To do while in Kyoto

This amazing city has so much to offer, it’s often difficult to make a choice.  Of course, most visitors to Kyoto will spend their time enjoying the various temples and shrines and their gardens, but there is more, much more.  Here are a few suggestions that we hope you’ll find useful.

 

Samurai Experience

Samurai Experience

While in Kyoto, how about discovering a little about the Samurai?
Learn about the history of Japanese swordmanship and watch a performance from a master of Iaidō. Swords have played a very large role in the history and cultural development of Japan.

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Gion Matsuri, User Manual

Gion Matsuri, User Manual

The Gion Matsuri, the most important festival of the year in Kyoto takes place in July. This is not just Kyoto’s biggest festival, it’s one of Japan’s biggest annual events. It’s a month-long series of events, culminating with the spectacular Yamaboko Junko Parade on July 17.

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Magical evening at the Byodoin Temple

Magical evening at the Byodoin Temple

The Byodoin Temple in Uji is only illuminated and open to the public a few evenings a year. We were quite lucky to find out about it and see the amazing Phoenix Hall under such conditions.   
Byodoin Temple is a striking example of Buddhist Pure Land (Jodo) architecture.

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Hanami – Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto

Hanami – Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto

With over 200 photos, this photo ebook will not only show you the beauty of the cherry blossoms in Kyoto but will explain and describe the way the Japanese people enjoy this season. It will provide you with information and suggestions to discover and enjoy this most wonderful season…

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Shugakuin Imperial Villa

Shugakuin Imperial Villa

The Shugaku-in Imperial Villa is a set of gardens and outbuildings in the hills of the eastern suburbs of Kyoto. It was built in the 17th century by Emperor Gomizuno and consists of the Upper, Middle and Lower Villa areas, each featuring gardens and buildings of the traditional imperial style. 

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Japanese Tea Ceremony

Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Tea Ceremony (the way of tea, or Chado or sado, as the ceremony is known) is one of Japan’s traditional cultural art. During the ritualized preparation and drinking of a cup of green tea (matcha), you will share spirituality, culture, history, and get a better appreciation of the Japanese mind and Zen culture.

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Kôyô – The Fall Foliage in Kyoto

Kôyô – The Fall Foliage in Kyoto

Kôyô, the Japanese term for the fall foliage season, is a beautiful and magical time in and around Kyoto. Starting from the surrounding mountains and hills, every temple, every garden burst with a combination of yellow, orange and red colors. This photo book, full of suggestions and inspiration,

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For photographers

For photographers

The Photographer’s Guide to KYOTO — A 94-page e-book giving you the best and broadest coverage of Kyoto’s most photogenic locations. The book includes a Bucket List locations and includes over 100 photographs, maps, suggested itineraries and planning essentials . . .

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Maiko Theater

Maiko Theater

The Maiko Theater is a brand-new facility where you can enjoy performances by a maiko, an apprentice geisha. You’ll have a chance to see a traditional dance or a tea ceremony, and in both cases discuss with the maiko, ask her questions, and learn about their life.

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Relaxation Massage

Relaxation Massage

After a long day visiting temples and gardens, or walking shopping, there is nothing more soothing and relaxing than a good massage. When traveling, the problem is often to know where to go! Well, we may just have a good address for you: Yuga, Refresh Salon

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Hanami Party in Maruyama Koen

Hanami Party in Maruyama Koen

Hanami (“flower viewing”) is the traditional Japanese custom of enjoying the transient beauty of flowers. This often involves a picnic party to enjoy the cherry blossoms as well as food and drinks. People have a Hanami party with friends, family or colleagues . . .

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Kuromontsuki Kimono

Kuromontsuki Kimono

If you walked around one of Kyoto’s Hanamachi (flower town or Geisha District), early January, you may have seen Maiko and Geiko beautifully dressed in their formal black “Kuromontsuki” kimono, and wearing a real rice stalk “kanzashi” or ornamental hairpin.

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Arashiyama Hanatouro 2016

Arashiyama Hanatouro 2016

“Light and Blossoms Pathway” is the way this year’s illumination of the whole area of Arashiyama is called. Hundreds of lanterns placed along the way, inside temples and gardens, and mainly along the famous Bamboo Grove, make it easy to move around.

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Kyoto dining with Maiko

Kyoto dining with Maiko

We are often asked about two of Kyoto’s unique features, namely the famous “Kyo Kaiseki” or Kyoto Haute Cuisine, and the Geisha / Maiko. Here is a great opportunity to experience and enjoy both at the same time.

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Unryû-In Temple Light Up

Unryû-In Temple Light Up

The Unryû-In Temple is a Buddhist sub-temple of the large Sennyûji Temple. The season night illumination has just started and we enjoyed our time visiting the gardens of this wonderful little temple.

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Light-Ups in Autumn

Light-Ups in Autumn

Enjoy the beautiful Autumn foliage by taking advantage of the evening opening and illumination of these gardens. Here is a list of some of this year’s light ups around Kyoto, together with the dates and opening time.

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Samurai Kembu Theater

Samurai Kembu Theater

Samurai Kembu is one of the traditional Japanese arts, just like the tea ceremony, the flower arrangement or the Noh play, and many others. This traditional art is performed using a Japanese sword “katana” and a Japanese fan.

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An evening at the Eiga Mura

An evening at the Eiga Mura

Toei Kyoto Studio Park , also known as “Eiga Mura”, is the only theme park in Japan where you can observe the filming of period dramas (jidaigeki films). Samurai, Ninja, Geisha, Oiran, traders, gamblers, and more, they were all present, and fun.

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The Aoi Matsuri Festival

The Aoi Matsuri Festival

The Aoi Matsuri (葵祭) is one of Kyoto’s three most famous festivals and takes place every May 15th. The festival’s main attraction is a large parade in Kyoto, in which over 500 people dressed in the style of the Heian Period (794-1185)

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Shuba-Shinji Archery Ceremony

Shuba-Shinji Archery Ceremony

In preparation of the Shimogamo shrine’s main festival, the Aoi Matsuri that takes place on May 15th, the Busha-Shinji ceremony is held and members of the Ogasawara-ryu School of Archery shoot arrows to a target representing evil and bad spirits, to drive them away.

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Seeing Maiko and Geiko

Seeing Maiko and Geiko

It rains a lot in Japan. I actually don’t mind the rain so much as it often is a great opportunity to get interesting photos. The light is different, the colors are more saturated, often we can get some beautiful reflection of lights on the paved streets. But most of all, ….

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Dedication dance at Yasaka Jinja

Dedication dance at Yasaka Jinja

Maiko from Kyoto’s five entertainment areas (Hanamachi) will perform dances dedicated to the gods at the Yasaka shrine. This event takes place outside on the shrine’s stage at the beginning of the Higashiyama Hanatouro (Lantern) Festival.

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The world of The Kagai

The world of The Kagai

Kyoto is, without a doubt, the home of all kinds of traditional cultures of Japan. However, the most enchanting and also mysterious treasure of this old capital is “The Kagai”, the district where the culture of Geiko and Maiko still exists.

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“Joya no Kane” at Chion-In Temple

“Joya no Kane” at Chion-In Temple

Toward the end of the year through the New Year’s season, Kyoto offers many traditional events to be experienced. One of the biggest Buddhist ceremonies is “Joya no Kane”, or the tolling of temple bells at midnight. A unique and very intense spiritual experience.

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Kodai-Ji Temple Light-Up

Kodai-Ji Temple Light-Up

Kodai-ji Temple, located between Kiyomizu Temple and the Maruyama Park, hosts one of the beautiful and fun nighttime illuminations held at the temple in the spring and fall. It is not a mere light-up, but a real Sound and Light show! Usually very crowded, but well worth it!

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Kodai-ji Temple

Kodai-ji Temple

Kodai-ji Temple is located between the Yasaka no To Pagoda, and the Maruyama Park. It is one of the finest temples in the Southern Higashiyama Area. its beautiful garden is a designated national historic and famous scenic place. Specially nice during light-ups!

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“Sento-Kuyo” Memorial, Adashino Nenbutsu-ji

“Sento-Kuyo” Memorial, Adashino Nenbutsu-ji

Adashino Nenbutsu-ji is a Buddhist temple located on a hill overlooking Kyoto from the northwest. On August 23 and 24, more than 1,000 candles are lit around the 8,000 Buddha stone statues in honor of the spirits of the deads.

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Ukai Cormorant Fishing, Arashiyama

Ukai Cormorant Fishing, Arashiyama

Ukai is a traditional fishing method which uses trained cormorants to catch river fish such as sweetfish (ayu). This type of fishing has been around for over 1300 years, back to the Heian Period.

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Daimonji Manto Kuyoe, Nara

Daimonji Manto Kuyoe, Nara

On August 15th, thousands of lanterns dedicated to the Great Buddha statue (Daibutsu) and to the ancestor’s spirits that are believed to visit this world during the “Obon” festival are lit around the Todaiji temple.

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Hassaku in Gion, Aug 2014

Hassaku in Gion, Aug 2014

August first is a very special day in Kyoto’s Gion district. The term designates the first day of the eighth month in the ancient Japanese calendar, Gion’s Hassaku is an opportunity to see many of the “Geiko” and “Maiko” from Japan’s most renowned “Hanamachi” or geisha district.

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Hanagasa Flower Hat Procession

Hanagasa Flower Hat Procession

Right after the second Yamaboko procession on July 24th is one of my favorite parade in Kyoto, the Hanagasa Junko. With a large number of costumed participants, it’s a real treat for photographers. . .

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Yamaboko Junko, Gion Matsuri

Yamaboko Junko, Gion Matsuri

This year’s “Yamaboko Junko” parade of huge wooden festival floats (Yama and Hoko) took place under heavy rain (we were spare a typhoon but got a tropical storm). There were talks of cancelation, but I’ve heard that . . .

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Shirabyoshi Dancer, Gion Matsuri

Shirabyoshi Dancer, Gion Matsuri

The Gion Matsuri is Kyoto’s largest festival. it is a unique opportunity to see a number of Japanese traditions, religious processions, dances, music, historical costumes, etc. Here, Shirabyōshi (白拍子) female dancers . . .

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Gion Matsuri Festival

Gion Matsuri Festival

Gion Matsuri (祇園祭), the festival of the Yasaka Shrine, is one of the three largest festivals in Japan, and probably the most famous one. It takes place in Kyoto over the entire month of July. There are many different events,

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