If you are wondering what to do in Kyoto and how to have unique local experiences, here is my list. I am a tour guide from Kyoto and these things to do in Kyoto. I combined all the main attractions and activities. This is the list of experiences I usually recommend my guests based on what I personally like and enjoy doing as a resident.
#1 A unique Sandal ride in the ARASHIYAMA bamboo Forest
There is a secret date spot for Japanese lovers in Arashiyama. You can also visit temples, check out the bamboo grove and feed wild monkeys all at the same place.
Everyone knows the Arashiyama Sagano bamboo forest
but not many know about the sandal ride. With an amazing view in the Spring and fall you will have an amazing Kyoto experience right next to the Sagano bridge. Additionally, the zen gardens in Okochi Sanso
temples in Arashiyama are the most tranquil Japanese gardens.
Tip: Must go very early or late in the afternoon otherwise the place gets packed. This place is outside the downtown area and consists of many temples and shrines, so spare a half day. There are many cafes and restaurants so dont worry about the food. The bamboo grove you see in the pictures is only a small part but still nice area to visit.
Tip: After a 30-minute hike you will reach the Iwatayama Monkey Park where many cute monkeys are conserved in their natural habitat. You can feed tham and it is good family activity. If you want to spend the whole day in Arashiyama then you may also check the Otagi Nenbutsuji temple with thousands of Buddha statues. Also for honeymooners there is this famous romantic train ride
#2 Count 10,000 Tori Gates in FUSHIMI INARI
In 2018 Fushimi Inari was the most visited spot in JAPAN and by some hiking you can reach the hidden bamboo forest.
Fushimi Inari 10,000 Gates
The 10,000 gates of FUSHIMI INARI
is the most visited tourist spot in JAPAN!!!
The 10,000 gates of FUSHIMI INARI became famous after an unforgettable scene in the movie “the Memoirs of Geisha.” Many people go there to see the mysterious vermillion gates without knowing the place is a part of a big hill where you can hike on. There is a hidden bamboo forest if you follow everyone else but make a right in the middle of the senbontorii gate tunnel and pass by this public bathroom. Everyone asks me if it is worth hiking to the top and how long it takes. You can climb to the top of the hill in 1 hour and there is a nice city view. In my opinion it may not be worth of climbing if you have a big group because the city view is not so clear and after 30 minutes you get used to seeing many gates here and there.
Tip: You must go there earlier in the day to beat the crowds. The higher you go the fewer people you will see. Even in the high altitude there are cafes, tea shops, and noodle shops. Fushimi Inari has many attractions and spots of interest besides the 10,000 torii gates. The famous Tofukuji Temple and Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum which used to be a sake factory are a walking distance from the main shrine.
#3 Experience the famous KYOTO TEA CEREMONY and wear a KIMONO
According to the Time magazine, CNN Travel and Lonely Planet, traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto is a must-do bucket list item.
Tea Ceremony Kyoto
A must do in Kyoto, the combination of meditation and zen. The freshest tea leaves grow in Uji, Kyoto and and in Kyoto we are are proud of our tea ceremony culture. We consider tea ceremony as an art form and a perfect way to learn the values of Japan. I usually take my guests to MAIKOYA
, the best rated tea ceremony experience where you can wear a kimono and try Japanese sweets in a traditional tatami room. This matcha tasting experience and the green tea ceremony is a must do while visiting Kyoto to have the moment of zen.
Tip: If you are on the honeymoon, Maikoya staff may surprise you. The staff will teach you where to get the fresh matcha tea, or purchase antique tea bowls in Kyoto. They can also tell you neighboring attractions and spots of interest. Tip: You can rent a kimono from MAIKOYA and walk in the Gion geisha district.
Reserve for tea ceremony or kimono experience HERE
#4 Dispel Bad Spells near the YASAKA PAGODA
This is where the locals take wedding photos. If you can crawl under the huge stone you will dispel bad spells forever.
Yasaka Pagoda near Kiyomuzu Dera
In Kyoto, almost all couples take their wedding pictures near the Yasaka Pagoda. Right next to Ninenzaka you will find the Yasaka Pagoda.
You can also visit the historic Yasui Kompiragu shrine nearby. People often purchase the colorful balls to make a wish or crawl under the huge round rock to dispel bad luck. Whenever I have guests, I always take them to this area and it is always a hit. Luckily the place is not far from the Kiyomizu temple area and the Gion area
, so you can easily add the Yasaka Pagoda to your itinerary.
#5 Visit the BEST RATED museum in Japan: KYOTO SAMURAI & NINJA MUSEUM
The interactive Samurai & Ninja Museum with Experience is one of the most popular spots in Kyoto!!!You can see the samurai armor collection, train like a ninja and watch a samurai show. This museum allows you to wear metal armors and use a REAL sword.
Kyoto Samurai & Ninja Museum
This interactive museum offers samurai sword lessons and allows you to try armors
The best part is the museum has many artifacts from the Edo period belonging to samurai and ninja families. The place is a jackpot for martial arts fans, history buffs and families with kids. If you are not into Japanese history, the museum also has exhibitions explaining the famous spots of Kyoto city. The best part is you can use a REAL SAMURAI SWORD to chop tatami mats.
Tip: the samurai museum has free English tours every hour and free samurai shows every day. This place is right next to the Teramachi shopping street, so it is a good break when you are shopping for kimonos and souvenirs in the area. It is good to go there at the beginning of your trip so you know the history of each Kyoto landmark.