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The 11 Galleries That Art Lovers Must Visit in Kyoto

Must-Visit in Kyoto

The 11 Galleries That Art Lovers Must Visit in Kyoto

Want a chance to explore a different side of Kyoto? Check out the local art scene to discover something beyond the local scenery and history.

It was sometime in the 1990s when Kyoto’s art community started gaining ground in Tokyo. Now, the city has one of the country’s best contemporary art scenes.

Everyone knows Kyoto for its temples, shrines, and fantastic gardens. But art lovers from all over the world visit the former capital of Japan for the artworks. 

Want to do the same? Check out these 11 galleries where you can see the best of Japanese art.

#1. Imura Art Gallery

Founded in 1990, the Imura Art Gallery is one of the best art galleries in Kyoto that initially focused on emerging artists.

In a way, the trend remains to this day. The Imura Art Gallery still does a great job of displaying collections from local artists in its various events.

Most of the paintings feature Japanese styles. However, many collections present creative combinations of Eastern and Eastern painting styles.

#2. The National Museum of Modern Art

You can’t miss a tour of the museum during your time in Kyoto.

The permanent collection features a nice blend of Western and Eastern paintings, but the museum’s biggest collection is that of nihonga, Japanese-style paintings. You can also admire the many photography, sculpture, and prints available. And throughout the year, it holds several big exhibits that add even more artwork to the displays.

Plan your tour any day of the week except for Monday, as the museum isn’t open on the first day of the week.

#3. Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art

The Municipal Museum of Art houses one of the largest painting collections in the region. It’s also among the oldest museums, founded back in 1993.

This is the home of many rotating exhibits throughout the year. The permanent collection is nothing short of impressive, either. It has over 2,000 items, many of which are prints, paintings, and sculptures.

#4. Kodama Gallery

This gallery first opened its doors in 1998. Initially, it was established in Osaka but has since relocated to Kyoto. It has a much larger space now to host a larger collection. The two exhibition rooms cover an area of 800 square meters (over 8,500 square feet). 

Like many other of the top art galleries in Kyoto, the Kodama Gallery promotes young talent. You can also find many modern artworks, as well as post-minimalism paintings and sculptures.

#5. Maeda Hiromi Art Gallery

This is one of the newer galleries in the city. The gallery’s owner, Maeda Hiromi, opened the venue in 2011 with a clear objective – to promote young Japanese artists and give them a platform to engage a wider audience.

The gallery sits in an idyllic location as well, right in the Minami-ku ward. The location also houses the popular To-ji Buddhist temple. That’s why it’s a great spot popular with both tourists and locals.

Two of the most notable artists that have their works on permanent display are Shinya Sakurai and Iwasaki Eri.

#6. The Kyoto Art Centre

Opened in April 2000 in the former Meirin Elementary School, the gallery hosts some of the best art exhibitions in the country. Yusuke Kamata, one of the famed installation artists, has many of his works on display at the center.

It’s also more geared towards visitors of different tastes and expectations. Music, dance, and cultural performances are very common during art exhibits.

#7. En Arts

A trip to the En Arts gallery is worth a few hours of your day. It’s one of the top art galleries in Kyoto and sits in a beautiful location.

Right inside the heart of Maruyama Park, the En Arts gallery puts on a fantastic visual display of contemporary arts.

The gallery promotes both native and international artists. And many of the collections feature object art. It’s a nice alternative to other painting-packed venues in the city.

#8. Kaho Gallery

For more interesting things to do in Kyoto, or see, visit the Kaho Gallery. It’s one of the local gems located near the Higashiyama ward.

The venue opened in 1996, like many others that opened during Kyoto’s artistic boom. Here you can see collections of abstract figurative paintings and European-influenced artworks. 

#9. Kyoto International Manga Museum

Manga enthusiasts and art lovers should have a blast at this gallery. It hosts some of the top contemporary art displays after all. Works from Daijiro Morohoshi seem to be highly popular.

Opened in 2006, the museum has already collected over 300,000 items, including many historical manga artworks you won’t see anywhere else in the world. But there are also plenty of foreign manga on display. 

#10. Gallery Morning Kyoto

You can find some of the best contemporary art exhibits at the Gallery Morning Kyoto. It’s at the heart of the Kyoto cultural center in Okazaki. 

This is one of the smaller art galleries in the city. And its intimate setting gives it a particular appeal. Although the venue is small, the collection is nothing short of impressive.

You can even buy unique works of art from what’s considered the country’s most avant-garde artists. 

#11. Gallery of Kyoto Traditional Arts & Crafts

If you want a healthy dose of traditional artwork, this is the place to visit. It’s a museum that offers a complete experience because you can see how artists create their crafts before they reach display status. 

The cheap entry fee also makes it a popular venue.

Keep in mind that it doesn’t have such a large collection of items compared to other galleries on this list. Still, it offers a unique experience for art lovers.

Kyoto Is the New Must-See Art Hub

The top art galleries in Kyoto are among the best in the entire country. And since some of them sit in picturesque locations, the scenery enhances their reputations even more.

Kyoto also has a long-standing tradition of promoting emerging native artists. Yet over the years, the city has accumulated an incredibly vast collection of artwork from all over the world. And the many rotating exhibits and displays also make Kyoto a great art hub for returning visitors.

There are also hundreds of items you can buy, too – from calligraphy to paintings to sculptures. So don’t miss out on any of these fantastic venues.

Arts & Culture

What to Know Before Traveling to Kyoto

With good planning and common sense, you can make your trip to Kyoto the most memorable adventure yet.

The one-time capital of Japan, Kyoto keeps many of their old traditions alive to this day. It’s a modern city that still holds so many temples and shrines festive and in great conditions.

Kyoto isn’t exactly a go-to destination for people who want to ride roller coasters or go surfing. But it’s an excellent spot for anyone hungry for Japanese culture and history.

Although there’s much to see, you can’t book a vacation in Kyoto unprepared. You run the risk of missing out on unique opportunities and experiences. Use this as your guide to having the most amazing vacation possible.

Planning Is Everything When Visiting Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto is rich in culture, history, and landmarks. It’s not one of the biggest cities in the world, but it still has so much for you to see.

When booking a vacation in Kyoto, the best advice anyone can give you is to plan ahead. Take some time and do some research. Better yet, try to find a local guide to point you in all the right directions. 

The selection of temples, shrines, eateries is massive. It’s easy to miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity without good planning.

Bring the Right Clothes

Kyoto’s seasonal weather is something you should prepare for before leaving. Summers get very hot while winters have freezing temperatures. Note that for three months, Kyoto isn’t just very hot but also very humid.

Make sure you pack enough layers if you plan on traveling to Kyoto after October. And bring enough light shirts with you when visiting in the summer. 

Always check the weather forecasts for advanced warning. Don’t forget your comfiest pair of shoes either. You’ll do a lot of walking and sightseeing after all.

The Transportation System Isn’t Tourist-Friendly

Even the locals think that the transportation system is too complicated. 

You’ll see lots of busses and so many lines that intersect. The trains can help you get to places faster, but they don’t always stop near popular hotspots. You can’t always walk to your destination, either.

In an effort to save time, consider buying a one day pass for the metro or busses.

Managing Crowds and Expenses

There’s a bigger issue than wondering where to stay in Kyoto. Sometimes it’s best to think harder about when you should go.

Thousands of tourists plan on visiting Kyoto every year. This means that you’ll find cheaper accommodations in the offseason and more vacancies.

It’s also a good idea to avoid the months of April to May if you don’t want to deal with masses of tourists. Interestingly enough, even the locals seem more welcoming in the offseason, which can lead to a more immersive experience for you.

How to Find the Best Value Meal

Many tourists travel on a tight budget. But that doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy the full experience of the local cuisine.

When traveling to Kyoto, take some time to research local eateries near your hotel. You should also know that every Kyoto restaurant offers multi-course meals at lunch and dinner.

If you want the best value, try to make your lunch the most important meal of the day. Many restaurants offer sampler menus. It can save you quite a few yen for other activities.

Set Money Aside for Tours and Attractions

There are many conflicting numbers regarding how many temples and shrines are in Kyoto. But you can bet that it’s not the City of Temples for no reason. But some say that there are at least 1,600 temples in the area, in addition to a couple of hundred shrines.

While most of these sites are free to enter, some charge admissions. And there are a couple of other attractions that charge for tours.

Enjoy most of the free activities that you can plan for. But set some money aside for paid tours, too, to avoid missing out on unique opportunities.

How to Exchange Your Money

If you want to buy or pay for something, you need to have some Japanese yen on you. So, it’s important that you exchange your money once you get there.

The best places to exchange currency are always banks and post offices. Yet, they’re not the most pleasant because of the wait.

An alternative is a kinken shop. These places also exchange unused event tickets.

If you want to withdraw your yen from an ATM, you can do that, too. Beware the conversion fees, though. Most ATMs will ask you if you wish to proceed with the conversion but always check the NO box to avoid the terrible rates of foreign banks.

How Much Should You Stay in Kyoto for a Full Experience?

In just three days, you can see most of the must-see Kyoto attractions. Unfortunately, that also means sticking to a strict and packed itinerary.

The best way to experience Kyoto is to go for a longer stay. Try to book a five-day or seven-day trip to take in more of what the city has to offer.

An extended visit will give you some flexibility and allow you to enjoy the sights even more. It will also give you time to explore the parks, gardens, and sample more of the local cuisine.

Besides, many of the top attractions aren’t in the city. Some of the most notable attractions involve taking a half-day trip beyond the city limits.

Enjoy Your Stay

Traveling to Kyoto demands good planning. Sure, it’s still exciting to discover things on your own, even if you are to get lost.

But it’s also a big area with lots to offer in and around the city. Take some time and think things through before you leave. Make sure that you get the best weather and enough time to do all the things you would enjoy.

If you do it right, Kyoto won’t burn a hole in your pocket by any means. And it also won’t hurt to study some Japanese etiquette before you go. Some locals may not be too fond of strangers that don’t know how to talk or behave around them.

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Best Activities for Your Next Kyoto Adventure

Best Activities for Your Next Kyoto Adventure

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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