Kyoto is changing fast. Okay, it’s not Shanghai or Bangkok, but the pace of change is blazingly fast by local standards. New hotels, shops and restaurants are popping up everywhere. Here’s a quick rundown of recent developments in Kyoto.
Kyoto Tower in the early evening: Richie Chan / Shutterstock.com
Until very recently, there were only a handful of proper boutique hotels in Kyoto. The last two years have seen a huge boom in this category. Here are just a few of the new boutique hotels in Kyoto:
A cozy and stylish small hotel just steps from Nishiki market.
Nest at Nishiki, Kyoto – image © Booking.com
An apartment-style hotel with kitchenettes and rooms that are perfect for families, a short walk from Kyoto Station.
22 Pieces – image © Booking.com
Right next door to Kyoto Station, this new boutique hotel has all the features of international luxury hotels.
The Thousand Kyoto – image © Booking.com
A hipster haven in Southern Higashiyama, this place even has its own coffee truck parked outside.
RC Hotel Kyoto Yasaka – image © Booking.com
A superb traditional Kyoto house divided into four luxurious suites, this is Kyoto style at its best. It’s more like a machiya than a hotel, but it definitely merits the label boutique.
Star Suite – The Old Modern
New hotels are opening at a furious pace in Kyoto. Here are just a few that have opened in recent years:
Japanese style in a the heart of the city, at a great price.
Cross Hotel Kyoto – image © Booking.com
A restful refuge within walking distance of downtown.
Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Shinmachi Bettei – image © Booking.com
Great rooms and ultra-reasonable rates right above Kyoto Station.
Miyako City Kintetsu Kyoto Station – image © Booking.com
Small, stylish and affordable, just steps from downtown.
Hotel Resol Trinity Kyoto Oike Fuyacho – image © Booking.com
Sheer luxury in an unbeatable location.
Ritz Carlton Kyoto Room Interior
A secret world hidden in Southern Higashiyama.
Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto Room Interior
Unknown in Japan until very recently, food trucks are starting to pop up in Kyoto. You’ll find them in several of the main tourist districts, including Arashiyama and the Kyoto Botanical Gardens.
Oddly named “Hello Mizury” crepe truck at the Botanical Gardens – image © Chris Rowthorn
It’s hard to keep up with all the new stores opening in Kyoto. Three notable additions to the Kyoto shopping scene are:
A temple for Mac fans in the heart of downtown.
Apple store interior – image © Chris Rowthorn
Designer luxury hidden in a Kyoto machiya.
Issey Miyake gallery – image © Florentyna Leow
A fantastic chocolatier with branches downtown and outside Ginkaku-ji Temple.
Chocolate on display – image © Chris Rowthorn
Kyoto is more popular than ever. And, since Japan loosened visa restrictions for Chinese and Korean visitors, it’s become very popular with East Asian travelers. Fortunately, most tourists go to the same dozen or so sites. It’s still very easy to find uncrowded spots. For all the details, see How to Escape the Crowds in Kyoto.
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove with crowd: xerazed / Shutterstock.com
Kimonos and yukata (Japanese-style robes) are all the rage in Kyoto. Ladies from all over the world, including other parts of Japan, can rent kimono and yukata from shops and then stroll Kyoto in traditional Japanese style. The ladies at the shops will even help you put it on. It sure brighten up the city!
Girls in kimono at Fushimi-Inari-Taisha: Michael Gordon / Shutterstock.com
Chinese Wedding Photos
It’s become very trendy for Chinese newlyweds to take wedding photos at various scenic spots in Kyoto. You’ll find these couples with photographers and stylists all over the city.
Chinese wedding couple – image © Chris Rowthorn
New on Inside Kyoto (and our sister sites)
We’ve been traveling all over Japan and writing up detailed articles on some of the most interesting destinations to add to your Kyoto trip. Here are some places we’ve covered recently:
Japan’s famed “art island.”
Kusama Yayoi’s pumpkin sculpture on Naoshima: Anthony Shaw Photography / Shutterstock.com
Rustic countryside and stunning coastal views.
Ganmon Rock on the west coast of Noto: rayints / Shutterstock.com
Beaches, onsen and some nice places to stay.
Tango coastline – image © Hamish Pidgeon
On our sister sites, Inside Osaka and Truly Tokyo, we’ve also added some new destination pages:
Japan’s best amusement park; in Osaka.
Universal Studios Japan – image © Chris Rowthorn
A great park for little kids; in Nagoya.
Legoland Japan – image © Chris Rowthorn
Onsen, mountain views and great museums; near Tokyo.
The Peace Shrine Gate viewed from the pirate ship crossing Lake Ashinoko – Hakone. – image © Florentyna Leow
Japan’s most colorful shrines and temples; near Tokyo.
Shinkyo Bridge, which is part of Futarasan Shrine – Nikko. – image © Florentyna Leow
The symbol of Japan; near Tokyo.
Fuji Mountain and Sakura branches
We’ve also written pages that will help you plan your trip and get the best out of Japan. Here are some of our recent additions:
Japan Rail Pass: How to Make the Most of It – the definitive guide.
Japan Ferry Pass 21 – A Great Way to Explore Japan: A different way to explore Japan.
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)