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5 Activities and Experiences You Can Have in Kyoto

2016.07.21

Writer name : KAMIOKA

Here are 5 activities and experiences you can have in Kyoto, the old capital.

1. Play the taiko drum (TAIKO-LAB)

Taiko drums have a long history, from being tools of communication and leadership used by samurai in war to being used for sound effects at festivals and during kabuki. Recently playing the taiko has become popular just not because it's an instrument but also because it's a good work out. You use your whole body, you sweat, you vibrate with the reverb from the drum when you hit it - it's a refreshing sense of accomplishment. It's so addicting that there are people who continued playing the taiko in their own countries after experiencing it in Japan. Why not take a lesson at Kyoto's TAIKO-LAB? You need no prior experience or Japanese language skill! You can spend a great time feeling the taiko beat with a passionate teacher. The lesson is 5,000 JPY. You can make reservations from the form on the website.

*Photo is for illustration purposes.


1. Play the taiko drum (TAIKO-LAB)


Official Homepage

2. Become a maiko (Maika Geisha & Maiko Experience Shop)

Maika Geisha & Maiko Experience Shop is in Miyagawacho, a pleasure district where real maiko (apprentice geisha) work. It's a 5 minute taxi ride from Kyoto Station and a 3 minute walk from Kyoto Gion Shijo Station, so it's very easily accessible and simple to include in your sightseeing itinerary. At Maika Geisha & Maiko Experience Shop, they use the genuine makeup that maiko use, which is made from natural substances so it isn't bad for the skin. There are 6 plans from simply getting dressed up to going around the neighborhood on a walk as a maiko. All plans allow you to bring a camera so you can freely have photos taken of you in various situations for 60 minutes, from being in a tea room, a tatami room practicing art, or a dance stage. It's recommended that you spring for the plan that has you walk around dressed as a maiko. When you're done taking photographs inside the room, take a walk around Kyoto transformed into a maiko. There are also plans for men and children, so it's perfect for couples and families as well.

*Photo is for illustration purposes.


2. Become a maiko (Maika Geisha & Maiko Experience Shop)


Official Homepage

3. Go paragliding (Birds Paraglider School)

Paragliding in Kyoto? Yes, you can paraglide in Kyoto, even if it's your first time. They have a few courses, including the "puchi challenge" where you float in low-altitude, the tandem course where you take-off with a professional 580m above sea level, and a course where you do both. The set course (16,000 JPY - 18,000 JPY - student price available) is recommended for people who want to fly in the air, as long as you are a person that's able to run. After you experience floating on your own, you can let a pro handle the steering so you can enjoy the feeling of being a bird. Both your hands are free so you can take as many pictures as you want. For those with licenses, they also have foreign flight accomplishments, so please discuss with the staff (speaking Japanese is preferable, but they can handle everyday English conversation). Please be aware that depending on the course you choose the meeting place may change.

*Photo is for illustration purposes.


3. Go paragliding (Birds Paraglider School)


Official Homepage (Japanese only)

4. Experience riding a rickshaw (Ebisu-ya)

Ebisu-ya is a rickshaw company that has been serving sincere hospitality in the Kyoto area for more than 20 years. There are 9 branches nationwide, and in Kyoto there are two branches, the Arashiyama Sohonzan branch and the Kyoto Higashiyama branch. Sightseeing while riding a rickshaw will allow you to experience a scenery higher than your usual since your visual field is higher. The rickshaw is made to be as comfortable as possible, with an awning for sun protection in the summer and blankets in the winter. The best part is the casual information from the rickshaw puller (called "shafu") about the area. They're full of impressive information, from historical facts to information about the seasonal flowers. You'll definitely make memories you wouldn't on a normal sightseeing trip. There are bilingual shafu that speak English, Chinese, German, and other languages, so please make sure the company knows your needs when you make reservations. The fare is 3,000 JPY per person per section, but depending on the number of people the fare is reduced. There's also a course where you pay by time. They are open to discussing requests outside of the offered courses, so please contact them.

*Photo is for illustration purposes.


4. Experience riding a rickshaw (Ebisu-ya)


Official Homepage

5. Experience zazen (Rinzai School Head Temple Kenninji)

Zazen is Zen meditation at a temple, and is the basis of Buddhist prayer. Kenninji is easy to access and many foreign tourists visit. It's also Kyoto's oldest Zen temple and a place where you can easily participate in zazen. It's in the middle of Gion but it's so quiet you can hear the beat of birds' wings and the leaves rustling, so you can relax and refresh. During zazen the priest may hit you on the shoulder with a wooden stick called keisaku, but it's to warn you and encourage you from losing your concentration in meditation and to stop you from falling asleep. You'll be surprised by the loud sound but it actually doesn't really hurt, so please try it. They offer zazen every 2nd Sunday starting at 8:00 am, and it's a course with zazen and a Buddhist sermon called Senkoukai. After 2 rounds of 20 minute zazen and reading of sutras, there's sarei (a Buddhist tea ceremony) followed by the sermon given by the chief priest. It ends around 10:00 am. It's free to participate and costs nothing, so if you have the will, why not? For those who want to go deeper, they should try Ryousokuin on the same grounds. There are various courses, including a 60 minute zazen course, a 90 minute zazen and breakfast rice gruel course, and a 130 minute zazen and yoga course. Participation fee ranges from 1,000 JPY to 3,000 JPY. Participating in zazen at Ryousokuin requires reservations on their homepage. (http://www.ryosokuin.com/trial/)


5. Experience zazen (Rinzai School Head Temple Kenninji)


Official Homepage

While it's great to do the traditional sightseeing in Kyoto, please also experience sightseeing and activities that you'll want to rave about to others as well.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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