11 Best Traditional Experiences In Kyoto, Japan - Updated 2024

| 7 min read

Being the national capital of Japan from the 8th century until the 19th century, Kyoto (formerly known as Heian-kyo) has become the go-to place for anyone wanting to experience historic Japanese culture. This awe-inspiring city is filled with unique experiences that will give visitors a peek into olden Japan. When in Tokyo, discover the culture of geishas and wander around traditional markets among locals. You can also immerse yourself in the tranquillity of temples and shrines, and enjoy the variety of traditional and local dishes. Should you find yourself in this majestic city that puts its past at the fore, check out the best traditional experiences in Kyoto, Japan, for you to try.

1. Tour Kyoto’s Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine

Being one of Kyoto’s largest shrines, the Fushimi-Inari Taisha offers a wonderful scenery of lush red Japanese door frames, and a serene trail into the shrine’s forested area. Being a dedicated shrine for the Japanese rice god, Inari, there are multiple stops for worship and offerings, while the beautiful corridors of doors is a famous site for photography. You may decide to visit the temple on your own with a free admission. Just hop off the Inari Station of the JR line and find yourself at the shrine in less than 10 minutes. Or, try a walking tour which also brings you to Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum where you can enjoy sake tasting.

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Kyoto Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine and Sake Tasting Tour

Duration: approx. 4 hours.

7 reviews

2. Wander around Ryoan-ji Temple Zen Garden

One of the last, and most pristine dry landscape zen gardens in Japan can be located in Kyoto – the Ryoanji Temple Zen Garden. Inside the area, you may find a structure called the Hojo, featuring tatami rooms and traditional paintings. Being the former residence of the head priest, the Hojo is also connected to the former temple kitchen called the Kuri. The park and pond area is surrounded by beautiful outdoor walking trails leading to traditional restaurants that serve boiled tofu, a local specialty of Kyoto. The rock garden of the Ryoanji Temple follows the traditional zen garden design and is constructed in a way that at least one rock is always unseen by the viewer from any point of view. On this half-day tour, also get to see Nijo Castle, a magnificent portrait that lets you into a historic, royal past.

byFood Experiences

Private Tea Ceremony Next to a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Elevate your Kyoto journey with the byFood Private Tea Ceremony, held in a tea house sitting next to the 100-year-old Japanese temple of Ryoan-ji, famous for its zen rock garden. Enveloped in the aura of historical splendor, you’ll engage in the time-honored rituals of tea preparation guided by skilled experts. Tourists can also rent a traditional kimono. Cloaked in this elegant attire, you can immerse yourself in the ambiance, savoring authentic Japanese confections to accompany the tea. This exclusive experience unveils Japanese tea culture intricacies while offering serene views that evoke tranquility and connection with the past.

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wander around ryoan-ji temple zen garden
Source: www.klook.com

Nijo Castle and Ryōan-ji Temple Half Day Trip in Kyoto, Japan - Klook

Duration: 3hrs15 Min Duration

Private Tea Ceremony Next to a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Duration: 1hours

1 review

3. See Kyoto’s Silver Pavilion, Ginkaku-ji

8 best traditional experience in kyoto japan | see kyoto’s silver pavilion, ginkaku-ji
Source: www.klook.com

The Ginkaku-ji, just like the Ryoan-ji, is a Zen temple and a UNESCO-listed site. This temple contains a large art collection which was collected during the 15th century, and is displayed all around. It is also decorated with a dry sand garden and a moss garden, and has six other temples around the Silver Pavilion - Ginkaku-ji translated into english. Take photos around the beautiful water streams and greenery of the temple area, and explore the paths which go through traditionally built bridges and trails. The temple opens at 8:30am, and closes at 5pm so make sure to catch the temple before sunset!

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Silver Pavilion Ginkaku-ji Temple Tour with National Licensed Guide in Kyoto, Japan - Klook

Duration: 1hrsDuration

4. Visit Chion-in Temple

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user 663highland used under CC BY 2.5

Being the principal temple of Japanese Jodo Buddhism, the Chion-In Temple imposes itself on the passerby through it’s incredibly large Sanmon Gate – the largest wooden gate in the whole of Japan, at 24 meters (78.7 ft) tall and 50 meters (164 ft) wide. Learn more about Jodo Buddhism through the different halls available in the temple. In the middle of the temple’s Miedo Hall, one can find the statue of Jodo founder, priest Honen. In the Amidado hall nearby, a statue of the Amida Buddha can be found as well, while the Seishido hall boasts its age, being a 16th-century historical monument. The gardens located outside the temple walls are also beautifully made featuring ponds and rocks in the distinctive Japanese garden design. The temple is only a 10- to 15-minute walk from the Higashiyama Station of the Tozai Line, and can be accessed for free from 9am to 4:30pm.

Chion-In Temple

Address: Japan, 〒605-8686 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, Rinkacho

Website: The Chion-In Temple

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5. Marvel at Myoshin-ji Temple

Formed during the 13th century as a temple for Zen Buddhism, simultaneously destroyed and reconstructed in the following two centuries, the Myoshin-ji Temple complex boasts itself as as the head temple of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. Here, you may visit many of the attractions of the temple – including a bath house, Ryoan-ji Temple, Taizoin Temple, Keishunin Temple, and Daishinin Temple. Around these temples you may also find traditionally designed Japanese gardens, some untouched since the 17th century, while traditional Japanese art can also be found inside these temples. The temple complex is just a three-minute walk from Myoshinji Station, or a five-minute walk from JR Hanazono Station.

Myoshin-ji Temple

Address: Japan, 〒616-8035 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Ukyo Ward, Hanazonomyoshinjicho

Website: Myoshin-ji Temple

Price: 5 USD (guided tour)

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6. Admire Kamigamo-jinja Shrine, a testament to heritage

Kamigamo-jinja Shrine is one of the two shrines located at Kamo Shrine complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and are the oldest shrines in the whole of Kyoto. Kamigamo-jinja Shrine, known as The Upper Shrine in English sits almost 4 kilometers (2.5 mi) up from Shimogamo Shrine. The shrine is best known for its ancient sand cones used for purification, and if you’re in town during the middle of May, make it a point to visit the Kamigamo-jinja Shrine as Kyoto’s very big Aoi Matsuri festival happens on May 15th of every year. Aside from the Kamigamo-jinja Shrine you may always opt to visit Shimogamo Shrine which is just a walk away from Kamigamo-jinja Shrine. Shimogamo Shrine is surrounded by beautiful scenery and gardening, and is found at the junction of two rivers, the Kamo and Takano rivers. Both shrines are open from 5:30am to 5pm and is free to visit all throughout the year.

Kamigamo-jinja Shrine

Address: Japan, 〒603-8047 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Kita Ward, Kamigamo Motoyama

Website: Kamigamo-jinja Shrine

Opening hours: 5:30am - 5pm (daily)

Price: Free

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7. Experience a gastronomic feast at Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market, Kyoto; December 2016
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user David Stanley used under CC BY 2.0

End your day at the Nishiki Market, featuring traditional food available at Kyoto. The five-block long market features almost all kinds of Japanese market food, including fresh sushi and sashimi, as well as fresh ingredients such as Japanese pickles and fresh tofu for local dishes. The vendors of the market also hand out free samples of their products, and are very accommodating and friendly. The market opens at 9am and closes at 6pm, and is only a 5 minute walk from the Shijo Station of the Karasuma Subway Line.

Nishiki Market

Address: Japan, 〒604-8054 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward

Website: Nishiki Market

Opening hours: 9:30am - 6pm (daily)

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8. Discover Japanese geisha culture at Gion District (from USD 12.0)

8 best traditional experience in kyoto japan | discover japanese geisha culture at gion district

Gion District is most historically known for its geisha culture and the multitude of shrines and temples available in the area. Immerse yourself in traditional performing arts at Yasaka Hall, Gion Corner. Listen to the melodies at Gagaku Court Music, and view performances at the Kyogen Theatre, and Bunraku Puppet Theatre, from 6pm to 7pm everyday with prices at 3,150 Yen (30 USD) per person. You can also opt for a Gion Evening Walk private tour. Learn about Gion’s history while strolling down geisha districts. Discover their way of life, traditional rules, and styles–including the well-known kimono.

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Night Walk in Gion: Kyoto's Geisha District

Duration: 100.0 minute

1468 reviews

9. Kyoto Tea Ceremony and Sweets Experience (from USD 58.0)

Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Kyoto with this Tea Ceremony and Sweets Experience. Deck yourself up in a traditional Japanese kimono and learn the ancient art of tea preparation as skilled instructors guide you through the elegant gestures and rituals of brewing match tea.

Delight in the serene atmosphere and savor exquisite traditional Japanese sweets that perfectly complement the tea. This immersive experience offers a glimpse of Kyoto’s rich history and lets tourists enjoy a moment of tranquility amid the bustling modern world.

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Kyoto Tea Ceremony and Sweets Experience

Duration: 1hours

11 reviews

10. Kyoto Sake Brewery Tour in Fushimi Sake District (from USD 159.0)

Embark on a captivating journey into the world of Japanese sake brewing with the Kyoto Sake Brewery Tour in the enchanting Fushimi Sake District. Explore the centuries-old art of sake production as you visit traditional breweries nestled amidst picturesque landscapes.

As you go around the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum, expert guides reveal the intricate processes behind crafting this iconic Japanese beverage. Engage your senses in sake tastings that capture the flavors of the region’s mineral-rich terrain. Immerse yourself in Fushimi’s cultural tapestry, understanding its historical significance while enjoying the flavors that have graced tables for generations.

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Kyoto Sake Brewery Tour in Fushimi Sake District

Duration: 3hours

8 reviews

11. Kyoto Tea Farm Tour, Tasting, and Lunch in Scenic Wazuka (from USD 101.0)

Go for this enchanting journey with the Kyoto Tea Farm Tour, Tasting, and Lunch in the picturesque backdrop of Wazuka. Delve into the heart of Japanese tea culture as you explore this charming tea town nestled in Kyoto Prefecture. You can explore the scenic tea fields of Wazuka and absorb the nuances of tea cultivation. After the tour, relish a unique lunch featuring “cha soba” noodles infused with tea.

This will be followed by a hands-on tea brewing and tasting session where you will learn to modify flavors through temperature and savor the world’s finest matcha - Wazuka-cho’s pride. Kyoto Obubu Tea Farm’s fervor for tea comes alive as they share their knowledge with visitors, fostering cultural appreciation and honoring the artisans behind this Japanese tradition.

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Kyoto Tea Farm Tour, Tasting, and Lunch in Scenic Wazuka

Duration: 4hours

7 reviews

Kyoto, Japan for the old soul

Kyoto is full of cultural gems that it’s hard to even miss one during your stay here. But if you truly want to make the most out of your Kyoto trip, make it a point to visit these best traditional experiences.

Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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A young Filipina passionate about seeing the world, understanding its people and creating new ways for them to explore their potential and lead more meaningful lives. Also a big fan of beaches,...Read more

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