It's finally here...the day you've been planning for months. The day of your epic Kyoto adventure! Or, it would have been, had it not started raining in Kyoto like cats and dogs.
Is this the end of your perfectly planned day in Japan's beautiful ancient capital?!
It doesn't have to be! Just load up your knowledge store in advance on sightseeing places that are well-protected from bad weather, and you'll be all set! A few examples would be places like covered shrines, popular indoor activity facilities, and shopping arcades.
To kickstart your research, we've compiled a list of 16 fun places to visit and things to do in Kyoto when it's raining!
1. Nanzen-Ji: Great for a stroll even in the rain
Nanzen-Ji is a shrine located in Kyoto, known for its massive compound and wide pathways. Even if one were to walk around with an open umbrella to fend off the elements, there's no need to worry about space constraints and the experience will be every bit as relaxing and enjoyable as it would be in good weather.
Counted among the larger structures on temple premises is the impressive Suirokaku. This water bridge was built from bricks about 100 years ago during the Meiji era (1868 to 1912 C.E.) and stands at a length of 93 meters (about 305 feet) and width of 4 meters (about 13 feet). Its beautiful arched bridge columns are a popular spot for photographs, and many seek shelter beneath them on rainy days.
Another popular structure is the 22 meters (about 72 feet) Sanmon Gate. Visitors can also go on a learning tour of the garden and partition wall art in Hojo, the residence of the chief priest. This is a relaxing place to take it easy and stroll around at your own leisure even on rainy days.
2. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest: Enjoy clean air in a pristine natural environment
The bamboo forest of Arashiyama is a regular hotspot visited by many for its natural beauty. Surrounded on all sides by countless bamboo stalks between five to 10 meters tall (about 16 to 33 feet), you can't help but feel like you're being drawn into a fantasy world with each step you take.
The path that cuts through this forest is about 400 meters (1,312 feet) long and perfect for a refreshing stroll. Or you could also hop onto a rickshaw for a graceful and breezy ride through the scenery instead. Since the tall bamboo stalks blocks out quite a bit of rain and wind, raindrops are unlikely to stump anyone here!
As this is a scenic place that often appears in commercials and drama episodes, it's usually packed with visitors virtually all hours of the day. To enjoy the sights with slightly lesser people around, therefore, it may be better to make arrangements to drop by slightly earlier in the morning.
3. Sanneizaka: Picturesque views that define Japan with every step
The sloping path that leads to the internationally well-known Kiyomizudera Temple is chock-full of sights and sounds that are uniquely Kyoto.
A particularly famous one is the Sanneizaka stone steps path. The name Sanneizaka, which literally means "slope of peaceful births" was so-named because visitors used to head up this path to Kiyomizudera to pray for the safe delivery of their unborn child.
On rainy days, we recommend hopping into one of the dessert shops or souvenir stores by the side of the pavement to enjoy some food and shopping at leisure as you wait for the weather to clear up.
Sanneizaka is also known as Sannenzaka (three-year slope), and tradition has it that anyone who slips and falls on the slope will have their lifespans shortened... Even more reason to quickly make your way into the shops on the side when it starts raining, then!
- Address Kiyomizu, Kyoto Shi Higashiyama Ku, Kyoto Fu, 605-0862, Japan
4. Hanamikoji Street: A perennial favorite of tourists no matter the weather
This refers to the main street that cuts through central Gion Area in the north-south direction. Built with cobblestones and surrounded on both sides by olden townhouses, it creates a scene that will certainly make you go, "Now that's what I came to Kyoto to see!"
The southern part of Shijō Street features rows of teahouses and Japanese restaurants packed against each other and is especially popular for its quaint charm.
When the rain-drenched path glistens under the light of an overcast sky, the street becomes more charming and photogenic than before.
Because there's always a welcoming Japanese restaurant or teahouse just one step away, the street is an excellent place to take a relaxing walk in without needing to be overly worried about possible bad weather.
And if you're lucky, you may even meet a beautiful geisha, or traditional Japanese entertainer walking down the same street as you!
5. Mimuroto Temple: Hydrangeas galore!
Rain is plentiful in Japan during June, which is coincidentally also the blooming season for beautiful hydrangea flowers, so why not make some time to do some hydrangea viewing at what many claim is Kansai's top hydrangea temple spot, Uji City's Mimuroto Temple?
It features a large and spacious garden planted at the foot of a mountain with about 10,000 stalks of hydrangeas blooming for as far as the eye can see.
The colorful sight will be a treat for the eyes. In between spots of deep green leaves are luxuriant bundles of blue and purple flowers in full bloom. The contrast between the pastel-colored flower petals and the red gate farther inside the garden creates an impressive scene that's likely to stay in the mind for a long while to come.
Some hydrangeas here sport unique heart-shaped petals, and it's definitely worth the time to search out for them to take photographs with! The best time to admire these pretty petals is between early June to early July. Night illuminations will be installed for a certain period of time during this season as well.
6. Kyoto Tower: Directly connected to Kyoto Station on the JR Lines
One of Kyoto's most recognizable landmarks is Kyoto Tower, and this place of interest is directly connected to Kyoto Station on the JR Lines. What this means is you can amble there at your own pace even on rainy days because the journey to the tower from the station is fully sheltered!
The observatory deck of Kyoto Tower is about 100 meters, or 328 feet above ground, offering you a different perspective of the ancient city's World Heritage Sites and historic temples from a vantage point of view.
After enjoying the stunning vista, head down to Kyoto Tower Sando on the lower floors, a commercial complex with a collection of representative Kyoto souvenir stores on the first floor for some sophisticated shopping for items that loved ones back home will delight to receive.
Down underground at basement one is the food hall that offers good food and alcoholic beverages in a stylish space. At night, the tower is lighted up with attractive illuminations.
During the rainy season, the tower glows with a different type of beauty that's definitely worth another look, even if you've already seen the building before in regular weather.
- Address 721-1, Higashishiokojicho, Kyoto Shi Shimogyo Ku, Kyoto Fu, 600-8216, Japan
Hours: 9:00 – 9:00 p.m. (last entry for observatory) *Hours may differ depending on facility
Price: Observatory - 800 yen for adults
Closed: Open daily
7. Kyoto Aquarium: A relaxing spot to meet aquatic creatures
Despite being a space for marine creatures, Kyoto Aquarium also features a garden and grass lawns, making it a popular little spot in Umekōji for families with young children and travel groups alike. The aquarium is divided into zones representing the sea, rivers, and Kyoto waterside.
The photograph depicts the large Kyo no Umi aquarium, which reproduces the sea around Kyoto. Within this tank containing about 500 tonnes of artificial seawater, you can look forward to a stunning sight of fish of all sizes swimming about freely.
There are plenty of designated corners that allow you to personally come into contact with popular aquatic creatures such as the giant salamander, the largest amphibian in the world, penguins, or seals. Let these adorable sea creatures cheer you up while you wait for the storm raging outside to subside!
Umekoji-Kyotonishi Station on the JR Sagano Line officially opened in March 2019, and this is the station closest to the aquarium, only one stop away from Kyoto Station itself. Their newfound accessibility is definitely something to be happy about!
- Address 35-1, Kankijicho, Kyoto Shi Shimogyo Ku, Kyoto Fu, 600-8835, Japan (Located in Umekoji Park)
- Phone Number 075-354-3130
Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (last entry 5:00 p.m.) *May differ depending on season
Price: Adults 2,050 yen
Closed: Open daily (may be closed for maintenance without notification)
8. Kyoto International Manga Museum: Read all the manga you want!
Japan's manga (comics) culture has taken flight and is now a well-known international entertainment medium. The Kyoto International Manga Museum is a center built to feature this artform.
Modern masterpieces and olden classics are displayed together alongside international productions. All in all, there are about 300,000 pieces of manga material being stored here for posterity.
The first to third floors of the building contains a Manga Wall bookshelf, which is made up of about 50,000 works of manga, and visitors are free to browse through the shelf and read any volume found there.
This manga library is a certainly place to spend meaningful time in during rainy days, rummaging through the books available to see what treasures you can find. The museum is in a renovated elementary schoolhouse. The structure and design of the building will certainly bring back some good old school time memories!
Anyone who is the slightest bit interested in the cooler side of Japan and its intriguing manga culture is encouraged to visit this center for more insights and more importantly, to have a good time!
9. Kyoto Modern Terrace: A lovely place to admire building aesthetics
This is a popular cafe and restaurant in Kyoto's Okazaki Area, a gathering place of unique artwork and art enthusiasts.
It's located inside ROHM Theatre Kyoto, a modern building that Kunio Maekawa, a famous Japanese architect had a hand in for its design and renovation. Opulence is the name of the game here, which is why you'll find the both the shop space and food menu to be carefully designed for maximum luxurious enjoyment.
Because the shop is open from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., customers can come in at any time and be greeted with a hearty breakfast, lunch, cafe, or dinner menu.
Whatever the case, this is a wonderful place to wait the rain out, since there will be plenty of cuisine prepared with local ingredients to occupy your attention with and make time fly as you wait. Places of interest nearby include the Heian Shrine, art galleries, and other equally appealing structures.
Kyoto Modern Terrace京都モダンテラス
- Address 13 (Rohm Theatre Kyoto 2F), Okazaki Saishojicho, Sakyo-Ku, Kyoto 606-8342
- Phone Number 075-754-0234
Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Closed: Not fixed
10. Shinkyogoku Shopping Street: Enjoy the shopping street that fears no rain
In Kyoto City itself, there are plenty of shopping streets with arcades that block out bad weather. This allows visitors to take their time and wander around exploring different shops without worrying too much about having to find shelter every other step.
Shijō Kawaramachi is a bustling downtown area of Kyoto that contains the large-scale Shinkyogoku and Teramachi Shopping Streets as well as Nishiki Market, a marketplace packed with shops specializing in food ingredients.
Nearer to Nijō Castle is the Sanjō-kai Shopping Street, which has been getting more popular in recent years due to a new crop of notable and trendy shops. Going from shop to shop all day long to sift out the best deals would certainly be a fun and entertaining activity to add to your trip.
11. Kyoto Railway Museum: Rainy Day Railway Bliss
Get ready for a train-tastic adventure at Japan's biggest railway museum, where the motto is "See, Touch, and Experience!" Prepare to be wowed by the jaw-dropping spectacle of 53 real-life trains, from steam locomotives to bullet trains, all proudly displayed in a magnificent roundhouse.
But wait, there's more! You can hop aboard passenger cars pulled by actual steam locomotives or put your skills to the test with thrilling driving simulators. And don't forget to lose yourself in the mesmerizing world of the railway diorama, where pint-sized trains zoom around at a mind-blowing 1/80th scale of the real deal.
Feeling hungry? Indulge in delectable railway-inspired menus at the restaurant, and make sure to grab some railway goodies at the museum shop. Rainy days have never been more exciting—brace yourself for an indoor date packed with train-filled bliss!
12. Enjoy a Japanese Taiko Drumming Class
Discover the exhilarating world of traditional Japanese taiko drums in an immersive hour-long class! Perfect for beginners, this class provides an easy introduction to the art of taiko drumming. Learn fundamental techniques, including how to hold the drumsticks, adopt the proper stance, and master basic rhythms.
As the class concludes, capture the moment by donning a traditional happi coat and posing for a memorable photo. Immerse yourself in Japan's rich musical heritage and cultural traditions while exploring the fascinating world of taiko drums!
13. Take a Donburi Cooking Course and Nishiki Market Private Tour
Embark on a culinary adventure in Kyoto, even on rainy days, with a visit to the renowned Nishiki Market. Step into the vibrant heart of Kyoto's kitchen, a market with a remarkable 400-year history, and discover where local chefs source their ingredients. Join a private tour that allows you to explore at your own pace, immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, and aromas of this bustling culinary hub.
But this is not just a regular market visit; it's a hands-on cooking experience that promises to leave a lasting impression. After selecting fresh ingredients from Nishiki Market, you'll use them to craft your very own delectable Donburi, a quintessential Japanese rice bowl dish. With the guidance of an English-speaking instructor, you'll learn the techniques and secrets behind preparing this beloved dish.
Once your cooking masterpiece is complete, it's time to savor the fruits of your labor. Sit down with your fellow classmates and enjoy a mouthwatering homemade meal, prepared by your own hands. This experience not only offers a delicious and authentic taste of Japan but also provides you with valuable culinary skills that you can bring back home to impress your loved ones.
14. Enjoy a Traditional Tea Ceremony Experience in Kyoto
When the rain falls over Kyoto, it's time to take the opportunity to dive deep into the tranquil world of Japanese tradition. Take shelter from the drizzle and enjoy a captivating traditional tea ceremony. Experience the serene art of preparing and drinking matcha, the deep green, ceremonial-grade tea that is at the heart of this ritual.
You'll not only be a spectator but also a participant as you try your hand at grinding matcha using traditional tools. Feel the gentle weight of the stone mill in your hands and the comforting rhythm of the grinding process as you slowly transform vivid green tea leaves into a fine, aromatic powder.
But it doesn't stop at tea. The ceremony is also about the appreciation of traditional sweets, and you'll get the chance to make your own Japanese-style desserts. Enjoy shaping and tasting these little pieces of edible art, their sweetness perfectly designed to complement the bitter notes of matcha.
15. Relax in a Japanese Onsen
Escape the grey skies of a rainy Kyoto day by immersing yourself in the soothing warmth of the Fu Fu No Yu Onsen.
This restorative retreat is a perfect sanctuary when the weather turns damp, as the indoor and outdoor hot springs provide a contrasting, comforting embrace. Allow the therapeutic properties of the thermal waters to dissolve away stress, easing your muscles and melting away any soreness.
The sound of the rain enhances the tranquillity, adding a natural rhythm to your experience. After your soak, take a plunge into the revitalizing ice bath, a jolt of freshness against the steaming onsen and the cool rain outside.
This isn't just a dip in a hot spring - it's a complete sensory journey perfect for a rainy day, a blissful interlude in the harmony of nature's elements, leaving you feeling utterly renewed in the heart of Kyoto.
Fu Fu No Yu Onsen風風の湯
- Address 1 Arashiyama Kamikawaracho, Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto, 616-0001
16. Lights, Camera, Action: Your Rainy Day Adventure at TOEI KYOTO STUDIO PARK
Transform a rainy day into a cinematic adventure at TOEI KYOTO STUDIO PARK! This extraordinary place, part theme park and part live movie set, transports you to the heart of Japanese period dramas. Keep your eyes open—you may stumble upon a live film crew!
Catering to all ages and interests, the park invites you to dive into Japan's rich cultural heritage through engaging events, meet dynamic Toei heroes during thrilling shows, or let children run wild with delight at the range of attractions.
Experience the spotlight yourself, dressing up as a princess or Oiran in real movie costumes, and immerse in action-packed shows from TV drama reenactments to ninja battles. Don't miss the Cinema Culture Museum, showcasing personal items of legendary director Akira Kurosawa.
And there you have our list of things to do in Kyoto on those pesky, rainy days when sightseeing out in the open may not be possible. Other things to try out are visiting temples, shrines, or pathways that take on an entirely different atmosphere after a drizzle, compared to what they're usually like on clear days.
Don't let any rain in Kyoto ruin your plans! Instead, turn it into an opportunity to enjoy Kyoto's in a different light - one that can only be seen because it just so happens to be raining!
Text by: Miku Kobo Co., Ltd. / English translation by: Huimin Pan.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.
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