Kyoto
Meet the Locals

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Our most recommended Kyoto Meet the Locals

Kyoto: 45-Minute Tea Ceremony Experience

1. Kyoto: 45-Minute Tea Ceremony Experience

You will take you place on the tatami, the traditional Japanese floor mat and be met by your English-speaking host, who is a licensed tea master from Urasenke, the biggest school of tea ceremony in Japan. Watch as the host carries out the ceremonial preparation of matcha, powdered green tea. Then, you will have the chance to make tea yourself, while the host informs you about the history and spiritual role of the tea ceremony and the effects each tea-making method has on its flavor. Afterwards, savor some traditional Japanese sweets Once the ceremony has come to a close, you will have the chance to take photos and see examples of kimonos and beautiful woven textiles made in the Nishijin district of Kyoto. If you'd like to wear a kimono during the experience, you can select it as an add-on during booking and take photos to remember the experience.

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.

From Osaka : Private Full-day Tour to Kyoto

3. From Osaka : Private Full-day Tour to Kyoto

Start the tour with pick up from central Osaka and travel to historic Kyoto. Over the course of the day, you'll be presented with a balanced view of this historic city and its surroundings. The Arashiyama district is the first stop, and it is here where you'll be introduced to Japanese garden and temple design. Tenryu-ji Temple has one of the most outstanding, timeless examples of Japanese gardens surrounding it's simple-but-majestic temple buildings. Then it's time for a walk up through the famous bamboo grove - a photo opportunity not to be missed - before arriving at the entrance to luxurious Okochi Sanso. Here you will try some matcha (Japanese green tea), before exploring the winding paths that connect the buildings, views, and garden areas. Afterwards, you'll enjoy a stroll alongside the river, then have free time for lunch and even a bit of shopping, if you wish. Next, enjoy the atmospheric streets of the Goin district, complete with a gurgling stream and rows of traditional tea house and restaurant buildings.  Not far from the Gion is Fushimi Inari-taisha, arguably the most famous Shinto shrine complex in the entire region. After having a look around you'll end your tour with a visit to the famous Torii gate.

Kyoto: Tea Ceremony Ju-An at Jotokuji Temple

4. 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.

Kyoto Nishiki Market Food Tour

5. Kyoto Nishiki Market Food Tour

Your experience will include stops at family owned stalls and shops which have stood the test of time. At a few of the stops sample specialty products like tsukemono (vegetables from the surrounding mountains preserved in vinegar), yuuba (the world’s smoothest sashimi tofu made from the world famous Kyoto mountain water), Kamaboko (seafood preserved in fish paste), Tako (Octopus with quail egg) and Macha Warabi Mochi (a special traditional sweet covered in ground tea leaves). During the tour learn detailed information about the ingredients of different Japanese dishes, how their food is prepared and what is used to eat it. Your experience will do more than just give you a chance to taste Kyoto’s delicious food but will also give you a sense the history and atmosphere of the Nishiki Market experienced by the Japanese for generations. You will be consumed with physical and visual stimuli every step of the way and enjoy stories from the past told directly from shopkeepers and families you will spend time with. After your market exploration walk to a nearby restaurant and have a course lunch featuring beautiful and delicious local dishes.

Kyoto: Izakaya Food Tour with Local Guide

6. Kyoto: Izakaya Food Tour with Local Guide

Join a like-minded host to experience Kyoto's nightlife like the locals do - gathering in izakaya, the small local drinking houses, and tachinomiya, Japan's unique street-side standing bars, to enjoy a few beers, share plates of food, and sip sake with friends after work. 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. Spend the night bar exploring the historic Gion district, or for a truly authentic glimpse into izakaya culture, explore the city's train station bars where locals gather for drinks before catching the last train home. Once you've bar hopped your way through this tangled network of bars, perhaps head to another yokocho, the historic alleyways that are steeped in tradition and dotted all over the city, where you'll find more character than you thought could ever be squeezed into such narrow streets.

Kyoto: Afternoon Japanese Izakaya Cooking Class

7. Kyoto: Afternoon Japanese Izakaya Cooking Class

Join an afternoon Izakaya cooking class to enjoy a great way to immerse yourself in Japanese dining culture as well as learn authentic Japanese foods that are eaten at home and in local restaurants. The cooking course consists of two parts. First, you will cook 2 or 3 dishes together with your chef and enjoy them. Then you will return to the kitchen and learn 2 or 3 more dishes before eating once more. As in many Izakaya (over the counter) restaurants, be ready to talk with your chef while cooking and eating at the same time. 

Kyoto: Traditional Bookmaking Workshop

8. Kyoto: Traditional Bookmaking Workshop

Select your own kimono fabric and make your own book to take away with you. Be taught all the techniques and choose from a regular, advanced, or Temple Stamp bookmaking class. Visit the family-run studio of a traditional bookmaker in the Kitano Hakubaicho district near the Golden Temple. Feel welcomed in a location surrounded by local gardens in one of the few original geisha entertainment districts. Learn techniques like page stitching, sizing, and cover creation, as well as how to press a book. Select your favored patterns from kimono textiles and fabrics to design your item. The bookbinder will guide you as you glue, arrange, and assemble your own traditional Japanese book. Choose from a regular, advanced, or Temple Stamp bookmaking class. Temple Stamp books are used in Japan as passport-like proof of pilgrimage to a temple, while advanced classes will also teach embossing.

Kyoto: Private Table-Style Tea Ceremony w/ Matcha & Sweets

9. Kyoto: Private Table-Style Tea Ceremony w/ Matcha & Sweets

Enjoy a traditional table-style tea ceremony in a Japanese house. Take a seat and relax with this calming and authentic experience as you taste tea and traditional sweets. The ryu-rei (table-style) tea ceremony, with guests seated as opposed to on the ground, has been performed for foreign visitors to Japan since 1872. First, select your favorite tea bowls and other authentic tools before you taste matcha (powdered green tea) and seasonal sweets. Not only do you get to experience the tea ceremony, but also learn more about everyday tea practices and the lives of tea farmers in Japan.

Kyoto: 4-Hour Private Customizable Walking Tour

10. Kyoto: 4-Hour Private Customizable Walking Tour

Choose from a morning or afternoon half-day tour, and meet your personal guide in the lobby of your hotel. Guides are fully trained for 3 months before they hit the ground, and they will be keen to share their knowledge and insight into Kyoto during your 4-hour adventure. During the tour, your local guide will share the valuable tips for each area and you will be in touch with the historical sights of Kyoto. Use public transport to get around, or pay an additional fee to include a private van (this must be requested in advance).  Customize the itinerary based on your own interests and requests. Within the time frame, you normally will be able to visit 1 area and 2 spots. Refer to the sample itinerary below for ideas. If you don't have any specific requests you can choose either Plan B or C. Plan A This plan is for a fully customizable tour. Please mention the places you would like to visit when you check out. Plan B Meetup at your hotel - Kinkakuji temple (Golden Pavilion) - Arashiyama Bamboo forest - Finish. Plan C Meetup at your hotel - Fushimi Inari Shrine (Thousand of Torii gates) - Gion District (Famous Kyoto Geisha area) - Finish.

Frequently asked questions about Kyoto Meet the Locals

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What people are saying about Kyoto

Overall rating

4.5 / 5

based on 362 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.

My partner and I really enjoyed this experience, the guide was personal and provided an experience we were interested in. If he didn't know the answer to a question he would research it and get back to us. Overall we found it lovely to learn about Kyoto and have someone take control for 8 hours (no more maps or wondering where to go next). For these reasons I would recommend the tour even if you've been to Kyoto before.

very nice cooking class with a perfect english speaking teacher. all meals were very very delicious, the best food we ate in japan yet. if you don't like any of the ingredients, you can choose an alternative. also got insider tips from our teacher, thanks for that! :) we highly recommend this class if you are staying in kyoto or the area around.

The local Tour was amazing! Really made me feel like a local. An impossible task but one he really tried to accomplish. Helped me understand how Kyoto works from the ground up. Great experience and a great visit!!

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.