Kyoto is full of interesting things to do. This ancient capital has a lot of vintage architecture such as castles, temples, shrines and classic-style private homes. Even though the locals’ English can be limited, it doesn’t stop them from going out of their way to help visitors and even accompanying them to destinations when asked the way.
The choices of interesting activities are huge and range from experiencing the traditional to the ultra-modern. If you have limited time to explore Kyoto make sure to plan ahead: the list is long and requires some keen decision making.
Horseracing, ‘The Sport of Kings,’ is one of the most popular national sports in Japan. The Kyoto Racecourse is the premier racecourse in Western Japan and holds five meetings a year. Major races are the Tenno Sho, the Kikuka Sho, the Mile Championship, the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup and the Shuka Sho.
Opening Hours: Weekends from 09:00 – 17:00
Tel: +81 (0)75 631 3131
Families with young kids will happy to know that there are quite a few amusement parks to be discovered around the city. Ama no Hashidate View Land is located behind KTR Ama no Hashidate Station offers a two-seater jet coaster, a Ferris wheel, a locomotive and Go-Carts.
Opening Hours: Daily from 09:10 - 17:30 (Feb 21 - Jul 20, Aug 21 - Oct 20), 08:40 – 18:30 (Jul 21 - Aug 20) and 09:10 – 17:00 (Oct 21 - Feb 20)
Location: In Miyazu City
Sake is Japan’s national drink and was mentioned several times in the Kojiki, Japan's first written history, compiled in 712. Visitors can learn more about this Japanese rice-based alcoholic beverage at Horino Memorial Museum, a vintage sake brewery through the English-language tour it runs. All this takes place in a 200-year old wooden house that used to be the residence of a brewer’s owner as well as a brewery itself. Learn about the materials used and how to make saké. Then enjoy tasting various types with some snacks.
Opening Hours: For schedule info call Wak Japan at Tel: +81 (0)75 212 9992
Location: At Horino Memorial Museum
In the past, Japanese golf courses were not the most welcoming places for foreigners. Prices were exorbitant and doors were firmly closed to non members. All this is changing, largely due to the financial recession and now out-of-town visitors can tee off for reasonable rates.
The best time to go is during the week when prices are lower and the links less crowded but please take note of the fact that many courses are a way out of town and plan accordingly. Check with your hotel desk about the nearest courses and their prices.
Best on weekdays (less crowded and much better deal).
Location: In Funai-gun
Tel: +81 (0)77 182 2266
Location: In Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi
Tel: +81 (0)75 791 2161
Another must-try activity when in Kyoto is to try out the local onsens, or Japanese spas. Onsens come in a variety of shapes and forms and offer common baths, onsens for males and females, open-air baths, and private baths. All places share interesting rules of bathing etiquette.
Opening Hours: Daily from 10:00 – 21:00
Location: In Kurama-Honcho, Sakyo-ku
Tel: +81 (0)75 741 2131
Opening Hours: Daily from 15:00 – 01:00
Location: In Kita-ku. It is located on the corner of Sembon and Imadegawa, several blocks north of Kitano Tenman-gu.
Tel: +81 (0)75 441 3735
Opening Hours: From 16:00 – 12:00 next day and 06:00 – 09:00
Location: Located west of Kyoto
Tel: +81 (0)75 872 3355
Opening Hours: Weekdays 14:30 - 12:30 next day, on Sun 07:00 – 24:00 and on public holidays from 11:00 – 24:00. Closed on Mondays and on the third Tuesday of the month.
Tel: +81 (0)75 812 1126
How to get there: Try one street east of Omiya Street on Gojo and then walk north. Gokou-yu is on the left.
You will find that there are many reasonably priced English-language Japanese cooking classes in Kyoto. There is a saying that if you had the time and money and ordered the same dishes in every single restaurant in Kyoto you would never have the same tasting results because each chef has his/her own techniques and secrets in cooking. Below are some suggested classes.
Tel: +81 (0)75 212 9992
It’s a lot of fun to try on Japanese traditional costumes; from gorgeous geisha dresses to samurai outfits, and then have yourself photographed while posing in them. This is also a way to learn about Japanese high culture as there are many styles of kimono in reality, each of them used on different occasions.
One of the most fascinating kimonos is a 12-layered one which you can try on at Nishijin Textile Center (booking in advance is essential as you must allow time for fitting). There are many costume studios that specialise in dressing people up in old-time style at reasonable prices.
Location: At Horikawa- Imadegawa Minami-iru Kamigyo-ku.
Tel: +81 (0)75 451 9231
Location: On The Eastern North of fifth-avenue (Gojo) & Takakura Street.
Tel: +81 (0)75 354 8515
Location: in Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi