What’s there to do in Kyoto on a rainy day? In this section, I’ll introduce some of my favorite rainy day activities in the city.
Fushimi Inari Temple: Fotos593 / Shutterstock.com
Kyoto is not a particularly rainy city. But rain can fall any time of year, not just in the June-July rainy season (which isn’t all that rainy some years). If you wake to find the rain coming down when you’re in town, don’t despair. There are plenty of things to do in Kyoto on a rainy day. Here is a brief list and a few tips to make the most of a damp day.
- National Museum of Kyoto: This is Kyoto’s premier museum and it’s within easy distance of both Downtown Kyoto and Kyoto Station. You can pair this with a visit to Sanjusangen-do Temple, which is just across the street (see the listing below on this page).
- Okazaki Museum District: This park-like area in the Northern Higashiyama District is home to two good museums (Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art and National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto). The Kyoto Handicraft Center is also nearby, along with Heian-jingu Shrine.
- Museum of Kyoto: Located right downtown, this museum is worth a visit if there is a good exhibition on.
- Teramachi and Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcades: These two downtown shopping arcades are covered for their entire length. You can easily enter Nishiki Market from the southern end of Teramachi Arcade, and this is a good route for a rainy day.
- Nishiki Market: Kyoto’s best food market is a sure-fire hit on a rainy day. You can expect crowds on a rainy day because everyone knows this.
- Daimaru Department Store: Located a short walk from the west end of Nishiki Market, this is one of Kyoto’s best department stores. The basement food floor is fantastic and there are several good restaurants on the upstairs restaurant floor.
- Takashimaya Department Store: Located not far from Nishiki Market and Teramachi/Shinkyogoku Shopping Arcades, this is another great department store. The basement food floor is unmissable and there are some fantastic restaurants on the restaurant floor.
Geishas: Grant Tiffen / Shutterstock.com
Sights Where You Can Stay (Mostly) Dry
- Nijo-jo Castle: There is a lot to see inside the castle here, making it a great rainy day destination. And, if the rain lets up (or you have an umbrella) head outside to visit the gardens.
- Higashi Hongan-ji Temple: A short walk north of Kyoto Station, this vast temple has huge roofs to keep you dry while you soak up the grandeur of the place.
- Tofuku-ji Temple: The Hojo Garden at this superb temple has long eaves that will keep you dry while you admire the garden. It should be noted that the garden looks great in the rain.
- Sanjusangen-do Temple: Just across the street from the Kyoto National Museum, this temple with its awe-inspiring collection of kannon (Buddhist goddess of mercy) figures is a great spot to visit on a rainy day. Everything to see here is inside.
- Kyoto Station: With hundreds of shops, restaurants and cafes, not to mention spacious open areas, all under a vast roof, the station can serve as a good rainy day destination and you can pair it with a short walk north to Higashi Hongan-ji Temple (see listing above).
A Few Hints for Rainy Days in Kyoto
- Most hotels and ryokan will lend umbrellas to their guests.
- Consider buying a small folding umbrella at a convenience store and carrying it everywhere you go. A small plastic bag will keep it from wetting other things in your bag.
- Travel mostly by subway on rainy days. Street traffic slows down on rainy days and taxis can be harder to get.
- If you find yourself in need of dry clothes, ask at your lodgings for the nearest “coin laundry” (laundromat). And you can always buy new clothes for cheap at a store like Uniclo (there are several branches in Kyoto).
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy – here's how
- Get travel insurance for Japan - World Nomads is well-regarded (and here's why)