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Planning Your Trip

Kyoto is no doubt the epicenter of traditional Japanese culture — whether you’re walking down Pontocho Alley, visiting the shrines of Higashiyama or eating a kaiseki meal. As the nation’s capital for more than a thousand years, Kyoto’s rich history can be seen everywhere you turn. Here’s what to pack to experience this ancient and beautiful city.


Business Travel

When doing business in Kyoto, looking sharp, neat and put together is a requirement — and a sign of respect for others. 


  • Pack a conservative, classy suit in a dark color.
  • The majority of Japanese women do not wear heels. If you can’t go without, opt for a low, closed-toe pair in a neutral or dark color.  
  • Bringing a small gift to a meeting is an essential part of Japanese culture. Something special from your city or country will be especially well-received.  

Exploring the City

Going from a temple to a shopping district to an elegant restaurant is all in a day’s worth of exploring. 



  • Many temples and shrines do not allow shoes inside certain rooms so pack a comfortable pair that slips on and off easily. 
  • Dress for the weather but with modesty in mind. Japanese women rarely wear sleeveless shirts or tank tops. 
  • June and July are the rainiest months. Bring an umbrella as many of Kyoto’s best sights are outside. 

Day Trips

From beautiful and historical Nara to the lively city of Osaka, there’s no shortage of sights to see just outside of Kyoto. 


  • Wear your walking shoes to Nara. The grounds of Todaiji Temple are expansive, with its main hall earning the title of the world’s largest wooden building. 
  • If you’ll be traveling on the Shinkansen (bullet train), plan to carry a small backpack or tote bag as storage space is limited.
  • Bring cash. People use cash more often than credit cards in Japan, and if you’re out for the day, you don’t want to be stuck without access to an ATM. 
Direction Sign

Don't Forget:

Though most staff at hotels and tourist-friendly restaurants speak a little English, the majority of Japanese people do not. Bring along a Japanese phrase book (or download an app) to help you with simple questions and phrases. 

With so many sights to see — in and out of the city — and meals to eat, planning your Kyoto itinerary is essential to making the most of your time. 

Dining Reservations

Place Setting

Kyoto is famous for kaiseki — a multicourse Japanese dinner of traditional foods served a la carte and artfully plated. At The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, experience this regional specialty at Kaiseki Mizuki and feast on a delicate assortment of vegetables, seafood and sashimi. Chances are you’ve had tempura before but probably not like it’s served at Tenryu. Located inside a traditional ryokan, this casual spot has earned a Michelin star for its elevated take on common Japanese food. Watch as pieces of shrimp, shiitake mushrooms and fish are dipped into hot oil and sizzle their way onto your plate. 

Day Trips

Place Setting

Hop on the Shinkansen and you can reach Nara in less than one hour. As Japan’s first capital, Nara is home to some of the country’s most historical temples, including the impressive Todaiji. After you roam its expansive grounds and visit the 15-meter-tall bronze Buddha, head to Nara Park where tamed deer roam — and will eat right out of your hands. For something entirely different,head to Osaka and stroll through Dotonbori, a lively district known for its street food. Try the takoyaki (grilled octopus) and okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake). 

Museum Tickets and Cultural Sights

Place Setting

For history lovers, there are four imperial properties in Kyoto to tour: the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Katsura Rikyu, Sento Gosho and Shugakuin Rikyu. All except the Imperial Palace require advance reservations, which you can make online. For a change of pace from all the shrines and temples you’ll be seeing, make sure to stop by one of Kyoto’s many art museums. The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto hosts six or seven traveling exhibitions a year, and advance tickets can be bought to reserve your spot. And anyone with an interest in Japanese calligraphy will enjoy a visit to Jotenkaku Museum. Located on the grounds of Shokoku-ji Temple, the museum is a tranquil and serene spot away from the crowds.

Spa Appointments

After walking all day, relax at The Ritz-Carlton Spa — a tranquil oasis amid the bustle of downtown. Book the Kyoto Bamboo Ritual, a full-body treatment that uses heated bamboo sticks and warm oil to relieve muscle tension. Or choose the Ryokucha Serenity Ritual, which uses the antioxidant properties of tea leaves to revitalize skin, leaving you refreshed and ready for another day of sightseeing. 


Perhaps no city in Japan is more steeped in tradition than Kyoto. Although it’s known as “The City of the Thousand Temples,” the number is actually closer to 1,600 — and that doesn’t include the imperial palaces and the breathtaking gates. And there’s more. Walking down the street you’re sure to cross paths with a procession of geishas in full attire. Artisans are reviving ancient craft traditions and, in fact, improving upon them with modern touches. Oh, and the food, (don’t miss out on an authentic kaiseki), served with the highest attention to detail.


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A Romantic Getaway

There’s something in the air in Kyoto. Perhaps it’s the perfect symmetry of the architecture, the natural scenery that looks like it’s straight out of a painting, or the fact it still moves at a remarkably leisurely pace. Whatever else it is, the city is undeniably romantic. Enjoy intimate dinners with unparalleled service. Marvel at well-preserved shrines that are humbling in their beauty and history. And take long walks through charming alleys full of cafés and boutiques. It’s the perfect destination for reconnecting with a loved one and creating memories that will last forever.


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