Kyoto served as Japan’s capital and residence of the emperor from 794 to 1868. It is one of the ten largest cities in the country with a population of 1.5 million people. If you want to have an experience and a glimpse of Japan in just a few days, Kyoto is probably the best place. Here are an impressive number of temples, a large historic district, a modern city center, an outstanding train station, restaurants, and an opening to sites of special interest. Easily accessible from Tokyo via the Shikansen high-speed train, you can arrive in Kyoto in just 2 hours. Several days are essential to see most of Kyoto, and we can easily linger a full week as there are visits to make.
Over the centuries, Kyoto has been destroyed by many wars and fires, but because of its outstanding historical value, the city has been removed from the list of target cities for the atomic bomb and escaped destruction during World War II. World. Countless temples, shrines and other historically priceless structures survive in the city today.
The best things to see in Kyoto
If you arrive by train, probably the first glimpse you will have of Kyoto station. It is an extremely modern station with impressive design. The train station is indeed a real complex on its own. It is spread over several floors. Access to the train is via the ground floor. Below you will have a huge shopping mall where you can find absolutely everything, divided between restaurants and clothing stores. On the first floor are luxury restaurants, mixed with cafes. You can have access to the top floor, that is to say the roof of the station where there is a garden and benches. Here you will have a beautiful view of the city, perhaps waiting to visit the Kyoto tower. One floor is also dedicated to the tertiary sector with offices and jobs in the service sector.
Arashiyama is located northwest of Kyoto, easily accessible by local train.
Similar to parts of Kyoto, Arashiyama is a place that could be drawn directly from the pages of a stereotypical Japanese text story. Think of wooden buildings, wooden bridges and rattling wooden shoes. Full of old fashioned shops, this is the perfect opportunity to eat traditional foods, try green tea and pick up some Japanese souvenirs.
This is one of the most photographed sites in Japan, in this place you will have access to a beautiful landscape between forest and river. The vegetation is lush and you can go for a ride on the river. It is a perfect place for a day trip under a beautiful sun.
One of the major attractions is Sagano Bamboo Forest. It is one of the most beautiful and largest in Japan. You will cross the paths surrounded by giant bamboos of about 20 meters. In summer it is a perfect place to get some shade in the heat and cool down a little. Its windy paths flanked by tall bamboo on each side create an atmosphere of another world. The place is extremely pleasant but also full of tourists during the summer season.
There are a number of shrines and temples in the vicinity, however, you will find the Nonomiya Shrine just along the main path and, like the bamboo forest itself, it is also possible to enter it freely.
Fushimi Inari Shrine is an important Shinto shrine south of Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion tori doors, which straddle a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead a forested forest of the sacred mountain Inari. This mountain rises to nearly 233 meters.
Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousand sanctuaries dedicated to Inari, The shrine of Fushimi Inari has ancient origins, preceding the relocation of the capital to Kyoto in 794.
You will go from trails to trails to climb the small mountain and you will cross hundreds of red tori under a shady landscape. You will stop at some places dedicated to worship, they are miniature sanctuary where we can see many Buddha statue, cat, miniature tori. You will come across a few restaurants to refuel.
Kyoto Tower is located at an altitude of 131 meters, just in front of Kyoto Station, the tallest structure in Kyoto and an iconic landmark in the city. Impossible to miss, especially at night when the red of these illuminations appears.
An observation platform is located 100 meters above the ground and offers a 360-degree view of Kyoto. It can be seen that the city of Kyoto is surrounded by hills. The Kyoto Tower is at the top of a typical commercial building, which includes souvenir shops, restaurants and a hotel, as well as a public bath in the basement.
The main attraction is its viewing platform which is 100 meters high. Tickets for the observation deck can be purchased on a stand on the 1st floor. You can then take an elevator to the 11th floor and join another elevator that will take you to the observation deck. The platform is spacious and has scattered telescopes from which you can see most of the main sites of Kyoto. Do not miss, whether day or night, the view will be breathtaking.
The historic district
One of the additional attractions that makes Kyoto the perfect city for a global overview of Japan is its historic district called Higashiyama. It is one of the best preserved historic districts of the city. It is an ideal place to discover the old traditional Kyoto, especially between Kiyomizudera and the Yasaka Shrine, where narrow lanes, wooden buildings and traditional merchant shops evoke the feeling of the ancient capital.
The streets of Higashiyama are lined with small shops, cafes and restaurants that have been welcoming tourists and pilgrims for centuries. These companies retain their traditional design, although many have been renovated over the years, and they continue to serve customers today, selling local specialties such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets, gherkins, crafts and other souvenirs.
Many beautiful temples are also found in this area or just outside.
It is extremely pleasant to walk around the historic district. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Japan by crossing all these traditional narrow streets and strolling around. Even though the neighborhood must extend for two small kilometers, you can easily stay for hours and hours in this place.
One of the best temples in the Northern Higashiyama district, Nanzen-ji Temple is a sprawling Zen paradise surrounded by lush green hills.
One of the most attractive temples in Kyoto, Tofuku-ji Temple also has the advantage of being crowded during the fall foliage season.
Ginkaku-ji Temple, famed “Silver Pavilion”, has magnificent halls and gardens. It’s predictably popular so best visited in off-peak times
Not just a temple – a world of temples. Daitoku-ji Temple is home to some of my favorite Zen gardens in Kyoto.
Kinkaku-ji, the famed “Golden Pavilion,” is Kyoto’s most iconic sight. It’s well with a visit, just try to pick a time when the crowds are not there.
Sometimes called the Vatican of Pure Land Buddhism, this vast temple is one of the most popular temples in the city. It’s highly recommended.