Top 28 attractions in Kyoto – descriptions and photos

Kyoto

Nestled among the mountains of West Honshu, Kyoto was Japan’s ancient capital and seat of the Emperor for a millennium (794 – 1868). During this time Kyoto accumulated a unique collection of palaces, temples and shrines built for emperors, shoguns and monks, and today is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the country, being the keeper of many ancient monuments of architecture and art.

The first thing you see when you enter Kyoto is an ultra-modern city train station of glass and steel. Kyoto strives to preserve ancient traditions, but collision with modernity is inevitable. Gradually discovering the beauty of Kyoto in the temples and parks that surround the city center, and walking through its dynamic youth neighborhoods, narrow streets, along the riverside, you realize that modernity only emphasizes the beautiful corners of ancient culture and creates an amazing harmony of times, making this city special.

A short video about Kyoto

How to get there

You can get to Japan from Russia by plane, and only from Vladivostok by ferry.

By plane

Kyoto doesn’t have its own airport, it is in Osaka city. From Moscow to Osaka a ticket with connections costs from 20 000 rubles, travel time from 11 hours. Direct flights from Moscow to Tokyo start at 40 000 rubles and take 9.30 hours. You can see how much a ticket will cost for your flight on your dates, for example here.

From Osaka to Kyoto there is a train every half hour (540 yen) and a bus every 20 minutes.

Train

Unfortunately it is not possible to get directly from Moscow to Kyoto by train. But within the country the train service is very well developed. So here’s a little about how to get from the airports to Kyoto by train.

From Itami

If you are flying to Kyoto from other parts of Japan, you will arrive at Itami Airport. Itami airport is located near Osaka city and is the largest in the Kansai region. The easiest way to Kyoto from the airport is to take bus number 15. The trip takes about an hour and costs 1,280 yen. Buses run three times an hour. Alternatively, you can take the monorail or regular train. This option requires at least two transfers, but costs only 650 yen and takes only about an hour.

If you flew to Tokyo and are coming from Tokyo Narita Airport, you can take the Narita Express to Shinawa Station and then take the Tokaido Shinkansen (high-speed train) to Kyoto in 2.5 hours.

Better yet, take the NODZOMI train, which is the fastest, takes 2.20 hours, and costs the same as the other trains (about ¥13,500). From Nara to Kyoto, it takes about 1 hour and 7 minutes (690 yen). Tourist companies in Tokyo and Kyoto sell tickets for the Nozomi train at a discount of 700-1000 yen.

You can take advantage of the discounted Puratto Kodama Ticket, on the Kodama route, provided you book at least one day in advance. The ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto costs 9,800 yen and includes drinks, which is good because it takes 3 hours and 45 minutes to get there. This train runs once an hour and this ticket is not valid for some early flights.

There is also the “Seishun 18 Ticket” which allows you to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto in about 8.5 hours using any local trains. If you are traveling in a group, you can save money, groups of 3 are 3,800 yen and groups of 5 are 2,300 yen per person. The normal cost is 8000 yen.

Hikari trains run less frequently and make more stops, with a travel time of 2 hrs 45 min, but only they and Kodama trains can use Japan Rail Pass at no extra charge.

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From Nagoya

From Chubu International Airport (Sentorea, Chubu Centrair International Airport) in Nagoya you can get to Kyoto in 80 minutes by train on the Meitsu Line with a connection in Nagoya to the Tokaido Shinkansen or by the Hikari Express train in 37 minutes.

From Kansai.

You can fly into Kansai International Airport and take a train to Kyoto. The train station is located across from the arrival hall. There you can take the JR West Haruka Kansai Airport Limited Express Train between Kyoto Station and Kansai Airport. The train is operated by Japanese Rail (JR) West.

The best and fastest way is to buy a day ticket “JR West” runs once or twice an hour, travels 77 minutes. The ticket is for foreign tourists only and costs 2,000 yen. A regular Haruka train ticket from the airport to Kyoto is 980 yen more expensive.

Or JR offers ICOCA and HARUKA tickets, trips within the “Free Zone,” and the ICOCA transportation card with a 2,000 yen top-up (including a 500 yen deposit). The cards can be used on Japanese Railways, private lines, buses, and stores in the Kansai region. A one-way ticket costs 3,000 yen and a round-trip ticket costs 4,000 yen.

Both of these tickets can be purchased online or at the Kansai Airport station.

For travel within the Kansai region, the cheapest and fastest option is JR’s Shinkaisoku express trains, which take passengers to Osaka, Kobe, and Himeji at local train prices. Private trains on the Hankyu and Keihan lines to Osaka or Kobe, or the Kintetsu line to Nara, cost a little less. The “Kansai Thru Pass” includes trips on private company trains to Kyoto, which can be cheaper than a pass on government lines if you travel through the region for several days.

Overnight travel.

A trip from Tokyo to Kyoto can be split into two parts by staying overnight in a room. With the Japan Rail Pass and the willingness to pay for a hotel room, the cost of the trip will come out a little more expensive. All you need to do is pay for the hotel, and the train fare is already paid for with the purchase of the rail pass.

This method has two advantages – space and money. In a small town you can find a good and inexpensive hotel near the train station. To facilitate the trip, you can use the luggage delivery services.

For example, you can take a late Tokaido-shinkansen flight and stay overnight at a hotel in Shizuoka, Hamamatsu, Toyohashi, or Nagoya. In the morning, take the first express train of your destination and continue your journey. Or you can take a Hikari or Kodama train in the evening and go to Hamamatsu (75-90 min by Hikari train, 2 hrs by Kodama). There you can stay overnight at Hamamatsu’s Toyoko Inn for 4,000 yen for a pre-booked room for one. Take the 6:30 am Kodama express train to Kyoto by 8 am.

By bus

Kyoto is a large city, so there are regular day and night trips between Kyoto and other Japanese cities, which are usually cheaper than Shinkasen trains. Traffic between Tokyo and the Kansai region is very heavy, and competition between bus companies has led to lower travel prices and greater comfort. Buses from Tokyo take the Tomei Expressway or Chuo Expressway to Nagoya, then the Meishin Expressway to Kyoto. The trip takes about 7-9 hours depending on the route and the number of stops. The easiest way to get from Itami Airport to Kyoto is to take bus number 15. The trip takes about an hour and costs 1,280 yen. Buses run three times an hour.

“Willer Express.”

Low-cost bus operator “Willer Express” offers day and night trips, with comfort levels ranging from standard to deluxe. The trip can be booked online. The “Willer’s Japan Bus Pass” is valid on all routes with a few exceptions. Buses leave Tokyo from the company’s own terminal located west of Shinjuku Station in the Sumitomo Building. In Kyoto, Willer Express buses use the Hachijo exit at the southern end of Kyoto Station; on some routes, buses stop in front of the Kiyomizu-Gojo post office.

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Prices range from 3,800 yen for a standard seat to 9,800 yen for a deluxe seat. Day trips start at 4,900 yen. Bus tickets are usually more expensive on weekends and holidays.

JR Buses

“JR Bus is the largest bus operator on the Tokyo-Kyoto route. Reservations are only in Japanese on the website, but can be picked up at the Midori-no-Madoguchi ticketing window at the train station.

JR buses depart from Tokyo Station (Yaesu exit) and from the JR Highway Bus terminal next to Yoyogi Station on the Yamanote Station line. In Kyoto, buses are at the Karasuma exit at the north end of Kyoto Station.

The comfort level varies from 2×2 seat youth, standard and deluxe. JR Bus prices range from 3700 yen for a youth bus and up to 7600 yen for a premium bus, day trips from 5000 yen. More expensive on weekends.

Some of the buses from/to Osaka city stop at the Kyoto Fukakusa Bus Stop on the Meishin Expressway. From Fukakusa Bus Stop it’s only a 10-minute walk to Fujinomori Station and a 15-minute walk to Takeda Station on the Kinzetsu Railroad and to the Kyoto subway. There is also a local bus to Kyoto from the Youth Science Center stop 1-2 times an hour.

JR Passes can be used for overnight trips on a standard bus on the Tokyo-Kyoto route called “Dream” service. On direct Tokyo-Kyoto daytime buses, the pass is not valid

By car

You can easily get to Kyoto by car via Meishin Expressway between Nagoya and Osaka, the only inconvenience is that you have to wait for a free parking space for a while on the outskirts of the city.

And around the city is easier to use public transport, as most attractions are in places built long before the existence of cars.

By ferry

From Vladivostok to Tokyo you can take a ferry, but not directly, but with a connection. Ships go through the Korean port of Donghae to Japanese Sakaiminato on Honshu Island. From there you can get to Tokyo by train or bus. Departures from Vladivostok depart on Wednesdays and arrive in Sakaiminato on Fridays.

25 popular attractions in Kyoto

The ancient capital of Japan, though it has lost this official status, has remained one of the main cities of the country. For many centuries, the imperial families rebuilt Kyoto, giving it its current features. Architectural features of the districts are difficult to convey in two words. The number of buildings in the traditional Japanese style is impressive. There are tea houses, pagodas, and pavilions. There are a lot of wooden structures, which is not usually characteristic of cities with a million-plus inhabitants.

The main attractions of Kyoto are the temple complexes. Some of them converted from the palaces and villas of the Shoguns, such as the Golden Pavilion. National characteristics of Japan are not forgotten in our time. A visit to the Gion Quarter or Nishiki Market allows tourists to immerse themselves in the flavor of the Land of the Rising Sun.

What to see and where to go in Kyoto?

The most interesting and beautiful places to walk. Photos and a brief description.

Gion Quarter.

The most famous geisha district in the country. It began to take shape in the Middle Ages. The streets are still built up with ancient buildings, mostly tea houses, restaurants and matia – traditional Japanese houses. Tourists can take geisha lessons: you can learn how to dance, play instruments, ceremonies, or just try on an outfit. The quarter is partially declared a National Historic Landmark.

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Gion Quarter.

Ponto-teo Quarter

One of the areas of traditional Japanese nightlife. The small street is filled with tea houses, restaurants, stores, and entertainment venues. A geisha can be found on the block, as well as a visit to the kabuki theater. Twice a year, the neighborhood puts on an unusual show, the legacy of the Pontotyo Kaburenjo Theater. The colorful show is a symbiosis of dancing, playing musical instruments, and geisha ceremonies.

Ponto-toe Quarter.

Ninen-zak and Sannen-zak Streets

Located in the foothills of the Higashiyam Hills. The streets are narrow, climb steeply upward, and there are steps. There is a superstition: if you fall on Sannen-zaka, death will overtake you within three years. On both sides of the streets are built wooden houses. Stores are located in them. Typical local products are hand-painted pottery. If you wish, you can watch the process of creating the dishes.

The streets of Ningen-zak and Sannen-zak.

Fushimi Inari Temple

The very first buildings on this site appeared in the eighth century. However, Fushimi Inari became a full-fledged Zionist temple only in 1499. Then the main hall was erected. The imperial house actively supported the temple during the Heian period. There are many statues and images of foxes on the grounds. These animals are messengers of Inari, the god of rice. According to legend, the temple is dedicated to his crossing of the country.

Fushimi Inari Temple.

Golden Pavilion

Part of the Rokuon-ji complex. It was built in 1397 and was the residence of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. He moved here for good when he was tired of state affairs. It is surrounded by extensive green space, including both man-made parks and “wild” forests. After the Shogun’s death, the villa was turned into a Buddhist temple. The area was redesigned. Religious symbols appeared in the main hall.

The Golden Pavilion.

Kiyomizu-dera

The temple complex dates back to the 14th and 16th centuries. The translation of the name is “the temple of pure water. The ensemble includes many structures and objects. The most notable are: the main temple, the pagoda, the prayer hall, the bell tent, the sutra storehouse, and the horse corral. Most of the complex is dedicated to the goddess Kannon. Because she is characterized by reincarnations, various depictions of Kannon can be seen in the temple.

Kiyomizu-dera.

Silver Pavilion

Located at the foot of a mountain covered with dense forest. Together with the garden, the pavilion is part of a single complex. It dates from the end of the XV century. The palace was built for the Shogun Yoshimasa Ashikaga. The two floors are crowned by a traditional-style roof and a statue of the Phoenix placed on top of it. A gallery runs along the perimeter of the second floor. Right in front of the entrance to the pavilion is a man-made lake.

Silver pavilion.

Ryoan-ji Temple

Dated 1450. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It became famous largely because of its garden of stones. It was created by Buddhist monks for meditation. The site is covered with white sand and gravel and is surrounded by a wall of clay. The arrangement of the stones has a certain interpretation. On the temple grounds is Ryoan-ji Tsukubai, a stone vessel from which oxen are used for rituals.

Ryoan-ji Temple.

To-ji Temple

The temple complex was founded in 796. Its main pagoda at a height of 57 meters holds the title of the tallest wooden building in the city. Five-tiered structure is open to tourists only a few days a year. Despite a number of reconstructions, the complex has remained within its original boundaries and retained its original style. One of the halls of To-ji is the Treasury. It contains artifacts and valuables from various periods.

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To-ji Temple.

Sanjusangen-do Temple

Construction was completed in 1164. The name can be translated as “The Hall of Thirty-three Do’s.” A do is a measure of length in Japanese architecture. After the great fire in 1249, the temple complex was not completely rebuilt. They limited themselves to the main hall, which has survived to this day. Sanjusangen-do is famous primarily for its collection of 1001 statues of the Goddess of Mercy Kannon.

Sanjusang-do Temple.

Nanzen-ji Temple

The city’s main Buddhist temple. It has controlled the five Great Temples of Kyoto since 1386. A villa was originally built on the site, and in 1293 it was converted into a religious site. Several temples and two gardens stand out in the complex. Two ponds were created in the South Garden. Nanjen-ji is famous for holding the longest game of shogi ever recorded: it lasted a week.

Temple of Nanjin-ji.

Nijo Castle

Construction began at the very beginning of the 17th century and lasted several centuries. The total area of the complex including the park zone and gardens is 275 thousand m². In the past the castle was the residence of the Tokugawa family. The transfer of power from the last Japanese Shogun to Emperor Meiji took place here in 1867. Since 1940, the territory can be visited by anyone. The castle is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Nijo Castle.

Imperial Palace

Construction began in 794. During its history the palace has burned to the ground several times. During the reconstructions the complex was modified in accordance with the wishes of the reigning emperor at that time. The premises were conserved at the end of the century before last when the capital was moved to Tokyo. Two more coronations took place in Kyoto. The area around it is the gardens, otherwise known as the “emperor’s park.

Imperial Palace.

Kyoto International Manga Museum

It has been in operation since 2006. It is also a research center based at Seika University. There are about 200,000 pieces of manga on display. Three floors are occupied by the Manga Wall, where publications from the last five decades are on display. The manga cafe offers lunch and reading, and the visitor pays at the exit for the amount of time spent in the facility. The museum is open all days except Wednesday.

International Museum of Kyoto manga.

Kyoto Railway Museum

Occupies a vast area and tells the history of the railroads in Japan. The heart of the exhibition is 36 trains in perfect condition. Among them are old models – real rarities, as well as modern high-speed trains. The museum has a library with 34,000 magazines and books about different modes of transportation, but the railway one comes first. There are driving simulators on site.

Kyoto Railway Museum.

Samurai and Ninja Museum

Located closer to the city center. The museum collection covers 5 periods in total from 794 to 1868. Among the items are particularly valuable originals of clothing, armor, and weapons. During the tour, the guide talks about the way of life of samurai and ninja. For a fee you can be photographed in full attire of Japanese ancient warriors.

Museum of Samurai and Ninja.

National Museum of Kyoto

Founded during the Meiji period. Tokuma Katayama, a follower of Western styles in architecture, was responsible for the design. Therefore, the museum building was erected in the style of the French Renaissance. The exhibitions are divided into three areas: fine arts, crafts and archaeological finds. The permanent exhibitions include not only Japanese treasures, but also artifacts from other Asian countries.

National Museum of Kyoto.

Nishiki Market

The history of the market goes back several centuries. It is also called the “kitchen of Kyoto.” The narrow street in the central part of the city is surrounded by hundreds of shops and stores. Many of them have been run by families for generations. Nishiki sells traditional Japanese pickles, sweets, fruit, fresh seafood, and all kinds of dishes prepared right there. The trade goes on until the evening.

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Nishiki Market.

Kyoto Tower

The tallest building in the city. Height – 131 meters. The construction was timed to coincide with the Olympic Games in Kyoto in 1964. The plan caused a lot of controversy. Some thought that the tower would spoil the look of the old capital, while others insisted on the need to modernize the panoramic view. In the end, the tower was erected on a 9-story building with stores and a hotel. The structure could withstand strong earthquakes and typhoons.

Tower of Kyoto.

Togetsu-kyo Bridge

Spanning the Oigawa River. Its length is about 150 meters. The name translates as “bridge crossing the moon. Emperor Kameyama named it so because he noticed that at night it seemed as if the moon was touching the bridge. In December, there is a festival of night illumination in the area. Tourists can take a boat ride: boatmen wait right by the bridge. Locals come here to fish.

Bridge Togetsu-kyo.

The scenic Sagano Railroad

Put into operation in 1990. Its length is 7.3 km. It connects Saga and Kameoka stations. Trains use thermal traction, no electrification. The trains consist of 5 carriages. Some of them are open. This allows you to take better photos. On the way there are several stops. Tourists can go out, buy souvenirs and look around. Of particular interest to travelers is the huge diorama.

Picturesque railroad Sagano.

Maruyama Park

Opened in 1886. More than 800 cherry trees are planted in the park. The most famous of them is “Gion”, Maruyama’s main natural attraction. You can spend time here, not only strolling or doing photo shoots. There are restaurants and tea houses. To the west is Yasaka Shrine, so many tourists prefer to get there through the park.

Maruyama Park.

Philosopher’s Path.

Also called Tetsugaku-no-michi. It is laid at the foot of Mount Higashiyama. The length is about 2 km. There are many temples nearby. The trail runs along a canal lined with stones. The sakura trees planted nearby make the area even more picturesque. When they bloom, the trail becomes a kind of tunnel of flowers. Tetsugaku-no-michi is listed as one of the top 100 most popular hiking trails in Japan.

Philosophical path.

Bamboo Forest

Located on the outskirts of the city. For convenience, the forest has special paths and bridges: in some places, the soil is very loose, and without them walking would be problematic. The protected area has been known since the XIV century. It was created by monks headed by Muso Soseki. Its area at the moment reaches 15 km². In the evening, the lanterns along the paths are lit. At the entrance you can buy handicrafts made from bamboo.

Bamboo forest.

Iwatayama Monkey Park

It is located in a suburb of Kyoto. The park is home to about 200 individuals – representatives of different species of primates. They feel very comfortable here. The area around the park is often used as a film set, and the park itself belongs to a film company. You can feed the monkeys by hand if you buy special food. The park is located on a hill, so there are beautiful views of the city.

Iwatayama Monkey Park.

Complete the article by describing your impression of the city (country) or a particular attraction.

Tokyo

Tokyo

Osaka

Osaka

Japan

Japan

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