10 Best Non-Touristy Things To Do In Kyoto, Japan

non touristy things to do in kyoto
| 5 min read

Kyoto is A twin sister of Tokyo and these are the two main cities in Japan where people mostly end up going to. Although Tokyo is a modern city, Kyoto sticks to being traditional, also famously known as the home of geisha, the birthplace of the Japanese tea ceremony and a city full of temples and shrines. But, that’s not all. Even with a city full of cultural shrines and museums, that’s not the only thing that defines Kyoto. From exploring the doll restaurant to wandering around the markets, there’s so much to explore and do in this city. We’ve created a list of the most awesome non-touristy things to do in Kyoto, to help you experience the best of what Kyoto offers. Scroll down to learn more.

1. Witness extraordinary performances at Gear Art Complex

The newest attraction on the block of Kyoto is the Gear Art Complex, where Japan’s first and original non-verbal performance is held. Launched in 2012 with its first show, it proudly continues to this day with crossing over a thousand shows in the year of 2015. The theatre was built on the grounds of Osaka Manichi Newspaper in 1928, still bearing its original appearances to feel the retro atmosphere and welcoming guests from all over the world to witness performances of a one-of-a-kind show. Having trouble with understanding the language? No worries. The non-verbal act is spun around a story, non-verbally, where any age and people from other parts of the world will understand and enjoy the show. Shows are expressed through Robaroids-toy dolls and human robots, mime shows, magic and juggling, break dancing, emotion and dance, without uttering a single word but, affecting all the five senses of a human body. And to bring things to more effect, the theatre brings in the latest techniques including full-colour LED dresses, projection mapping, and laser beams to let you experience something you have never witnessed before.

GEAR theatre

Address: Japan, 〒604-8082 Kyoto, Nakagyo Ward, Benkeiishicho, 56 1928ビル3階

Website: GEAR theatre

Opening hours: 10am - 9pm (daily)

Price: 37 USD

2. Set your ramen on fire at Menbakaichidai Restaurant

How does setting your dinner literally on fire sound? Exciting? Weird? Combine all of that and you will devour on Fire Ramen, a speciality dish from a restaurant called Menbakaichidai, located slightly on the north side of Kyoto Castle. The setting is simple. You are served a bowl of chicken, pork, soy broth, green onions, slices of pork and noodle and topped with a layer of oil. Then the chef walks in and sets light to the oil. And Voila! It’s on fire! By doing so, the fire cooks the ingredients in the bowl giving it a smokey taste.

Menbakaichidai Restaurant

Address: 757-2, Minamiiseyacho, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto, 602-8153, Japan

Website: Menbakaichidai Restaurant

Opening hours: 11am - 11pm (daily)

Price: From 9 USD

3. Be mesmerized by the views of Kimono Forest

Kimono Forest at night, Arashiyama Station, Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Basile Morin used under CC BY-SA 4.0

While you take a breather at Arashiyama Station, you won’t fail to notice the six-foot-tall cylindrical tubes covered in colourful fabrics, surrounding you. And that is the Kimono Forest, an art installation made by the artist Yasumichi Morita. Explore over 600 pillars where 32 different fabrics are on display, and if you have time to go to Arashiyama in the evenings, enjoy witnessing all the tubes light up, making it one colourful show you can walk around.

Kimono Forest

Address: 35-28 Sagatenryuji Tsukurimichicho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8384, Japan

Website: Kimono Forest

Opening hours: Open 24hrs

Price: 4 USD

4. Get your wish granted at the Pom Pom Temple - Yasaka Koshindo

Yasaka Koshindo is by far one of the busiest areas of Kyoto. Every road on the Higashiyama district is flocked with people shopping, roaming around in kimono, temple hopping, and hogging on instagrammable foods such as gold leaf ice-cream one can easily find around. As you walk around, you will stumble upon a temple filled with colored balls. It is said when you write your wishes on one of the pom pom balls and hang them up after, one of the three monkeys who guard the decorated temple will grant your wish. Even though your wish comes true or not, this is an experience especially when a monkey can grant a wish.

Yasaka Kōshin-dō

Address: 390-1 Kinencho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0828, Japan

Website: Yasaka Kōshin-dō

Opening hours: 9am - 5pm (daily)

Price: Free of cost

5. Admire fluffy moss at the Moss Garden

Kyoto is known for temples of different objects, normal to unique deities. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if you hear about a moss temple when you visit Kyoto. True to its name, Giou Ji, the moss temple is a temple covered and dedicated to the moss. You will find a lawn full of moss including roofs, stones, and trees; pretty much everywhere it could get a grip on. Because of its renowned setting, it became a destination filled with too many people. And with too many people, the place gets exposed to a lot of damage. So, if you’d like to visit the place, try booking at least two months prior to your trip and try being as flexible as needed, because the temple is known to have a certain set of sessions per day.

Giou Ji

Address: 32 Sagatoriimoto Kozakacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8435, Japan

Website: Giou Ji

Opening hours: 9am - 5pm (daily)

Price: 2 USD

6. Have an omelette with a life-size doll at Yoshoku

If eating eggs are your favourite and dolls are your thing, combine these two and you get Issen Yoshoku Restaurant. This restaurant is known to serve only one dish, a unique omelette made from eggs, spring onion, dried shrimp, beef, and a few other ingredients. What makes this restaurant stand out is the fact that there are tables placed inside the restaurant with life-size kimono-clad dolls to keep you company. If you are a solo traveller, you will not be solo anymore when you enter this restaurant.

Issen Yoshoku Restaurant

Address: 238 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0073, Japan

Website: Issen Yoshoku restaurant

Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 11am - 3am; Sun: 10:30am - 10pm

Price: 5 USD

7. Solve your hair woes at Mikami Jinja Shrine

Sannomiya-jinja and Tenjingu-jinja (Mikami-jinja)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Saigen Jiro used under CC0

Suffering from hair loss or thinning hair? You should definitely check this place out. The only shrine in the world, Mikami Jinja is a holy shrine at Arashiyama, Kyoto, where the god of hair is worshipped by the people. This shrine is often visited by those people who have hair troubles such as bald patches, hair thinning and balding from all over the world. With multiple deities worshipped in Japan, the god of hair is one such deity and shrine that can be worshipped only at this temple.

Mikami Jinja Shrine

Address: 10-2 Sagaogurayama Tabuchiyamacho, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-8394, Japan


Opening hours: 10am - 3pm (daily)

Price: Free of cost

8. Bind your relationship at Yasui Konpira Gu Temple

Yasui Kompira-gu Kyoto Japan02s3
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user 663highland used under CC BY 2.5

Ever wanted to break a toxic relationship or bind an old one? You must visit Kyoto’s Yasui Konpira Gu temple. A piece of paper is all you need to either break or bind a relationship, where enkiri means to cut, while ensmusbi protects and covers all kinds of ties, connections, and relationships. The relationship could be with anything: people, things, or habits. At the temple, buy a piece of paper from the stall and write your name on it. Fold the paper and hold on to it while you climb through the hole in the shrine. But ensure you go the right way around. To mend the relationship, one must go through the hole back to the front and if you want to break a relationship, you must go the other way around.

Yasui Kompira Gu temple

Address: Japan, 〒605-0823 Kyoto, Higashiyama Ward, 松原上ル 下弁天町 70 Higashioji-dori Ave

Website: Yasui Kompira Gu temple

Opening hours: Open 24 hours; the amulets can be purchased from 9am - 5.30pm

Price: Grounds are free; Ema Museum 4 USD

9. Go on a culinary adventure at Nishiki Market (from USD 258.0)

Your Kyoto trip isn’t complete without a three-hour Kyoto Food Tour at Nishiki Market. Explore the market, devour a variety of foods, and learn about the traditional Japanese food, or washoku, which has been placed under UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Get to indulge your taste buds with varied and nuance cuisine, while exploring the market and also learn and discover the ingredients in Kyoto’s food, detectable by the taste buds, only found in Japanese cuisine.

Kyoto Nishiki Market Private Walking Tour with Scholar Guide

Duration: 3 hours

3 reviews

10. Experience Kyoto like a Samurai (from USD 73.0)

non touristy things to do in kyoto | experience kyoto like a samurai
Source: www.viator.com

Ever watched Samurai Movies? Wanted to be a ninja? This experience will be your dream coming alive. Take part in a Samurai sword experience and feed your inner warrior a set of Samurai skills. At the Samurai and Ninja Museum, you will have time to learn Samurai skills from a trained professional in a safe setting. Other than using a real Samurai sword, which is the best experience one could imagine, you will also tour around the Samurai and Ninja Museum and learn the Japanese Samurai sword martial arts of Tameshigiri.

Samurai Sword Experience in Kyoto Tameshigiri

Your bucket list is ready

Kyoto Skyline and Fall Colors
Source: Photo by user chupacabra runner used under CC BY-ND 2.0

There you go. Which one is your favourite on the list? Which one are you going to explore first? With these 10 attractions, you can both avoid the tourist crowds and immerse yourself in the true grandeur of Kyoto.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Born in Mumbai and brought up in Bangalore, India, Aarti is a full-time freelance writer by profession. She is a lover of everything the ‘blue dot’ offers—world cultures, off-the-beaten tracks,...Read more

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