17 of the Best Activities in Kyoto


2023.07.23

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

17 of the Best Activities in Kyoto

Unlike any other city in Japan, Kyoto embodies the cultural concept of “Wa 和”, with its peaceful setting amongst naturally beautiful surrounds. It’s a destination brimming with traditional cultures that is an essential stop on every traveler’s Japanese itinerary.

But aside from ticking off temples, how can you truly experience the essence of Kyoto and its age-old traditions?

In this article, we’ll introduce some of the hands-on experiences that are available in Kyoto. Not only will they contribute to your understanding of Japanese culture but you’ll come away with some unique souvenirs to take home.

  • 01

    Kimono rental experience

    Kimono rental experience

    Kimono rental experience

    One of the most popular ways to experience Kyoto and the historic streets surrounding the Kiyomizu Temple is dressed up as a geisha or maiko (geisha apprentice).

    There are numerous rental kimono shops in the area where you can select a kimono of your choice and be professionally dressed by their friendly, English-speaking staff. It’s a classic way to experience Kyoto and capture memorable photos at the same time.

    Kimono rental experience

    Kimono rental experience

    Popular tours: Rent Kimono/Yukata in Kyoto and receive Japanese Candies! (Voyagin)

    京都きものレンタル麗
    place
    京都府京都市東山区祇園町北側317 ソニアビル3F
    phone
    0755311890
    info
    【URL】http://kimono-rei.jp/
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    [Kyoto/Gion] [Basic plan for women only♪] Kimono/yukata rental (with free obi ornament rental bonus) Enjoy in kimono♪

    ¥2,800

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    Update date:2024/04/16

  • 02

    Japanese cooking class

    Japanese cooking class

    Japanese cooking class

    Japanese cooking class

    Japanese cooking class

    If you love Japanese food, why not learn how to make it back home during a cooking class. Combining an information session with a practical cooking class, these culinary experiences will not only teach you how to make Japanese dishes but also the history of the country’s cuisine and table etiquette.

    Roll your own sushi or make teriyaki chicken and okonomiyaki, accompanied by miso soup, rice and dessert.

    Japanese cooking class

    Japanese cooking class

    Popular tours: Rent Kimono/Authentic Japanese Cooking Class (Voyagin)

    京町家 美福ろうじ屋
    place
    京都府京都市中京区西ノ京池ノ内町22-26
    phone
    0754328494
    info
    【URL】http://cooking.kyotobase.com/index.html
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  • 03

    Kiyomizu ware painting and Pottery experience

    Kiyomizu ware painting and Pottery experience

    Kiyomizu ware painting and Pottery experience

    Craft your very own piece of Kiyomizu pottery 清水焼 at the Mori Pottery Museum, which runs pottery making and painting experiences.

    Kiyomizu ware was first produced along Gojozaka near the Kiyomizu Temple. You can paint a classic scene from Kyoto on your pottery or recreate a memory from your Japanese trip, making for the perfect souvenir.

  • 04

    Japanese sweets making experience

    Japanese sweets making experience

    Japanese sweets making experience

    Japanese sweets making experience

    Japanese sweets making experience

    If you’ve got a sweet tooth, then don’t miss the opportunity to take a wagashi 和菓子(traditional Japanese sweets) making lesson. These colorful sweets are often intricately designed and in this workshop, you’ll discover the secrets behind their creation.

    After grinding tea leaves to make matcha, you’ll then create sweets using wasanbon 和三盆 (a special type of local sugar) before experiencing an Otemae tea ceremony with your tea and sweet creations.

    Japanese sweets making experience

    Japanese sweets making experience

    Popular tours: Make Matcha tea by grinding & make Japanese sweets, Kyoto (Voyagin)

    甚松庵
    place
    京都府京都市下京区万寿寺町135 ベルク烏丸2F
    phone
    08093071873
    info
    【URL】https://www.english.jinmatsuan.com/
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  • 05

    Matcha making experience

    Mitsuboshien Kanbayashi Sannyu Honten

    Mitsuboshien Kanbayashi Sannyu Honten

    Mitsuboshien Kanbayashi Sannyu Honten 三星園上林三入本店

    Want to make matcha at one of the most legendary tea shops in Uji? Mitsuboshien Kanbayashi Sannyu Honten 三星園上林三入本店 has been crafting tea for Japanese Emperors dating back hundred years and now runs workshops where everyone can learn the art.

    Step into the third-floor tea room “Sankyuan 三休庵” where you’ll grind your own tea while hearing stories from this iconic matcha-making house. Don’t miss the second-floor museum where there’s a small exhibit dedicated to the history of the shop.

    Fukujuen

    Fukujuen

    Fukujuen 福寿園

    Fukujuen is a leading name when it comes to authentic Japanese tea, with their flagship store on the 4th floor of Kyo no Chaan 京の茶庵 in Shijo.
    Here, they run matcha experiences where you can learn how to make a delicious cup of Japanese tea.

    Led by a certified Japanese tea instructor, you’ll discover how to make gyokuro 玉露 (premium Japanese tea) and sencha 煎茶.
    Select teas from their extensive range and discover how to blend the tea leaves to suit your taste before having it packaged in a special tea box.

    三星園上林三入本店
    place
    京都府宇治市宇治蓮華27-2
    phone
    0774212636
    info
    【URL】https://www.ujicha-kanbayashi.co.jp/english
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  • 06

    Get crafty at Fujinomoriryo 藤森寮

    Fujinomoriryo

    Fujinomoriryo

    Fujinomoriryo

    Fujinomoriryo

    Fujinomoriryo

    Fujinomoriryo

    A former student residence at Ritsumeikan University has been transformed into a handicraft shop known as Fujinomoriryo where you can find unique gifts and souvenirs. It features two large dormitories which are connected by a Japanese-style courtyard and are filled with ateliers.

    You can experience a glass-making workshop over a gas burner or browse the cute potteries and lacquered goods on show, as well as shop for specialty herbal teas.

    Fujimori Dorm
    place
    Kyoto Kyoto-shi Kita-ku Murasakinohigashifujinomoricho 11-1
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  • 07

    See the sights of Kyoto on a cycling tour

    See the sights of Kyoto on a cycling tour

    See the sights of Kyoto on a cycling tour

    One of the best ways to experience a lot of Kyoto in a short amount of time is on a cycling tour, accompanied by a knowledgeable local guide.

    The trails that wind along the banks of the Kamo River are particularly popular to explore on two wheels, with cherry blossoms igniting the way in springtime and autumn colors in the fall. Discover the city’s historic sites and lesser-known treasures as you pedal your way through the streets of Kyoto.

    See the sights of Kyoto on a cycling tour

    See the sights of Kyoto on a cycling tour

    Popular tours: Kyoto Fun: Cycling Tour (Voyagin)

    KON'SCYCLE Takoyakushi
    place
    Kyoto Kyoto-shi Nakagyo-ku Takoyakushidori Tominokoji Higashiiri Aburayacho 141
    phone
    0752313011
    info
    【URL】https://www.konscycle.com/shoplist/takoyakushi/
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  • 08

    Maiko makeover

    Maiko makeover

    Maiko makeover

    Aside from getting dressed up as a geisha or maiko, you can also be made up as a maiko. These authentic maiko makeup experiences are led by former geisha apprentices who will share with you their insider knowledge about how to walk and dance like a maiko, as well as showing you how to pose during a studio photo session.

    Keep in mind that this is an indoors-only experience and should you want to go out walking, opt for the walking plan.

    Gion Aya

    Gion Aya

    Popular tours: Maiko Makeover in Kyoto Gion (Voyagin)

    ぎをん彩
    place
    京都府京都市東山区下河原町499-8
    phone
    0755326666
    info
    【URL】https://kyoto-maiko.com/english
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    Maiko and a Samurai Makeover Experience for Couple

    ¥26,100

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    Update date:2024/04/16

  • 09

    Teahouse experience with a maiko or geisha

    Teahouse experience with a maiko or geisha

    Teahouse experience with a maiko or geisha

    If you don’t want to get dressed up but still want to experience the art and culture of geisha and maiko, you can opt for a teahouse experience instead.

    You’ll be treated like a VIP as you’re served a seasonal kaiseki meal in a beautiful old teahouse, then entertained by authentic geishas and maikos. Accompanied by an English-speaking guide, you can ask questions about the lives of the women and their long-established traditions.


    Popular tours: VIP Teahouse Banquet with Geisha in Kamishichiken, Kyoto (Voyagin)

    MOSAIC MACHIYA KSK
    place
    京都府京都市上京区今出川通七本松通西入真盛町702
    phone
    0756720511
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  • 10

    Incense making at Shoyeido 松栄堂

    Incense making at Shoyeido

    Incense making at Shoyeido

    In Arashiyama, you can also create your own scent while making incense at Shoyeido. This company manufactures some of the highest quality and most natural incense in the world, with its headquarters based in Kyoto.

    Under the guidance of one of their skilled incense makers, you’ll select your own ingredients to make a fragrance of your choice, then combine them into an odor bag or scented bookmark to take home.

  • 11

    Japanese calligraphy experience

    Japanese calligraphy experience

    Japanese calligraphy experience

    Ever wanted to learn the art of calligraphy?

    Well, in Higashiyama you can do just that. Japanese calligraphy experiences include an introduction to the history of the art and its Zen-like sitting meditation, as well as the opportunity to create your own artwork to take home. Adding to the experience is its setting within an elegant old machiya (traditional house) where you can experience old-world Kyoto first hand.


    Popular tours: Experience Japanese Calligraphy in Kyoto (Voyagin)

  • 12

    Braiding experience at Adachi Kumihimo Kan 安達くみひも館

    Braiding experience

    Braiding experience

    Situated adjacent to the Kyoto Imperial Palace, the Adachi Kumi Strings Hall is the place to head if you want to learn their unique braiding technique.

    It was recently popularized during the animated film “Kimi no Na Wa”(Your Name), with visitors now flocking here to make braided bracelets and hair accessories.

    Learn how to weave the colorful threads into a design of your inspiration while making a unique souvenir to take home.

    Adachi Kumihimokan
    rating

    4.0

    1 Reviews
    place
    Kyoto Prefecture Kyoto City Kamigyo-ku Drainage Terminal Karasuma Nishi Naka Nakamizu-cho 390
    phone
    0754324113
    opening-hour
    9:00-16:00
    info
    【URL】http://www.adachikumihimokan.com/index.html
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    RESI STAY Jisco Hotel Kyoto Goshonishi

    177-1 Gochomecho, Kamigyo Ward Kyoto

    Agoda
    • RESI STAY Jisco Hotel Kyoto Goshonishi
    • RESI STAY Jisco Hotel Kyoto Goshonishi
    • RESI STAY Jisco Hotel Kyoto Goshonishi
    • RESI STAY Jisco Hotel Kyoto Goshonishi
    • RESI STAY Jisco Hotel Kyoto Goshonishi
  • 13

    Kyoyuzen kimono dyeing at Marumasu-Nishimuraya 丸益西村屋

    Kyoyuzen kimono dyeing

    Kyoyuzen kimono dyeing

    Discover the traditional kimono dyeing art of Kyoyuzen 京友禅 during a workshop at the long established Maruma-Nishimuraya.

    Under a master craftsman, you’ll learn first hand the techniques of Kyoyuzen and the motifs such as birds, trees and flowers that have long been used in traditional Japanese painting.

    Aside from Kyoyuzen workshops, Marumasu-Nishimuraya also runs Furoshiki (box wrapping) workshops and has a cafe where you can just watch the world go by.

    Kyo-Yuzen Workshop, Marumasu-Nishimuraya
    place
    Kyoto Prefecture Kyoto City Nakagyo-ku Ogawa Tsuchiikei South entering
    phone
    0752113273
    opening-hour
    9:00-18:00 (Reception until …
    info
    【URL】https://www.marumasu-nishimuraya.co.jp/en/
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  • 14

    Go-kart experience

    Go-kart experience

    Go-kart experience

    If you’re short on time but want to see as much of Kyoto as possible, then a go-kart driving experience might be for you.

    Drive around the Kyoto Tower, Arashiyama and Yasaka, with a professional guide pointing out sights along the way. You can even dress up in cosplay as your favorite character and opt for a GoPro-style sports camera shoot for what is a uniquely Japanese experience.


    Popular tours: Go-Kart in Kyoto (Voyagin)

    公道カート 京都
    place
    京都府京都市南区東九条上御霊町23
    info
    【URL】https://kart.st/en/kyoto.html
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    No.8 Kyoto

    Minami-ku Higashikujo Kamigoryocho 7-2 Kyoto

    Agoda
    • No.8 Kyoto
  • 15

    Hozu River Boat Cruise

    Since the beginning of the Heian period (AD 794-1185), the Hozu River (which runs between Kameoka and Arashiyama) was used to transport lumber to Kyoto and Osaka. As a transport route, it was eventually replaced by trains and automobiles, and is now known as a sightseeing attraction with picturesque views of the ravine.

    The Hozu River Boat Cruise is a two-hour journey that is usually operated by three to five boatmen, depending on the river conditions. Using bamboo poles and oars, the crew skilfully navigate traditional, flat-bottomed boats between rapids and rocks down a 16-kilometre-long stretch of the river. The Hozu has both gentle stretches and thrilling sections, with strong currents along the way.

    The Hozu River Boat Cruise is available throughout the year but is particularly beautiful during the autumn foliage and cherry blossom seasons. The boarding point is a seven-minute walk from the north exit of Kameoka Station.

    Hozu-gawa River Boat Ride
    rating

    4.5

    388 Reviews
    place
    Kyoto Kameokashi Hoduchou Shimonakajima 2
    phone
    0771225846
    opening-hour
    9:00-15:00[Dec.2ndMonday-3/9…
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  • 16

    Sagano Romantic Train

    The Sagano Romantic Train is a popular attraction that takes in beautiful scenery along the Hozu River. This wagon-style train runs at a leisurely pace, only a little bit faster than a bicycle. Hauled by a diesel locomotive, the passenger cars ooze charm, with yellow wooden chairs and bare light bulbs giving them a nostalgic feel.

    In terms of scenery, the ravine changes throughout the year, with cherry blossoms in spring, lush greenery in summer, crimson leaves in fall, and occasional snowfall in winter. During the 25-minute journey, the train slows down in certain areas so passengers can really soak up the views.

    The Sagano Romantic Train runs from Torokko Saga Station to Torokko Kameoka Station, between 10 am and 4 pm each day. Saga Torokko Station is a one-minute walk from Saga Arashiyama Station.

    It’s possible to combine the Sagano Romantic Train and the Hozu River Boat Cruise, doing both on the same day. A convenient shuttle bus is available from Torokko Kameoka Station to the boarding point of the Hozu River Boat Cruise.

    Sagano Romantic Train
    place
    Kyoto Prefecture Kyoto City Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto prefecture Kameoka city
    phone
    0758617444
    opening-hour
    9:00 (or 10:00)-17:20 *Speci…
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    Kyoto Arashiyama & Sagano Train & Sanzenin Temple Day Tour丨Osaka/Kyoto Departure

    ¥6,506

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    Update date:2024/04/16

    Hotel Binario Saga Arashiyama

    3-4 Sagatenryuji Hiromichicho, Ukyo-ku Kyoto

    Agoda
    • Hotel Binario Saga Arashiyama
    • Hotel Binario Saga Arashiyama
    • Hotel Binario Saga Arashiyama
    • Hotel Binario Saga Arashiyama
    • Hotel Binario Saga Arashiyama
  • 17

    Otabe Honkan

    One of Kyoto’s most iconic sweets is otabe, a triangular-shaped, thin rice cake filled with a sweet bean paste. This confectionery is readily available in many souvenir shops across the city but in Otabe Honkan’s flagship store, you can make your own!

    Otabe Honkan currently offers two types of sweet-making workshops: an intensive workshop and a casual workshop. The intensive workshop goes through the entire process of making otabe, from kneading the dough to moulding the rice cake sheet to filling it with the bean paste. To participate, you need to make a reservation at least a week in advance.

    The casual workshop just focuses on filling the rice cake sheet with bean paste and doesn’t require a reservation. Otabe Honkan's manufacturing site is in the same compound as its flagship store, so you can tour the factory and watch the behind-the-scenes process.

    Otabe Honkan is a nine-minute walk from Jujo Station.

    Otabe Honkan
    rating

    4.5

    28 Reviews
    place
    Kyoto Kyoutoshi Minami-ku Nishikujoutakahatachou 35-2
    phone
    0756818284
    opening-hour
    10:00-18:00
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    Kyo Maimai Near World Heritage Toji Temple

    38番地9 Kyoto

    Agoda

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