Tea Ceremonies and Sake Sampling: Get to the Heart of Kyoto With These Experiences

Kyoto was once the capital of Japan
Kyoto was once the capital of Japan | © imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
Kyoto has some magnificent sights that you just won’t find anywhere else in Japan – and a visit to the city isn’t complete without taking in a few of them. Culture Trip’s curated list of Kyoto tours and experiences will take you to the very heart of the city.

Once the capital of ancient Japan, Kyoto is full to the brim with historic Buddhist temples, striking Shinto shrines and calming bamboo forests. To learn more about the traditions that are maintained within the city, as well as its modern side, why not book a tour with the people who call Kyoto home? From exploring Kyoto’s Zen gardens with a landscape designer, to learning ninja techniques and experiencing a traditional tea ceremony with a tea master, we’ve picked the Kyoto experiences that will take you off the beaten path.

ClassFamily cooking - Home meal at Home!
From $58 per person
3 hours
Initia Japanese Cooking Class is a great way to learn how to make traditional Japanese dishes in English. We are teaching Japanese cooking at our home in Kyoto, near Kyoto station. We focus on what local Japanese people really cook and eat, including our family! Our another goal is to share local experience with you by talking, by inviting you to a local’s home. Our home isn’t fancy, but is an ordinary home. Instead, you can see what a Japanese house is like.
ActivitiesJapanese Tea Ceremony with a Tea Master at Wakwak-kan
From $41 per person
1 hour
5 (10)
Enjoy a traditional tea ceremony and learn the sophisticated philosophy behind serving a bowl of tea. You’ll have two options for this experience: a 1-hour tea ceremony in a machiya (traditional wooden building) or a 1.5-hour tea ceremony and kimono-wearing lesson. You’ll have a local guide with you to translate any questions you may have as you experience this fascinating aspect of Japanese culture.
Activities1.5 Hours Kyoto Insider Sake Experience
From $61 per person
1 hour 30 minutes
5 (1)
Uncover the little-known sake culture of Fushimi, Kyoto on a 90 min sake tasting and food pairing session with an expert.  Enjoy the samples of different types of sake as well as leaning details and varieties and personalized attention from your guide on this small-group activity. 

This is a fun and educational experience to change your way of enjoying sake.   

If you love sake but don't know what to select or want to know more about sake, join us and let's deep dive into the world of sake. 

After you experienced this, you will know which type of Sake actually you like, and you will be able to select your favorite Sake from labels or restaurant's menu even if they are all written in Japanese.
ActivitiesGroup Dinner with an Authentic Maiko in Kyoto Gion
From $185 per person
2 hours
We have arranged a very special experience in a historic, remodeled tea house in Gion where you will be able to spend an evening with an authentic maiko. This is a truly rare opportunity to not only see a maiko dance in person, but to play traditional ozashiki games, ask her questions, and take photos together.
We accept 10 guests at maximum, enabling each guest to have enough time to talk with the maiko freely. If you are looking for a semi-private, intimate experience with a maiko, this is the one to book.
ToursMade In Kyoto Shopping Tour with a Local: Tastes of Tea, Sweets and Sake
From $108 per person
3 hours 30 minutes
Take home a piece of charismatic Kyoto on a truly unique shopping tour with a local. Treat your taste buds to tastings of some of the city’s most beloved delicacies such as green tea, wagashi sweets and sake. You'll learn about how they are made and the historical and cultural significance of each one, from the artisans who lovingly produce them. Visit hidden places, chat with locals and look out for Geisha in the magical, lantern-adorned district of Miyagawa-cho. This is a behind-the-scenes shopping experience you will never forget!

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ToursJapanese Roof Architecture and Workshop Tour
From $177 per person
4 hours 30 minutes
5 (2)
Discover and learn in detail about the beautiful Japanese roof architecture of temples and shrines. This is a unique opportunity to visit workshops and experience this form of craftsmanship.

On this tour, you will visit some of the last craftsmen who dedicate their lifework to the preservation of renowned temples and shrines in Japan. Since ancient times, Japanese people have believed that the beauty of Japanese architecture starts from the roof. This tour is an amazing chance to learn and understand Japanese roof tiles, which are recognized internationally for their beauty and artistic details. In the intimate venue of their workshops and homes, the roof craftsmen will explain to you how roof materials such as tiles, cypress bark and rice straw are used for roofs and share in detail the differences between temple and shrine roofs. 
ToursFushimi Inari Hidden Hiking Tour
From $55 per person
3 hours
-Hike through a secret path into Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Even though there is Fushi-inari station, we start the tour from Tofukuji station because we enter Fushi-inari shrine from back side of main entrance.

-Journey into a secret bamboo forest
We will discover a natural bamboo forest, and a small Inari shrine hidden from tourists. Fushimi Inari's main entrance is hard to navigate due to a lot of people, but by walking through the mountains, we will see Fushimi Inari from a new perspective, away from the crowd.

-Return to civilization after a breathtaking view atop the mountains of Fushimi Inari
From here on, we will explore tourist areas on the way to the top of the mountain. Tour routes may vary, but it will end somewhere around the main shrine.

Magical Trip is a local tour operator with the TripAdvisor certificate of excellence that offers various types of small-group tours throughout Japan! Check out our Trip Advisor Page for more tours and our reviews!

ToursWestern Kyoto Spiritual Tour: Forest Spirits of Bamboo and Zen
From $112 per person
3 hours 30 minutes
Journey to the outskirts of ancient Kyoto to admire the stunning natural beauty of the Hozu river, surrounded by lush mountains and whispering bamboo groves. Visit dazzling ancient temples and embrace the spiritual and cultural side of Japan with a lesson in Zen meditation from a resident monk followed by a traditional matcha green tea ceremony. Spiritual enlightenment is (almost) guaranteed!
ToursKyoto: Zen Garden, Zen Mind (Small Group)
From $66 per person
3 hours 30 minutes
5 (2)
The Japanese garden defies quick and easy understanding. As we move in awe through one of these masterpieces we can feel that there is something deeper than just the physical beauty that surrounds us. This experience is designed to go to the heart of that "something deeper".

While occupying 3 temples of the Nanzen-ji Monastery, you will hear in-depth explanations and insights into the world of Japanese gardens that you would never learn about otherwise. The Japanese garden will be revealed to you as an expression of profound art.

As you will undoubtly visit at least several temples and gardens while you are here, this experience will equip you with all the tools you need to help make your experience in Kyoto one that will form a lasting impression on your heart.