almost everything sold at the market is locally produced and procured.
Kyoto Imperial Palace
The Kyoto Imperial Palace is an imperial palace of Japan, though the Emperor of Japan is not in residence. The Emperor has resided at the Tokyo Imperial Palace since 1869 (Meiji Restoration) and ordered the preservation of the Kyōto Imperial Palace in 1877.Today the grounds are open to the public, and the Imperial Household Agency hosts public tours of the buildings several times a day. The Kyōto Imperial Palace is the latest of the imperial palaces built at or near its site in the north-eastern part of the old capital on Heiankyō after the abandonment of the larger original Heian Palace that was located to the west of the current palace during the Heian Period. The Palace lost much of its function at the time of the Meiji Restoration, when the capital functions were moved to Tōkyō in 1869. However, the Taishō and Showa Emperors still had their coronation ceremonies at Kyōto Gosho.
Pontocho is one of Kyoto's most atmospheric dining areas. It is a narrow alley running from Shijo-dori to Sanjo-dori, one block west of Kamogawa River. Most of the restaurants along the eastern side of the alley overlook Kamogawa River. The alley is packed with restaurants on both sides offering a wide range of dining options from inexpensive yakitori to traditional and modern Kyoto cuisine, foreign cuisine and highly exclusive establishments that require the right connections and a fat wallet.
Nijo Jinya is a former inn used by feudal lords who were visiting Kyoto during the Edo Period. In order to guarantee the safety of the important guests, the building has been equipped with secret pathways, trap doors, hidden escape routes and various other security gadgets. The house was re-opened in January 2013 after extensive renovation works.
Kiyomizudera is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan and famous for its large wooden terrace. It was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto, and derives its name from the fall's pure waters. The temple was originally associated with the Hosso sect, one of the oldest schools within Japanese Buddhism, but formed its own Kita Hosso sect in 1965. In 1994, the temple was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.
Yasaka Shrine also known as Gion Shrine, is one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto. Founded over 1350 years ago, the shrine is located between the popular Gion District and Higashiyama District, and is often visited by tourists walking between the two districts. Yasaka Shrine is well known for its summer festival, the Gion Matsuri, which is celebrated every July. April, as the adjacent Maruyama Park is one of the most famous cherry blossom spots in Kyoto.
Gion is Kyoto's most famous Geisha district, located around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine in the east and the Kamo River in the west. It is filled with shops, restaurants and ochaya (teahouses), where geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko (geiko apprentices) entertain. Gion attracts tourists with its high concentration of traditional wooden machiya merchant houses. Due to the fact that property taxes were formerly based upon street frontage, the houses were built with narrow facades only five to six meters wide, but extend up to twenty meters in from the street.
Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcade
Shinkyogoku shopping arcade are the 7 temples and 1 shrine that are situated along the strip. Each temple and shrine having its own intriguing history and story which draws many visitors from all over the world. One step into the tranquil precincts of the temple or shrine will instantaneously make you forget where you are and the lively atmosphere outside. A visit to one these temples is surely recommended when you are in Shinkyogoku. Located in the centralized commercial district of downtown Kyoto (Shijo Kawaramachi Area), Shinkyogku Shopping arcade stretches 500 meters long. Depending on each shops closed days, over 90% of the shops are open for business from 11:00am to 9:00pm.
Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)
Ginkakuji is a Zen temple along Kyoto's eastern mountains (Higashiyama) nd which is beautiful temple not actually covered in silver. 1482, shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa built his retirement villa on the grounds of today's temple, modeling it after Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion). Today, Ginkakuji consists of the Silver Pavilion, half a dozen other temple buildings, a beautiful moss garden and a unique dry sand garden. It is enjoyed by walking along a circular route around its grounds, from which the gardens and buildings can be viewed.
The Higashiyama District along the lower slopes of Kyoto's eastern mountains is one of the city's best preserved historic districts around Kiyomizudera. It is a great place to experience traditional old Kyoto, especially between Kiyomizudera and Yasaka Shrine, where the narrow lanes, wooden buildings and traditional merchant shops invoke a feeling of the old capital city. Recent renovations to remove telephone poles and repave the streets have further improved the traditional feel of the district. The streets in Higashiyama are lined by small shops, cafes and restaurants which have been catering to tourists and pilgrims for centuries.
Kyoto National Museum
Opened in 1897, the Kyoto National Museum is one of Japan's oldest and most distinguished museums. It is one of only four top-level national museums alongside the Tokyo National Museum, Nara National Museum and Kyushu National Museum. The museum's permanent collection is presented to the public in rotating exhibitions and consists of a wide variety of cultural properties, including archaeological relics, sculptures, ceramics, calligraphy, costumes and paintings. It is housed in the spacious galleries of the Heisei Chishinkan, a building designed by Taniguchi Yoshio and opened in 2014.
Nanzenji Temple is Zen temple with beautiful stone garden and has spacious grounds are located at the base of Kyoto's forested Higashiyama mountains. It is one of the most important Zen temples in all of Japan. It is the head temple of one of the schools within the Rinzai sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism and includes multiple sub temples, that make the already large complex of temple buildings even larger.The history of Nanzenji dates back to the mid 13th century, when the Emperor Kameyama built his retirement villa at the temple's present location and later converted it into a Zen temple.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head shrine of Inari, located in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Japan. The shrine sits at the base of a mountain also named Inari, and includes trails up the mountain to many smaller shrines. Since in early Japan Inari was seen as the patron of business, each of the Torii is donated by a Japanese business. First and foremost though, Inari is the god of rice. Merchants and manufacturers worship Inari for wealth. Donated torii lining footpaths are part of the scenic view. This popular shrine is said to have as many as 32,000 sub-shrines throughout Japan.
Sanjūsangen-dō is a Buddhist temple in Higashiyama District of Kyoto, Japan. Officially known as "Rengeō-in", or Hall of the Lotus King, Sanjūsangen-dō belongs to and is run by the Myoho-in temple, a part of the Tendai school of Buddhism. The temple name literally means Hall with thirty three spaces between columns, describing the architecture of the long main hall of the temple. From the Edo period, archery exhibition contests called Tōshiya are held on the west veranda of this temple.
Tofukuji is a large Zen temple in southeastern Kyoto that is particularly famous for its spectacular autumn colors. The temple was founded in 1236 at the behest of the powerful Fujiwara clan. Its name is a combination of the names of two great temples in Nara that were also associated with the Fujiwara, Todaiji Temple and Kofukuji Temple. Tofukuji has historically been one of the principal Zen temples in Kyoto. In autumn, people come from all over Japan to see Tofukuji's autumn colors. The most popular view is of the Tsutenkyo Bridge, which spans a valley of lush maple trees.
Toji Temple literally "East Temple", was founded at the beginning of the Heian Period just after the capital was moved to Kyoto in the late 700s. The large temple, together with its now defunct sister temple Saiji ("West Temple"), flanked the south entrance to the city and served as the capital's guardian temples. Toji Temple is one of Kyoto's many UNESCO world heritage sites.
Daigoji is an important temple of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism and a designated world heritage site. The large temple complex stands southeast of central Kyoto and includes an entire mountainside. Founded in 874 by the Buddhist monk Shobo aka Rigen Daishi (832-909), Daigoji Temple began its existence as a hermitage on the top of the Kamidaigo mountain. It is there that Shobo discovered a well that contained "spiritual water." Thanks to the financial and spiritual support of various emperors, the temple grew and prospered.
Fushimi Sake District
The Fushimi Sake District is a charming, traditional sake brewing district along the willow-lined Horikawa River in southern Kyoto. Revered for the clean, soft water that flows in abundance from the river's underground springs, the district is home to nearly 40 sake breweries. Alongside Kobe's Nada District, Fushimi has been the leading sake brewing districts in the country. Many of the district's buildings preserved their traditional appearance with wood and white-plaster walls. A few of the breweries in the area are open to the public and offer shops where you can taste and purchase their products (including some exclusive items not available elsewhere), restaurants and museums.
Traditional district with sake breweries.
Kinkakuji is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto and it is a temple building covered in gold. Formally known as Rokuonji, the temple was the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and according to his will it became a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect after his death in 1408. Kinkakuji was the inspiration for the similarly named Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion), built by Yoshimitsu's grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, on the other side of the city a few decades later. Kinkakuji is an impressive structure built overlooking a large pond, and is the only building left of Yoshimitsu's former retirement complex.
Shugakuin Imperial Villa was built in the 17th century by Emperor Gomizuno and is now managed by the Imperial Household Agency. It consists of the Upper, Middle and Lower Villa areas, each featuring gardens and buildings of the traditional imperial style. The Imperial Villa was constructed between 1655 and 1659, with a palace for Gomizuno's daughter added ten years later.
Ninnaji is one of the many great temples in Kyoto which are listed as World Heritage Sites. It is the head temple of the Omuro School of the Shingon sect of Buddhism and was founded in 888 by the reigning emperor. Over many centuries, a member of the Imperial Family used to serve as Ninnaji's head priest, and the temple was also known as Omuro Imperial Palace. Due to the many wars and fires that ravaged Kyoto throughout its history, none of the buildings from the temple's foundation in the 9th century still survive. The oldest buildings date back to the beginning of the Edo Period in the early 1600s.
Kibune is a small town in a forested valley in the northern mountains of Kyoto City, which developed around Kifune Shrine. According to legend, a goddess traveled in a boat from Osaka all the way up the river into the mountains north of Kyoto, and Kifune Shrine was built at the site where her boat journey had come to an end.
Kifune Shrine is dedicated to the god of water and rain and believed to be the protector of those at sea. Here you can obtain a unique type of fortune written on paper slips (omikuji) that reveal their messages when dipped into water. Okunomiya, the inner sanctum and original site of Kifune Shrine, lies about one kilometer further up the valley. It has a large rock, known as the boat stone, which is said to be where the goddess' yellow boat is buried.Kurama
Ohara is a rural town nestled in the mountains of northern Kyoto, about one hour from Kyoto Station. Ohara is best known for Sanzenin Temple and particularly popular in mid-November during the autumn leaf season, which typically occurs about one week earlier than in central Kyoto. Sanzenin Temple is located part way up the forested mountains in the east of Ohara. It is a large temple with a variety of buildings and gardens, and was established in the early Heian Period (794-1185) by the great monk Saicho, who founded the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism. The path from the town to the temple is lined with numerous small shops. One of the local specialties on sale are aisu kyuri, cucumbers pickled in seaweed flavored ice water and served on a stick.
The temples surrounding Sanzenin also belong to the Tendai sect. They are quite small, and typically have only a couple of buildings or a garden. If you follow the walking trail behind the temples further into the forested mountain, you will eventually get to Otonashi Waterfall.
Sanzenin Temple is the main attraction of Ohara, around which most of the town's tourist activity is centered. The temple has a number of temple buildings, gardens, and walking paths to explore. There is a highly valued statue of the Amida Buddha on display that dates back to the 900s.
Hours: 8:30 to 17:00 (March to December 7); 9:00 to 16:30 (December 8 through February); admission ends 30 minutes before closing
Closed: No closing days
Fee: 700 yen
Jakkoin was founded around the year 600. A long flight of stairs leads up to the temple gate, which is particularly attractive during the autumn. Unfortunately, the main hall burnt down in 2000, but it has since been rebuilt and holds a statue of the Buddhist deity Jizo. Jakkoin is noted for having served as the nunnery of a former empress.
Hours: 9:00 to 17:00 (shorter hours during the winter)
Closed: No closing days
Fee: 600 yen
Ryoanji Temple is the site of most well known rock garden, which attracts hundreds of visitors every day. Originally an aristocrat's villa during the Heian Period, the site was converted into a Zen temple in 1450 and belongs to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, whose head temple stands just a kilometer to the south. As for the history of Ryoanji's famous rock garden, the facts are less certain. The garden consists of a rectangular plot of pebbles surrounded by low earthen walls, with 15 rocks laid out in small groups on patches of moss. An interesting feature of the garden's design is that from any vantage point at least one of the rocks is always hidden from the viewer.
Arashiyama and Sagano
Arashiyama is a pleasant, touristy district in the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185), when nobles would enjoy its natural setting. Arashiyama is particularly popular during the cherry blossom and fall color seasons.
The Togetsukyo Bridge is Arashiyama's well known, central landmark. Many small shops, restaurants and other attractions are found nearby, including Tenryuji Temple, Arashiyama's famous bamboo groves and pleasure boats that are available for rent on the river. North of central Arashiyama the atmosphere becomes less touristy and more rural, with several small temples scattered along the base of the wooded mountains. The area north of the Togetsukyo Bridge is also known as Sagano, while the name "Arashiyama" technically just refers to the mountains on the southern bank of the river but is commonly used to name the entire district.
Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama
Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama is especially very popular among foreign visitors. The park is located on the left bank of Oi River that flows through Arashiyama area.The animal is native to Japan called the Japanese macaque and is also known as the Snow monkey. You can enjoy hiking upon the trail from the entrance to the top. In the spring,there are beautiful cherry blossoms and green leaves along the trail but you shouldn't miss the coloured leaves in the autumn, either. You might be able to find wild deer and about 100 kinds of birds among trees. At the top there is a hut with wire fence covering the windows and from within, visitors can feed monkeys. At the feeding site in front of the hut, you can have a great view of Kyoto City, and enjoy your time with our monkeys.
Sagano Bamboo Forest
The walking paths that cut through the bamboo groves make for a nice walk or bicycle ride. The groves are particularly attractive when there is a light wind and the tall bamboo stalks sway gently back and forth. The bamboo has been used to anufacture various products, such as baskets, cups, boxes and mats at local workshops for centuries.
Kokedera (Moss Temple)
The tur enema is Saihoji, but more commonly known as Kokedera. It is one of Kyoto's Unesco World Heritage Sites. Entrance to this temple requires a reservation made well in advance by mail. Kokedera means Moss Temple, referring to the temple garden's estimated 120 different varieties of moss. Visitors to the temple can walk through this spectacular garden, which has strongly influenced subsequent Japanese garden design.
Katsura Imperial Villa is one of the finest examples of Japanese architecture and garden design. The villa and garden in their present form were completed in 1645 as the residence for the Katsura Family, members of Japan's Imperial Family. Visiting Katsura Imperial Villa requires joining a free tour. Tours last about one hour and are in Japanese only; however, audio guides in several foreign languages are available. The tour follows the garden's circular walking trail around the central pond. Palace buildings can be viewed only from the outside, and photographing is allowed only from designated spots.
Yoshiminedera is a temple of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism located in Kyoto's western mountains. Similar to Kiyomizudera on the opposite side of town, Yoshiminedera is built along the mountain side and looks out onto Kyoto. The temple grounds are spacious and there are many buildings distributed up the mountain side. A priest from Enryakuji, named Gesan, established Yoshiminedera as a personal retreat in 1029. In 1467 the temple was destroyed in the Onin War but was rebuilt in 1621.
Daikakuji Temple is a large temple in the northern part of Kyoto's Sagano district. It was originally built in the early 800s as the detached palace of Emperor Saga, who thoroughly enjoyed spending time in this calm area on the outskirts of Kyoto. Thirty years after the emperor's death, the palace was converted into a temple and has since been one of the highest ranked temples of Shingon Buddhism. Daikakuji has had a role in several significant historical events.
Terumi is the most important temple in Kyoto's Arashiyama district. It was ranked first among the city's five great Zen temples, and is now registered as a world heritage site. Tenryuji is the head temple of its own school within the Rinzai Zen sect of Japanese Buddhism. Tenryuji was built in 1339 by the ruling shogun Ashikaga Takauji.
Toei Uzumasa Eigamura (Kyoto Studio Park or Movie Land)
The Toei Uzumasa Eigamura (also known as Kyoto Studio Park or Movie Land) is a film set and theme park in one. It is the only theme park in Japan where you can observe the filming of period dramas (jidaigeki films). Here you can walk freely around the Toei Kyoto Studio film set. This set depicts a street from the Edo period, and is used to shoot more than 200 films per year. Enjoy the atmosphere of ancient Japan by taking in a ninja show maybe even dressing up as a geisha or samurai.
You will find all kinds of entertainment for both the young and the old, in this world of imagination and creation. Have a great time!
Gion Matsuri the festival of Yasaka Shrine, is the most famous festival in Japan. It takes place over the entire month of July. There are many different events, but the grand procession of floats (Yamaboko Junko) on July 17 is particularly spectacular. Very enjoyable, are also the festive evenings preceding the procession (Yoiyama). From 2014, a second procession of floats was reintroduced on July 24 after a hiatus of 48 years. The second procession features fewer and smaller floats than the one on July 17.
Daimonji Gozan Okuribi
The Daimonji Gozan Okuribi (Daimonji Bonfire) is an event held on the evening of August 16th, when gigantic Chinese characters and other motifs are depicted by fires lit to illuminate the surroundings for patrolling on the slopes of the mountains surrounding the Kyoto Basin. It is a famous for evoking the image of a Kyoto summer. Although there are several interpretations as to the origins of this event, it is generally regarded as a fire set alight at the gate for seeing off the souls of ancestors after commemorating the welcoming of their souls. The character of dai (meaning large) on the Nyoigatake peak, and those of myo and howhich make up the word Myo-ho (wondrous teaching of Buddha) on Matsugasaki Nishiyama and Higashiyama mountains are famous.
Hanatoro which means "flower and light road", is a set of illumination events that take place in the Higashiyama District of Kyoto in March and the Arashiyama district of Kyoto in December. During Hanatoro the streets are illuminated by thousands of lanterns set throughout popular areas combined with flower and light displays. Many temples and shrines are illuminated and have special extended viewing hours. In addition, live and street performances are held at stages around the area. The pleasant and unique atmosphere of Hanatoro attracts many visitors who can stroll the streets and see a different side of Kyoto.
An ancient festival full of elegance - a magnificent procession dating back 1,000 years reproduced in Kyoto. About 500 people wearing splendid ancient costumes and traditional make-up parade through the main streets of Kyoto. This festival came to be called Aoi Matsuri because aoi (hollyhock) leaves are used as ornaments not only on the people's costumes, but even on cows and horses. This festival reproduces the procession of officials delivering the Emperor's message and offerings to the two shrines of Shimogamo and Kamigamo.
A festival held at the Heian Jingu Shrine, the Jidai Matsuri is one of the three largest festivals of Kyoto together with the Aoi Matsuri – Hollyhock Festival (May 15th) and the Gion Matsuri (July 1st – 31st).The highlight of the festival is the Jidai Gyoretsu, a mikoshi ,and a suite of some 2,000 people dressed in costumes representing various eras of Kyoto's 1,200-year history parade through the city. At noon, the procession departs from Kyoto Imperial Palace and parades over a total distance of 4.6 kilometers as far as its destination. The line of the parading people stretches over a long distance and it takes more than one whole hour for the entire procession to pass one spot.
Experience in Kyoo
Gion Corner is a unique theater presenting one-hour shows of seven of Kyoto's professional performing arts - kyogen classical comedy, kyomai dance, gagaku music of the imperial court, koto harp, bunraku puppet theater, the tea ceremony, and flower arrangement. Gion Corner is located inside Yasaka Hall on the north side of Gion's Kaburenjo Hall, where Maiko (apprentice Geisha) and Geiko (Geisha) give presentations. Visitors can also experience a genuine tea ceremony and learn about tea ceremony etiquette in a casual atmosphere. Since explanations of the performances are given in English, Gion Corner is popular among tourists from abroad.
Kimono Dress up
Indulge yourself in a little make believe and become a part of old Japan. There are a number of locations in Kyoto where you can try on the elegant makeup and intricately patterned kimono of the Geisha or test your mettle as swordfighter in Samurai wear. Most locations will allow you to take photographs to commemorate and share your experience with friends and family back home.
Tea at Tea Ceremony
The cleansing of the tea utensils, the gentle bow as you receive your cup, the three clockwise turns before you take a sip: it's not difficult to see how deeply rooted the slow and graceful movements of the tea ceremony are in Zen Buddhism. Chado or sado, as the ceremony is known, is by no means limited to Kyoto, but with the city's rich Zen connections, it is an ideal place to experience it. Try visiting En, a small teahouse in Gion with tatami tearooms and English-speaking Kimono-clad servers. You'll find it next to Chionin Temple, a short walk from the Chionmae bus stop on route number 206 from Kyoto Station.
Temple Stay Shukubo
Did you know that you can actually stay overnight at temples? Kyoto of course has many, many hotels, but a night in a temple will be something to remember. For a slightly different experience in Kyoto, it is possible to stay at a temple. Some temples have an attached lodging facility called "Shukubo", a type of guesthouse where visitors can stay overnight. Many, though not all shukubo, have a curfew and the gates will close early. Visitors may be able to participate in services or meditation session at the discretion of some of the temples.
What to Eat in Ktoyo
A waitress in kimono kneels on the tatami mat floor and silently begins placing a dozen or so small, yet picture-perfect dishes on the low dining table. Among the subtle favors and seasonal tones are a clear soup garnished with a sprig of green sanshou, slices of raw sea bream and tuna specked with tiny, delicate yellow flowers, and a simmering silver pot of off-white soy milk and tofu. Japanese cuisine doesn't get more refined than Kyo-ryori, or "Kyoto cuisine." For a quintessential Kyo-ryori experience, head to Gion and the 100-year-old Minokou restaurant, where they do an 11-course Kyo-ryori dinner for ¥15,600, as well as lunchtime sampler sets presented in shiny lacquer ware bento boxes for ¥4,000. Alternatively, try the equally traditional Kinobu, where they have a seven-course dinner for ¥12,000 and a ¥4,200 lunchtime sampler.
Tofu is made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curd into blocks. The making of tofu from soy milk is similar to processing cheese from milk. Yu do-fu is easy to make, low in calories and fat, and is ideal for dinner in the winter. Cut tofu into small cubes, put a large-sized ceramic pot over low heat at the table, add tofu into the pot and simmer, and eat boiled tofu dipping in the sauce. Be careful not to burn your tongue. Yu do-fu is one of the feature winter dishes of Kyoto. There are many yu-dofu eateries around Nanzen-ji, which are popularly known for serving the signature "Nanzenji Dofu". If you visit Nanzen-ji Temple in the winter, we recommend experiencing "Nanzenji Dofu".
Wagashi (Traditional Japanese Sweets)
There are many shops in Kyoto City making and selling traditional Japanese sweets known as Wagashi. Wagashi originated in the Japanese tea ceremony, where they are served to offset and balance the bitterness of matcha (Japanese powdered green tea). The tea ceremony was cultivated in Kyoto and so consequently wagashi were developed simultaneously here as well. Most Kyoto wagashi includes anko (red adzuki-bean paste). It's strong, rich mouth feel and sweetness wins over even the most doubtful critic. Wagashi are lined up in shop showcases, making it easy to pick and choose your favorite ones.
Sukiyaki is a Japanese dish that is prepared and served in the nabemono (Japanese hot pot) style. It consists of meat (usually thinly sliced beef) which is slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside vegetables and other ingredients, in a shallow iron pot in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. The ingredients are usually dipped in a small bowl of raw, beaten eggs after being cooked in the pot, and then eaten. Generally, sukiyaki is a winter dish and it is commonly found at bōnenkai, Japanese year-end parties. In Kyoto you can find reastaurants in Gion Area.
Hamo is Daggertooth pike conger and a white-meat fish from the eel family. As its English name reveals, it has a deep ripped mouth with sharp teeth at the upper and lower parts of the jaw. The name hamo comes from hamu, an old term for eating, because the fish uses its sharp teeth to eat almost anything from shrimps and crabs to small fish. A popular summer dish in the Kansai, especially in Kyoto. Hamo is caught in the warm waters of the Japanese Inland Sea, where it lives at the soft bottom or in estuaries. It can grow to two meters, but in practice, only fish up to one meter are used in restaurants. It is caught between May and October and is at its best in July. Large quantities of the fish are consumed around this time. Like eel, hamo contains much fat and is believed to have invigorating qualities. It indeed helps you get back some appetite under the hot and humid summer sky that in July hangs like a lead blanket over Kyoto. It is so popular in summer in Kyoto, that the Gion Festival is even called "Hamo Matsuri."
Washi Paper (Japanese Traditional Paper)
Washi will always be my favorite Japanese craft item. It’s just head and shoulders above any other handmade paper. Like green tea, it’s inexpensive, light and (relatively compact). Get the shop to put big pieces in cardboard tubes for safe transport.
Yukata (light cotton summer robe)
Most Japanese hotels and all ryokan supply their guests with light cotton robes called yukata. If you're like most people, you'll find them so comfortable that you'll want to take one home. Here are some great places to purchase yukata.
If you've got a taste for green tea from drinking it in Kyoto restaurants or just want a dynamite gift for the folks back home, then you'll want to pick up some good green tea before you leave town. Green tea makes the perfect gift because it's inexpensive, light and compact!
If you don't mind spending a bit more, then Japanese lacquerware is the way to go. Those who have seen high-quality lacquerware know of its beauty. For a stunning gift for that special person, lacquerware will never go wrong.
Japanese cooking knife
You may want to pick up a fine Japanese cooking knife for souvenir. Just know that, like the English, the Japanese believe that giving a cutting tool is a good way to sever a friendship. For this reason, the clerk will ask if you intend to give the knife as a gift. If so, they will include a small rock to symbolically dull the knife.
Superb wood block prints are one of popular surveyor and price is around US$30 and the recipient will be convinced you spent several times that. If you put one of these in a nice frame, you've got something you can hang on the wall of the most elegant room.