20 Amazing Places to Experience the Charm of Kyoto in the Karasuma Area
The Shijo Karasuma area is considered the heart of Kyoto. There are many perfect places here to enjoy Kyoto in a charming setting while feeling the essence of this beautiful and historic city. This article will introduce you to 20 great places to visit in Karasuma, such as the essential touristic destinations, some old and new hideaways, and hotspots for local gourmet cuisine.
Sep 10 2019 (Sep 09 2020)
Top 10 Essential Places to Visit in Karasuma
1. Honno-ji Temple
Honno-ji is the temple famous for the Honno-ji Incident (the demise of Oda Nobunaga by his advisor Akechi Mitsuhide in 1582), located around a 13-minute walk from Karasuma Station. In its long history, it has been burned down and rebuilt five times.
Many people are surprised that such a small and quiet temple stands right next to the busy downtown area of Kyoto. This unexpected location is overflowing with the history of Japan and has become a part of Kyoto's charm. Despite it being a famous historical location in the downtown area, not many people come here, so you can visit the temple and explore at a leisurely pace.
2. Kamo River
The 31-kilometer long Kamo River flows north to south through the city of Kyoto. The river bank serves as a promenade and is a popular spot where many people gather. Along the Kamo River are raised platforms where you can enjoy the cool evenings in the summer. Drinking sake as you take in the breeze from the river is a long-standing custom.
Strolling beside the river in the cool air is also a great way to refresh after drinking alcohol. There are many restaurants along the Kamo River, so it is highly recommended to have a meal here and relax as you look out over the river.
3. Kyoto Tower
Kyoto Tower is a famous Kyoto landmark. Looking out over the scenery of Kyoto is not the only way to enjoy Kyoto Tower. Of course, you can look down from above at all of Kyoto's world heritage sites and national treasures, but you can also partake in the restaurants, public bath, sky lounge and even hotel that they have here.
You can enjoy a beautiful evening here as you look out over the night view of Kyoto's streets from the 100-meter-high tower. There are ways to spend time here that would suit anyone, including families, couples, and groups of friends. Don't just be satisfied by seeing the tower from the outside, take a look inside too!
4. Umekoji Park
Umekoji Park is an urban park that opened in 1995 as a place for rest and relaxation filled with greenery in the city. This is a space where everyone can gather and relax.
The grounds cover 13.7 hectares and include the feel-good lawn area that's green as far as the eye can see, a river bed playground where you can splash around, and the Shichijo Iriguchi Plaza where events are held.
5. Kyoto Railway Museum
The concept of this museum is to act as a "hub of railway culture that progresses with its community". The Kyoto Railway Museum, which was only founded in 2016, aims to contribute to the revitalization of the community in which the railway runs, and to exist in harmony with the community. They are creating a place where you can learn while having fun through sight, touch, and experience.
A big plus is that you can enjoy being next to actual railroad cars. In addition, there are attractions that young children will have an especially keen interest in, such as the railway history learning zone and railroad car construction. There is also a kid's park, so the museum can be enjoyed by everyone.
Shinsen-en was created to incorporate many aspects of nature, such as ponds, lakes, streams and forests. The garden is located in the south east of Japan's ancient capital. Shinsen-en is even famous for being home to some adorable ducks. Why not visit to see the ducks waddling around the garden?
The vibrant red bridge over the pond in Shinsen-en is a popular subject for beautiful photos, as it looks stunning alongside the natural greenery. Depending on the season, it is combined with the lovely pink hue of cherry blossoms and azaleas, which makes for a gorgeous photo. Come here to get in touch with the beauty of nature.
7. Takase River
Takase River is a small river that runs north to south through Kyoto, like the Kamo River. The river and the buildings on its banks make a beautiful pairing. It's a small river, but this place will give you a feeling of wonder, as though you've stepped through to a separate dimension. You can feel the kind of charm here that you can only expect to find in Kyoto.
Trees adorn Takase River so you can see the best views here all year round. The scenery is especially perfect when the cherry blossom trees that line the river are in full bloom. The trees are also illuminated at night, so you can enjoy nighttime cherry blossom viewings too.
8. Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine
In this approximately 660 sq. meter shrine precinct located right in the center of the city, flowers bloom in all four seasons and pure water gushes from the well. Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine is the only shrine inside a temple dedicated to the local guardian deity in the downtown area. The deity is prayed to as a god of study, good luck, and protection, and even foreign visitors are becoming increasingly familiar with the deity.
There are many unusual things here, including a strange type of fortune-telling called karakuri omikuji where a mechanical lion delivers you your fortune slip, a picture story show performed by a robot, and "miracle stamps". These are things you normally can't find at other temples, so make sure not to miss it!
9. Shiunzan Choho-ji Temple
Shiunzan Choho-ji Temple is said to have been founded by the legendary Prince Shotoku in 587 AD. The honden (main shrine) is in the shape of a hexagon, so it has been affectionately called "Rokkaku-do" meaning "hexagon hall". As this is where ikebana (the art of arranging flowers) originated, the Ikenobo school based here holds lessons for ikebana.
One of Rokkaku-do's unique features is that although it is in the vicinity of Karasuma Street lined with buildings, time flows here in a calm and relaxed state. Because this is an urban area, there are many hotels and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns), so it's a great option to stay nearby and visit here for a morning or evening stroll.
Top 5 Places to Visit Near Karasuma Station
1. KyoARUKI Kyoto Shijo Main Branch
Lots of women walk around the city wearing a kimono. This remnant of a Japanese scene is a sight you can only expect to see in Kyoto. Wearing a beautiful kimono boosts your mood and makes for a memorable photo, so you will be feeling brilliant in no time. Enjoy a pilgrimage around Kyoto whilst wearing a kimono, and experience something many people dream about doing.
If this sounds good to you, walk two minutes from Karasuma Station to Kyo Aruki Shijo Honten to rent a kimono before you begin your tour of Kyoto. This location is easily accessible in the heart of Kyoto, and better yet, it's possible to return the kimono at your hotel afterwards.
2. Nijo Castle
Nijo Castle is located approximately 2 km away from Karausma Station on foot. The castle was constructed in 1603 and has seen many important moments in Japanese history, such as the restoration of imperial rule by the Tokugawa Dynasty. This has become a popular sightseeing destination frequented by many tourists, a place you must visit to learn about Japanese history when you come to Kyoto.
Inside the magnificent estate you will feel as though you have slipped back in time. This is another perfect place to learn about Japanese history that even people who aren't that interested in history will enjoy. The Japanese garden on the vast grounds is extremely beautiful and even the light-up display is a popular sight.
3. Nishiki Market
You can reach Nishiki Market by walking around 3 minutes from Karasuma Station. Referred to as "Kyoto's kitchen", the market has been the backbone of Kyoto's food culture for a long time. There are around 130 shops in the shopping district that continues for about 400 meters. If you come here, they have everything you could want, including tea, pickles, seafood, meat, fried foods, and more.
There so many restaurants here that you can't find anywhere else, so you should take the opportunity to walk around and eat. A host of delicious smells waft through the market. It can be hard to make up your mind about what to eat. In the market there are also stores selling delicacies like chocolate croquettes, so if you find one, don't pass up the opportunity!
4. Ippodo Tea
Ippodo Tea Shop is around a 1.5 km walk from Karasuma Station. This is a Japanese tea shop with a main branch in Kyoto. The store is on Teramachi Street, which is also lined with antique stores, so it's right in the middle of a very Kyoto-esque scene. The Kamo River is nearby, so a great idea is to buy some take out and go enjoy it by the river.
There are also days when they hold tea brewing classes, so this is something a tea lover should definitely check out. This is a great way to spend some time, learning about the unique qualities of matcha, gyokuro, sencha, and hojicha teas while also enjoying drinking them.
5. Kyoto International Manga Museum
Kyoto International Manga Museum is around a 10-minute walk from Karasuma Station. This space is like a dream for manga lovers, as you can induldge in manga from many different angles, such as reading, looking, listening, making, buying, and even eating!
You can experience manga with all five senses, such as reading manga out on the feel-good lawn, looking at the original drawings of manga artists, listening to original unknown episodes, actually having a go at creating your own manga, and even eating "character goods". You can spend a whole day here without getting bored.
Top 5 Secret Spots to Visit in Karasuma
1. Iyemon Salon Atelier Kyoto
Iyemon Salon is a place where you can eat and drink local Kyoto matcha specialties. They have a vast tea collection consisting only of Japanese teas such as sencha, kabusecha, gyokuro, matcha, and hojicha. Stop by and appreciate the much talked-about matcha beer, which is supposedly an unexpectedly good pairing!
Plenty of matcha is used in the lovely sweets such as parfait, pancakes, and tarts, so you can happily experience some of Kyoto's gourmet delights. After walking around Kyoto, how about stopping here to take a rest while savoring the delicious side of Kyoto?
2. Sauna no Umeyu
There are many sento (public bath houses) in Kyoto that utilize high quality underground springs. The number of sento is on the decline, but Sauna no Umeyu was saved from impending closure by a man who cares deeply about sento. He wants to preserve the culture of communication with visitors of the sento.
The sento was renovated and reopened, keeping its traditional appearance while focusing on a sense of freshness. There are various kinds of baths, such as a jet bath, a bath-of-the-day, electric bath, and cold underground spring bath. There's no mistaking that this will refresh your body and mind. This is a place you can experience Japanese culture, so visitors to Japan are highly recommended to come here.
3. Kyoto Shijo KUON
The premises of Kyoto Shijo Kuon is an old kimono fabric store that has been renovated. The restaurant has an old-world charm, yet a modern atmosphere at the same time. A very Kyoto-esque mood hangs in the air at this restaurant that is highly suggested for solo-diners as well. Here you can eat the specialty dish, keema curry udon, which is a medley of traditional Japanese flavors and spice.
On the second floor there is also kotatsu seating, which is a low table over a hole in the floor, where you can comfortably enjoy their specialty dish. After eating keema curry udon, it's great to try some of their Kyoto sweets. The Kyo Cream Zenzai (red bean soup) with your choice of matcha or hojicha tea is lovely just to look at and is highly recommended.
4. Bistro WARAKU Shijo Yanaginobamba Branch
Bistro WARAKU is a casual wine bar in Kyoto. In this stylish and open restaurant, you can even have all-you-can eat lobster and beef. The meat is cooked for you at the counter right in front of you on the teppan grill. You can comfortably enjoy locally grown vegetables together with hand-picked wines.
The reason this place is popular is because you can eat food that is worth more than the price for a reasonable price. Another reason for its popularity is the polite customer service that invites you into the stylish store. Relaxing at a trendy wine bar such as this after touring Kyoto is simply divine.
5. Harvest Days
Harvest Days is a cafe with a focus on seasonal fruits and vegetables. The spicy chicken curry is a classic menu item here, and as expected of a place that specialize in fruits, the curry also carries a fruity flavor. Come enjoy this fruity spicy curry in this restaurant's open interior.
In addition, the sweets made using seasonal fruits are highly popular. You can enjoy treats such as fruit parfait and soft serve ice cream after your lunch. You can also take plenty of great photos so come enjoy this stylish restaurant and its trendy foods.
Feel the Essence of Kyoto in Karasuma to Experience Its Rich Culture and Nature
Karasuma, Kyoto is a hotspot for the culture and landscape of traditional Japan. You can experience a charm particular to Kyoto in places here, even wearing a kimono if you like. Take a break at a small cafe and enjoy views of the city at night or ease the stress of daily life at a sento. There are many more unfathomably charming places for you to discover, from classic tourist spots to unknown secret spots. The friendly city of Kyoto is waiting for you, whether you're travelling alone, with friends, as a couple or family.
Header Image: Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock.com
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Translated and republished with permission from: SPIRA (formerly known as Relux Magazine)
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.