Looking for local nightlife experiences in Kyoto? Kyoto may be a pretty calm sort of place, but that doesn't mean the evenings are dull here. Far from it. You'll find all kinds of great nightspots, with highlights that include Yasaka-no-Tou, a pagoda temple that looks amazing with the sun setting in the background, and the illumination of the Senbon Torii archways at Fushimi Inari Shrine after sunset. The huge staircase is lit up with illuminations, and on the old streets of Kyomachiya, you can immerse yourself in a magical world lit with dim lights.

    Such ambiences are unforgettable. You'll also find public baths that are perfect for a bit of relaxation after work or dinner, and there are also plenty of bars where you can enjoy a light snack and a drink. Here we explore the places that define Kyoto’s local nightlife scene.


    Gion Corner

    The directors and producers at Gion Corner have taken the best of all the classical Japanese arts and combined them into a show that features everything from tea ceremony and flower arrangement to puppetry and dance. Aimed at the tourist market, the show is a little costly, but it represents a good introduction to Japan’s fine arts. This whistle-stop demonstration of Japan’s traditional arts lasts 50 minutes and shows are scheduled twice a day – at 6pm and 7pm. Children under 6 get in free.

    Location: 570−2 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0074, Japan

    Open: April–November, daily performances at 6 pm and 7 pm. December–March open Friday–Sunday and national holidays only.

    Phone: +81 (0)75-561-1119


    photo by sodai gomi (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Fushimi Inari Taisha

    Behold the illuminated shrine

    Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine in Kyoto is a sightseeing spot famous for its thousands of torii gates collectively called Senbon Torii. As you go beyond the main shrine, gates painted in a beautiful vermilion line up and form a path. Though it’s called Senbon Torii, which means 'thousands of torii gates', there are now about 10,000 here.

    It’s wonderful to visit during the day, but Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine is exceptionally striking at night. The main gate (Romon), the main shrine (Honden), Senbon Torii, and paths to the summit are all illuminated to produce an awesome sight. Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine can be visited at any hour, which is unusual for a shrine. If possible, try to visit during the Motomiyasai Festival held in July. Thousands of lanterns illuminate the main shrine and the whole area of Inari Mountain. The results are incredibly beautiful.

    Location: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto 612-0882, Japan

    Phone: +81 (0)75-641-7331


    photo by ajari (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Tower of Yasaka at sunset

    Catch the painting-like silhouette

    The Tower of Yasaka is a 5-storey pagoda that is a symbol of Kyoto. The beautiful 46-meter-high tower has been designated as a Nationally Important Cultural Property and is also called the 5-Storey Pagoda of Hokanji Temple because it’s located in the grounds of Hokanji Temple. The Tower of Yasaka, which can be seen from various streets in the town of Yasaka, is very popular for its beauty whether seen up-close or from afar.

    Another way to enjoy the Tower of Yasaka is to admire it at sunset. The silhouette of the pagoda stands out against the sunset like a painting in a scene that gives a deep impression of the beauty of Kyoto. It’s also illuminated during the peak season. Why not arrange your trip so that you can enjoy it both at sunset and with illuminations?

    Location: 388 Yasaka Kamimachi, Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto 605-0862, Japan


    Sky Lounge KUU

    Sky Lounge KUU is a great place to enjoy a drink while gazing at the beautiful night view of Kyoto. It’s located in the observatory of Kyoto Tower, which is one of Kyoto’s most famous landmarks. With chic colored furnishings and blue lighting, the lounge is a sophisticated space with a relaxing atmosphere.

    There’s counter seating, seating for couples, booths and table seating, so it’s suitable for every situation. You can take your time and enjoy a drink alone or with a friend, or visit after eating out. To access the lounge, transfer to the observatory elevator on the 11th floor of the tower. If you’re going to the lounge, the elevator to the observatory is free of charge.

    Location: 3rd floor, Kyoto Tower Observation Deck, 721 Higashihiokojicho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto 600-8216, Japan

    Open: Teahouse: daily from 3 pm to 8 pm. Bar: daily from 3 pm to 11 pm

    Phone: +81 (0)75-371-3370


    Hanami Koji Dori

    A charming street in Kyoto

    Hanami Koji Dori is a street that connects Sanjo Dori in the north and Kenninji Temple in the south, and it’s a very popular spot thanks to its charming townscape. This street was created in the early Meiji period to improve access, but it became the Kyoto-like street it is now after the road construction to protect the scenery of Kyoto in 2001.

    Here you’ll find temples and shrines such as Kenninji Temple and its sub-temple (Tatchu Jiin), facilities where you can enjoy traditional entertainment like Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theather, and many traditional Japanese restaurants and souvenir shops on both sides of the street. It’s fun to stroll around during the daytime, but it’s even better to visit at night. As the sun sets, the streetlights and lights from shops dimly illuminate the street and the unique Kyoto atmosphere becomes enchanting.

    Location: Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Japan


    photo by Jason (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Kyoto Illumination Synesthesia Hills

    A festival of light

    Kyoto Illumination Synesthesia Hills is an illumination facility that uses the latest technology to realize the 'experience-based beauty of creation'. The venue, which is about 600 meters long, provides contents using illumination with the theme of 'synaesthesia' (or unusual perception of sensations).

    It’s a trippy experience, as though you’ve entered a different dimension with features like the Spiral Lights Tunnel, a vortex of light with 7 colors in fantastic space, and Crystal Lake where a shining lotus flower and light artwork are reflected on a lake’s surface. You can also enjoy the light corresponding to your physical movement at Synaesthesia Hills.

    Location: 1-14 Hirotani, Sonobecho, Okawachi, Nantan, Kyoto 622-0065, Japan

    Open: Hours vary by season

    photo by Britany G (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Fushimi Sake Village

    A go-to for sipping sake

    Fushimi Sake Village (Fushimi Sakagura Koji) features a Japanese sake bar that serves sake from 18 brewers in Fushimi and stalls that serve delicious food from Kyoto. There are entrances on both sides of the building, and a 77-meter-long aisle connects both entrances. Using a delivery system, any dishes including ones from other stalls on the ‘delivery menu’ will be delivered to your table no matter which stall you’re seated at. It’s pretty convenient because it means you can pay for everything together at the same stall.

    The main feature of this place is the Japanese sake bar where you can try more than 120 sake brands at a 23-meter-long bar counter. Make sure you try the ‘18 sake brewers’ tasting set’, which is made up of samples of sake brands from all 18 sake brewers. This is a great way to try the best of what each brewer has to offer.

    Location: 115 Nayamachi, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto 612-8363, Japan

    Open: Daily from 11.30 am to 11 pm (closed on Tuesdays)

    Phone: +81 (0)75-601-2430


    photo by 663highland (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Graphical Illumination Plus at Kyoto Station Building

    A way to enjoy Kyoto at night

    Graphical Illumination Plus at Kyoto Station Building in JR Kyoto Station is a must if you want to enjoy Kyoto at night. Illuminations using 15,000 LED lights appear on 125 out of the 171 steps on the big staircase inside the Station Building. The show originally started to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the opening of Kyoto Station Building in 2012, but it’s been upgraded since then.

    The 20-minute show of light and sound takes seasonal themes including the 3 major festivals of Kyoto (Aoi Festival (Kamo Festival), Gion Festival and Jidai Festival) and typical events such as the Star Festival, Halloween and Christmas. This illumination show is best seen from the landing of the big staircase on the east side of the Station Building. Illumination and special performance times vary by season.

    Location: Higashihiokojicho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto 600-8216, Japan

    Open: Daily from 3 pm to 10 pm (special performances from 5 pm to 10 pm)


    photo by Nullumayulife (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Sauna no Umeyu

    Spa and hot springs

    Sauna no Umeyu is one of the public baths in Kyoto that’s loved by locals and visitors. It’s open until 2am, except for Thursdays, so you can take your time and enjoy taking a bath even if you arrive late.

    Sauna no Umeyu is said to have been established in the Meiji period, and the structure of the facility has a warm and retro feel, especially the mirrored wall in the women’s bath. It’s said that there are only 2 public baths in Kyoto that have mirrored walls. This sauna is more spacious than a regular public bath. Normally, you need to pay an additional fee to use a sauna at a public bath, so it’s nice that it’s included in the entrance fee here.

    Location: 175 Iwatakicho Kiyamachi-dori Uenokuchi Noboru, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto 600-8115, Japan

    Open: Saturday and Sunday from 6 am to midday and from 2 pm to 2 am, Monday–Wednesday and Friday from 2 pm to 2 am (closed on Thursdays)

    Phone: +81 (0)80-2523-0626


    BAR Oku

    BAR Oku is in an alley a little away from downtown Kyoto, where you can enjoy all kinds of drinks including whiskey and wine. The bar is a renovated Kyoto-style townhouse with a calm atmosphere. Don’t miss BAR Oku’s original cocktails. 'Maiko' is a cocktail using white soybean paste, based on the Kyoto version of a traditional Japanese soup called Zoni, and various cocktails inspired by the seasons of Kyoto are also top-notch.

    The performance of the venenciador (sherry sommelier), who pours sherry from overhead into the glass, is also impressive. There’s a counter and table seating on the 1st floor and sofa seating on the 2nd floor, so groups of any size are welcome. If you want to spend an extraordinary time in an extraordinary place, don’t miss this secret hideaway bar.

    Location: 221-1 Takazaimokucho, Shijo Sagaru, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto 600-8082, Japan

    Open: Daily from 7 pm to 2 am (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +81 (0)75-344-6040


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