What are some unique items to look for in Kyoto?


Kyoto is very famous for its arts and craftsmanship. Artisans have crafted, woven, cooked, and created many of these items and souvenirs for centuries.

Some unique items look for include:

  • Green tea products (macha and ujicha, including both tea and tea flavored foods)
  • wagashi (sweets including mochi and dango)
  • yatsuhashi (traditional Japanese street food wagashi)
  • bamboo products from Arashiyama
  • Washi (traditional Japanese paper)
  • Mini Torii gate (available at Fushimi Inari Shrine)
  • Kimono and yukata clothing
  • Pickled veggies (tsukemono),
  • Tofu and tofu products
  • Kokeshi dolls (wooden mini dolls)
  • Shichimi spice
  • Wooden combs (tsujiguchi)
  • Woodblock prints (paintings),
  • Ayu (type of wagashi)
  • Omamori (good luck charms)
  • Kanzashi (hair ornaments)
  • Anime and character dolls (often wearing kimono)
  • Kumihimo (woven ropes)
  • Limited edition kyoto-only kitkats
  • Cutlery knives
  • Oil blotting sheets
  • Furoshiki cloths
  • Japanese fans
  • Swords
  • Tsubaki oil
  • Oil paper umbrellas
  • Kiyomizu pottery
  • Monkey candy (Iwatayama Park)
  • Sake (rice wine).

These can be found at department stores, local shops, street vendors, museums, stations, and at the houses of the craftsman.

Where can I go shopping on a budget in Kyoto?


Shopping is pretty much the same in terms of price throughout the city. Some of the best places to shop for traditional souvenirs, handicrafts and antiques include:

  • Shijo street
  • Arashiyama
  • Kurama
  • Higashiyama (areas near Yasaka shrine and on streets such as Sannenzaka)
  • Teramachi Street
  • Nishiki Market
  • The vicinity of Fushimi Inari
  • Kyoto handicraft center
  • Kyoto BAL
  • Kyoto Station malls (especially Isetan)
  • Daimaru Department store
  • Fujii Daimaru
  • Takashimaya
  • The flea market at Toji.

For specific specialized shops, check out Kimura Oshido (dolls), Kasagen (umbrellas), Nishijin textile center (kimono, obi, yukata, bags, cloths, fabrics and related products), Shioyoshi-ken (sweets), Ippodo tea shop, Kuraya Hashimoto (swords), Morita Wagami (paper), Jusan-ya (combs), Miyawaki Baisen-an (fans), and Otabe shops (yatsuhashi), but walking around the Higashiyama, Arashiyama and downtown Gion districts will take you to amazing local shops.

Is it ok to haggle down prices in Kyoto?


Bartering and bargaining is not a practice in Japan. The price listed is the price to be paid.

Are there any attractions, events or shows without admission fee?


Most museums and larger temples/shrines required an admission fee. However, Kyoto does have many attractions which are free.

  • Fushimi Inari Shrine is a free shrine with a nice hike (1-2 hours) through Torii Gates providing a fantastic view of the city.
  • The Nishijin Textile Center with its Kimono Fashion show is also noteworthy.
  • Nishiki Market, Philosopher’s Path (in Higashiyama), Teramachi Dori, and Gion are also great areas to explore on foot.
  • Walking through the Imperial Palace is also free (though it is more like a park).
  • Yasaka Shrine is also very beautiful and situated conveniently near many other attractions.
  • Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a beautiful bamboo forest in Western kyoto.
  • Scaling up Kyoto Station Building staircase (to the observatory which shows an expansive view of the Kyoto city-line and railways) and walking the Skywalk may be fun for kids (a beautiful and massive christmas tree is erected in December).

Also, festivals and events are usually free, including the GIon Festival, Jidai Festival, Aoi Festival, New Years celebrations, Hanami nights, and Setsubun festivals.

Further, hiking or mountain biking (mountains such as Hiei, the two Daimonji mountains, Mt. Atago) can be a quaint and peaceful experience for those looking to get away from busy areas.

Finally, walking through local shrines and temples can be a much more laid back and calm experience than visiting larger temples.

As many free attractions there are in Kyoto, a trip to Kyoto wouldn’t be complete without visiting Kinkakuji Temple and Kiyomizu Temple. These do require admissions but are amongst the most famous and beautiful temples in Japan.

Kinkakuji Temple is famous for being covered in gold-leaf, earning it the alias “the Golden Temple.” The gardens are exquisite and the structure is very beautiful.

Other attractions that require admissions fees but are well worth every yen include:

  • Nijo Castle
  • Sanjusangendo
  • Ginkakuji Temple
  • Kyoto National Museum and Museum of Art
  • Tenryuji Temple
  • Byodoin Temple
  • Daitokuji Temple
  • Higashi and Nishi Honganji Temples
  • Ryoanji Temple
  • Heianjingu Shrine
  • Chion-in Temple.

What can you do in Kyoto for free (or close to)?


Free museums include the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts, the Nishijin Textile Center, and the Kyoto Archeological Museum. All festivals and events mentioned above are free.

Buses are not free (raku buses cost same as city bus, and open top buses are guided).

Parks such as Maruyama Koen Park (beautiful), Kyoto Imperial Palace, Nanzenji temple (garden requires admission), Kyoto Gyoen (may require fee), Yoshida-jinja Shrine, Kamogawa riverside, Arashiyama, Fushimi Inari, tadasu no mori, and Tofuku-ji.

Some not free (sometimes expensive) but very memorable experiences in Kyoto include a rickshaw ride, traditional tea ceremony, sake factory tour, kimono factory tour, kimono rental, ikebana class, Suntory beer factory tour, and traditional Japanese theatrical performances (such as No or Kyogen).

Are there any scams in Kyoto I should be aware of?


As safe as Japan is, it doesn’t mean you should completely let your guard down. However, there are no known scams that target foreigners in Kyoto.

Are there any recommended day trips from Kyoto?


Kyoto is located conveniently in the Kansai region.

Cities such as Nara (ancient capital before Kyoto, famous for the massive Buddha statue ), Osaka (Japan’s second largest and famous for food), Kobe (major port city famed for its wagyu beef), Himeji (famous for the iconic castle), and Nagoya (Japan’s industrial hub, home to Toyota) make great day trip options within 60 minutes of Kyoto.

For half days, Kyoto’s neighboring Uji city combined with Fushimi Inari Shrine is highly recommended.

What are the best places to drink on a budget in Kyoto?


Kyoto is full of many tea houses that serve traditional green tea.

Some of the best include Kagizen Yoshifusa, Kasagiya, Ippodo, and Sakamaruyama. Izakaya (bars) in downtown Kyoto and the traditional districts of Gion and Higashiyama are relatively cheap and offer wide selections.

Some of the most famous bars in Kyoto include Kurakura, Beer Komachi, Sky Lounge Kuu, and Yoramu.

Kyoto’s best cafes include Fujii Daimaru, Arabica Arashiyama, Saraca Nishijin, and even the famous Seattle-based Starbucks (features limited edition goods).