Let’s talk all things Kyoto.
Kyoto has such a history of traditionalism in Japan, formerly the capital it’s filled with shrines, temples, gardens and palaces. This is one of the main reasons we chose Kyoto as a place to base ourselves for day trips.
Getting to Kyoto: From Tokyo
🚄 The Bullet Train:
2h 30m ¥10000 – ¥15000 | AUD: $110 – $170 | USD: $89 – $137
Included in the JR PASS. The Bullet Trains are beyond anything! They will cut your time more than in half. They have toilets, reclining seats, food carts and if you’re a smoker – a smokers room on board as well.
Don’t have a JR PASS? Get discounted tickets for the Kodama (4hrs) train here.
8h 45m ¥8000 | AUD $91 | USD $73
Willer Bus has high reviews and you can opt for day or night buses. (Read a detailed blog post here) and in terms of value/money, you can also save a night on accommodation.
1h 15m ¥6700 – 28000 | $75 – $310 AUD | $60 – $250 USD
You’ll have to fly into Osaka, and then train it to Kyoto. Trains run every 20 minutes & take, at the longest, 40 minutes.
Staying in Kyoto:
You can have a shared room, private room or entire house depending on how you’re travelling or your budget.
We stayed in Nijō, two stops out of Kyoto Station. Check it out here.
Never used Airbnb before? Click here to get $50 AUD off your first trip!
Hostels are a great way to meet people. I would recommend searching HostelWorld and then comparing reviews on Tripadvisor.
I use the website Agoda anytime I’m looking up resorts/hotels.
Getting Around in Kyoto:
Nope! Sorry, Uber is only available in Tokyo and is more like a taxi hire service.
You can hail taxis at any main station, mall or even on the street. You can always use Taxi Fare Finder to grab an estimation as well!
1D Pass ¥1200 | AUD $15 | USD $11
2D Pass ¥2000 | AUD $23 | USD $18
Travelling by bus is great if you’re going to be going around and can fit into Itineraries very easily. If there is heavy traffic, maybe consider different methods. See here for all information about taking a bus in Kyoto!
Included in the JR PASS. Individually ticketed based on A > B destinations.
Privately Owned, individually ticketed based on A > B destinations.
Understanding the trains: Slowest > Faster.
Local Train > Semi-Express > Express > Limited Express, Special Express.
* If you don’t want to be a dope like me, double or even triple check what tickets you’re buying from the self-serve machines. It’s a little bit embarrassing to have red lights beeping at you, staff members looking at you and then having to re-purchase a ticket! *
MY TOP CHOICES!
There are over 1600 temples, 400 shrines and 17 UNESCO sites in Kyoto – really making it the historical capital of Japan. To get the best out of your time, check out Inside Kyoto, which is written by lonely planet writer, Chris Rowthorn. This will give you 1 – 5D Itineraries if you’re a bit lost on what to do!
This temple is open 24/7 and is located on the Nara Line. If you want to miss the people, go before 10am and after 6pm. A good suggestion is to get up early and do this before a day trip off to Nara to feed the deer.
Inari is the kami (spirit/phenomena) of foxes; fertility, rice, tea/sake, agriculture, industry, general prosperity and worldly success.
⏰ 24:00 – 24:00
This temple often gets overlooked I believe. Covered in moss, greens, beautiful trees and shrubs it’s along the way to the more famous of the temples, Heian Shrine. Created by master gardener Kobori Enshu, it’s unlike the typical Zen Temple due to its layout. It’s arranged in the shape of a crane and a tortoise facing each other.
⏰ 8:30 – 4:30pm
💰 ¥400 | $5 AUD | $4 USD
Beautiful Temple surrounded by gardens and little temples and shrines within. You’ll see Japanese women dressed up in the traditional Kimono taking photos with their friends. ⏰ 9:00 to 17:00
💰 Gardens are free.
Temples and Shrines within the Gardens have a fee of ¥400-500| $5 -6 AUD | $4 -5 USD
WHAT I DID
My friends and I were staying in Nijō, which meant that we were right by Nijo Castle. The Castle is part of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO and at the time we were there, we were part of the 7 million visitors to see the Art Aquarium Exhibition. It ran from 25.10.16 – 11.12.17 and was on the 150th anniversary of the Restoration of the Imperial Rule.
The exhibition was entirely outdoors of the Castle and drew on traditional and current works within Japanese culture. Those are thousands of fish swimming in the glass tanks. Beautiful? Yes. Humane? Eh, not entirely sure about that one.
The night we arrived at the exhibition we were able to see Rantaro Kojyo perform what’s called “Dance of Oiran.” This is essentially the reason why we didn’t go to the area of Gion. We wanted to see a traditional dance, and we got it!
The Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine as mentioned above was so cool. You must know it because if you google “Kyoto Shrine” or “Red Shrine Japan” this is the one that comes up! Makes sense as well! We hit up this temple around 8am to avoid the other pesky travellers such as ourselves. It really did make all the difference!
One of the reasons this shrine is so popular is because it’s home to 10,000 “Tori Gates” which show entrance into the shrine. I know this not from Google, but I individually counted them myself. If you’ve got a spare 2-3 hours (if you do, tell me how) then you can walk up to the summit of the mountain. If you don’t have those spare hours, do what the lazy do and walk the 30 minutes to the Kyoto City Lookout.
The Heian Shrine, aka one of the Lost in Translation shrines, really does stand up to its reputation, it’s beautiful. If I’m Frank (how can you be frank when you’re Sarah) is that I’ve never actually seen that movie. But don’t tell my pals because they all think I have!
But surely I must have eaten/ drunk in Kyoto too? You Bet! I don’t think there was a day where we weren’t craving Ramen. You can find ramen anywhere. It might have been the number one google map search if I’m honest! We found a Ramen Chain called ‘Tenkaippin” for a quick dinner before heading to a little cosy bar called “Barランプ.”
When leaving Barランプ, a Japanese man turned to my friend Jack and said: “How did you find this?” I’m guessing we stumbled into a local.
Have thoughts? Let me know below.