24 Hours in Kyoto Travel Guide
Kyoto is a fascinating city. It is at the center of Japan’s transformational identity, blending the West and East perfectly. In Kyoto, you can find the luxury of living in Japan and at the same time, relish in the cultural destinations like no other in the world. At such a rich destination where there is so many things can go wrong and you can get lost, this is how you experience 24 hours in Kyoto the right way.
Getting to Kyoto
Shinkansen is the way to go, whether you are coming from Tokyo or Osaka. From Tokyo, it takes 3 hours to get to Kyoto, the fastest Shinkansen a shy away from 2.5 hours. From Shin-Osaka, it’s less than an hour away. It’s ultimately your choice where you would be your port of entry. I recommend coming from Osaka, and if you have more than 24 hours to spare, a night or two in a Kyoto ryokan will be the best decision.
Should I get a JR pass?
The rule of thumb is if you are going to be traveling on Shinkansen more than 2x, get a JR pass. But keep in mind, you can only use the JR pass on the JR line (not the JR bus). Kyoto is full of train operators such as the Keihan line which can become handy. So this is a word of warning to those thinking that the JR pass should cover all train operators.
Download an offline version of your Google Maps if you’re going to be navigating Kyoto. Kyoto can be spotty in terms of Wi-Fi access and the buses aren’t that accessible at times. Expect traffic around Kyoto due to the influx of tourists coming in because of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, so walking on foot is sometimes the best option.
Better yet, get a Mobile hotspot to remain connected all throughout your trip! I’ve written a separate guide here on how to book your mobile wi-fi rental in advance.
Your first destination should be the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Get off at Inari station via JR line.
To save time, we’re going to western Kyoto. The idea is for you to end your 24 hours where you started. It makes sense to go the farthest. And Arashiyama station is accessible by JR line, making use of your JR pass the most.
And make your way by foot to the Togetsukyo Bridge. You won’t regret it.
Near Arashiyama Bamboo Groves are tons of local food delicacies should you ever go hungry. Choose wisely, remember – eat less to eat more!
Bask in the golden glory of Kinkakuji temple. The best way to reach Kinkakuji is by foot, as the buses become extremely crowded especially on weekends.
Get mystified with Ryoanji Temple as you make your way here via Bus 59 if you can afford the extra 1-2 hours to add to your trip. The Temple of the Dragon of Peace will surely be a mind twister. At any point of vision, there will only be 14 stones out of the 15 that are visible. If you’re ever tired, expect your exhaustion to go away and the energy of this temple will recharge you in your trek.
By this time, you would have spent half your day already and almost nearing dinner. When in Kyoto, it’s a must to stop by Chef Motokichi Yukimura’s omurice masterpiece, the best Omurice in Kyoto. Make sure to book the bar seating when you make your reservation. Chef Motokichi is incredibly welcoming and quite a culinary performer.
Kawaramachi and Shijo, Gion
It’s time to spot geisha at Gion from your food trip at Kichi Kichi. Gion is a stone’s throw away from Sanjo station and it’s a must to visit. And make sure you spot the real deal. Maiko, or apprentice geisha, will probably trick you into thinking they are geishas. So make sure you know how.
At Kawaramachi and Shijo, you can take a break from old Kyoto and do some shopping. 0101 Kyoto Marui and the beloved Takashimaya.
When you’re done with shopping, it’s time to see some night illumination. In autumn, Kiyomizudera’s fall illumination is at its best. At the moment renovations are being conducted at the main stage and is targeted to complete by March 2020, in time for the Hanami season.
For now, you can still visit other spots inside the temple. And do be careful with the scaffolding especially at night!
At Ninnenzaka and Sannenzaka, there are local markets. Legend has it that if you trip on your way down this slope, you will face an early death in 2-3 years. Pretty scary, ain’t it? That’s the allure and mystery that Kyoto brings.
By then you have realized that you are back in east Kyoto, and you can easily make your way back in Kyoto Station or Inari Station from Kiyomizudera.
That’s all for this 24 hour travel guide to Kyoto!
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