GoWonder City Guide |Kyoto – Japan
This is not a standard city guide you can find anywhere else. GoWonder travellers share their favourite spots from their hometown to create the most authentic guide. Discover the best things to do in the world’s greatest cities.
Today let’s follow Jin Yamashina to Kyoto!
If you are going as a tourist visiting Kyoto for the first time, the city bus is really convenient to access to most tourist spots! Get the pass of 500 yen in Kyoto station or any vending machines of the tickets that you can find in some popular bus stops around the downtown area (Kawaramachi, Omiya, for example) and you are good to go! There are two local city subway lines in Kyoto, and more private lines such as JR, Hankyu, and Keihan. You can visit Yamashina and Daigo with the help of city trains and keihan buses with an all-day pass of 1,300yen, which also grants access to the city areas that are covered in the 500 yen bus pass, but you have to make a trip to a tourist info center, right outside of the main entrance of Kyoto station. If you aren’t planning to visit Yamashina or Daigo but you wanted to use the city subway, there is also an all-day 1,000 yen pass sold in the vending machines as well. For those who got their JR passes, it is also usable in Kyoto and JR line is quite convenient when it comes to visiting Fushimi and Uji via the Nara line, or visiting Nijo and Arashiyama using the San-in line. Cabs in Japan are extremely costly, but if you have the budget to splurge on it, it could get you to different places as well!
Must Try Food In Kyoto
If it’s Kyoto, it’ll be undoubtedly matcha! Of course, you can also try kitsune udon, wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets), and for vegetarians, tofu is also great in Kyoto!
Must Try Restaurant In Kyoto
For nice soba, I suggest Ikkyu! It is on the street when you are on your way to Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion). You can easily spot it with the shelf of fake food. There are affordable sets that will fill you up (I am a big eater) in around 1000 yen or even lower!
There is also a famous omelette rice shop called Kichi Kichi, it’s walking distance from the downtown district Kawaramachi, and close to Kamo river. It requires reservation so if possible, reserve early!
For sushi, you can also try Izuju (いづ重), it is in front of Yasaka shrine so it’s easy to access for tourists. For a meal, the budget would be about 1,500 to 3,000 yen. Their menu items are healthy, and consists of mainly fish.
Must Try Cafe In Kyoto
Patisserie S might be a great place if you like cakes! It is between Shijo and Gojo subway stations with really beautiful cakes!
MarieBelle is also a nice place for sweet tooths, it is like a fusion of Kyoto and New York and you get to see chocolate and ice-cream related items that are uniquely designed! Although the entrance is a small one, but upon entry, you will feel amazed by its stylish interior design! It is located near Kyoto Museum, not too far for tourists to walk! 🙂
Kyoto is also undoubtedly famed for their Uji matcha. However, if you don’t have the chance to visit Uji, you can drop by Yojiya cafe. It is not too far from Ginkakuji, but you get to enjoy the fragrance and unique taste of matcha-themed drinks and desserts! Not to mention, they have a nice garden!
What is Kyoto known for?
Kyoto is always related with the traditional Japanese culture. Visiting shrines is a must-do for tourists as long as it doesn’t occur a conflict of religions. If you like to collect things, different shrines have a stamping section (some are free, some would charge you around 300 to 500 yen) where you can collect different types of stamps in your own notebook!
Of course, there are also many locals and tourists wearing a kimono for photo-shooting and also to walk around (or yukata, a lighter form of kimono worn during summer) Kyoto. If you have the time and budget, you can also look for studios to dress up as a maiko (apprentice geisha), geisha, or as an oiran, samurai, etc. They generally cost 6,000 yen to 30,000 yen, depending on the studio, the kimono and the photo-shoot package you select, but it is definitely a unique experience! Sometimes, when you walk on the streets in a geisha/maiko/oiran outfit, you may get mistaken as one and have your photo taken, especially if you look Asian and has black hair!
Of course, there is also maiko or geisha-hunting! You don’t often see them on the streets, but if you stroll around Gion at night, you might be able to see one coming out from a cab and rushing for work! However, please be polite and don’t take photos without permission. It is considered very rude.
Top 3-5 places to check out in Kyoto?
First of all, kiyomizudera is popular as its own, but I wanted to specify that there are night views during spring and autumn (separate payment from day viewing) that are completely stunning as well!
Secondly, Kimono Forest in Arashiyama. Although Arashiyama is famous for being a spot for day trip and its bamboo forest (great for winter illumination as well), there is also a place that is very beautiful during night time – the kimono forest! Head to the Arashiyama tram station (Randen Arashiyama station) and you will easily find it.
Third, Daigo-ji in Daigo, Kyoto. It is quite a walk from Daigo station (about 15 minutes of walk, slopes and stairs included so a bus might be a better option), but it is a UNESCO heritage that not many tourists would visit it in their first visit to Kyoto. The entrance fee is a shocking 1,000 yen but it gives access to different areas of Daigo-ji. It is exceptionally stunning during autumn, and you can also find a rest area that sells different types of Japanese street food!
Fourth, Yamashina canal in Yamashina. You can cycle along the river, and it’s beautiful when the sakura is in full bloom. You can also keep walking and find yourself seeing the Bishamondo temple, another beautiful place that you can visit! They also have a weeping sakura tree that will be stunning during spring, but Bishamondo is beautiful in autumn too.
Last but definitely not the least, Kurama onsen. Best time to visit is definitely autumn! With the beautiful foliage, you can completely relax in the pleasant onsen. However, please make sure you completely clean your body before entering the onsen so the waters will be kept clean and comfortable for everyone!
Must Try Activities in Kyoto?
You can look for more details of the special night viewing in Kiyomizudera on their website.
Another activity that I will recommend is to view a performance in Ran Theatre Kyoto. The performances are amazing with the flow from traditional to modern music. You can find their website here: https://www.rankyoto.com/
Besides the bamboo forest in Arashiyama, you can also take a boat ride in the Hozugawa river. It may or may not be crowded by tourists, but the customer service is great! If you are fluent in Japanese, you will definitely find yourself to be able to enjoy a conversation with the rower.
Night life in Kyoto
In Japan, many will drink in a place called Izakaya. It is a small place where people sit by a counter and start drinking. Besides drinking, there are also food that you can enjoy depending on which Izakaya it is.
A place that is recommended would be Isomatsu, it’s just a minute of walk from local subway Kawaramachi station. The menu is pretty stylish, and it is a place popular with women! Typical budgets would be within 4,000 yen.
Another place that is recommended near Hankyu Kawaramachi station would be Shokudou Ogawa. It’s a 5-minute walk from the station, with casual Japanese food (yet with decent quality) that makes this place popular. Even if you are going solo, the atmosphere is also great. However, because it is really popular, prior reservation is recommended. A typical night there may cost 6,000 to 8,000 yen.
Accommodation in Kyoto
1. Guesthouse – Hale Temari Kyoto Rokujo, 15 minutes walking distance from Kyoto Station and 30 minutes walking from Gion, the Geisha District. Newly renovated too! Link: https://www.booking.com/hotel/jp/haletemari-kyoto-rokujo.html
2. Backpacker’s inn – J-hoppers, at Kujo Station, Kyoto (1 station away from Kyoto Station, 8 mins walk to Kyoto station). More info: http://j-hoppers.com/
3. Capsule hotel – The Millennials, Kyoto. The pods are comfortable and the tech is in place. Not to mention, it is not far from Yakasa shrine and Kiyomizudera! Link: http://the-millennials-kyoto-jp.book.direct/en-gb/
4. Hotel – Hoshinoya Ryokan, recommended for those who would like a lux experience in Arashiyama.
Female Travellers Safety Tips For Kyoto
Japan is relatively safe!
However, always make sure to watch your belongings if you are in a crowded bus or subway (especially in peak hours in the evening!) since there is an increasing amount of tourists visiting Kyoto, there might be pickpockets or sexual harassment during these situations. If you ever land into this situation, just make loud noises and yell HELP! People will definitely help you out. ‘Hentai’ is a word for ‘pervert’, so yelling that would help if you are desperate to get out from a crowded place where you feel uncomfortable due to sexual harassment.
What to do in an emergency?
You can call 075-771-0110, but there might be a case where there is no English-speaking officers. If that is the case, please visit a koban (small stations with police officer) and look for a telephone interpreting service. Please also note that not all kobans are open 24/7.
Personally, I think that wearing a kimono and having a photo-shoot is an unforgettable experience, because you get to feel the Japanese spirit, the Japanese sceneries, and the Japanese service that you can’t find outside of Japan!
For those who love to work on something hands-on, you could also try a wagashi classroom where you can make traditional Japanese sweets. For more information, visit this website.
Follow Jin Yamashina on YouTube and blog.
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From #Wonder to #Wonder, with love & care.
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