9 Awesome things to do in Kyoto
There are so many fantastic activities & retail stores to uncover in Kyoto. On my first trip to Kyoto I was overwhelmed by the amount of artisan stores, beautifully presented food & traditional architecture. Kyoto is a truly stunning city so to help you make the best itinerary for your trip I've compiled my top 9 awesome things to do and see in Kyoto.
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If you’re looking to walk in the footsteps of some of Japans most famous Geisha’s then look no further than Gion Corner. This area is famous for its century-old Geisha houses & is the entertainment hub of Kyoto. If you keep a sharp eye out, you might see an Obaasan holding the door & hailing a taxi for one of her protégées. Dressed in their beautifully designed Kimonos with their shamisen wrapped in cloth; they duck quickly into waiting cabs & walk swiftly through the cobbled streets. Always make sure to be respectful & never touch a Geisha. She is a work of art, not to be mobbed by groping hands & flash photography.
If you’re looking to see a live traditional theatre performance, you can do so at the “Gion Corner”. They have shows daily at reasonable prices. Make sure to get in early so you can sit right at the front. The seats are not on an incline, so if you’re sitting behind someone who likes to hold their selfie stick up you might not enjoy the performance.
HAND MADE FANS
In the market for a hand painted fan? Look no further than Miyawaki Baisenan. This fan store is 195 years old & has some of the most beautiful folded paper fans I've ever seen. On street level, look for the huge fan sticking out from the wall. Prices of fans range from $20 to $3000. Some are practical fans others are just for decoration. There is something for everyone.
A few years ago I was given a gift of incense from a friend. It was the most incredible fragrant incense I have ever had the pleasure of smelling. I only had 20 sticks & I snuffed them wisely. When I ran out I was completely devastated but thankfully I found the company that made them right in the heart of Kyoto. My first mission, on landing in Kyoto was to find & obtain the same incense. I was successful but not without buying a few other flavours.
Shoyeido is located in Kyoto station. I can’t say exactly where as I spent a good amount of time walking in circles, but it is there. This company makes the highest grade of incense possible. I purchased a small box of grapefruit flavored incense & my god when I light them, It smells like I peeled the zest of a thousand grapefruits. When the incense burns it doesn’t crumble onto the table top, it keeps its shape due to the number of high quality oils in the sticks.
Another incense store I highly recommend is Lins. Lins has over 150 different incense flavors & they are also of premium quality. I bought an assortment of flavours; yuzu, mocha, sea foam & strawberry to name a few.
The staff at both stores are so helpful & kind. They are very knowledgeable of all the fragrances & are happy to spark a few for you to smell before you buy.
ARABICA SPECIALTY COFFEE
Craving a coffee after exploring Gion corner? Try out Arabica coffee. Their store is highly popular amongst locals & tourists alike. They serve up delicious espresso on their nifty little Slayer. Take a seat inside or on the bench on the street. You might see a Geisha or two walk past.
SAKE FROM A VENDING MACHINE
As you walk down the streets of Kyoto you might come across a few street vendors selling food. My favourite snack would have to be freshly made rice crackers. They come in an assortment of flavours & spiciness but I can’t go past an original. If you’re thirsty, keep an eye out for a vending machine. But not just any vending machine. Sure you can have your Pocari sweat & your boss coffee but what if you want a different type of buzz? Look out for a sake vending machine. Your sake won’t fall as gracefully as some other beverages so don’t be alarmed when you hear an almighty THUD. Don’t worry if you don’t have a cup, your sake glass will come with one attached to the top.
STAMP YOUR LIFE AWAY
Stamps are a way of life in Japan. I talked about this prominent part of Japanese culture in my “Best free souvenirs from Japan” post. In this post, I talked about Eki stamps & how you can find them. These stamps are free to collect, however, if you’re looking for your very own hand crafted stamp then look no further than this little shop on Teramachi shopping street. This stamp shop has every stamp imaginable. From surnames to vulgar & quite hilarious comic stamps. You can get your own made or pick from their huge selection.
As you walk around Kyoto you might come across a cute reading nook. Take a breather & flick through the community library.
As I was walking down the traditional Kyoto streets I was marveling at the beautiful wooden houses. Looking up I saw a beautiful lady clad in a bright Kimono perched in a circular window of a house. On further inspection, I realised said the house was actually a Starbucks. This is the exact juxtaposition of tradition meets modernity that I love about Japan.
GET A VITAMIN C HIT: LEMON RAMEN
After your show at the Gion corner, stop by Muraji for some lemon ramen. It is incredibly delicious & light in flavour. The broth itself is chicken based; pair it with some gyoza & you've got a party.
LIVE OUT THE SCENE FROM MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA
Take the train out to Fushimi Ward & spend half a day hiking up Inari Mountain. You will pass through hundreds or Torii gates & each one was donated by a local business. Along the way you will see many smaller shrines where people come to worship the God Inari; who is the God of business & rice. I recommend getting up early to beat the crowds.
After hiking up Inari mountain, take a break at Vermillion coffee. They have two stores; one on the way down the mountain & the other is on the main road just next to the train station. The shop located near the shrine has a nice outside deck area surrounded by lots of greenery.