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Rainy days suck, and if you’re in Japan from June till the end of July, you’ll be in the middle of the rainy season. In fact through summer right up until the end of September, Japan sees many tropical typhoons. But do not fret dear traveller, because there are fun things to do in Kyoto when it’s raining. Kyoto is a very outdoorsy city - all the best things to do are outside. While this is true, the locals know what to do when it’s raining. So grab your umbrella and let's go on a fun rainy Edventure!
Included on this page are some fun urban stuff as well as some cultural places (temples, shrines etc). Funnily enough, some of these temples and shrines in Kyoto are actually nicer when it's raining. Picture a nice quiet Japanese garden with a temple backdrop with the gentle sound of trickling water as the rain falls gently amongst the trees and plants. Hello Spirited away/any Studio Ghibli film.
Shopping in malls in Japan are always great fun because the malls are large, very well organised and always super clean. Plus, if you’re a traveller with a non-Japanese passport (obviously) you often get to do tax-free shopping. There are two large Aeon malls in Kyoto. One is on the west side of the city, and the other which is more convenient is by Kyoto station. You have all the western brands as well as more quirky Japanese fashion brands with some limited edition stuff only available in Japan. They also have amazing food halls below ground. Happy shopping!
One of my favourite places to go to even when it’s not raining in Kyoto. Yodobashi Camera is a chain of absolutely massive electronics stores and there is a big one by Kyoto station. Before you skip this because you’re not a camera nerd like me, there are other things other than boring electronics stuff. Everything from laptops, watches, Apple products, massage chairs all the way to hair straighteners, blue light cutting glasses and computer games can be bought here. And of course, if you are a camera nerd like me, all the camera gear you could ever dream of is available. You’re in Japan, you should at least have a look at what electronics are available and probably not available in your country. And again, it’s all tax-free for non-Japan passports. Just check at the tills. Often there is a minimum price for tax-free stuff.
Nishiki market is great fun, even when it’s not raining. One of the oldest markets in Kyoto, you can find all sorts of yummy street foods, cheap designer shoes and trainers, street fashion clothes and even a print club (where Japanese girls go take overly cutified photos of themselves for tinder / Instagram). It's all part of the culture! The whole market and shopping arcade are under roofing so it’s ideal when it's raining. And it's right in the middle of town. Most of the actual food market stores close around 18:00. The other non-food shops close later.
One of the prettiest little gardens and indeed my favourite. It's very peaceful and in fact, I prefer it here when it's raining. An example of a classic promenade Garden design, it was built by the Japanese military leader and twice prime minister of Japan, Yamagata Aritomo in 1894.
â–ºAdmission: 410 yen
â–ºHours 9:00-18:00 (17:00 non summer months)
Possibly Japan's MOST important Zen temples, this complex is based at the foot Kyoto's mysterious and beautiful Higashiyama mountains, and a few minutes walk from Murin-an above. It is the head temple of one of the main schools in the Rinzai sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism. In the 13th century, Emperor Kameyama built his retirement villa where the temple is today and later converted it into a Zen temple. There are various sub temples around, including a mausoleum to the Emperor Kameyama. This area has a stunning garden that is very pretty when it’s raining.
â–ºAdmission fee: Temple grounds and Sanmon gates are free of charge to walk around and look at, Hojo Building: 500 yen, Nanzenin: 300 yen, Konichi-in Temple: 400 yen
Now I’d usually not recommend this place as it’s absolutely heaving with tourists. However, when it’s raining, it clears out the tourists and it’s actually very beautiful and mysterious. Think Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. So grab your umbrella and take a walk through the Bamboo forest of Arashiyama.
If you want to see a real untouched Bamboo forest, you’ll have to come on one of my epic Kyoto adventure tours. Tap here to find out more!
This isn't actually a photo of the Arashiyama bamboo forest, it's a photo of the secret bamboo forest on my tour!
Tofukuji is a fantastic thing to do in Kyoto when it’s raining.
Tofukuji is a large Zen temple, and one of the Gozen (Great five Zen temples of Kyoto). The temple was founded in 1236 and takes its name from two temples in Nara, Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji. Tofuku-ji is spread out over a fairly large area with many buildings and gardens to enjoy. Zen temples tend to be very peaceful and calming, but this one, in particular, stands out. You can get some amazing autumn views on the Tsutenkyo bridge which looks over a valley of maple trees which go a deep purple-red in autumn. One of the main buildings is the Kaisando Hall (pictured below) which serves as the mausoleum of the temples original head priest. The stone path to the hall is flanked by lush greenery. Be sure to check out the Hojo as well, which is the other fee-paying area. The Hojo was the former living quarters of the head priest.
â–ºAdmission fee: Kaisando Hall and Tsutenkyo Bridge - 400 yen, Hojo Building and Gardens - 400 yen
â–ºHours: 9:00 - 16:30 (April - October), 8:30 - 16:30 (November - December), 9:00 - 16:00 (December to early March)
If you’re in the Okazaki area, which neighbours the famous Higashiyama area which has all the famous and beautiful spots like the Heian shrine, Kiyomozudera, Nanzen-ji etc, you’ll find a really cool little store called Tozando Shogoin store. One of the few stores in Kyoto that sells actual real Katana, both ancient and real live practice weapons, it's a great place to visit. As well as Katana, they sell suits of Samurai armour as well as Budo and martial arts clothes, shoes and other traditional martial arts stuff. Well worth a little visit if you’re in the area.
If you’re still out of ideas of what to do in Kyoto when it’s raining, or indeed if none of the above appeal to you, or perhaps you were thinking to visit Osaka... then definitely visit Osaka. It’s a great place to go when it’s raining as unlike Kyoto, most of the city is indoors or underground. A huge portion of the city is actually underground is massive stations, underground arcades and shopping centres and entire shopping/food districts are underground. A cityscape marvel, Osaka is well worth a visit when it’s raining.