Kyoto was once the capital of Imperial Japan and held the title for over a thousand years. Today, the city is a lasting legacy of the rich Japanese heritage and culture. Many still observe ancient practices, and the city is the go-to destination for those who would like to revel in the glory of a more traditional and quiet side of Japan.
Known locally as The City of Ten Thousand Shrines, the city proper is where you will find an astounding 20 percent of the country’s National Treasures, which the Japanese government declares as the most precious tangible cultural properties. If you are putting together a list of things to do in Kyoto, it is a guarantee that you will be visiting more than a handful of shrines and temples.
The Home of Japanese Heritage
Chief among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites’ Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto is Kinkaku-ji, which everyone has come to know as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. This should be one of the first stops made when deciding what to do in Kyoto. This Zen Buddhist temple is one of the most photographed structures in the world, and is a beautiful example of classic Japanese design.
Nijo Castle and the surrounding grounds are picturesque and will transport you to Ancient Japan. The palace and other structures within the complex are the perfect example of Japan’s conscious effort to maintain and uphold their rich heritage. A visit to this and the 15 other Historic Monuments are some of the most important things to do in Kyoto.
A Zen State of Mind
Ryoan-ji is one of Japan’s most famous landmarks and usually tops the list of activities in Kyoto for most guests. The 15 rocks carefully scattered across a manicured bed of sand embodies minimalist landscape design, but also does so much more. Expect to suddenly find yourself in a reflective mood as you stare out into the garden and try to figure out what it all means.
Genuine Geisha Sightings
Gion is a district where two worlds collide. The area has streets reminiscent of a distant past, but is also where you can find an active contemporary nightlife, making it a must-on your list of things to do in Kyoto. More than just teahouses and watering holes, however, you are bound to spot geishas dressed in some of the beautiful kimonos you will see in your life making their way through town.
While on the topic of teahouses, a lineup of activities in Kyoto is never complete without participating in a proper tea ceremony. Although it is something you can do anywhere in Japan, Kyoto’s Zen surroundings make it the perfect place to experience the exquisite and delicate tradition that Japan has practiced for centuries.
There is so much more to Kyoto than meets the eye. Discover what makes the city so special and immerse yourself in the heart of Japanese heritage.