Kyoto, the cultural heart of Japan is located in the centre of Honshu island. Kyoto used to be the capital of Japan for more than a millennium (from 794 AD until 1868 AD). Today, it is the 7th largest city in Japan with population around 1,5 million. It has more than 2 000 Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. It would take couple of months if you decide to see them all 🙂
Although it does not appear so according to map, the most famous sights are quite distant from each other. You will be able to visit probably 2 maybe 3 sights a day. Reserve at least 3 nights for Kyoto 🙂
1. Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kyoto
Fushimi Inari-taisha is the head shrine of Inari (the God of rice) established in 711 AD. If you are in Japan already couple of days, you have probably noticed torii – traditional Japanese gate to shrine. More than 32 000 torii lead the way to the top of the sacred Mt. Inari. For hundreds of years Inari was seen in Japan as patron of business. Each torii have its own sponsor mostly Japanese business company. When climbing the mountain you will notice small tables with sponsorship rates. On the way up, there are also several stalls and restaurants where you can buy something to drink or eat.
How to get here: by train from Kyoto station (attention! check if your train stops on Fushimi Inari station) or by Keihan Line. From Fushimi Inari station just follow the crowd, as this sight is loved by tourists 🙂
Time for visit: Reserve at 3-4 hours for Fushimi Inari-taisha, as it takes more than 1,5 hour to get to the top of the sacred Mount Inari.
This place is free of charge.
2. Arashiyama, Western Kyoto
Entering the Arashiyama bamboo groves is like entering completely different world. When you are in Kyoto it is highly recommended not to miss this magical place. Try to visit this place early in the morning because later there are crowds and it is difficult to take photos without other people 🙂 You can also combine this place with visit of Tenryu-ji which is zen buddhist temple enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s just couple of meters from Arashiyama bamboo groves.
How to get here: You can take train from Kyoto station (good option for JP Rail Pass holders) to Saga Arashiyama or Hankyu Kyoto Line with transfer in Katsura where you take Hankyu Arashiyama Line to Arashyiama.
Time for visit: For Arashiyama 1 hour will be sufficient. However, you might spent more time as you will try to catch the best photos 🙂
This place is free of charge. Ticket to Tenryu-ji temple costs 500 JPY.
3. Gion district, Eastern Kyoto
Gion district is probably the most famous geisha (geiko) district in Kyoto. In Hanamikoji street spot geiko or maiko (geiko’s apprentice) strolling around the place. You will find here traditional wooden buildings and many of them housing traditional Japanese restaurants.
How to get there: by bus or subway Keihan Line or Hankyu Kyoto Line.
Time for visit: It depends. Probably 1 hour will be fine. More if you want to eat in traditional restaurants in Gion.
This place is free of charge.
4. Kinkaku-ji, North Kyoto
Kinkaku-ji or the Golden pavilion temple is located in the Northern part of the city. Another place where crowds of tourists come everyday. So get here early in the morning (9am). Kinkakuji temple was completely burned down in 1950 and later beautifully reconstructed in 1955. Catch a reflection of the temple in the water of nearby lake and make unforgettable pictures 🙂
How to get here: There is now subway station near this temple. So get there by bus. Probably the fastest how you can get there is to take subway Karasuma Line and get off at Kitaoji station. It is a bus terminal. Take bus no. 205 or 206 and it in just 10 minute ride you’ll get to Kinkakuji temple.
Time for visit: We spent here approx. 45 minutes. Took some photos, threw some coins for luck and checked souvenirs 🙂
Ticket costs 500 JPY per person.
5. Kiyomizu-dera temple, Kyoto
Another place that registered as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kiyomizu-dera is located just couple of bus stops from Gion district. This temple is in the middle of beautiful nature. During our visit there were thousands Japanese students.
There is much more to see in this city. We tried to state top 5 places that should not be missed while in this amazing city. We hope you will enjoy this blog 🙂