Kyoto, Japan Travel Guide and Things to Do: Nine Highlights

Unique Garden

Only in Kyoto, home to some of the best gardens in Japan, does the magnificent New Garden fly under the radar. Set on 3 hectares adjacent to the Heian Shrine, stroll through this tranquil garden past stepping stone-strewn ponds stocked with carp and turtles. The garden design looks great in any season, but is especially lovely in June when the irises around the ponds are in bloom. Heian Shrine.or.jp

one and only hotel

Old meets new at Kyoto Kiyomizu Seiryu Hotel, located near the Yasaka Pagoda of Hokanji Temple. The hotel has a stunning landscaped setting and a tradition of serving traditional breakfasts in a sophisticated library, while also offering more contemporary touches. The spacious guest rooms are comfortable retreats, and the hotel’s rooftop bar is the perfect spot for a sunset drink. seiryukiyomizu.com


In the past few years, have you embraced seasonal eating? In Kyoto, they’ve been doing this for centuries. The city’s signature cuisine is kaiseki, a multi-course feast where each course reflects the season not only through the ingredients but also in the choice of pottery and decorations. At Kyoryori-Manshige, they’ve perfected the art of kaiseki—no surprise, since they’ve been doing it for over 90 years. Highlights include steamed red snapper in dashi or tempura prawns wrapped in yuba. kyoryori-manshige.co.jp website

a street

Kyoto’s greatest charm lies in its atmospheric streets with its traditional low houses, lantern-lit doorways and stone paving. If you only have time, take a stroll along the steep Sannenzaka—or better yet, stay longer so you can also explore Nisaka, Ningen-no-dori and Yasaka-dori leading to Yasaka Pagoda. Arrive early to avoid the crowds and watch street-proud shopkeepers sweep the streets with their old-fashioned brooms.

a forest

xxOneAndOnlyKyoto One and Only Kyoto By: Ute Junkercredit: JNTO (photo of handout downloaded from Japan Online Media Center https://business.jnto.go for use in Traveler, one-time print and online use, no syndication) Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama

Photo: Japan National Tourism Organization

Even the light looks different when you stand among the towering bamboo forests of Arashiyama, where the foliage adds a soft green filter to create a special mood. While you’re there, you can take a walk in the hilltop Kameyama Park (watch out for the mischievous monkeys) or rent a rowboat to see the area from a different perspective.

One Temple

Ninnaji’s five-story pagoda is imposing, but the Goden, the former residence of the high priest and designed to resemble an imperial palace, with its covered corridors and beautiful gardens, is the most intriguing aspect of the sprawling complex. Another fame of Ninnaji Temple is its rare Omuro Cherry Blossom Grove. These late-blooming trees are also much shorter than the average cherry tree, and a stroll through the garden in spring is like walking through blooming clouds.

a tea ceremony

When is a cup of tea more than just a cup of tea? When it’s part of the tea ceremony, it’s a ritual to slow down and appreciate every element of the experience. Long before you lift your cup of matcha to your mouth, the sounds and smells of experiencing work will have a soothing effect on your senses. One of the best ways to experience it is with a private session at the Camellia Tea Ceremony.Kyoto Tea Net

single food market


Photo: iStock

Fresh fish, pickles, octopus balls, mochi – whatever your favorite Japanese food, you can find it at Nishiki Market, a narrow shopping street in the heart of the city. Come early if you want to browse quietly without the crowds; if you want to feast, come at lunchtime, when restaurants in and around the market are buzzing.

One and Only Ryokan

From the moment you arrive, each guest is greeted by Tomoko Nakamura in kimono and her mother, Kyoko, and presented with a calligraphy scroll of her own creation, staying at Yoshida Sanso is a special experience. The ryokan, a former imperial palace, has just three private suites in a traditional style, with tatami floors and shoji paper screens.Yoshida Villa

And one more thing…

Kyoto is full of scenic spots, but without a doubt, the best photo opportunity is to take a selfie in front of the torii gate of Fushimi Inari Shrine (watch the video of the shrine above). Thousands of these gates, each painted a fiery shade of orange, wind their way along the hillside. If you want to complete the entire track, give it an hour or more, but take the time to explore the small shrines you encounter along the way. inari.jp

Ute Junker travels with the help of Visit Kyoto See kyoto.travel

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