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Kyoto Uncovered: 10 Unforgettable Experiences in Japan’s Ancient Capital

Greetings, fellow travelers! Journeying Jack here, back with another exciting edition of Suitcase Stories. Today, we’re diving into the heart of Japan’s cultural capital, Kyoto. With its rich history, stunning temples, and vibrant streets, there’s no shortage of cool things to do Kyoto. In this blog post, I’ll be sharing my top picks for the most unforgettable experiences in this enchanting city. So, buckle up and join me as we explore the coolest things to do Kyoto, and get ready to create some incredible memories in this ancient gem of Japan.

Discovering Kyoto’s Ancient Temples and Shrines

Kyoto is known for its rich cultural heritage and ancient temples and shrines. Exploring these historical sites is one of the coolest things to do in Kyoto. Here are some of the must-visit temples and shrines:

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera Temple is one of the most famous temples in Kyoto. It is known for its stunning architecture and beautiful views of the city. The temple is located on a hillside and offers a panoramic view of Kyoto. The main hall of the temple is built without any nails and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine is one of the most popular shrines in Kyoto. It is known for its thousands of torii gates that lead up to the main shrine. The shrine is dedicated to Inari, the god of rice and prosperity. The hike up to the top of the mountain is a must-do activity and offers breathtaking views of the city.

Ginkaku-ji Temple

Ginkaku-ji Temple, also known as the Silver Pavilion, is a Zen temple located in the eastern part of Kyoto. The temple is known for its beautiful gardens and stunning architecture. The temple was built in the 15th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kinkaku-ji Temple

Kinkaku-ji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion, is one of the most iconic temples in Kyoto. The temple is covered in gold leaf and is surrounded by a beautiful pond and garden. The temple was originally built as a retirement villa for a shogun and was later converted into a temple.

Visiting these ancient temples and shrines is one of the coolest things to do in Kyoto. Make sure to add them to your itinerary when you visit Kyoto.

Kyoto for 2 days

Exploring the Enchanting Bamboo Forests

Kyoto is home to one of the most beautiful and serene places in Japan, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. This is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for cool things to do in Kyoto. The bamboo forest is a natural wonder that will leave you in awe. The tall bamboo stalks create a peaceful and calming atmosphere that is perfect for a relaxing stroll.

Getting to the Bamboo Forest

The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is located in the western part of Kyoto, and it’s easily accessible by train or bus. If you’re coming from Kyoto Station, take the JR Sagano Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station. From there, it’s a 10-minute walk to the bamboo forest.

Walking Through the Bamboo Forest

As you enter the bamboo forest, you’ll be greeted by a cool breeze and the sound of rustling bamboo leaves. The path through the forest is well-maintained and easy to navigate. You can take your time and enjoy the scenery, or you can walk briskly and get some exercise.

Cool Things to Do in the Bamboo Forest

There are many cool things to do in the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. You can take a guided tour, rent a bicycle, or even go on a rickshaw ride. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike up to the top of the mountain and enjoy a panoramic view of Kyoto.

Tips for Visiting the Bamboo Forest

  • The best time to visit the bamboo forest is early in the morning or late in the afternoon when there are fewer crowds.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing, as the path through the forest can be slippery and muddy.
  • Bring a camera to capture the beauty of the bamboo forest.
  • Don’t forget to stop by the nearby temples and shrines, such as Tenryu-ji Temple and Nonomiya Shrine.

In conclusion, exploring the enchanting bamboo forests of Arashiyama is one of the coolest things to do in Kyoto. It’s a unique and unforgettable experience that you won’t want to miss.

Kyoto for 3 days

A Taste of Kyoto: Must-Try Local Cuisine

Kyoto is not only famous for its temples and shrines but also for its unique and delicious cuisine. If you’re looking for cool things to do in Kyoto, exploring the local food scene should definitely be on your list. Here are some must-try dishes that will give you a taste of Kyoto’s culinary culture.

Kaiseki Ryori

Kaiseki Ryori is a traditional multi-course Japanese meal that originated in Kyoto. It’s a culinary art form that involves carefully selecting and preparing seasonal ingredients to create a harmonious and balanced meal. Each dish is beautifully presented and served in small portions, allowing you to savor every flavor and texture. Some of the must-try dishes in Kaiseki Ryori include sashimi, grilled fish, tempura, and wagyu beef.


Yudofu is a simple yet delicious dish that’s perfect for a cool Kyoto evening. It’s a hot pot of tofu simmered in a light broth made from kelp and bonito flakes. The tofu is served with a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, ginger, and green onions. Yudofu is a popular dish in Kyoto, especially during the winter months.


Obanzai is a type of home-style cooking that’s unique to Kyoto. It’s a simple and rustic cuisine that uses local and seasonal ingredients to create delicious and healthy dishes. Obanzai dishes are usually served in small portions and are meant to be shared. Some of the must-try dishes include pickled vegetables, grilled fish, and simmered tofu.


Matcha is a type of green tea that’s grown and produced in Kyoto. It’s a finely ground powder that’s whisked with hot water to create a frothy and flavorful drink. Matcha is not only delicious but also has many health benefits. You can enjoy matcha in many forms in Kyoto, including as a drink, in desserts, and even in savory dishes.

Kyoto’s culinary scene is a reflection of its rich history and culture. Trying these must-try dishes will give you a taste of Kyoto’s unique and delicious cuisine. Don’t miss out on this cool thing to do in Kyoto!

Kyoto for 4 days

Experience Traditional Japanese Culture: Tea Ceremonies and Geisha Performances

Kyoto is known for its rich cultural heritage and traditions. One of the best ways to experience traditional Japanese culture is by attending a tea ceremony or watching a geisha performance. Here are some cool things to do in Kyoto to immerse yourself in the local culture:

Attend a Tea Ceremony

Kyoto is home to many tea houses where you can experience a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The tea ceremony, also known as chanoyu, is a ritualistic way of preparing and serving matcha (powdered green tea). It is a highly choreographed and meditative experience that has been practiced for centuries. Some of the best places to experience a tea ceremony in Kyoto include:

  • En Tea Ceremony: This tea house is located in the Gion district and offers a traditional tea ceremony experience in a serene setting.
  • Camellia: This tea house is located in the Higashiyama district and offers a more modern take on the tea ceremony, with English-speaking hosts and a relaxed atmosphere.
  • Uji Tea Ceremony: This tea house is located in the Uji district, which is famous for its high-quality tea. Here, you can experience a tea ceremony while overlooking the Uji River.

Watch a Geisha Performance

Geisha are traditional Japanese entertainers who are highly skilled in various arts, such as dance, music, and conversation. They are known for their elaborate makeup and costumes, and for their ability to create a magical atmosphere for their guests. Watching a geisha performance is a unique and unforgettable experience that you can only have in Japan. Here are some places where you can watch a geisha performance in Kyoto:

  • Gion Corner: This cultural center in the Gion district offers a daily show that includes a geisha performance, as well as other traditional Japanese arts such as tea ceremony, flower arrangement, and puppetry.
  • Miyako Odori: This annual dance performance takes place in April at the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theater. It features geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) performing traditional dances and songs.
  • Pontocho Kaburenjo Theater: This theater in the Pontocho district offers a geisha performance that includes dance, music, and games. You can also enjoy a meal while watching the show.

Attending a tea ceremony or watching a geisha performance are just a few of the cool things to do in Kyoto to experience traditional Japanese culture. Make sure to add these activities to your itinerary for an unforgettable trip to Kyoto.

Kyoto for 5 days

Shop Like a Local: Kyoto’s Best Markets and Boutiques

Kyoto is a shopper’s paradise, with a wide range of markets and boutiques offering unique and traditional items. Here are some of the best places to shop like a local and find cool things to do in Kyoto:

Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market, also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” is a must-visit for foodies and anyone looking for a taste of local culture. This narrow, five-block-long shopping street is lined with over 100 shops and restaurants selling everything from fresh seafood and produce to traditional sweets and pickles. Don’t miss the chance to try some of Kyoto’s famous dishes, such as tofu, matcha, and kaiseki cuisine.

Teramachi and Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcades

Located in the heart of downtown Kyoto, the Teramachi and Shinkyogoku shopping arcades are two of the city’s most popular shopping destinations. These covered pedestrian streets are lined with a mix of traditional and modern shops, selling everything from souvenirs and clothing to electronics and cosmetics. Be sure to explore the side streets and alleys for hidden gems and cool things to do in Kyoto.

Kyoto Handicraft Center

For a more curated shopping experience, head to the Kyoto Handicraft Center. This multi-level complex showcases the best of Kyoto’s traditional crafts, including pottery, textiles, lacquerware, and more. You can watch artisans at work, attend workshops and demonstrations, and shop for unique and high-quality souvenirs.

Kiyomizu Shopping Street

Located at the base of the famous Kiyomizu-dera temple, Kiyomizu Shopping Street is a charming pedestrian street lined with traditional shops and restaurants. Here you can find a variety of souvenirs, including ceramics, textiles, and sweets, as well as cool things to do in Kyoto, such as trying on a kimono or sampling local snacks.

Tango no Sekku

If you’re looking for something truly unique, check out Tango no Sekku. This boutique specializes in vintage and antique Japanese textiles, including kimono, obi, and accessories. The owner, Ms. Nakamura, is a passionate collector and expert in her field, and can help you find the perfect piece to take home as a souvenir or gift.

Whether you’re looking for traditional crafts, local delicacies, or trendy fashion, Kyoto has something for everyone. So, put on your walking shoes and explore these cool things to do in Kyoto’s best markets and boutiques.

Kyoto for 6 days

Hidden Gems: Off-the-Beaten-Path Kyoto Attractions

Kyoto is a city full of surprises, and there are plenty of hidden gems to discover beyond the usual tourist hotspots. If you’re looking for cool things to do in Kyoto, then these off-the-beaten-path attractions are definitely worth checking out.

Explore the Philosopher’s Path

One of the coolest things to do in Kyoto is to take a stroll along the Philosopher’s Path. This picturesque walkway follows a canal lined with cherry trees, and is named after the famous philosopher Nishida Kitaro, who used to walk this path daily while contemplating life. The path is especially beautiful during cherry blossom season, but it’s a great place to visit any time of year.

Visit the Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple

If you’re looking for a unique and slightly eerie experience, then the Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple is a must-visit. This temple is home to thousands of small stone statues, each one representing a soul that has been lost or forgotten. The statues are arranged in rows and surrounded by bamboo groves, creating a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere.

Discover the Kyoto Railway Museum

For train enthusiasts, the Kyoto Railway Museum is a must-visit attraction. This museum is home to a huge collection of trains and railway-related artifacts, including steam locomotives, bullet trains, and even a replica of the first steam locomotive to run in Japan. It’s a fascinating look at the history of Japan’s railways, and a great way to spend a few hours.

Take a Cooking Class

If you’re a foodie looking for cool things to do in Kyoto, then why not take a cooking class? There are plenty of options available, from traditional Japanese cooking to sushi-making classes. Not only will you learn how to make delicious food, but you’ll also get to experience a unique aspect of Japanese culture.

Visit the Fushimi Inari Shrine at Night

The Fushimi Inari Shrine is one of Kyoto’s most popular attractions, but it’s also one of the busiest. If you want to avoid the crowds and experience the shrine in a different light, then consider visiting at night. The shrine is open 24 hours a day, and the torii gates are illuminated after dark, creating a magical atmosphere.

Kyoto is full of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or food, there’s something for everyone. So, if you’re looking for cool things to do in Kyoto, be sure to check out these off-the-beaten-path attractions.

Kyoto for 7 days

And there you have it, fellow travelers! My top picks for cool things to do Kyoto style. From the mesmerizing bamboo groves of Arashiyama to the vibrant streets of Gion, Kyoto is a city that never ceases to amaze. As Journeying Jack, I’ve had the pleasure of exploring countless destinations, but the cool things to do Kyoto offers will always hold a special place in my heart.

So, whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or a foodie, Kyoto has something for everyone. Don’t forget to share your own cool things to do Kyoto experiences with me and the Suitcase Stories community. I’m always eager to hear about your adventures and discover new gems in this enchanting city.

Until our next journey, keep exploring, and remember that the world is full of cool things to do Kyoto and beyond. Safe travels, and see you soon on Suitcase Stories!

Yours truly,

Journeying Jack

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