shrine at gion

5 things you must do when visiting Kyoto

Kyoto was the imperial capital of Japan for almost a thousand years. As a result, there are plenty of amazing attractions in the city. This makes it a staple in every Japan itinerary. We’ve recently visited the city and thought of 5 things every visitor should do when they are in Kyoto!

Visit Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

A visit to Kyoto is not complete without a trip to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. This is the now-famous Japan bamboo forest that’s all over Instagram feeds.

Insider tips

Make sure to visit early in the morning before 830am if you’re looking to have the place all to yourself. Tour buses start streaming in at 9 and it gets really packed then.

Getting there

From downtown Kyoto, take the Kyoto subway / JR lines to Arashiyama station. From the station, it’s just a short 5 minutes walk through a quaint Japanese town to the entrance of the forest.

Climb up the Fushimi Inari Shrine

Although there are plenty of Inari shrines all across Japan, perhaps the most famous one would be the Fushimi Inari Shrine in southern Kyoto. What makes this place so attractive is the thousands of bright orange Torri gates that line the mountain path towards the top of Mount Inari.

torii gates at fushimi inari

Located at the start of the trail is the shrine itself which serves as a way for the Japanese to pay their respects to the Inari gods. Although you can hike up all the way up the mountain from the shrine, we did not do that when we were there as that would have taken us 2-3 hours. Instead, there were multiple U-turn points along the way for you to make your way back to the starting point.

Insider tips

The start of the trail is very crowded and there won’t be any good photo opportunities. Instead, hike up the trail a little! About 15-20 minutes in, the crowd will thin out by a margin and you can take your time to have your perfect photos taken!

Getting there

It’s very convenient to get to the shrine. Take to local subway anywhere within Kyoto and alight at the Inari Station. From the station, it’s a 10 minutes walk to the shrine with clear directions along the way.

Visit Gion and try to spot Geishas

The Gion district is located near the centre of the city, famous for its Geishas and restaurants there. If you’re into traditional Japanese culture and architecture, this place is a must-visit for you.

During our visit, while we did not manage to see any Geishas, we did see many people wearing traditional Japanese costumes walking around. There are many shops offering costume rental services and you’ll definitely be spoiled for choice.

along the streets of gion

Bask in Japanese culture through their beautiful shrines

Being the ancient capital of Japan, there’s no lack of traditional shrines in Kyoto. In Japan, every shrine is built to specifically worship a particular deity. Therefore even though they may look the same, their purposes are very different. Together with your visit to Gion, make sure to visit the beautiful and grand Yasaka Shrine.

Another shrine that we really liked was the Hokan-ji temple. It’s only a short walk away from Gion and is easily recognisable by its iconic pagoda.

view of the hokanji temple

Local sushi restaurants

When in Kyoto, you have to try Japan’s most traditional and culturally recognisable dish – Sushi! On our recent trip to Kyoto, we were recommended by our local friend to this Sushi restaurant called Sushitetsu. It’s a local Japanese restaurant where you sit on the counter and the chef will handmake your sushi right in front of you.

After our visit, we loved it so much we recommended it to all our friends who were visiting the city and now we’re no longer keeping it a secret!

enjoying our sushi at sushitetsu

If you’re looking for things to do near Kyoto, check out our guide to a Ski resort just an hour away from the city!

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