Kyoto Hidden Gem: 10 Secret Locations You’ve Never Heard Of!

10 Hidden Gems in Kyoto, Japan You Can’t Afford to Miss

Get lost in Kyoto’s best-kept secrets.

Forget the tourist throngs of Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and delve into Kyoto’s rich history and unbeatable beauty beyond its well-trodden path. It’s time you wander down enchanting lanes lined with moss-covered teahouses, discover secret gardens tucked behind unassuming facades, and explore more of Kyoto’s lesser-known sides at these 10 secret locations. Read on to find a captivating Kyoto hidden gem (or two) worthy of your upcoming travel bucket list!

Also read: 10 Things to Do in Uji — Kyoto Prefecture’s Underrated City

Kyoto hidden gem: the captivating secret spots unveiled

1. Kanabiki Falls

kyoto hidden gem

Image credit: Northern Kyoto Regional Collaboration Urban Area Promotion Association | Official Website

Located on the hilly outskirts of Miyazu, Kanabiki Falls is among the most peaceful hidden spots in Kyoto you dare not miss. The falls stand 40 meters tall and 20 meters wide, and the water crashes down into a basin surrounded by lush greenery, creating a picture-perfect scene. Did we mention it is also listed as one of Japan’s top 100 waterfalls? Suggoii!

Plus, this scenic fall is a great place to visit any time of year. In the summer, the cool mist from the waterfall provides a welcome respite from the heat. In the fall, the surrounding leaves change colour, creating a stunning backdrop for the waterfall. And in the winter, the waterfall can sometimes freeze over, creating a unique and otherworldly sight.

kyoto hidden gem

Image credit: Northern Kyoto Regional Collaboration Urban Area Promotion Association | Official Website

BTW, there’s a small shrine near the waterfall where visitors can pay their respects. For those coming between October and March, you can participate in takigyo, an ancient Japanese waterfall meditation practice. Under the refreshing cascade of cold water, the locals believe this experience will wash away negativity and bring clarity to your mind. And to top it off, you can unwind in a cosy sauna tent after completing this unique training!

2. Miyama Village

kyoto hidden gem

Image credit: Kyoto Miyama Tourism Association | Official Website

Miyama Village is the place to be for those who want to experience a slice of traditional Japanese life. The village is engaged in Satoyama culture, the ancient Japanese art of living in harmony with nature. That said, you’ll see how life in Miyama centres around cultivating crops. The village folks would celebrate the planting of rice in spring and hold festivals in autumn to thank nature for the harvest.

What’s more, the village is famous for its collection of over 39 well-preserved thatched-roof farmhouses, many of which date from the mid-19th century. And unlike many other historic towns, most of Miyama’s old thatched-roof farmhouses are still lived in by local residents.

kyoto hidden gem

Image credit: Kyoto Miyama Tourism Association | Official Website

You can either join a guided tour to wander around the housing area or actually stay inside one of the farmhouses (even better)! These houses that have been converted into Japanese-style guesthouses are called minshuku in Japan. 

TripZilla Tip: While in Miyama, do visit the Chii Hachiman Shrine, the main shrine of the nine surrounding hamlets in the region.

3. Taiza Onsen Sumihei

kyoto hidden gem

Image credit: Taiza Onsen Sumihei | Official Website

Planning to unwind in a relaxing bath blessed with beautiful scenery? Taiza Onsen Sumihei in Tango will do you justice. This private inn with 19 rooms offers a unique opportunity to soak in natural hot springs while gazing out at the breathtaking ocean views of the San’in Kaigan Geopark

kyoto hidden gem

Image credit (L-R): Taiza Onsen Sumihei | Official Website; Taiza Onsen Sumihei | Official Instagram Page

What’s more, the ryokan boasts a reputation for serving the freshest seasonal seafood, including the rare and prized Taiza crab, a local specialty. Imagine indulging in a multi-course kaiseki meal featuring these culinary delights after a rejuvenating soak in the onsen. Talk about a Kyoto hidden gem you can’t help but experience to believe!

4. Maiko Tea Boutique

kyoto hidden gem

Image credit: Maiko Tea Boutique | Official Website

Maiko Tea Boutique in Kyotanabe is directly linked to Maiko no Cha, a renowned purveyor of gyokuro, a shade-grown green tea known for its delicate sweetness and vibrant emerald colour. The boutique offers more than just a taste. They provide guidance on the proper way to prepare gyokuro tea through various workshops, allowing you to appreciate the full depth of its flavour and aroma. 

kyoto hidden gem

Image credit (L-R): Maiko Tea Boutique | Official Instagram Page; Maiko Tea Boutique | Official Facebook Page

Here, you can sample some of the finest gyokuro available or indulge in a selection of green tea desserts and treats. Imagine a matcha parfait or a refreshing cup of hojicha ice cream – perfect for a light afternoon indulgence.

5. Muko-jinja Shrine

Muko-jinja Shrine, or Muko Shrine, located in the Otokuni Bamboo Grove, is one of the hidden spots in Kyoto that has stood the test of time yet still keeps its unwavering charm. The ancient shrine founded in 718  has its honden (main hall) designed in a “Sangensha Nagare-zukuri” style (three-bay wide structure with a gable roof) and is designated as a significant cultural property.

Image credit: Kyoto Tourism Association | Official Website

Throughout the year, Muko Shrine holds various festivals and ceremonies, such as the “Sakura Festival” in April and the “Fire Festival” in October, offering visitors a chance to experience Japanese culture firsthand. What makes the place more interesting is the beautiful path that leads to the shrine — it turns into a tunnel of cherry blossoms in spring and maple leaves in autumn!

Also read: 10 Kyoto Historical Sites That Will Take You Back to Ancient Japan 

6. The Fog Terrace

Image credit: Kyoto Tourism Association | Official Website

For a unique sightseeing experience during your trip, we recommend visiting The Fog Terrace in Kameoka City. The terrace is all about the “Tamba Fog,” a mist that blankets the Kameoka Basin from late autumn to early spring. Standing on the terrace on a clear morning with good fog conditions will allow you to witness a magical sight – a sea of clouds rolling over the landscape below, creating an almost otherworldly scene.

Image credit: Kyoto Tourism Association | Official Website

The fog creates a dreamlike landscape, obscuring the details of the basin and leaving only the silhouettes of mountains and trees peeking through. FYI, this place is easily accessible from Kyoto Station by train or bus, making it a great side trip for a day. So, do add this to your list of must-see Kyoto hidden spots for a wholesome experience!

7. Kikuharu Confectionary Shop

Image credit: Kikuharu Confectionary Shop | Official Website

Calling all sweet tooths! You can get your daily dose of sugar at Kikuharu Confectionary Shop, renowned for its stunning wagashi, traditional Japanese sweets known for their delicate presentation, and seasonal flavours.  The shop uses fresh, seasonal ingredients to create unique and delicious wagashi that reflect the current time of year. 

If you’re unsure what to get on your first visit, we recommend the shop’s famous “Takenoko Monaka,” made with locally produced bamboo shoots. In addition to traditional Japanese sweets, this Kyoto hidden spot also sells delectable sweets with a Western twist. You can also find seasonal fruit daifuku, another must-buy when going here.  

8. Okochi Sanso Villa

Image credit (L-R): Hiroyuki0904 | Wikimedia Commons; looyloz | Canva Pro

Okochi Sanso Villa is another Kyoto hidden gem you can’t miss when exploring this beautiful prefecture. The sublime villa is formerly the home and garden of Okochi Denjiro, a famed Japanese film actor. Here, you can enjoy wandering the surrounding gardens meticulously embodying the principles of wabi-sabi (understated beauty) with perfectly raked gravel, ponds, and strategically placed trees.

What’s more, the place offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area due to its location atop a hill. On one side, you can see the Hozu River Valley, while on the other, you get a glimpse of Kyoto city itself. Psst, your entrance fee also includes a cup of matcha tea and a sweet treat served in a charming teahouse at the end of your visit!

9. Kyoto Botanical Gardens

Image credit: Kyoto Botanical Gardens | Official X Account

We can’t talk about the captivating hidden spots in Kyoto without mentioning Kyoto Botanical Gardens! This sprawling haven features over 12,000 plant species across a vast area. This makes it a perfect place to relax, unwind, and soak in the beauty of the natural world. You can explore the themed sections here, like the vibrant rose garden or the unique sunken garden. Afterwards, immerse yourself in the exotic plants of the greenhouse. 

Plus, the gardens boast a dazzling floral display no matter the season. That said, you can witness the ethereal beauty of cherry blossoms in spring or the fiery hues of autumn foliage in fall. On the other hand, summer explodes with colourful blooms, while winter offers a quiet, introspective atmosphere.


Image credit: SOU・SOU KYOTO | Official Facebook Page

To get that drip you didn’t know you needed, head to SOU・SOU in Nakano, a designer fashion and homeware label known for its quirky, eye-catching patterns and vibrant colours. They take inspiration from traditional Japanese motifs and reinterpret them in a fresh and modern way.

If you didn’t know yet, the store offers a wide range of products beyond just kimonos. Think yukatas, bags, shoes, sportswear, homeware, and even umbrellas! This makes it a great one-stop shop for anyone looking for unique and high-quality souvenirs or gifts. And the best part? SOU・SOU is tax-free , making it yet another hidden gem in Kyoto worth visiting!

Also read: 12 Gorgeous Airbnbs in Kyoto for Every Kind of Traveller

And that concludes our top picks for the best secret locations in Kyoto no traveller should miss! So, which Kyoto hidden gem piqued your interest the most? Whichever it is, with these ten hidden gems tucked away in your back pocket, you’re all set to experience a Kyoto that transcends the guidebooks. So, book those tickets this instant before more people discover these gems!

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About Author

Izzati Haron
Izzati Haron

Izzati is an author to two poem anthologies, a slam poet wannabe, and a full-time nanny to her kitties. She loves dreaming about traveling the world just like most protagonists in the movies, but more often than not, her bank account only permits her to travel to her backyard.