Experiencing Kyoto by night is an essential part of any visit to Japan’s city of tradition. Walking through the old town’s lantern-lit wooden streets is an otherworldly experience not to be missed!
We’ll begin our private Kyoto tour at Minamiza Theatre in Kyoto’s famed Geisha district of Gion. As we wander, there’s a good chance you’ll see both Geiko and Maiko breezing through the narrow alleyways of the old quarter.
From there, your private guide will help you avoid the crowds and traverse the serene wooden backstreets through to Yasaka Shrine, where there’s an explosion of light and noise! Famous Yasaka is eternally alive, brought to life by bright lights and buzzing crowds, and lined with street food stalls selling Japan’s favourite evening snacks — everything from frozen bananas to skewered squid.
We’ll then avoid the crowds a second time as we dart into the backstreets of northern Gion, walking through the narrow streets lined with smaller and more modern clubs and bars — a fascinating contrast to the quarter’s old buildings and historical air.
Crossing the Kamo River, we’ll take in the sprawling view of Kyoto’s restaurant district as it stretches into the distance along the river, before crossing into Pontocho. A centuries-old entertainment district now lined with bars and restaurants, Pontocho is lit almost entirely by traditional Japanese lanterns of every shape and size. Each restaurant has its own unique menu and atmosphere, but all retain an old-world charm.
From Pontocho, we’ll cross to Teramachi, a traditional Japanese-style arcade strip that stretches off into the distance. Roofed with glowing, cathedral-like arches, Teramachi is home to a countless variety of merchants and restaurants, including traditional Japanese bookstores and the ubiquitous, brightly lit Manga comic shops. Here, you can find everything from statues of ancient gods at a Butsudan-ya (Buddhist altar shop) to high-quality sushi knives and vintage clothing.
Leaving Teramachi’s arcade, we’ll head past the Nishiki food market to check out a tachinomiya — translated in English, ‘tachinomiya’ literally means ‘stand and drink shop.’ Bars with no seats offer locals a chance to enjoy drinks and light snacks en route to home or engagements elsewhere.