Things to Do And See In Kyoto 京都
Kyoto is the tourist jewel in Japan's crown and a must-see destination for most visitors to the country.
Kyoto's art, craft and religious traditions are showcased in the city's many fine museums, galleries and archives, along with some interesting new additions focusing on contemporary culture in the city such as the Kyoto International Manga Museum. Another new museum is the Ryukoku Museum, opposite Nishi Honganji Temple, which opened in 2011 and has exhibits of Buddhist art from Asia and Japan. Some of Kyoto's department stores also hold seasonal exhibitions of art and traditional crafts.
Kyoto National Museum
Across the street from Sanjusangendo Temple is Kyoto National Museum. The Kyoto National Museum was built by the Imperial Household in 1897 as a safe repository for artifacts from Kyoto's temples and shrines and now houses over 2,000 Japanese artifacts from prehistoric times up to the modern era. The museum now also stages regular special exhibitions.
Admission Fee; Closed Monday.
527 Chayamachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0931 Tel: 075 541 1151
Directions: From Kyoto Station, take city Bus #206 or #208 to "Hakubutsukan Sanjusangendo-mae" from platform D2 in front of the station. If you are taking the Keihan Railway, get off at Shichijo Station. Walk east along Shichijo Street about 5-7 minutes.
The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto
The Fumihiko Maki designed National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. The permanent collection has nihonga (Japanese-style painting), Western-style painting, prints, sculpture, crafts, and photography. Big exhibits make their way here several times a year.
Admission Fee; Closed Monday.
Okazaki Enshoji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8344 Tel: 075 761 9617
Directions: From JR/Kintetsu Kyoto Station (Kyoto-eki-mae boarding area A1); Kyoto City Bus No. 5 (toward Iwakura Soshajo). Get off at Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae. From Hankyu Karasuma Station/Kawaramachi Station or Keihan Sanjo Station Kyoto City Bus No. 5 (toward Iwakura Soshajo). Get off at Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae. Or a five-minute walk from the Higashiyama Station on the Tozai subway line.
Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art
Directly across the street from the Museum of Modern Art is a wonderful old pile: The Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art. It was founded in 1933, and still gets many of the must-see exhibitions that come down from Tokyo.
The collection consists of about 2100 items that include Japanese paintings, Western paintings, sculpture, handicrafts, calligraphy, and prints.
124 Okazaki, Enshoji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Tel: 075 771 4107
Directions: The Municipal Museum is across the street from the Museum of Modern Art--so the directions are the same as above.
Hosomi Museum of Art
The Hosomi Museum is located near Okazaki Park. It specializes in Japanese art, from the Yayoi Period to the Edo Period.
The Hosomi Museum opened in 1998 and has regular exhibits.
The Hosomi Museum is the collection of the Hosomi family, for which it is named, and features a wide range of Japanese pieces of almost every genre.
It also has a wonderful cafe that is in the basement but filled with light because of the open design of the building.
6-3 Okazaki, Saishoji-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto Tel: 075 752 5555
Directions: The Hosomi Museum is two blocks west the Museum of Modern Art. The closest bus stop is "Higashiyama Nijo." It is a ten-minute walk from Higashiyama Station on the Tozai subway line.
The Museum of Kyoto
Located on Sanjo Dori in downtown Kyoto, the former main hall (now the annex) is a magnificent brick structure dating from 1906 and was the Kyoto branch of the Bank of Japan.
The Museum of Kyoto covers the lengthy history of Kyoto and has regular rotating exhibits as well as a recreated Edo Period (1603-1867) street complete with the sights, sounds and smells of those days. Open from 10:00 - 7:30. Closed Mondays. Admission fee.
Sanjo-Takakura, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, 604-8183 Tel: 075 222 0888
Directions: Three blocks from the intersection of Sanjo Dori and Karasuma Dori. Take the Karasuma subway to Karasuma-Oike, Exit 5. Walk south one to Sanjo Dori. Turn left, or east, and walk two blocks. On the left.
The Sumiya Motenashi Art Museum
Sumiya is a two-story building that served as a very high-end restaurant/brothel and dates from more than 350 years ago. Located in a former red-light district known as Shimabara, in central Kyoto, Sumiya is now a museum open to the public, and is the last surviving example of "ageya" architecture.
Ageya were elegant restaurants where Geisha and Taiyu performed and lived. In 1952 the building was designated as an Important Cultural Property.
Open from 10:00 - 4:00. Closed Mondays. Admission 1,000 yen.
32 Banchi, Ageya-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan Tel: 075 351 0024 FAX.075 351 0026
Directions: From JR Tambaguchi Station, which is one stop from Kyoto Station on the Saiin Line, walk south along Senbon Dori (street). This is the street you come to as you exit from the right side of the station. It runs next to the JR train line. Walk with the train line above you and on your right and the Kyoto wholesale fruit and vegetable market on your left. When you reach a small temple on the left, turn left. Make your first right and the walls of Sumiya will appear.
From the north side of Nishi Honganji Temple, walk west on Haniya machi Dori for three blocks.
Ryozen Museum of History
Situated in the hills above Yasaka Shrine (Yasaka Jinja), the Ryozen Museum of History is dedicated to the, often bloody, events of the Meiji Restoration, many of which took place in Kyoto. The museum includes original drawings and weapons from the period, a gallery of contemporary paintings as well as model and video reconstructions of the murder of Sakamoto Ryoma by the Shinsengumi in a Kyoto inn - a pivotal event of the period in the minds of many Japanese. A lack of English explanations makes it of somewhat limited appeal to the non-Japanese speaker or history buff.
Open 10am to 4pm Tues-Sun. Admission fee.
1 Ryozen-cho Seikanji Kyoto, 26 605-0861 Tel: 075 531 3773
Directions: Near Kodaiji Temple. From Kyoto Station, take bus 206 and get off at "Higashiyama Yasui Geko." From Keihan Shijo, take bus 207 to the same stop.
Gekkeikan Sake Brewery
Not far from Fushimi Inari Shrine is Kyoto's traditional brewing area. The brewers originally set up shop here in the the 1600s, primarily because of local springs--famed for their delicious water--and the river and canal that offered quick access north into central Kyoto and south to Osaka. The Gekkeikan Museum is a fun day out.
Admission: 300 yen for adults; free tasting.
247 Minamihama-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto Tel: 075 623 2056
Directions: A ten-minute walk from Fushimi Inari station (Keihan Line) or JR Inari station from Kyoto station.
Kyoto (Uzumasa) Eiga Mura
One of Japan's leading film companies, Toei, has opened its sets to the public at Eiga Mura (Film Village) and the result is a kitsch theme park complete with samurai and ninja shows, roaming geisha and rather cheesy arcades and souvenir shops. There is also a Movie Museum and a number of restaurants on site.
Until the late 1960s, this was the location of the shooting of the great films of the "Golden Era" of Japanese filmmaking. Greats such as Akira Kurosawa made films here.
Admission Fee: 2,200 yen for adults.
10 Uzumasa, Hachigaoka-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto Tel: 075 864 7716
Directions: Uzumasa Station on the Keifuku line. From Hanazono Station on the JR Saiin Line, it is a 15-minute walk.
In the Esoteric Tourism department, the Mibu section of Kyoto has witnessed a sharp increase in tourists thanks to an NHK television series that documents the doings of a pro-Tokugawa security force known as the Shinsengumi. The year long drama began airing in January this year; since then tourists from throughout Japan have been flooding into Mibu, a quiet residential section of Kyoto near Tambaguchi Station on the JR Saiin Line and Omiya Station on the Keifuku train line. The Shin-sen-gumi ("choose the new group") was made up primarily of masterless samurai and sons of farmers and merchants who were active in Kyoto in the last five years (1863-1868) of the Edo Period. They have become the stuff of legend and have spawned many stories (dare we say myths?) surrounding their great prowess with the sword - used on both male enemies and female admirers - loyalty in the face of certain defeat, and other supposedly lost but true Japanese traits. These overheated young men won sympathy from many but were detested in Kyoto itself as they were not native to the city. The recent Shinsengumi boom is in part due to the lead role being played by Shingo Katori, the youngest and most popular member of the boyband SMAP.
Directions: From Tambaguchi Station or the Omiya terminus of the Keifuku Railway, walk to Bojo Street. Information can be had at the Kyoto Station tourist information center.
Kyoto International Manga Museum
Kyoto, better known for its traditional arts, is now home to two of Japan's premier manga institutions: Kyoto Seika University, which is the only university in Japan to offer an undergraduate major in manga; and the Kyoto International Manga Museum, which recently opened. It is a great resource, and a fun day out for the family.
Karasuma-Oike, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan Tel: 075 254 7414
Directions: The Kyoto International Manga Museum is a one-minute walk from Karasuma Oike subway stop, which is on both the Karasuma and the Tozai lines.
Kyoto Museum for World Peace
The Kyoto Museum for World Peace, which is just off of the campus of Ritsumeikan University, is the first peace museum in the world that was established by a university.
The Musuem's permanent collection consists mainly of artifacts from World War II--and the tone is unflinchingly critical of Japan's actions leading up to and during the war.
Also of interest is the annual News Photography exhibit which displays panels showing the World press Photos of the Year.
56-1 Kitamachi, Toji-in, Kita-ku, Kyoto Tel: 075 465 8151
Directions: From JR or Kintetsu Kyoto Station: City Bus No.50 From Nijo JR or Subway Station: City Bus No.15 or 55; From Kitaoji Subway Station: City Bus No.204 or 205; From Keihan Sanjo Station: City Bus No.15 or 59; From Hankyu Karasuma Station: City Bus No.51 or 55; From Hankyu Saiin Station: City Bus No.205; From JR Enmachi Station: City Bus No.15, 204 or 205.
Insho-domoto Museum of Fine Arts
Along the road that boasts Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion), Ryoanji Temple, and others, the Insho-domoto Museum of Fine Arts is an incongruous and interesting musuem. It features the works of Insho Domoto (1891-1975), a Nihonga painter. The building alone is worth the visit.
The fee is 500 yen for adults.
26-3 Kamiyanagi-cho, Hirano Kita-ku, Kyoto Tel: 075 463 0007
Directions: The Museum is across the street from the main entrance of Ritsumeikan University. The same buses may be used for Domoto as for the Peace Museum.
Eat and Drink
Kyoto is justifiably famous for its food (kyo-ryori), especially its haute cuisine known as kaiseki, which developed to accompany the tea ceremony. Restaurants in Kyoto have a good reputation and the city has become something of a food center, attracting not just new Japanese restaurants but also a wide range of international cuisine ranging from Italian to Indonesian. After a hard day visiting temples and shrines there are many good bars, cafes and clubs in Kyoto to relax and unwind.