Things to do in Kyoto
Catch a J-League game
The oldest football team in Japan’s J-League, the Kyoto Sanga (www.sanga-fc.jp) is the place to go if you want to see some live football. The small stadium attracts some lively crowds, and the team is made up of mostly seasoned Japanese players, with a pinch of Brazilian flair in the squad.
Discover the history of sake
Hidden away in the pretty Fushimi ward in the south of Kyoto, Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum (tel: +81 75 623 2056;www.gekkeikan.co.jp/english) has been brewing sake since 1637. In their museum, you’ll see the tools used to create this unique drink over the years, before thankfully concluding with a tasting.
Relax in an onsen
Onsen, public baths with an emphasis on relaxation, are great places to see Japan at its most chilled. Kyoto has a limited amount of geothermal activity under the city; nevertheless, there are plenty of onsen to choose from. Among the best is Funaoka Onsen (tel: +81 75 441 3735;funaokaonsen.net). A real local spot, it has indoor and outdoor baths, as well as an electric bath for added frisson. Remember, visitors must bathe naked, and tattoos may need to be covered up.
Swim at a Blue Flag beach
Japan is the first Asian country to obtain the Blue Flag award for its beaches, one of which is Wakasa Wada Beach in Takahama town, just a short two-hour train ride away from Kyoto. Swimming here is excellent, with mountain views and sandy beaches, while the surrounding translucent waters are best explored on a kayak or a Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP).
Take an old boat ride down a very old river
This riverboat ride is a two hour, 16km (9-mile) ride from Kameoka (around 35 minutes from Kyoto) to Arashiyama, through a twisting ravine with water rapids and stunning views of the mountainous Japanese landscape. It’s undertaken in wooden boats that you’d be worried about if it wasn’t such a popular attraction (tel: +81 771 22 5846; www.hozugawakudari.jp).
Take on Kyoto’s cycling trail
Biking around Kyoto is a breeze, with wide, flat main roads and plenty of streets free of traffic. If you’re pressed for time, Urban Adventures (tel: + 81 80 3550 8449; www.urbanadventures.com) offers a superb three-hour trip taking in the Heian Shrine and gardens, Kamo River and Nanzenji Temple, before heading down the cherry tree-lined Path of Philosophy.