A city whose history goes back to 1,200 years ago, for many centuries Kyoto was the capital of Japan, home to the Imperial court and nobility.
Kyoto’s nobles engaged one another in an endless challenge to exhibit their love for art, fine crafts, beauty, and refined entertainment.
As a consequence, Japan’s best artisans, artists and entertainers made Kyoto their home, dedicating their lives to a never-ending refinement of their arts, fine crafts, cuisine, and performances.
From tea ceremonies to performing arts, from luxury fabrics to lacquerware and pottery, from poetry to refined banquets, from flower arrangement to archery, each discipline, with its many varieties, has been preserved throughout the centuries, and each generation made it slowly and skillfully develop one step further.
Preservation and development of tradition are still at the core of Kyoto’s spirit: not only preserving the art and discipline as they are, but slowly yet endlessly making them compatible with the changing of times.
Not only keeping the tradition alive but making sure it remains contemporary.
Find out more about the insightful experiences Bespoke Japan Travel offers to guests visiting Kyoto.
Learn the art of tea at one of the most symbolic places: a Japanese tea shop in business for over 300 years, where the best tea qualities are selected and procured by many Kyoto tea ceremony masters.
Take part in a tea workshop at this prestigious venue, where you can learn how tea leaves are selected and brewed.
Entice your senses by trying a variety of different tea qualities and appreciate the differences in taste and their pairing with refined Japanese wagashi sweets.
For real green tea lovers, a blind taste season can be arranged: a fun yet insightful dip into the world of Japanese tea.
Culinary tradition meets innovation at a Kyoto’s eclectic Michelin-starred restaurant
One of the most impressive characteristics that Japan shows to its visitors is how it managed to absorb so much Western culture while managing to maintain its traditional core.
This can be said about the Japanese culinary world as well, and one of the best chances to experience this is by enjoying lunch at a small hidden-gem restaurant in the atmospheric neighbourhood of Higashiyama, where a Japanese traditional home hosts an exquisite and refined Japanese venue where French culinary treasures meet Japanese ingredients and presentation.
The eclectic chef will guide you through this memorable lunch experience, which was awarded 2 stars in the 2020 Michelin guide.
Private tour at Kyoto’s most symbolic World Heritage temple, led by a resident monk.
Kiyomizudera, or Pure Water Temple, is one of the most famous and acclaimed sights in Kyoto.
While being one of the most popular tourist attractions in Japan, a visit to Kyoto cannot be considered complete without a tour of this unique World Heritage temple.
Go beyond a regular visit by experiencing Kiyomizu Temple being guided by one of the temple’s monks and by accessing areas that are generally off-limits to visitors.
Some of the highlights of this exclusive tour include the Tahokaku, where thousands of Buddha statues are on display, the Moon Garden, considered one of Japan’s finest gardens and purification and offering ritual using paper lotus petals.
Japan Buddhism is an inclusive philosophy accepting a wide variety of different schools and views and the tour welcomes people of any faith and belief to visit this World Heritage and take part in its rituals if and in any way they feel suitable.
Exclusive Kyoto temple stay: overnight at Ninna-ji Temple
Take the chance to spend a night at Ninna-ji, one of Kyoto’s most renowned temples.
While the temple is open to visitors during the daytime, from evening to morning, you will be able to enjoy private access to the temple grounds, by spending the night at a recently renovated traditional yet very comfortable and refined temple lodging.
As the only guest during the evening, you can take the chance to take part in fascinating activities such as witnessing and/or joining in the monks’ prayers, strolling along the scenic temple at your pace, contemplating the breathtaking garden, taking a private tour of the pagoda, generally off-limits to guests.
Indulge in a cha-kaiseki dinner, a refined meal using seasonal ingredients elegantly presented. This type of cuisine is often paired with the most refined tea ceremonies.
In the morning, a shojin-ryori breakfast is served, a type of vegetarian cuisine following the Buddhist precincts and renowned for its surprisingly refined and rich taste.
Immerse yourself in the world of Noh theatre, one of the most charming yet mysterious performing arts in Japan.
With a 650-year history, this is perhaps the oldest performing art in the world to be performed throughout generations without interruptions.
Visit a Noh Theater in the heart of Kyoto, head of one of the five Noh theatre schools in Japan, and meet one of the actors. With a long experience in performing and teaching Noh in Europe and North America, he is well-known for his ability of making this highly philosophical art approachable to the general public.
Begin by learning the basics of this art by participating in a workshop, and going through postures and movements while learning their significance.
After being able to grasp the basics of this art of “delicate beauty”, enjoy watching a Noh performance including acting, dancing and chanting – the latter being considerably powerful and moving even to beginners to this art.
To tempura lovers we offer the ideal lunch: allow us to book counter seats at an exclusive Kyoto-style tempura restaurant, which will enable you to see your chef preparing this incredibly light delicacy just in front of your eyes.
Using carefully selected local ingredients, this tempura experience will take your appreciation for this cuisine to new heights.
Tea as a way of life: enjoy a tea ceremony performed by the head of one of the most prominent tea schools at an exclusive location
Heian Shrine is the largest and most famous Shinto shrine in Kyoto, with its grounds and beautiful gardens visited by thousands of visitors every day.
Go beyond a simple visit today, by accessing Heian Shrine’s guest house used for exclusive tea ceremonies.
In the past, only the Kyoto nobility was granted the privilege to take part to tea ceremonies lead by the head of a tea ceremony school (“Iemoto” in Japanese).
From the guest house, unparalleled views of the gardens can be enjoyed, and the surroundings are decorated for the event using a precious hanging scroll and flowers specifically selected by the Iemoto.
Meet some of the tea students and understand some of the key elements of a tea ceremony.
Then, enjoy a private tea ceremony receiving tea by the Iemoto.
While a full understanding of this ritual’s meaning may well be a life-long accomplishment, observing the beauty and elegance of the ceremony can be an astonishing experience for even to first-timers.
Kyoto garden visit accompanied by a local landscape gardener
Take the opportunity to be shown around the gardens at Tofukuji Temple by a local landscape gardener.
Learn how Japanese landscaped gardens are skillfully shaped and how their many components, from moss to sand, have a strong link to Zen Buddhism.
Watch the sand being raked at one of the sand gardens within the temple and understand how gardening is an art deeply connected to Buddhist philosophy and skillfully passed down from generation to generation.