9 Things to do in Kyoto Japan at Night

Kyoto is a very demanding place to visit. It has enough temples, shrines and cherry blossoms to tire you out for the day. It is indeed possible that you just want to get back to the room and relax.


However, Kyoto is as beautiful at night as it is during the day. The mysterious place comes alive with the buzzing of the streets and the temples illuminate with not just tranquil energy but with colorful lights against the midnight blue sky.


So if you arrive at the city a bit late and venture out at night, or you simply want to explore the late night city, here is the ultimate guide on how to enjoy the best things to do in Kyoto Japan at night.

1. Picnic near Kamogawa River

Picnic near Kamogawa River

The banks of the Kamogawa River is a popular hangout place in Kyoto. You can see locals, university students and tourists picnicking on the banks. On busy evenings there will also be street performances or music to keep you occupied. If you do not feel like a fancy dinner, get some snacks and drinks from the supermarket and head to the river banks to have a wonderful meal.

2. Walk along the Pontocho Alley

Walk along the Pontocho Alley

Pontocho Alley is one of those streets that turns into a magical one at night. With Japanese lanterns, tiny bars, charming tea houses, traditional shops, and restaurants, what might appear to be a mundane street in the day time, transforms into a lively area at night.


One thing to note is that a few traditional tea houses do not entertain tourists and cater only to locals, while the majority of places are more welcoming to travelers. The Pontocho Alley Kyoto runs parallel to the Kamogawa river and is a great place to soak in the mystical beauty of the pre-war Kyoto. It is also one of the places where you might come across a Geisha or a Maiko (an apprentice Geisha).

3. Attend a Tea Ceremony

Attend a Tea Ceremony

A tea ceremony is a very interesting part of the Japanese tradition. Kyoto is home to many tea houses and attending a Japanese tea ceremony is one of the best things to do in the city. You can go to a tea ceremony in the evening or join a guided tour. These ceremonies are usually accompanied by a meal, so it might be a refreshing way to end your day.

4. Enjoy the Sunset at Kodai-Ji

Enjoy the Sunset at Kodai-Ji

Watching a sunset might not go on the top of your list, but in the ambiance of a historic Japanese town, it is a must. Imagine a sunset with the view over the temples, even if it is from the temple car park. The car park of Kodai-Ji is one of the best spots to watch the sunset, offering plenty of opportunities for photographers to capture the silhouettes of the pagodas against the golden sky.

Just opposite, you can also see the mountains set against the changing colors of the sky, if you face the Buddha State. With the church bells ringing in the background, it is one of the most blissful experiences you will have in Kyoto. After that, when the streets of Kyoto gets illuminated by the faint glow of the paper lanterns.  If you visit Kyoto Japan during the sakura season or in the autumn, the temple stays open until late at night.

5. Go for a Guided Night Tour

Go for a Guided Night Tour

Kyoto is a place brimming with history and culture. It has gone through several stages of evolution and seen many changes during the time of war. If you want to learn more about that, the secrets of the streets and the interesting facts, taking a night tour might be an excellent choice of activities for the night. There are special night tours conducted by many Japanese travel groups that range from street food, tea ceremony and many more.

6. Get to the Roof of Kyoto Station

Kyoto Station

The Skyway walk at the top of Kyoto Station is a great place to see the city’s skyline. The walkway is accessible through escalators from both ends of the escalator. There are also observation platforms on top to offer unobstructed views. The station also has a very handsome light show every evening on their LED-lit steps. During local festivals and celebrations, these shows are a major attraction.

7. Enjoy the views from Kyoto Tower

Kyoto Tower

The Kyoto Tower is another spot that offers fantastic views of Kyoto at night. It is a landmark of the city, built in 1964 is still the tallest structure in the city. Even at a height of 131 meters, the structure dominates the city as most of the buildings in Kyoto aren’t that high. The Kyoto Tower is also another place to watch the sunset as well.

8. Temples, Shrines and Pagodas

Temples, Shrines and Pagodas

The highlight of Kyoto is its numerous temples. As bright and spiritual as they appear during the day, they offer a totally different vibe after night. The temple and the surrounding compound gets dotted with lights from paper and wooden lamps.


One of such temples is the Yasaka Shrine, located in Gion. At night, the shrine and the walkways leading up to it are lit up, creating an exquisite character to the temple. The Yasaka Pagoda or the Hokanji Temple is another amazing spot at night. There is a lovely street that has traditional wooden houses that takes you back to the olden charm of Kyoto. This part in Gion is also not crowded at night as in the day, so you can enjoy your ramble.

9. Keep an Eye out for Geisha


Kyoto is known for its Geisha’s and Gion is one of the places that you can find Geishas the most. You can easily spot them by their white make-up, the type of attire and their traditional hairstyles. Geisha often offer entertainment in the tea houses of Kyoto too.   

The best time to visit Kyoto is definitely during the sakura season. But even past the time, the city still holds its appeal over travelers from all over the world. If you are looking at how to find the cheapest flights to quench your wanderlust, search in FareDepot to get the best deals on flights.

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