In Kyoto, there are many enjoyable places besides the major sightseeing spots featured in guidebooks. If you have already been to all the famous places in Kyoto, this is just what you need in order to enjoy Kyoto in a new way.
1. A different and deeper stroll around the town
Kyoto's streets are flat and follow a grid pattern that extends from west to east and from north to south, which makes it an ideal city for walking around, but we recommend choosing a theme before you set out on your stroll. Here you will find a couple of streets that not many people know about.
1-1. Kyoto Ichijo Yokai Street
"Kyoto Ichijo Yokai Street" is an initiative of the "Taishogun Shotengai" shopping street, located on Ichijo-Dori Street, one of the major streets in Kyoto that run from east to west. The initiative involves various different aspects around the theme of "Yokai", which are original Japanese monsters. The initiative has its origin in a legend that says that, in the past, when Kyoto was the capital of the country, there was a "pandemonium" in which various types of monsters marched through this street. The activities held include monster-related decoration, dress-up events, and festivals.
1-2. Gekikara Shotengai
This is a shopping street in Muko-shi, to the west of the center of Kyoto. Muko-shi is the smallest town in western Japan, and the "Gekikara Shotengai" is one of their initiatives started in order to revitalize the area. The participating stores offer drinks and foods that include udon, soba, ramen, curry, bread, sushi, and sweets, all of which are "spicy yet delicious". If you like spicy food, this is a must-try.
A picture of a map of the "Gekikara Shotengai".
2. A different way to have fun visiting temples
There are many temples and shinto shrines in Kyoto and, among these, you can even find some interesting spots that are completely different from the usual. We recommend visiting these different temples too.
2-1. Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple
The Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple, located in Arashiyama, is overflowing with rows of stone sculptures of Rakan, one of the Buddhas - it is said that there are more than 1,200 of them! This makes for a simply overwhelming sight that we definitely recommend. It is also fun to note that all the sculptures have a different facial expression.
2-2. Tandenan (Rakugaki-dera)
Tandenan is a temple in Yawata-shi, to the south of the center of Kyoto, and it is familiarly called "Rakugaki (graffiti) dera". It came to be called this way because visitors to the temple can freely write their wishes on the walls of a building called Daikoku-do, within the premises of the temple. How about writing your wishes here too?
3. Art tour
Kyoto being a historical town, it is overflowing with all kinds of art, both old and new. Be sure to make some time to get to see some art too.
3-1. Kyoto National Museum
The "Kyoto National Museum" is easily accessible from the center of Kyoto. Its permanent exhibition consists of cultural assets revolving mainly around the culture of Kyoto from the Heian Period to the Edo Period (8th century to the 17th century), and it holds additional special exhibitions 2 to 4 times a year. The brick building has a historical feeling about it that makes it lovely too.
3-2. Kyoto Prefectural Garden of Fine Arts
The "Garden of Fine Arts" is located very close to the subway Kitayama Station. It has been built by Tadao Ando, an internationally renowned Japanese architect, and it is the first open air museum of the world. Its exhibition features both ancient and modern famous paintings reproduced on ceramic boards. Enjoy famous paintings like "The Last Supper" and "Last Judgment", among others, in this fine work of modern architecture.
4. Visiting "sentou" (public bathhouses)
"Sentou", which are public bathhouses, have been part of the Japanese culture since ancient times. Since Kyoto is a town with a long history, you can still find bathhouses where you can get a feeling of the old Japan. If you like baths, you will definitely love visiting "sentou".
4-1. Funaoka Onsen
"Funaoka Onsen" opened as a ryokan in 1923, and then changed businesses to become a public bathhouse for the general public in 1947. This is a historical bathhouse whose changing room and bathing area have been registered as national tangible cultural property, and its splendid appearance and gorgeous interior decoration are a must-see. This is a "sentou" that you should not miss.
"Nishiki-yu" is located right next to the Nishiki Market, known to be the kitchen of Kyoto. The elegant building is a machiya townhouse (a popular style of houses in Kyoto that combine residence and retail store functions) and it is loved by the locals even today. The background music in the bathhouse is jazz music, which is a rarity. The bathhouse also holds regular rakugo events and music live performances, which attracts many young visitors.
Kyoto has also plenty of nature to offer. Walking around the town is great, but if you are confident in your physical strength, hiking may be a good idea too.
5-1. Mt. Inari tour
Many tourists visit the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine. Usually, the focus tends to be on the view of the "Senbon Torii" (10,000 Torii Gates), but in reality, the holy precincts of the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine extend over the whole area of Mt. Inari. If you go higher into the mountain, you will find tea houses and spots offering panoramic views, and the closer you get to the peak, the deeper the nature around becomes. This is an ideal place for hiking on days when the weather is good. How about focusing mainly on hiking next time you visit?
5-2. Hiking course from Kurama to Kibune
Many people love the hiking course that goes from the Kurama-dera Temple to the Kifune shrine in Kyoto. Walking through the mountain is quite a workout, but it allows you to get a feeling of the solemn atmosphere characteristic of temples and shrines in Japan, and of the mystical nature of the mountain, making for an undoubtedly refreshing experience. Once you arrive to the Kifune shrine, we recommend enjoying the local specialty, sweetfish, in one of the restaurants in the neighboring area.
The temple in the picture is Kurama-dera.
How did you enjoy this information? There are many famous spots in Kyoto, but there are also many other fun places besides those. If you have already visited all the famous spots, or if you staying long-term, we recommend using this article as reference and deciding a theme to enjoy Kyoto next time you are around!