If you are traveling to Kyoto and looking for things to do to explore the Japanese culture a little deeper, here are 4 experiences you must have!
Kyoto is one of the most visited cities in Japan and justifiably so. It is a beautiful maintained city with narrow alleyways that guards the shrouded mystery of the geishas of Gion.
The beautiful architecture of Kyoto and its rich history make Kyoto a place to visit at least once in a lifetime. In fact, every year millions of visitors do.
4 experiences you must have in Kyoto
I spent 3 days in Kyoto during my trip to Japan and packed it with as many cultural experiences as I could. Here are my favorites and I wrote an individual post for each. If you would like to learn more, click on the links below.
1 | Spend one evening at Gion Corner
Gion Corner offers a 1 hr show of various Japanese art forms: Geisha performance, tea ceremony, ikebana, puppet theater and more. This is probably the best money you will spend in Kyoto to get a condensed version lesson of Japanese culture.
Arrive early as tickets go fast and seats are on a first-come, first served basis. If you are not shy, you can volunteer for the tea ceremony during the performance. Here is their website.
2 | Watch the sunset at Kiyomizu-dera Temple
I know some people think that once you have seen a temple, you have seen them all. Not me obviously! But if you are one of those people, let me just assure you that Kiyomizu-dera is worth the trip.
It sits on the side of the Otawa Mountain overlooking Kyoto and it’s pretty spectacular around sunset (closing time). If you are lucky enough to visit during one of the few times a year the temple opens at night, you can get one of those one-of-a-kind shots from the observation deck.
Besides the view, there are two additional perks of visiting Kiyomizu-dera temple:
- the walk up to it is lined with small shops and restaurants that are certain to make you want to stop and browse, and
- the fountains at the exit of the temple are said to have magical powers!
Here is their website.
3 | Attend a tea ceremony at Camellia
No visit to Japan is really complete without experiencing a tea ceremony.
At Camellia, you can learn to make matcha green tea like a pro (well, at least try) and you get to taste it as well. Win-win in my book! At the time I visited, they were introducing a new ceremony “master” to the team who specializes in the samurai art of tea. Ask them for more information when booking.
It sounded fascinating! The fact that the tea ceremony is done by a man instead of a woman highlights many differences from the traditional tea ceremony. It’s a tradition that goes back to the era of samurais!
Around Camellia there are many artisanal shops, so allow for extra time to browse and shop. Here is their website.
4 | Participate in a cooking class at WA Experience KAFU
By far, my most enjoyable experience in Kyoto was taking a cooking class at Kafu.
Not only did I learn to make easy and tasty recipes, I truly enjoyed getting to know Kimi (my instructor) and had a great conversation about Japanese culture and customs.
There is nothing better than to combine fun with local knowledge. And of course, good food makes it even better!
This was my first experience with cooking classes while traveling, but it got me so hooked that I took a few more classes in China and in Indonesia.
It is now permanently on my list of must-dos while abroad!
Also, at Kafu, they offer a lot more than cooking classes if that is not your cup of tea, so check them out. Here is their website.
Have you been to Kyoto? Do you have additional must have experiences while visiting Kyoto?
If you enjoyed this post on 4 things you must do in Kyoto, then you might also enjoy these other travel guides on Japan:
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- Why you should skip on dining in Pontocho
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- How to take a cooking class in Kyoto
- Attend a traditional Japanese tea ceremony
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- Gion Corner Cultural Show in Kyoto
- Aomori Nebuta Festival
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