Kyoto is considered as the cradle of Japanese culture and religion. Being the former capital for many centuries, Kyoto houses 17 of the most well preserved UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan today. Kyoto is indeed a top place to visit for the culture junkies. In addition, the city is also offers the best views of autumn, as well as spring. Having so much to see, Kyoto ideally deserves 3 days of your vacation time in Japan. However, when the vacation leaves are numbered and you only have one day to see Kyoto(say a side-trip from Tokyo or Osaka), I arranged a easy sample tour covering four must visit heritage sites in and near Kyoto area. These places are easy to reach by train (and covered by JR Train pass, if you have).
Arashiyama is a district on the western side of Kyoto, Japan. It also refers to the mountain across the Ōi River, which forms a backdrop to the district. Arashiyama is a nationally designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty.
Getting there: From Kyoto Station,take JR Sagano Line to JR Saga-Arashiyama Station. Train ride takes around 30 mins. From the arrival station, everything is walkable. Fare: around 600 Yen (300 PHP) RT. No payment required if you have a JR (Train) Pass (See Pass details here). Entrance Fee: None! It is a small town/district that is open for all. Best time to visit: Morning at 7:30 AM.
A leisurely walk can take around 2 to 3 hours. Be sure to check out the shops along the main road. Daming free tastes! Lol Coffee is also great to pair with this view.
Arashiyama is a perfect spot to experience lush autumn landscaping. While some ancient temples with manicured gardens charge a little amount as entrance fee, there are several pocket gardens around the corners that are free for all.
The Bamboo Grove in Arashiyama is one of the 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites found in Kyoto. No entrance fee as well to see this. Place is flooded by tourist at around 9 am onwards.It is best to be early.
—Fushimi Inari Shrine – Shrine of the Ten Thousand Red Torii—
Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head shrine of the god Inari, located in Fushimi Ward in Kyoto. The shrine sits at the base of a mountain, also named Inari. This Shinto shrine is dedicated to Inari, the god of rice, sake, and prosperity. Shinto is Japan’s ethnic religion.
The establishment of the sacred grounds date back to 711 A.D. Today, the shrine is said to hold over 10,000 Torii (gates). A Torii is a traditional Japanese gate found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine, symbolically marking the transition from the earthly to the sacred.
Getting there: From Kyoto Station,take JR Nara Line to JR Inari Station. Train ride takes around 5 to 10 mins. The Shrine is just outside of the station. Fare: around 300 Yen (150 PHP) RT. No payment required if you have a JR (Train) Pass (See Pass details here). Entrance Fee: None for the shrine,as this is a public ground for worship. However, if opted, the museum entrance fee is only 300 yen, which includes access to some lovely displays on sake brewing as well as complimentary sake for guests to take home. Best time to visit: Morning at 7:30 AM. In my case however, I opted to visit Arashiyama in the morning and gambled with the flock of afternoon tourists in Inari. As such, I have no decent photo of myself. dami bombers. lol.
Tip: If time allows, you may proceed to Nara from Fushimi Inari, which is another tourist spot 30 minutes away from Inari Station (Same line, JR Pass covered as well).
Gion is Kyoto’s entertainment district where the thriving Geisha culture is still being practiced. To see a Geisha woman (if you are lucky), be at Gion at about 5:30 p.m., where these women are on their way to the scheduled evening engagements, all made up in their traditional kimono and make up. Also in Gion is the Starbucks branch located inside a traditional tatami house.
Getting there: From Kyoto Station,take bus 100 or 206. Bus ride takes around 15 mins. Get off at Gion Bus Stop. Then use Google Maps to navigate. Gion district is just at the opposite side of the bus stop.Fare: around 200 Yen (100 PHP) RT. Entrance Fee: None. Best time to visit: late noon, 4 pm onwards for a chance to see the Geisha women.
A short walk up the hill from Gion stands Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist Temple. The temple is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage site. The temple offers a great overlooking view of Kyoto.
Entrance Fee: 200 yen. Best time to visit: Sun down to evening.
Where to Stay in Kyoto:
K’s House Kyoto – Backpacker’s style accommodation. An overnight stay costs around 1400 to 1500 Pesos on weekdays (via agoda). Price differs for weekends.
Kyoto is a popular tourist destination, especially during autumn. As such, hostel prices are relatively high as compared to Osaka. When touring Kansai Area (Kyoto+Osaka+other nearby’s), it would probably be cheaper to stay in Osaka and just arrange a day visit to Kyoto, since these two cities are only 30-40 minutes apart by train (which is also included with the JR pass).
I visited Kyoto together with Himeji and Hiroshima. Will post a complete costing on these 3 cities combined. Stay tuned. =)
For Japan Visa application guide, click here.
I flew to Narita(Tokyo) from Cebu City via Cebu Pacific Air daily direct flight. Kyoto is around 2.5 to 3 hours by train from Tokyo. For plane ticket bookings, click this.