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Trip Ideas

Grasping the samurai soul and Zen Buddhism

The Japanese people are often associated with respect for others and unassuming modesty. This thinking is said to be rooted in the way of the samurai and the teachings of Zen, the local branch of Buddhism. It also extends to every aspect of traditional culture from martial arts such as karate and sumo to tea ceremony and even gardening. Kyoto offers a variety of experiences through which you can come in touch with this foundation of the Japanese mind.

  • 01 Zen Meditation Experience at Shunkoin Temple
  • 02 Nijo-jo Castle
  • 03 Kuraya Hashimoto Sword Shop
  • 04 Samurai Experience or Tea Ceremony
  • 05 BEFORE 9

From Kyoto station: a 12-minute ride on the JR Sagano line to Hanazono Station followed by a 12-minute walk


01Zen Meditation Experience at Shunkoin Temple

Your day begins with a journey to discover Zen. Zen is a state of calming one’s mind and looking for truth inside oneself and the things around us. This is achieved through meditation. The deputy head priest, Rev. Takafumi Kawakami, of the historic Shunkoin (Myoshinji temple complex) founded in 1590 conducts English-language meditation courses on a nearly daily basis. Kawakami’s approach of putting distractions aside, regulating one’s breathing, and concentrating will help you learn the mindfulness that so many of us strive for these days. You’ll also come away with ideas you can incorporate into your daily life.

Address: 42 Myoshinji-cho, Hanazono, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto
Time: 9:30 a.m. -11:00 a.m.
Price: 3,000 yen
Phone: 075-462-5488
*Held nearly daily (check schedule); no reservation required. Please check website for availability.

Walk 12 minutes to Hanazono station on the JR Sagano line. Take the Sagano line two stations to Nijo station and change to the Subway Tozai line. Take the Subway one station to Nijojo-mae station (15 minutes total)


02Nijo-jo Castle

Nijo-jo Castle was built in 1603 by Ieyasu, the first feudal lord of the powerful Tokugawa shogunate that unified a warring Japan and went on to rule for some 260 years. Ninomaru Palace (a designated National Treasure) and its thirty-three rooms known for their stunning sliding door paintings and carvings are a must-see. Join one of the English-language tours led by Kyoto Certified Interpreter Guides (Kyoto City Visitors Hosts) twice daily at 10 a.m. and 12 noon (1000 yen) and visit areas of the castle not usually open to the public, as well learning about the daily life of samurai and how each room was used.

Address: 541 Nijojo-cho, Horikawa-nishi-iru, Nijo-dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Phone: 075-841-0096
Open: 8:45 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. (closes 5:00 p.m.) *July-August 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (closes 5:00 p.m.) *September 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. (closes 5:00 p.m.)
Admission: adults 1,000 yen (1,030 yen from 1 October 2019), junior high / high school students 350 yen, primary school students 200 yen

3-minute walk


03Kuraya Hashimoto Sword Shop

A specialist Japanese sword shop located near Nijo Castle, Kuraya Hashimoto has one of Kyoto’s best selections of swords, ranging from new creations to centuries-old antiques. Swords may be popular as works of art today, but for the samurai of yesteryear, they were not only a way of defending oneself but a sacred existence that embodied the very soul of the samurai. The gleam of a sword forged in fire and polished to perfection by an expert swordsmith is like no other. Model swords and ninja stars are also available for purchase.

Address: 408-29 Ikemotocho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Open: 10:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.
Closed: Tuesday and Wednesday
Phone: 075-811-4645
Google map

For the Samurai Kembu Theater:
take the Subway Karasuma line from Nijojo-mae station to Sanjo Keihan station on the Subway Tozai line (6 minutes)

For Tea Ceremony Camellia:
a 12-minute walk to the Shijo Horikawa bus stop, and a 17-minute bus trip to the Higashiyama Yasui bus stop followed by a 7-minute walk


04Samurai Experience or Tea Ceremony

For the afternoon, how about a deeper cultural experience? We’ve selected two fascinating options to choose from depending on your interests. If samurai are your thing, Samurai Kembu Theater is for you. Through kembu sword dancing you’ll learn about the basics of sword handling and the mental aspects of carrying a sword. For those interested in Zen and the history behind Japan's unique tea culture, we recommend a tea ceremony experience. Rooted in Zen, this centuries-old ritual is intended as a moment of peace and reflection, and a way to de-stress and unwind. You'll come away with a deeper understanding of the history, architecture and tastes of Japan.

Samurai Kembu Theater

Address: B1, GOZAN bldg., Higashi-iru, Sanjo-hanamikoji, 35-7, Sanchome, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Price: Demonstration show 3,000 yen (60 minutes, includes English explanation), Light lesson (60 minutes with costume rental )7,000 yen, Full lesson (90 minutes with costume rental) 9,000yen
Closed: Sunday
Phone: 075-751-2033 (10:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m.)
*Reservations required

Tea Ceremony Camellia

Address: 349-12 Masuya-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Open: 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Price: <Group lessons (45 minutes) > adult 3,000 yen, children (ages 7-12) 1,500 yen, children under age 6 are free, <Private lessons (45 minutes)> 6,000 yen/person, children 6 years old and younger are free
Phone: 075-525-3238

From Samurai Kembu Theater:
take the Subway Tozai line from Sanjyo Keihan station to Karasuma Oike station (4 minutes)

From Tea Ceremony Camellia:
take the Kyoto City bus from the Higashiyama Yasui to the Higashiyama Sanjyo, then take the Subway Tozai line from Higashiyama station to Karasuma Oike station (18 minutes total)



BEFORE 9 offers mainly Japanese craft beer and sake in stylish surroundings. Each of the eight tasty microbrews of beer and sake on tap has its own distinct hand-brewed personality. Beer made right here in Kyoto by Kyoto Brewing is popular. There is also a unique range of food to nibble on that includes ingredients such as dashi (soup stock) and sake lees for you to enjoy pairing with your beverage or beverages of choice. Have a casual drink at the ground floor standing bar or take a seat at a table upstairs.

Address: 545 Nijodencho, Karasumaoike-Agaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Open: 5:00 p.m. - 1:00 a.m. (last orders at midnight)
Open all year round
Phone: 075-741-6492
*As seating is limited to only 18 seats, please refrain from visiting in large groups.
*Kyoto Brewing beverages are not offered during events.

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