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Iori Origin Arts Program, Kyoto

Sujiya-cho 144-6
Japan 600-8061
Tel: 81 075 352 0211's insider take:

Sure, Kyoto's temples and shrines are must-sees. But to truly gain an understanding of Japan's history and culture, it's important to graduate from observing to participating. For more than 30 years, the Iori Origin Arts Program has connected Japanese cultural masters with tourists for hands-on classes in traditional arts such as Noh drama, aikido, tea ceremony, calligraphy, and Zen meditation. It's best to arrange for a full-day class, which covers four different arts, often culminating in group performances or parties at the center's Noh theater stage. (Half- and multiday programs are also available.) The Iori staff is also a great resource for more contemporary aspects of Japanese culture. Play your cards right, and they'll give you the inside track on the city's best karaoke megaplexes and whiskey-soaked jazz bars.—Colleen Clark

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.