Are you planning a day trip to Kyoto from Tokyo? Some people would say it isn’t possible as a one day trip, but actually, you can go there and back in maybe about 12 hours. Of course, your time will be limited so you’ll only be able to see a few of the most famous sightseeing spots. On the other hand, since you’ll be able to see Kyoto as a day trip, you’ll be able to use the remaining time during your short stay in Japan to see other cities.
When you only have a short time to spend sightseeing, you need to make sure your itinerary is well thought out. You don’t want to be running around from one end of the city to the other. That would just be a waste of transportation time, so you want to have the sightseeing spots you plan to visit as close together as possible. And you want to make sure you’re able to get back to Kyoto station to make your train back to Tokyo in the evening. If you need a website that helps you to create your own Kyoto itinerary click here.
Kyoto One Day Trip from Tokyo: Access and Highlights 2019
- By Shinkansen
The easiest way to go to Kyoto from Tokyo is to use the Shinkansen or bullet train. There are several types of Shinkansen, but you need to get on the “Nozomi”. It takes about 2 hours 15 minutes to get there. And the cost is about 13,400 yen one way per person for free seating cars and about 14,100 yen for reserved seating. So you’re looking at a total of 26,800 - 28,200 yen total per person.
- By Bus
For people who want to go even cheaper, you can use the red eye buses. They depart from the bus terminal in Shinjuku (BUSTA Shinjuku) at maybe around 11 or 12 pm and arrive in Kyoto early the next morning at 6 or 7 am. And the cost is 2,500 yen one way per person. But make sure you’re a person who can sleep on a bus and has the stamina to walk around Kyoto the next day. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s one way to save money.
On the Way Back
The last bullet train back to Tokyo is a little past 9pm. So you can stay in Kyoto until after dinner if you want to. But it will mean getting back to Tokyo a bit before midnight. The very last train may be crowded so make sure to get to the station early so you have a few choices about which train to take home.
Famous Kyoto Sightseeing Spots
Below are a few main sightseeing spots you may want to visit in Kyoto. You’ll probably be able to see maybe 3 to 4 sightseeing spots In the short time you have to spend in the city.
Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion)
Kinkakuji or the Golden Pavilion is one of the most famous places in Kyoto. The golden building stands in the middle of a small lake and is reflected onto the surface of the water. It’s an amazing sight you won’t see anywhere else in the world. It is a Zen Temple originally built in 1397 as the residence of Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, a “shogun” or military commander. This building is covered in golden leaf so it glitters when the rays of the sun hit it. And it is a wonderful sight in every season, whether the surrounding area is full of the green leaves of spring and summer, or the colorful colors of autumn, or capped with snow in winter.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Shrine has become famous in recent years among foreign tourists for its tunnel of 10,000 red “torii” gates. It really is an awe inspiring sight and of course a fantastic photo spot. It’s an important Shinto shrine located in the Fushimi Ward of Kyoto. It stands at the base of a mountain and there are trails that go up into the mountain, good for a scenic 2 - 3 hours hike. The thousands of “torii” gates line these hiking trails, dwindling in number as you go up. But you don’t have to go all the way to the summit if you don’t want to or don’t have the time to. You can go up a bit and turn back at any point.
Nijo Castle is a World Heritage Site, built in 1603. It was the residence in Kyoto of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the first “shogun” or military commander of the Edo era. Other palace buildings and a five story castle keep were added to the castle later on by his grandson. After being used as an imperial palace for a while, it was donated to the city and opened for public viewing. It is one of the best examples of castle architecture in Japan and an important historical heritage.
There are two palace buildings at Nijo Castle, the Honmaru Palace and the Ninomaru Palace. Since the Honmaru Palace is seldom open to the public, the Ninomaru Palace is the main highlight of this sightseeing spot. The traditional Japanese gardens are also something to look forward to. There are several different types of cherry blossom trees on the grounds, so you’ll be able to see them from late March all they say to the end of April.
Kiyomizudera Temple is a World Heritage Site. It is famous for its large balcony, called a "stage", outside the main hall. The main hall’s roof is going through renovations until March 2020, so you won’t be able to see the whole of the beautiful temple. However, you’ll still be able to sightsee inside the hall.
The view of the cherry blossoms from Kiyomizudera Temple in the spring is simply amazing! And so are the autumn colors of the maple trees. There is also a street leading up to the temple called Kiyomizuzaka. It's a great place to shop for souvenirs and try Japanese sweets in the cafes. Many people enjoy this street more than the temple itself.
Above are only some of the places you might want to visit. And there’s so much more to see in Kyoto. However, since you’ll only have several hours you’ll probably have to think hard about the logistics of your trip. This is where having a local guide’s knowledge about the city comes in handy. They’ll plan your day according to what is possible timewise while also trying to incorporate the places you want to visit. Below are links for tours you might want to look into, both for a tour starting from Tokyo and for local tours in Kyoto.
If you intend to see Kyoto as a day trip, you can’t afford to waste the precious few hours you have getting lost there, so hiring a local tour guide is the best way to go. You can book a Tokyo to Kyoto day trip and have a tour guide take you from Tokyo to Kyoto and back. Or, you can make your way there by yourself and start your private tour of Kyoto from the moment you arrive. In this case, make sure to tell your guide at what time you’ll be arriving in Kyoto and have them pick you up at Kyoto station.
Recommended Local Guides Tours in Kyoto
Below are links for tours you might want to look into, both for a tour starting from Tokyo and for local tours in Kyoto.
Day Trip to Kyoto from Tokyo by Local Guide Yuki
6 hour Kyoto exciting private tour by Local Guide Toshiyo
Kyoto Kiyomizu and Fushimi tour by Local Guide Makoto
Kyoto Must-See Spots tour by Local Guide Moe
If you to check the full list Kyoto tours by Local Guides click here.
Blogs about Kyoto
To find more Blogs with Tips and Information about Kyoto and across all Japan click here.
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