If you are traveling to Japan, you might be overwhelmed with the plethora of things you MUST see. You’ll visit multiple websites that go from Tokyo to Osaka to Kyoto to Hiroshima to Nara to Hakone to Mt. Fuji and to the many other beautiful sites in Japan. It is a lot of information to take in and you will want to do absolutely all of it, especially because every area has its own locations you won’t want to miss out on.
Recently, I visited Kyoto for less than 48 hours and I got to see everything I wanted to see. Of course, the details of some rather hidden areas are not known to me, but I was able to explore and wander to take in the Kyoto experience — and I fell in love! Whether you are in a rush due to vacation or you are working in Japan, this is the perfect itinerary for a short and wholesome trip to Kyoto!
In order to get to Kyoto as fast as I could, I took a Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Kyoto station on Saturday morning (6:30 A.M.). The trip took approximately two hours and fifteen minutes. However, if the Shinkansen in out of budget, you could always opt to take the overnight bus the day before your travels begin.
1. Fushimi Inari Taisha – When we arrived at Kyoto Station, we went to our hotel to drop our stuff off and freshen up a little bit. After that, we made our way to the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine. This shrine is filled with the famous bright orange, traditional gates and is surrounded by food stands and souvenir shops. Be ready for long walks and perhaps a hike if you are interested in completing the tour around the enormous gates! Tip: The longer you walk, the less tourists you will encounter = the more peaceful it gets!
2. Ginkaku-ji / Higashiyama Jisho-ji – After the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, my friends and I made our way back to the station and took the subway to our next destination. After the subway, I recommend taking a bus to the Higashiyama Jisho-ji temple as it can become a long walk. Tip: Google Maps is your friend! Skip the trouble of paper maps and do yourself a favor and download Google Maps, it truly makes traveling in Japan (or anywhere) one hundred times easier. The temple is surrounded by gorgeous trees and you are able to hike up the mountain in order to see the temple and the skyline from above. A truly zen experience!
3.Gion – Gion is known to be Kyoto’s geisha district. Geisha’s are Japanese woman who entertain through traditional performances in art, dance, and singing dressed in kimonos and their face with white makeup. After the Ginkaku-ji temple, we made our way back to our hotel to relax for about half an hour, then walked over to Hanamikoji Street in our search to spot a Geisha. Hanamikoji Street is filled with restaurants and boutiques so even if you do not spot a geisha, your time will be worth it. We were, however, able to spot one and then we made our way to eat dinner at a restaurant nearby. This concluded our day 1 of Kyoto!
1. Nishiki Market – Nishiki Market is in downtown Kyoto and luckily, it was just a three minute walk from my hotel. We made our way to the market early in the morning and tried the delicious food throughout. One of my favorites and the most unusual was a bright red squid whose head was filled with egg. As a picky eater, it was way out of my comfort zone, but totally worth it!
2. Kinkaku-ji – Golden Temple – This temple is the famous Golden temple you see being reflected onto a pond in pictures. We reached this temple by taking the bus near where we were staying. The bus system, just like the subway system, is very easy to follow. Just download Google Maps and you are set. Also, the local people are Kyoto are very kind and will help you if you ask nicely. The temple is surrounded by nature and can get very busy, but that does not ruin the peaceful experience. Make sure to be ready for a walk uphill as the trail takes you to the souvenir and food stands.
3. Arashiyama – Arashiyama is a district a little farther than central Kyoto filled with scenic views of mountains and a beautiful river. The monkey and bamboo forests are just minutes away from each other. Make sure you take comfortable shoes as it is a lot of walking, especially up the mountain to see the monkeys (but trust me, the hike is completely worth it). First, we hiked up the mountain which was about twenty minutes and stayed up with the monkeys for quite a while, I seriously could not get enough. Then we made our way to the markets surrounding the area and had some lunch in a local restaurant. After eating, we walked for about five minutes to the bamboo forest and enjoyed the extraordinarily tall bamboo surrounding the path. It is a truly peaceful hike and the earlier you go, the less people will be around. Good thing the forest in open to the public 24/7!
After our adventurous and tiring day, we made our way back to the hotel to pick up our suitcases and made our way to Kyoto Station to catch our Shinkansen just in time to get to Tokyo for work the next day! This itinerary is truly worth it and you will still have time left for leisure and any other diversions!
If you have more time to spend in Kyoto check out 112 Things to Do in Kyoto, a City of Culture, Tradition, and Breathtaking Beauty, in 2019 for more information!