Best Activities for Your Next Kyoto Adventure

As one of the oldest cities in Japan, Kyoto has plenty to offer – from matcha ceremonies to exciting hikes. This city will never fail to take your breath away.

For more than a millennium, Kyoto was Japan’s imperial capital. Its historical significance is still apparent throughout the city. 

Visiting vermillion shrines, exploring Zen rock gardens, and praying at the golden temples are only some of the activities in Kyoto that will leave a lasting impression. Not to mention that it’s one of the few remaining places where you can still see real geishas. 

Discover the must do activities in Kyoto for an adventurous holiday unlike anywhere else in the world. 

#1 – Take a Torii Gates Hike

Located at Fushimi Inari, the Torii Gates is a unique site iconic to Japanese culture. 

Here, you’ll be walking through thousands of orange and black gates as you climb up a mountain. Along the way, you’ll see a lot of small shrines with toriis and fox statues. 

The entire walk is 3.1mi long and takes about 1.5 hours to complete. But the site is so beautiful that you’re likely to spend more time there. The great thing is that the surroundings become quieter as you climb.

It’s an incredibly peaceful experience through and through.  

#2 – Hike from Kibune to Kurama 

This hike is an excellent way to spend a day exploring the scenic area near Kyoto. 

The departure point is half an hour away from the city if you take the train. And you can take the hike in either direction (Kibune to Kurama, or the other way around). 

If you walk from Kibune, make sure to visit the Kifune Shrine before proceeding to the Kurama-Dera temple for an incredible view atop the mountain. The walk to the temple takes about half an hour, but it may appear longer because it’s mostly uphill. 

#3 – Visit the International Manga Museum

Checking out the best mangas is among the most fun activities in Kyoto, Japan. 

This museum has a collection of over 300,000 mangas, mostly Japanese publications. There are massive shelves full of volumes and volumes of them, and you’re likely to encounter children reading the comics right in the middle of the aisles. 

This is also the place to learn more about the cultural influences of manga in Japan. 

#4 – Act Like a Samurai or Ninja

There are plenty of opportunities to learn a traditional skill in Kyoto, of which ninja or samurai training may be the most exciting for many. 

For the samurai experience, you’ll learn how to handle a katana within the confines of a genuine samurai residence. You’ll also find out more about Bushido and Zen that took center stage in the samurai code of conduct. 

But if you fancy yourself a ninja instead, you’ll have expert coaches to show you some of the skills. You can even try out some of the famed weapons like the shuriken (Japanese throwing blades). 

#5 – Witness the Geisha Dance

For those visiting in spring, watching a geisha dance is a must. April is when you can see geishas acting, singing, dancing, and playing instruments. 

It’s all happening in the geisha districts, among which the most famous is Miyako Odori, though Kyo Odori isn’t too far behind. 

How would you like to get up close and personal to the geishas and stare at their costumes and choreography? You can probably do that and not come off as weird.

But for all other seasons, you can see the same song and dance only at the Maiko Theatre. 

#6 – Walk Along the Takase River

Back in the 17th century, the Takase River was the central transport canal for rice and sake. What’s left nowadays are the replicas of the transport vessels. 

This area is particularly beautiful during the period when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. The walk is equally beautiful at night or during the day. 

There are also more than a few restaurants and cafes along the way. Among them, Kyoto Beer Lab stands out if you’re a beer lover. 

#7 – Enjoy Your Matcha Tea

A visit to a traditional teahouse for some matcha is an excellent change of pace on your trip. Ippodo Tea is one such teahouse and it’s been in operation for almost three centuries. 

The famous tea is on the bitter side and gets served in uniquely Japanese bowls. It’s also a perfect opportunity to taste the tiny traditional sweets known as wagashi. 

#8 – Go On a Bar Hopping Tour

Yes, bar hopping is among the best evening activities in Kyoto. 

Take a dive deep into izakaya culture and go off the beaten track. It’s best done with a tour guide, as they will take you to the back streets and into a number of bars favored by the locals. 

If sake is your taste, you can also take a tour of the famous breweries. This is all happening in the picturesque town of Fushimi. 

#9 – Spend a Night in a Machiya

Most of these traditional Kyoto houses, known as machiya, have been transformed into lodgings or restaurants. 

Courtesy of their unique architecture and interior, machiya serve as a great way to experience traditional Japanese living first hand. 

The accommodations are excellent and well worth considering for a night or two even if you’re staying at a hotel. They’re perfect for your holiday album, for one.

#10 – Take a Cooking Class

Those enamored by Japanese cuisine would cherish the opportunity to learn how to prepare some of the dishes. Fortunately, most of these classes are available in English, too. 

Best of all, you’ll learn more than cooking. You can count on the teachers to share stories about the origin of the dishes and Japanese food culture in general. Some of the classes are dedicated to vegans and vegetarians. 

Immerse Yourself in Traditional Japanese Culture

The adventures to be had in Kyoto are going to be different from anywhere else in the world.

Its historical influences are evident to this day and there are abounding one-of-a-kind experiences to make for a memorable holiday.

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Best Activities for Your Next Kyoto Adventure