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Cool Down in the Hot Summer! 10 Refreshing Places to Visit in Kyoto in Summer

Cool Down in the Hot Summer! 10 Refreshing Places to Visit in Kyoto in Summer

Date published: 21 July 2021
Last updated: 5 August 2021

Kyoto is a popular tourist destination both domestically and internationally. Situated in a basin surrounded by mountains, summers are hot and humid, and on many days the temperature exceeds 30°C.

However, Kyoto also has cool summer destinations, including mountains, the seaside, and rivers. In addition to beautiful natural scenery, there are plentiful experiences and activities to get a feel for the city’s summer atmosphere.

Here are 10 cool spots in Kyoto where you can beat the heat, from famous sites like Shimogamo Shrine, Tadasu-no-Mori, Kibune, and Arashiyama Bamboo Forest to less frequented areas away from the city.

Table of Contents
  1. 1. Shimogamo Shrine / Tadasu no Mori: A healing forest in the city
  2. 2. Arashiyama Bamboo Forrest: Feel the cool air and hear the sound of bamboo swaying in the wind
  3. 3. Tofukuji: Surround yourself in a cool valley full of blue maples
  4. 4. Kibune: A summer resort in Kyoto
  5. 5. Kurama to Kibune hike: Enjoy fresh air and beautiful nature
  6. 6. Sanzen-in: Cool off in a beautiful moss garden
  7. 7. Hozugawa River Boat Ride (Hozugawa Kudari): Embrace nature’s thrilling beauty
  8. 8. Miyama Kayabuki no Sato: Immerse yourself in nostalgic scenery and cuisine
  9. 9. Ine no Funaya: Experience unique seaside scenery
  10. 10. Shojuin: Captivating wind chimes

1. Shimogamo Shrine / Tadasu no Mori: A healing forest in the city

1. Shimogamo Shrine / Tadasu no Mori: A healing forest in the city

Shimogamo Shrine, a world heritage site, is one of Kyoto’s main shrines, about 30 minutes north of JR Kyoto Station by bus. The shrine’s vast Tadasu-no-Mori forest is a perfect place to cool off in the center of Kyoto, with many worshipers visiting in the evening.

The forest has been growing since the 3rd century B.C., boasts an area of 119,000 square meters, and is home to roughly 40 types of trees, including about 600 that are 200 to 600 years old. The Izumigawa river murmurs along Omotesando nearbly. While taking a leisurely stroll, the vitality of the trees and the spirit of this World Heritage Site will refresh you both physically and mentally.

Mitarashi Festival *2021 festival may differ, since it will be reduced in size

The standout summer tradition at Shimogamo Shrine is the Mitarashi Festival. Attendees pray for a disease-free life, light candles, and immerse their feet in Mitarashi Pond in the Mitarashi-no-Mori section of Tadasu-no-Mori woods.

During the Heian period, as the seasons changed, people went there to wash away their sins and debts. It is said that if you wash your feet in Mitarashi pond on the Japanese calendar’s “Day of the Ox,” you’ll be purified from sins, healed from illnesses, protected against plague, and granted safe childbirth. The festival is held for five days in late July.

Health & Safety Measures
• Disinfection measures taken
• Hand sanitizer made available
• Proper ventilation
• Use of coin trays
• Plastic partitions installed
• Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor temperatures
• Restriction on number of guests
• Appropriate seat spacing
• Admission restrictions and reservation system
• Entry denied to people who are feeling ill
• Masks required for guests
• Guest temperature checks
• Installation of splash prevention sheets

Services for international guests
English website

2. Arashiyama Bamboo Forrest: Feel the cool air and hear the sound of bamboo swaying in the wind

2. Arashiyama Bamboo Forrest: Feel the cool air and hear the sound of bamboo swaying in the wind

About 30 minutes by train and on foot from JR Kyoto Station, Arashiyama is a standard Kyoto tourist destination featuring the popular Bamboo Forest Path and Togetsu Bridge.

Stretching to the sky, a bamboo forest grows for about 400 meters from Nonomiya Shrine, through the north side of Tenryu-ji Temple, and on to Okochi Sanso Garden. This forest, home to tens of thousands of bamboo trees, is lined with small paths, perfect for a leisurely stroll.

In summer, the sound of bamboo leaves in the wind adds to the cool serenity. Free of crowds until about 8 a.m., you can peacefully purify your body and mind.

A rickshaw ride through the grove is recommended. The rickshaw-pullers are very familiar with local sightseeing, and should be able to tell you not only about the highlights of the surrounding temples, but also share Arashiyama tourist information that’s not included in guidebooks.

3. Tofukuji: Surround yourself in a cool valley full of blue maples

3. Tofukuji: Surround yourself in a cool valley full of blue maples

Tofukuji Temple, famous for its autumn colors, is about 15 minutes from JR Kyoto Station by train, and the summer “Ao Momiji” leaves are also wonderful.

The temple is a cool scene in summer with blue maples seen from the wooden Gaun-kyō Bridge and along the valley’s stream, surrounded by deep green foliage. It gets crowded in fall, but in summer, you can easily enjoy the trees from the Tsutenbashi bridge.

Kaisando, located at the end of Tsutenbashi Bridge, is a temple dedicated to Shoichi Kokushi (Enni Benen), who was enshrined in 1280. The porch of Kaisando is a relaxing, “hidden” place to sit and take a break while marveling at the beautiful checkered white sands around it.

In 2021, the inaugural “National Treasure Illumination Special Night Visit / Blue Maple Illumination Special Walk” will be held. This special event gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy the coolness of the maple leaves in the evening.

The leaves at the east and west ends of Tsutenbashi are lit up, and you can enjoy a walk among the national treasure Sanmon, Main Hall, Aizendo, and Tofukuji Honbo Garden, which will also be exceptionally lit up.

Tofukuji Light Up Event
・TEL: 075-255-4891 (Tofukuji Light Up Management Office)
・Date and time: June 4th (Friday) - August 9th (Monday), 2021; 18:30 - 21:30 (Last entry 20:30)
・Admission: Light up event, 2,800 yen, advance online reservation 2,500 yen, free for elementary school students and younger

Health & Safety Measures
• Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor temperatures
• Restriction on number of guests
• Appropriate seat spacing
• Admission restrictions and reservation system
• Entry denied to people who are feeling ill
• Masks required for guests
• Guest temperature checks

Services for international guests
Multilingual website, English pamphlets available

4. Kibune: A summer resort in Kyoto

4. Kibune: A summer resort in Kyoto

Kibune, which is said to have a temperature of 5° to 10°C lower than Kyoto’s city center, is located upstream on the Kamo River. From JR Kyoto Station, you can reach it in about 40 minutes by subway and bus.

Kifune Shrine is considered a source of energy and power and has long been a place of worship for those seeking to regain energy. There, you can experience the power of the earth surrounded by the murmuring of the river, the negative ions from the towering trees, and the clear air.

Kifune Shrine is the main shrine of about 500 Kifune shrines nationwide and enshrines the god of water. In addition to the main building, another area is dedicated to successful matchmaking, while “Okumiya” creates a mysterious atmosphere at the site of the original Kifune Shrine.

The Tanabata festival originated in ancient China with the custom of worshiping a river in prayer for rain and a good harvest.

Since it’s dedicated to the water god, Kifune Shrine is closely associated with the festival, and the Tanabata Shinto ritual is held there on July 7 every year. During Tanabata, the bamboo decorations and the shrine buildings are illuminated, creating an emotional atmosphere.

Kibune is famous for its river terrace, set up only in the summer from May to September. The river terrace makes it possible to cool down and enjoy a meal while seated along or above the river. Kibune’s terrace is surrounded by fresh greenery, with seats directly above and beside the river.

There is also a shop where a waterfall flows, and it is close enough to reach out and touch the river. Compared to the center of Kyoto city, the temperature is said to be cooler by 10°C, with a noticeable difference even in mid-summer.

Health & Safety Measures
• Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor temperatures
• Masks required for guests
• Guest temperature checks
• Guests requested to main social distancing

Services for international guests
English website, water omikuji fortunes can be read with a QR code with translation into four languages.

5. Kurama to Kibune hike: Enjoy fresh air and beautiful nature

5. Kurama to Kibune hike: Enjoy fresh air and beautiful nature

The path that connects Kurama and Kibune is another of Kyoto’s cool spots. Linked to the legends of Kurama Tengu and Yoshitsune, the mysterious mountain is a powerful site. The main shrine is situated at an altitude of 410m, so it is considerably cooler than the city, and the accompanying breezes are refreshing.

A cable car runs from the Niomon gate to the main hall, or you can hike up the ninety-nine turn approach to the hall. The “Diamond Floor” in front of the main shrine is said to be a point at which the power that connects earth and the universe emanates, and visitors stop by for a recharge before embarking on the path of worship.

Kinone Michi is about 20 minutes from the main shrine. In this area, the bedrock is shallow, and tree roots cannot penetrate far into the ground, so cedar roots run along the surface. There is a legend that Ushiwakamaru (a childhood name of Minamoto no Yoshitsune, a military commander at the end of the Heian period) practiced jumping here. Be careful to avoid stepping on the roots as it will damage the trees.

It takes about 60 minutes from Kinone Michi to Okunoin at Kifune Shrine. From the main hall of Kurama-dera, it’s about 90 minutes, and the walk along the path is revitalizing.

Health & Safety Measures
• Disinfection and sterilization of facilities and equipment
• Hand sanitizer made available
• Proper ventilation
• Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor temperatures
• Limited capacity
• Appropriate seat spacing
• Guests requested to wear masks

6. Sanzen-in: Cool off in a beautiful moss garden

6. Sanzen-in: Cool off in a beautiful moss garden

About 1 hour from JR Kyoto Station by subway and bus, the ancient Sanzen-in temple is the symbol of the town of Ohara. It’s home to two breathtaking moss gardens, Shuheki-en and Yusei-en.

The eastern portion of the garden takes advantage of the mountainside to create a two-tiered effect, while the southern area of the garden is home to circular and gourd-shaped viewing ponds. The surrounding bright green moss is beautiful and inviting.

The moss in the garden in front of the simple Ojo Gokurakuin hall, which houses the history of Sanzen-in, is also in good condition and creates a beautiful landscape. With the Ritsukawa flowing along the north side of the grounds and the Rukawa along the south side, the murmuring rivers add to the temple’s cool atmosphere.

Health & Safety Measures
• Disinfection, sterilization, and cleaning of facilities and equipment
• Hand sanitizer made available
• Disinfection of guest rooms after every check-out
• Proper ventilation
• Use of coin trays
• Plastic partitions installed
• Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor temperatures
• Limited capacity/Appropriate seat spacing
• Admission restrictions and reservation system
• Entry denied to people who are feeling ill
• Masks required for guests
• Guest temperature checks

Services for international guests
English website

7. Hozugawa River Boat Ride (Hozugawa Kudari): Embrace nature’s thrilling beauty

7. Hozugawa River Boat Ride (Hozugawa Kudari): Embrace nature’s thrilling beauty

The Hozugawa River, which flows from Kameoka City to Arashiyama and the Togetsu Bridge in Kyoto, is about 20 minutes from JR Kyoto Station by rapid train. The “Hozugawa River Boat Ride” (Hozugawa Kudari in Japanese) is a thrilling boat ride that takes about 2 hours to cover a 16-kilometer stretch of the mountain stream.

The small, flat-bottomed boats have a capacity of 24 people. A three-person crew navigates each craft down the river, dotted with torrents and huge rocks, and the captain’s skillful guidance with a long bamboo pole is one of the highlights of the trip.

The best part of going down the Hozugawa River is the scenery of the river valley itself. You can enjoy the natural beauty of large unique rocks that line the river, the varied flows and torrents, and a view of Mt. Atago.

There’s also a trolley train, called the Sagano Romantic Train, connecting Kameoka and Sagano that runs along the river, and the tracks run in parallel with the boats at certain points. Going down the river you can bask in the cool valley breeze and the spray of the Hozugawa River.

Health & Safety Measures
• Disinfection, sterilization, and cleaning of facilities and equipment
• Hand sanitizer made available
• Disinfection of guest rooms after every check-out
• Proper ventilation
• Use of coin trays
• Plastic partitions installed
• Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor temperatures
• Limited capacity/Appropriate seat spacing
• Admission restrictions and reservation system
• Entry denied to people who are feeling ill
• Masks required for guests
• Guest temperature checks

Services for international guests
English signs and pamphlets, English-speaking staff

  • Hozugawa River Boat Ride
    保津川下り
    • Address Shimonakajima-2 Hozucho, Kameoka-shi, Kyoto 621-0005
    • ・TEL: 0771-22-5846 (Hozugawa Boat Company Association)Hours: 9:00 - 15:00 (10:00 - 14:30 from December 14th to March 9th) *9:00 departure cancelled on some holidays (see website for details)
      ・Admission: Hozugawa River Boat Ride, adults 4,100 yen
      ・Closed: Year-end and New Year holidays (December 29 - January 4)
      ・Access: 7-minute walk from JR Kameoka Station

8. Miyama Kayabuki no Sato: Immerse yourself in nostalgic scenery and cuisine

8. Miyama Kayabuki no Sato: Immerse yourself in nostalgic scenery and cuisine

Miyama-cho in Nantan City is located in the center of Kyoto Prefecture, about two hours from JR Kyoto station. To get there, take a train from Kyoto Station to Hiyoshi Station via Sonobe Station, then take a city bus to get to “Miyama Kayabuki no Sato.”

Miyama Kayabuki no Sato has thatched-roof houses built from 220 (Edo period) to 150 years ago (Meiji period), with 39 of the 50 houses still inhabited.

The main houses face south and are arranged parallel to the flow of the Yura River. These houses, known as “Kitayama-type” homes, have a rice field-shaped floor plan, wooden walls, and doors, raised gardens, and notable dirt floors. The Northern Village was selected as an “Important Preservation District for Traditional Buildings” in 1993.

Miyama’s summer specialty is ayu sweetfish caught in the clear Miyama River. It has won second prize four times at the national sweetfish competition for its excellent taste, aroma, and appearance. Ayu dishes, known for their firm texture and flavor, can be eaten at various restaurants and accommodations in the town until around September.

River activities on the Miyama River are also recommended. You can keep cool and relax in the wilderness while rafting down the river, stream climbing (shower climbing) upstream, or a lightweight packraft tour downstream.

Health & Safety Measures
• Disinfection, sterilization, and cleaning of facilities and equipment
• Hand sanitizer made available
• Disinfection of guest rooms after every check-out
• Proper ventilation
• Use of coin trays
• Plastic partitions installed
• Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor temperatures
• Limited capacity/Appropriate seat spacing
• Admission restrictions and reservation system
• Entry denied to people who are feeling ill
• Masks required for guests
• Guest temperature checks

Services for international guests
English pamphlets and maps available, English website (Miyama Navi)

9. Ine no Funaya: Experience unique seaside scenery

9. Ine no Funaya: Experience unique seaside scenery

From JR Kyoto Station, take a limited express train and bus to Ine, about three hours away.

The “Ine no Funaya” is a group of 230 funaya on the Tango Peninsula, in the northernmost part of Kyoto Prefecture. Funaya are unique buildings with a boat garage on the first floor and a living area on the second floor.

They are lined up along the water’s edge, and when seen from the sea, they look as if they are floating. The area dates back to the Edo period and was also selected as an “Important Preservation District for Traditional Buildings.”

There are various cool experiences to be had in Ine. Marine taxis (small pleasure boats) operated by local boatmen offer guided tours around Ine Bay and a view of the boathouses you can’t get from land.

A large pleasure boat that runs every 30 minutes also travels around the bay and you can feed seagulls from its deck. Sea kayaking is recommended to experience kayaking on the open sea with a view of the entire coastline. Cliffs with large and small caves and waterfalls are impressive landscapes that can only be seen from the water.

Health & Safety Measures
• Disinfection, sterilization, and cleaning of facilities and equipment
• Hand sanitizer made available
• Disinfection of guest rooms after every check-out
• Proper ventilation
• Use of coin trays
• Plastic partitions installed
• Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor temperatures
• Limited capacity/Appropriate seat spacing
• Admission restrictions and reservation system
• Entry denied to people who are feeling ill
• Masks required for guests
• Guest temperature checks

Services for international guests
English signs, pamphlets, maps, and restaurants menus, and English-speaking staff at the tourist information center

  • Ine no Funaya
    伊根の舟屋
    • Address 491 Hirata, Inecho, Yosa-gun, Kyoto 626-0423
    • ・TEL: 0772-32-0277 (Ine Town Tourism Association)
      ・Hours: No set schedule
      ・Access: Take the Tankai Bus from Kyoto Tango Railway Amanohashidate Station to Ine bus stop

10. Shojuin: Captivating wind chimes

10. Shojuin: Captivating wind chimes

Approximately 90 minutes from JR Kyoto Station by train and bus, Shojuin is located in southeastern Kyoto Prefecture’s Ujitawara, the birthplace of Japanese green tea. The temple belongs to the Koyasan Shingon sect and was built about 800 years ago.

The “Wind Bell Festival,” in which 2,000 wind chimes are hung throughout the temple grounds, is held from July 1st to September 18th every year. Because of this summer tradition, Shojuin is also known as “the wind chime temple.”

Located in the mountains, Ujitawara is considered a summer resort because it’s about 5° C cooler in summer than Kyoto City, but might feel even cooler when you hear the sound of the wind chimes.

The highlights of the festival, of course, are the small handmade wind chimes. Examples from all over Japan are on display and have different shapes and sounds.

During the festival, you can paint a wind chime of your own for 1,500 yen and take it home as a souvenir.

Health & Safety Measures
• Hand sanitizer available
• Proper ventilation
• Plastic partitions installed
• Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor temperatures
• Number of guests restricted
• Masks required for guests
• Guest temperature checks

Services for international guests
English signs

  • Shojuin
    正寿院
    • Address Kawakami-149 Okuyamada, Ujitawara, Tsuzuki-gun, Kyoto 610-0211
    • Phone Number 0774-88-3601
    • ・Hours: 9:00 - 16:30
      ・Admission: During wind chime festival, adults 700 yen
      ・Access: 30 minutes by Keihan Bus from JR / Keihan Uji Station or Kintetsu Shin-Tanabe Station, 10 minutes by taxi from Ichu-mae bus stop or 10 minutes on foot from Shojuinguchi bus stop. 30 minutes from Keiji Bypass Uji Nishi IC, 20 minutes from Nango IC

Kyoto is much cooler in summer than you might expect. Be sure to check in advance as events may be canceled, but don’t miss these relaxing and exciting destinations!

*This information in this article is accurate as of the time of writing in June 2021. Please check official websites for the latest information.

English translation by Gabriel Wilkinson

Written by:

WESTPLAN

WESTPLAN

Kiko Matsuda, Keiko Kimura, Risa Tsuji, and a team of female writers familiar with Kansai. We love eating, drinking and traveling! We share fun information based on our experiences.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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