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See & Do


Things to Do in the Umekoji Area

See & Do


Things to Do in the Umekoji Area

The Umekoji area is a quaint neighborhood located just a 15-minute walk away from Kyoto Station. You can also take the train and get off at Umekoji Station, which will take you about 3 minutes. Here, you will be able to experience Kyoto's culture and traditions in a number of ways. From witnessing the fish auctions in the wholesale market to taking a stroll through a geisha district dressed in a traditional kimono, or making beautiful memories with your kids at the entertainment facilities located within Umekoji Park, there's a myriad of ways to enjoy a unique and unforgettable experience.

Experience Japanese Food Culture

One of the best ways to enjoy local food culture in Kyoto is to witness the fish auctions at the Kyoto City Central Wholesale Market. The auction starts at 5 AM, but the market's convenient location (5 minutes' walk from Umekoji Park or 20 minutes from Kyoto Station) makes it easy to visit. After seeing the tuna auction, you can enjoy exploring the wholesale stalls or learn about the market's history through the displays located in the visitors' area. There's also a transport vehicle simulator children will be happy to ride in.

Since the Kyoto Central Market opened its doors in 1927 as the first wholesale food market in Japan, the whole Umekoji area became the home of a vibrant food scene. If your visit to the market made you hungry, you can walk east following Nanajo Street to find plenty of delicious stores selling everything from Wagyu hamburgers and homemade croquettes to traditional Japanese sweets called wagashi.

Immerse Yourself in Kyoto's History and Traditions

Umekoji is also home to a variety of historical landmarks. Right next to the Kyoto Central Wholesale Market, you will find Shimabara, a geisha district founded in 1641 and the oldest one in Kyoto. For security reasons, Shimabara used to be enclosed by tall walls, accessible only by a guarded gate called the Shimabara Omon. Today the walls are gone, but the impressive gate remains standing, a witness to a bygone era. After going through the Omon gate, you will encounter traditional buildings dating back to the Edo period (1603-1868), such as Wachigaiya or Sumiya, one of the largest machiya in Kyoto. Sumiya has turned itself into a seasonally opening museum, so be alert for a unique chance to visit it inside. Other astounding landmarks near the area include Toji, a 50-meter-tall pagoda dating back to Kyoto's founding during the 8th century, and temples Higashi Honganji and Nishi Hongwanji. If visiting all these temples leaves you steaming with curiosity, you can learn more about Buddhism in the Ryukoku Museum, a Buddhist museum located in front of Nishi Honganji where you'll be introduced to the religion's history in an easily understandable manner.

If you are looking for an interactive experience, you can participate in a tea ceremony at Sasaya-iori Villa Annex or rent out some kimonos at Okamoto Kimono Rental and enjoy your stroll around the area dressed like a local. Both places are located near each other between Umekoji Park/Station and the Kyoto Central Market/Shimabara area.

Enjoy Nature and Make Memories with Your Kids at Umekoji Park

Umekoji Park is a huge 14-hectare patch of land located right at the heart of the Umekoji area. With blooming cherries in spring, the lush green of summer, an impressive forest of Momiji in autumn, and more than 140 plum trees in bloom during late winter, you will be swept away by the spirits of the season regardless of when you choose to visit. There are also several entertainment facilities that offer engaging activities for both kids and adults located inside the park. This includes the Kyoto Aquarium, home of the Japanese giant salamander, and the Kyoto Railway Museum, one of the three biggest railway museums in Japan where young and old will be able to enjoy an array of interactive displays. Families with kids will be happy to take their children to Kyoto Viva Square, an entertainment facility offering ice skating in winter and a water park in summer, where kids will get to play with local children.

Stay in Umekoji

The best way of enjoying the Umekoji area is to stay in one of the several hotels located next or within the Umekoji Park. With the Umekoji Station located inside the Umekoji Park too, you will also have easy access to other Kyoto main spots such as the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (15 minutes away by train) or Kyoto Station (3 minutes away by train), allowing you to conveniently discover all that Kyoto has to offer.

Links to places mentioned in the article