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Surrounded by mountains in all directions, Kyoto is a spot that is famous for the kind of summer heat that is unique to a basin region. And to help you forget the scorching heat, below are five fascinating experiences that are worth a try when you’re in Kyoto during summer.

Cool down on a kawadoko at Kibune

Kibune, located northeast of Kyoto, has an almost unbelievable minus 10-degree difference in temperature from the city area. With the murmur of the river and wind that blows through the trees, Kibune is a place where you can comfortably chill out even in the summer.
From May through late-September each year, ryori-ryokan (inn for Japanese cuisine) and ryotei (restaurant) along Kidune River set up dining areas called “kawadoko” (a platform over a river) on top of the river. At Hyoue, a restaurant that is a 40-minute walk from Kibuneguchi Station of the Eizan Railway (there is also a shuttle bus available (reservation required)), guests are served a colorful array of kaiseki ryori (traditional full course meal) (prices range from 6,480 JPY to 15,120 JPY (incl. tax)). You will surely enjoy an elegant time while dining on Kyoto cuisine with the flowing river water up-close.

※Photo is for illustration purposes

Cool down on a kawadoko at Kibune

101 Kuramakibune-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

Witness the Gion Matsuri, one of the three grandest festivals in Japan

The Gion Matsuri (Gion Festival), held at the city center for a month starting July 1st every year, is a must-see during summer in Kyoto. It is a traditional event with a history that goes back more than a thousand years, and is considered as one of the three most famous and biggest festivals in all of Japan.
The climax of this event is the Sakino matsuri (eve of the festival) that takes place on July 14th to 17th. The yamaboko (a type of parade float) takes center stage at this event, so that the group of yamaboko is even called a “moving art museum” owing to their luxurious and gorgeous decorations. The event from July 14th to July 16th is called the Yoi-yama, when spectators get to appreciate the 23 floats built on the street at close range. The road transform into a pedestrian heaven on the nights of July 15th and 16th, as numerous stalls are set up. The highlight of this festival is the Yamaboko Junko (main float procession) that happens on July 17th. At this time, visitors get to see a magnificent view of floats as they are paraded slowly around the streets.

Witness the Gion Matsuri, one of the three grandest festivals in Japan

Naginataboko-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

Wear a yukata and explore the town

How about setting out for a walk on the streets of this former capital while clad in a yukata (light kimono usually worn during summer)? The yukata is the most casual summer wear among all kinds of kimono, the traditional costume of Japan. There are many shops that offer kimono rental and dressing services in Kyoto, so try to check them out.
If you want to rent a yukata, then wargo, which has multiple outlets in the city, is where you should go. You’ll be happy to know that it is ideally located, as some of their shops are near some of the most famous sightseeing spots in Kyoto, including Kinkakuji, Kiyomizudera, and Gion. You can reserve online (available in nine languages) up to two hours before you come. If you pay online, then you can rent a yukata for as low as 2,900 JPY (excl. tax).

※Photo is for illustration purposes

Wear a yukata and explore the town

Gionshijo Jissai Bldg. 3F, 7 Yamato-cho, Shijo Yamato Oji-sagaru Nishigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto

Enjoy a thrilling boat ride at Hozugawa River

Hozugawa-kudari (Hozugawa River Boat Ride) is a boat ride on an approximately 16km mountain stream. You will get to enjoy a thrilling adventure while soaking in the tranquil scenery of the river that flows like it is weaving through mountains.
The boat ride starts at Kameoka in the midwestern part of Kyoto. There is a ravine from the loading dock that is an 8-minute walk from JR Kameoka Station, and once on the boat, you will experience an approximately 2-hour ride over different kinds of streams with deep pools and rapids. The moment the boat slips between rocks through the skillful maneuvering of the boatman truly packs a punch! Your boat will be gliding on the rushing stream while you get sprayed by water. The boat ride ends in Arashiyama, a popular tourist spot in the region. It costs 4,100 JPY (incl. tax) for adults and 2,700 JPY (incl. tax) for children (4 years old to elementary school students).

Enjoy a thrilling boat ride at Hozugawa River

2 Shimo-Nakajima, Hozu-cho, Kameoka-shi, Kyoto

Eat frozen desserts that use Uji matcha

If there’s any dessert that you have to eat when you’re in Kyoto during summer, then that would be matcha-flavored ice cream and shaved ice (“kakigori”). And since you are already decided on eating anyway, how about going to Uji, the area of origin of many leading teas in Japan?
There are many well-established tea stores around Uji Station in the JR and Keihan Railway lines, and some of them are even annexed to a teahouse. One such store is Itohkyuemon Honten. At this shop, the Ujikintoki (prices start at 736 JPY (incl. tax)), which is only available during summer, is a dish of shaved ice that comes with generous amounts of Uji matcha and anko (azuki beans cooked sweet) on top. The flavorful Matcha Ice Cream (396 JPY (incl. tax)) is also popular, along with the Uji Matcha Parfait (680 JPY (incl. tax)).

※Photo is for illustration purposes

Eat frozen desserts that use Uji matcha

19-3 Todoaramaki, Uji-shi, Kyoto

The above list offers a wide range of possibilities if you happen to be in Kyoto during summer, from experiences where you can cool off in the middle of nature, up to a cool dessert. Please use this list as your reference if you plan to visit Kyoto in the summer.

*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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