The ultimate goal is to maximize the use of our JR Pass and we are all willing to visit as much prefecture as we can during our 8-day stay in Japan. We allotted a day to roam around Kyoto.
Travel Date: December 3, 2016
But first, let me answer some questions that may help you get to Kyoto.
How to go to Kyoto from Kansai (Osaka) International Airport?
– Once you landed, you will exit from the immigration and customs on the ground floor of the airport. Go to the second floor and follow the sign ‘Railways’, exit the terminal building and proceed to Kansai Airport Station (two separate buildings connected by walkway). Once you reach the Kansai Airport Station, you can already see the sign JR Ticketing Office. There are two train lines in Kansai Airport Station – JR and Nankai. To get to Kyoto, you may take the Ltd. Exp Haruka train. You can buy the ticket in JR Ticketing Office. Travel time from Kansai Airport to Kyoto is around 1 hour and 20 minutes.
If I will travel around Kansai area, where is the best place to stay?
– This will highly depend on you and your itinerary. For us, we opted to stay in Kyoto because we plan to visit as much tourists spots here than any other area. Tip: where ever you plan to stay, try to find a place that is near the train station. When we were looking for our stay, we specifically looked for a place that is less than 10 minutes away from a JR train station.
How to go around Kyoto?
If you have a JR Pass, there are very few lines where you can use it in Kyoto. Best way for me that suits our itinerary is thru their bus. Find a map online and plan ahead where you want to go then check which bus route or train line covers it. For my itinerary, I tried to group the spots that are close to each other to save time and to avoid going back and forth. Buy a 1 day bus pass ticket that costs ¥500. Below in red is the route of Bus 1oo. It covers most of the famous tourist spots so I recommend this.
Our target for this itinerary:
– Our goal is to find places where we can still see the colors of Autumn. It is already December so Autumn is about to end. If you want to see the best of Autumn in Japan, go during the third to 4th week of November. You can track Autumn thru this page. We only have a day to see most of Kyoto so we really try to squeeze in as much spots as we can. Note tho that this is our second time in Kyoto, we already went to Arashiyama area during our first time so for this itinerary, we focused on Higashiyama.
Where to go in a day in Kyoto?
One day in Kyoto is too short as this prefecture is too loaded with tourist spots. Like seriously, too many! You can stay a week in this place with a fully loaded itinerary and yet there’s still more to visit. But we opted for just a full day here because we will maximize our JR Pass and visit other prefectures.
Entrance Fee : JPY 400.00
Operating Hours: 6:00 to 18:00
How to get here: So earlier I mentioned about the 1 day bus pass ticket that costs ¥500, remember? This will cover most if not all of the places in this itinerary.
From Kyoto Station, ride bus 100 to Kiyomizu-michi bus stop which is around 15 minutes away then walk back towards the stop light then cross the street, walk uphill til you reach the temple. Need some walk path guide? I got it for you— click map! that’s around 11 minutes walk.
You can’t miss out on Kiyomizudera temple, it’s definitely one of the biggest and most popular temples in Kyoto so it can also be a bit too crowded so plan your visit. I recommend going early in the morning like we did.
Read more on why you should go to this place in my blog JAPAN | Kiyomizudera Temple, Kyoto
Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka
Entrance Fee : None
Operating Hours : The shops usually open at around 9 or 10 in the morning and closes at around 5 or 6 PM.
Want that traditional Japanese feel? Pass the streets of Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka. If you came from Kiyomizudera Temple, it is hard to miss this street. Actually, you may really need to pass this street if your next destination is Yasaka Shrine. It got narrow lanes with that old Japanese houses that makes you feel like you are really in Japan (you know what I mean?). You can take your breakfast here as it is loaded with small shops, cafes and restaurants.
How to get here : Need the path guide how to get here from Kiyomizudera? Check this from Google Maps – map!
Entrance Fee : JPY300.00
Operating Hours: 8:40 AM to 4:20 PM (ticket office will be closed at 4:00PM)
To be honest, this isn’t really part of our itinerary but we just found ourselves in front of the gates of this temple after strolling around Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka with a huge 24m-tall buddha alluring us to go in. We paid the entrance fee and we got some incense with our tickets. I think no one was there but us. Turns out that this is a war memorial dedicated to those who died during the World War II.
Aside from the Buddha, you can also check out the Aizen Myouou Hall. It was said that your visit here will give you a path to build a good relationship. Also, this is one of the spots where I still get to see the full-bloom autumn colors.
Entrance Fee: JPY600.00
Operating Hours: 9:00 to 5:30PM (entry until 5:00)
Just beside the Ryozen Kannon is Kodaiji Temple. This place is one of the known temples in Kyoto. It boast its impressive gardens especially during autumn where the garden is so brilliantly picturesque. This temple probably got it all – it has zen gardens, rock garden, Tsukiyama Style garden, bamboo grove which is like a mini version of the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (but less people), tea houses, mausoleum, temple, there’s also a short hike to go around.
Exiting Kodaiji temple, we got confused which way to go. Since it is about Lunch time, we are decided to take our lunch first before heading to our next stop. On our way to no where, our eyes are still treated with streets packed with ladies looking like geishas. How do you know which are the legit ones? I suspect that that these ladies (below) are legit because they walk fast and those costumes are so legit looking. But do they even go out in day light? lol.
These ladies, I suspect are just tourists. Why? because it appears they are lost too. HAHA!
We found a place to eat lunch and then head out to our next destination. We are supposed to go to Yasaka Shrine but ended up on the streets of Gion! I was soooo confused. You see I have the idea on where those temples are on my head and I know that Yasaka Shrine should be on the same side as Kodaiji temple while Gion is on the other side of the main street. How did we end up on the other side of the street? I mean we did not even cross that main street right? OCD kicking in because I made this itinerary – time bound. Other temples close early and we might not make it. But I found my chill and just went on.
We ended up reaching the gates of Yasaka Shrine but decided to visit it last since it never closes. We rode the Raku bus 100 again dropped off at Honen-in Station.
Admission Fee: Free
Operating Hours: 6am-4pm
From the Honen-in bus stop, walk towards the Philosopher’s path and you can see signs pointing you to Honen-in temple. Notice as well how many more temples are here.
I got interested in this temple because they say it gets covered with moss which is pretty unique to me but when we got there, that roof of the gate has no moss what so ever. But still we can go around for free so nothing to lose.
We just spent a good few minutes here and head off to find the famous Ginkakuji temple. You will also find signages on where to go so just follow that.
Ginkakuji Temple (Silver Pavilion)
Admission Fee: JPY500.00
Operating Hours: 8:30 to 17:00 (9:00 to 16:30 from December to February)
From Honen-in temple, you can either walk and follow that signages or you can go back to the bus stop and ride the bus to Ginkakuji bus stop.
Like Kodaiji, Ginkakuji has a lot to offer too. It has half a dozen other temple buildings, a moss garden and a dry sand garden. You can also take a short hike to view the pavilion and other buildings.
After our visit here, it is already around 4 or 5 PM. We head out and rested for a while and bought green tea ice cream. We rode bus 100 again to Gion bus stop.
Yasaka Shrine | Maruyama Park
Admission Fee: Free
Operating Hours : Never Closes
This is a huge park with a lot of shops, temples and gardens. We decided to stay here until it gets a little dark before we head to Gion. Just walk around and you may find interesting things. But keep in mind you will exit on the same entrance, the next stop is Gion.
Imagine all that walk visiting all those temples in a day and we are not even done yet. There’s much more walking in Gion. There are too many alleys here that it’s easy to get lost, our main agenda is to spot the legit geisha. To cut short, we didn’t spot any. But here are the famous alleys to spot a geisha:
- Hanamikoji Geisha District
- Gion Shirakawa
- It is also interesting to go to Poncho Alley
We got lost and didn’t find the Hanamikoji district but we managed to find the Gion Shirakawa and Poncho Alley. And by the way, there’s a branch of Ichiran Ramen near Poncho alley.
After Gion, we head back to Kyoto Station. We saw the Kyoto Tower shining at night. We didn’t go up here, we just adore it from the station.
Entrance Fee Total is JPY1,800.00
One-day Bus Pass = JPY500.00
All other expenses like your food and souvenirs for the day will depend on you.
This is a jampacked itinerary. If you are willing to follow this, just remember to wear your most comfortable shoes.