Adding a few free activities to your budget is never a bad idea, no matter where you are. In Kyoto, Japan, some of the most popular attractions are free. Here are a few free activities to enjoy when you visit Kyoto.
Fushimi Inari Shrine:
If you’ve been enjoying sake on your trip to Japan, take a visit to The Fushimi Inari Shrine. This Shinto shrine honors Inari, who is the god of rice and sake, which is a rice wine. Part of the experience of visiting the shrine is the 2.5 mile trek up the wooded hillside to get to it. Along the way, red and orange gates frame the path and fox statues made of stone and bronze pay tribute to Inari. If you need a break on the way up, stop and grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants or tea houses that line the path. The walk is most beautiful at twilight, when daytime crowds have thinned out.
Also known as the Geisha district, window shopping in the charming Gion neighborhood is another free Kyoto experience. The neighborhood is known for the narrow-fronted shops, wooden guest houses, and tea houses. If you do get a glimpse of a Geisha, please be respectful, and only take a picture if you have permission. While modern fiction has painted Geisha as prostitutes, in fact, they are entertainers and hostesses. If you are willing to spend a little bit of money, you can watch them in a dance performance at the Gion Corner Theater.
Located on the western side of Kyoto, this quaint neighborhood is known for its breathtaking views of the mountains. The views are especially beautiful during cherry blossom season and when the leaves change color in the fall. While in Arashiyama, visit the famous Togetsukyo Bridge. If you get tired of walking, consider renting a bike or paddle boat to explore the area.
Nishida Kitaro was a Japanese philosopher who worked at Kyoto University. The Philosopher’s Walk is a route that commemorates his morning walk to work every morning. This mile long walking tour starts at the Silver Pavilion, follows the canal, and ends in the Nazenji neighborhood. It takes about an hour to complete the walk, but while there are plenty of opportunities to purchase snacks at shops or from vending machines, there are no restrooms along the route, so plan accordingly. It is especially beautiful in the fall, when the cherry blossom petals fall into the canal like snow.
If you’re looking for local flavor, there’s no admittance fee for this covered market that is frequented by both tourist and local. It is over five blocks long and has over 126 stalls, most of which are focused on selling food. If you’re lucky, you may come across a shop that is giving away free samples. If you’re there to shop, most of the stores feature locally sourced products, including smaller sized portions designed for tasting, skewers, and even cookware.
Enjoy your trip to Kyoto, and make sure you visit these free, adventurous and beautiful attractions.