Kyoto Prefecture
Culture & History

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Our most recommended Kyoto Prefecture Culture & History

Night Walk in Gion: Kyoto's Geisha District

1. Night Walk in Gion: Kyoto's Geisha District

Experience one of the most popular walking tours in Kyoto, joined by nearly 5,000 guests annually. This 100-minute guided walk is led by a licensed English-speaking guide and takes you through nighttime Gion. The tour begins at Gion Omoide Museum, connected to a traditional pastry shop. Walk down the classic cobblestoned streets next to the Shirakawa River, and admire the scenery that was featured in the book and film, Memoirs of a Geisha. As you walk beside this beautiful stream, the guide will tell you about the history of geisha and give you a detailed explanation in regards to their kimono, hairstyle, traditional rules, and what their daily life is like. Although it is not guaranteed, during the walking tour guests often encounter geisha walking along the street.

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Kyoto: All-Inclusive 3-Hour Food and Culture Tour in Gion

2. Kyoto: All-Inclusive 3-Hour Food and Culture Tour in Gion

Explore the Gion district by night with an experienced English, German, French, or Spanish-speaking tour guide who knows everything there is to know about the area. The tour starts near Kamo river, where you’ll learn about how the tradition of Geishas came to be. After a short stroll along a busy commercial street, you’ll slip into a calm, quiet area to visit the Yasaka Jinja shrine. After that touch of education, it’s off to the Gion.   The Gion has secrets and history scattered across its narrow streets, but this is also a modern entertainment district—so it’s time for a deep dive into what goes on here. Your guide will keep it light and fun, and explain some of the more interesting cultural mores of these parts. Step into a restaurant and graze from a multitude of small plates at a sort of Japanese-style tapas experience. Enjoy a drink as well before continuing on.   Between restaurant stops, there will be an exploration of Kiyamachi, Ponto-cho, and some other commercial and nightlife streets. Your guide will show you both modern and historical Kyoto, painting a well-rounded picture that gives you a real sense of the place. This tour keeps the groups small and includes your food and drinks, so that you can have a carefree night like you’re simply hanging out with someone who knows the neighborhood. A delicious Kobe (or nearby sourced) Beef option is available on top of the usual food and drink. This option is for bookings at least 10 hours in advance.

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Kyoto: Arashiyama Customized Rickshaw Tour & Bamboo Forest

3. Kyoto: Arashiyama Customized Rickshaw Tour & Bamboo Forest

Your guide and chariot await at Kyoto’s iconic Togetsu-kyo bridge in Arashiyama, a nationally designated historic site and place of scenic beauty on Kyoto’s western fringe. Be amazed by the district’s main attraction, a towering grove of thick bamboo stalks with a pedestrian and rickshaw path cutting through it. Seeing its beauty, you’ll understand why the Japanese have a fond appreciation for nature. Admire the scenery, which is a blend of serene nature, tended gardens, and dazzling shrines, as your rickshaw driver pulls you up the mountain. Next you’ll see the beautiful Nonomiya Shrine, a Shinto site. If you’ve chosen the 45-minute tour, at this point you’ll end back at the starting point. But if you choose a longer tour, up to 3 hours and 10 minutes, you’ll continue through more of Arashiyama’s wealth of sites. Explore Rakushisya’s cottage, a rustic thatch-roof cottage that was once the home of one of Japan’s revered poets and haiku masters. Those continuing on will be pulled to spots not seen by many tourists. Explore more ancient temples, including Shinto shrines and the Buddhist Nison-in, as your guide whisks you through some amazing places before returning to Togetsu-kyo bridge. The Kyoto Arashiyama Tour is available in four different options: 45 minutes, 1 hour and 10 minutes, 2 hours and 10 minutes, and 3 hours and 10 minutes.

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Kyoto: 1 or 2-Day Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Bus Ticket

4. Kyoto: 1 or 2-Day Hop-on Hop-off Sightseeing Bus Ticket

Discover the highlights of Kyoto with a 1 or 2-day ticket for the convenient hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus. Admire the panoramic views from on board the open-top double decker bus, and hop on or off at any of the stops along the route. Enjoy informative audio commentary on board the bus, available in 7 languages. Choose this efficient way of exploring the must-see places and attractions in Kyoto. The bus takes you past many of the city's top attractions, including UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji, and Kiyomizu-Dera Temple. Buses run every 30 minutes, and you can enjoy unlimited rides for the duration of your ticket's validity.  Bus stops along the route:  • Kyoto Station • Karasuma Gojo • Shijo Karasuma / Nishiki-ichiba Market • Nijo-jo Castle • Nijo Station • Kitano-tenmangu Shrine / Kamishichiken • Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) • Daitokuji Temple • Kyoto Imperial Palace (Doshisha University) • Heian-jingu Shrine / Okazaki Park • Gion (Kotowa-Kyoto Yasaka) • Gojozaka (Kiyomizu-dera Temple / Gion) • Sanjusangendo / Kyoto National Museum (Hyatt Regency Kyoto)

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Kyoto: Family Friendly Personalized Tour

5. Kyoto: Family Friendly Personalized Tour

Get to know your local host who can give you advice and recommendations for things to see and do with your family. You'll be paired with guides that are passionate about the place they call home and who choose to spend their free time sharing it with like-minded travelers matched to them. They will also suggest family-friendly restaurants where the locals eat that serve the kind of food you all like. Explore the temples, gardens, and places in Kyoto that make the perfect backdrop for your family day out. Visit world famous attractions where your kids can learn and explore, parks to run off any extra energy, and interactive exhibits at the Railway Museum to get hands-on. Explore the unique and exciting aspects of Kyoto’s magical culture. Explore the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, which is a great temple for children and adults. You can also visit Tainai-Meguri if none of your party are claustrophobic or afraid of the dark. Jishu-jinja and Otowa-no-taki Spring are other temples you can explore. The Sannen-Zaka and Ninen-Zaka preserved neighborhoods are beautiful lanes lined with restaurants, teahouses, and souvenir stores which the kids will also enjoy. At Maruyama-koen Park you can see some of the famous Kyoto rickshaw pullers and the carp and turtles in the pond. Shoren-in Temple is one of the most popular temples in Kyoto and has a beautiful garden that the kids can explore with a bamboo forest.  Head to downtown Kyoto for lunch where you will be surrounded by restaurants. Your host will recommend a place that is to your taste. Kyoto Railway Museum is a great museum for the kids to explore. Nishiki Market is Kyoto’s best food market and it is fun to check out all the mysterious items on offer.

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Kyoto: Tea Ceremony Ju-An at Jotokuji Temple

6. Kyoto: Tea Ceremony Ju-An at Jotokuji Temple

Start your tea ceremony experience by entering through the main gates of the Jotoku-ji Temple. You will pass the entrance to the Grand Tearoom on your left and a shop next to it and meet at the nearby red benches where your guide awaits. Whilst walking through the temple you are free to admire the architecture and stand by the purification fountain. Weather permitting, you are free to sit at the red benches and for a break. In the event of rain you can stand outside under the gable of the shop or wait in the Grand Tearoom. Once you have finished perusing the temple or sitting on the red benches taking in the atmosphere you are able to enter the Grand Tearoom where your instructor waits for you.  Start your tour of the Temple with a traditional purification ritual, a completely unique and insightful experience for Western visitors. Afterwards you will remove your shoes at the entrance of the Grand Tearoom and in your group, proceed inside to take your seat. Get the chance to sample matcha tea at its best. The Tea Master will guide you throughout, showing and explaining every step of the way. Throughout the ceremony you will be taught the fine art of drinking matcha tea and learn about the importance of the ceremony.

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Kyoto: Private Customized Walking Tour with a Local

7. Kyoto: Private Customized Walking Tour with a Local

Discover Kyoto like a local and see the top attractions on a 2, 4, 6, or 8-hour private walking tour. Meet your host and get insider tips on what to see and do, learn about the culture and discover hidden gems along the way. You'll be paired with guides that are passionate about the place they call home and who choose to spend their free time sharing it with like-minded travelers matched to them. Book your preferred tour duration at least 72 hours in advance so that the best experience can be created in advance. You will be contacted shortly after booking to chat about your needs and interests. A like-minded host will then be provided, along with a bespoke, but flexible, itinerary exclusive to you. Visit sacred sites like the shrine of Fushimi Inari Taisha or Kinkajuki Temple, explore the cultural district of Gion or get off the beaten path in historic neighborhoods with the help of your guide. Stop for lunch at an authentic spot, recommended by your host to suit your taste and budget, or snack on street food as you walk. Get advice on how to spend the rest of your time in the city and more.

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Kyoto: 3.5-Hour Small Group Cultural Walking Tour

8. Kyoto: 3.5-Hour Small Group Cultural Walking Tour

Experience the temples, shrines and gardens that make Kyoto Japan’s capital of culture on this unique tour of the city. Founded as the national capital more than 1,200 years ago, Kyoto originally developed as a center of aristocratic culture, and is most famous for its Zen gardens and Geisha traditions. On this Kyoto tour, you'll discover some of the magic of the city through cultural explorations and local experiences. First head to one of the city’s must-see sights, the Tofukuji Temple. Originally built in the 13th century, and famous for its traditional, yet modern, Zen garden, this is a great place to escape to a relaxed atmosphere in the city. Learn about the origin and inspiration for the garden, and what it means to the Monks who continue to live and study here. Next walk through a nice local residential neighborhood to the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Home to a seemingly endless stretch of iconic red torii gates spread across a thickly wooded mountain, this shrine is a world unto itself. Walk through snaking corridors of red gates, made famous in the film "Memoirs of Geisha", stopping to admire the shrines and many fox statues. Major photo opportunity alert! As the sun begins to set on the Toriis, leave behind the foxes and head to Gion, famously known as Kyoto’s Geisha district. This area was the model for Memoirs of Geisha, and it comes alive with people and lights in the evening. Stroll past the 17th-century traditional restaurants and teahouses, many of which are still exclusive establishments for Geisha entertainment, see the theaters and traditional shops, and soak up the atmosphere of this historic quarter. This iconic neighborhood makes for the ideal end to this Kyoto city tour, and is sure to leave you completely enthralled with this dynamic city.

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Welcome to Kyoto: Private Walking Tour with a Local

9. Welcome to Kyoto: Private Walking Tour with a Local

Transform the way you travel and make it as much about the people you meet as the places you see. Get a welcome to Kyoto from a local host eager to share all the tips and tricks to help you make the most of your stay. Meet at your hotel or accommodation and get familiar with your local neighborhood. Learn about the best places to eat, buy groceries and the easiest ways to get around. Alternatively, arrange to meet at a central landmark or intersection to start your walking tour. Hear about the top things to do, customized to your interests. By the end of the tour, you will feel more comfortable navigating the city on your own with all the information you need.

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Kyoto: Japanese Gardens Private Customizable Tour

10. Kyoto: Japanese Gardens Private Customizable Tour

Explore the many gardens of Kyoto on this customizable tour with a private guide. Let the guide know what special requests you have for the day and they will tailor your itinerary accordingly.  Visit various styled gardens and experience traditional Japanese spirits which are represented in plants, rocks, and the entire design. Relax at both, artistic landscape gardens with seasonal plants and dry landscape gardens at Zen temples. Learn about the meaning and the history of the gardens from your knowledgeable guide. Most popular places to visit for this tour: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Kinkakuji Temple Ginkakuji Temple Ryoanji Temple Honen-in Nanzenji Temple Tofuku-ji Temple Kyoto Imperial Palace Shugakuin Imperial Villa Daitoku-ji Temple Kokedera Suzumusidera Katsura Imperial Villa Kyoto Botanical Garden

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Other Sightseeing Options in Kyoto Prefecture

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What people are saying about Kyoto Prefecture

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 1,019 reviews

Mardi was right on time on a crisp Christmas evening with a cheery demeanor and a pleasant smile, even though we both wore COVID masks. She had an exhaustive knowledge of Japanese history and culture, including local landmarks from temples to tea houses to brothels. My favorite tale was the creation of a local shrine to the tenuki spirit that dragged people into the nearby river. She also picked excellent places to grab some refreshments. The cheese and tofu soup was the highlight of the trip. I totally recommend Mardi's tour of the Gion and surrounding area if you find yourself in Kyoto.

She conveyed the mystery and enchantment of Gion. She was well prepared and was excited to point out special sightings on our way. Familiar with the history of the culture and made a rainy night enjoyable.

We had an absolutely wonderful experience! Our guide, Yuka, was incredibly knowledgeable, flexible to our interests, and a great photographer. would definitely recommend to anyone visiting Kyoto.

The guide was extremely well versed in Japanese culture as well as sights and attractions. Japanese and English was fluent. 10 out of 10 would recommend this tour guide specifically Taibi.

Mie was knowledgeable and engaging. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour.