Kyoto Day Trip from Tokyo: Complete Guide with Best Tour Options

by TripleLights travel specialist

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

Kyoto Day Trip from Tokyo: Complete Guide with Best Tour Options

Kyoto Access

  • 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)

Kyoto Day Trip from Tokyo: Complete Guide with Best Tour Options

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

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

Gion Kyoto: Complete guide before you go

Kyoto 1 day guide: The best full day tour for your trip to Kyoto

Transportation in Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and around 

Kyoto Tours: The 9 Best and Most Popular Tours by Local Tour Guides

To find more Blogs with Tips and Information about Kyoto and across all Japan click here.


Want to make your Kyoto trip more Interesting? Here's how! 

TripleLights the Best Private Tours and Locals Guides across Japan.

If you are interested to know more and save your time during your trip to Kyoto, you can Send a Message to our local guides to get a customized itinerary and quotation for an unforgettable experience.

You also can Request a Tour just for You. Just type what you would like to see and guides all over Kyoto will send you quotes and their recommendations according to your interested and budget. 

TripleLights website you can find the best professional Local Guides all across Japan to help you plan your trip. Check our Private Tours to Kyoto

Need help planning your trip to Kyoto ?

If you are interested to know more and save your time during your trip to Kyoto, You can send a message to our local guides to get a customized itinerary and quotation for an unforgettable experience.

In the TripleLights website you can find the best professional guides all over Japan to help you plan your trip. Check our local guides for Kyoto

26 Nov 2018

Plan your trip to Kyoto

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started

Recent Tour Reviews in Kyoto

“ Short walking tour of Kyoto ”

5 hours ago Traveler: Richard -   Tour Guide: Akira

A group of 8 of us met up with Akira during our cruise ship stop in Kobe and took the train over to Kyoto for a walking tour of some of the cultural sites. Akira was prompt and met us ready to go right in the cruise ship terminal. We hopped on a train over to Kyoto and then a short bus ride to where we started our walk. Akira was very knowledgeable about the entire area and filled us in on the ...
read more

“ Great day in Kyoto with Koichi ”

7 hours ago Traveler: Cynthia -   Tour Guide: Koichi

Koichi was a wonderful guide. He took my family, with people aged 7 to 85, on a great tour of the city. He offered to start our day earlier than our scheduled time, which was a great suggestion to avoid the rush at Fushimi Inari. Koichi was kind and informative. The photo shoot was also a nice bonus! I would recommend him as a guide for a visit to Kyoto.
read more

“ Kyoto day tour ”

1 day ago Traveler: Toni -   Tour Guide: Hiroshi

An amazing quick response to pull together a full day tour for us at the 11th hour was definitely the first sign of how professional Hiroshi was. He was wonderful start to finish and extremely informative , knowledgeable and entertaining. The day spent with him was a pleasure and would definitely recommend him
read more

“ Excellent Kyoto Tour . ”

1 day ago Traveler: Kim -   Tour Guide: ERIC

Our family of 5 people was only scheduled to be in Kyoto for 2 days when we booked our tour with Eric. Eric took us to 4 areas in one full day. He was accommodating, patient, and thorough, customizing an entire tour of the city based on our interests, requests, and preferences. He even went to eat dinner with us at the end of the tour. Thanks to him we were able to experience the hidden and auth...
read more

“ Day tour of Kyoto ”

2 days ago Traveler: Philemon -   Tour Guide: Kaori

Kaori was amazing! Personable and knowledgeable, she expertly and efficiently took me through Kyoto's highlights. I told her I wanted to buy some gifts for my family, and she took me to the perfect places. I can't believe how much she packed into one day, but everything we saw was rich with history and culture; I ended up knowing so much more about this superb city in Japan. She was truly one of t...
read more


2 days ago Traveler: Carolina -   Tour Guide: Seiko

We did a deep dive into three hot spots in Kyoto and also had a marvelous 'local' lunch with Seiko. She was knowledgeable, friendly, cool, thoughtful ... we not only learned a lot, but we also truly enjoyed her company as she is quite an interesting an accomplished person. I would definitely do another tour with Seiko. It really made our stay in Kyoto special and set us up for touring solo. She al...
read more

“ Kyoto on Bullet Train ”

2 days ago Traveler: Steve -   Tour Guide: Yuki

Travelled from Tokyo to Kyoto and back with Yuki. Yuki picked us up on time and diligently had prepared all matters for our trip - trains , taxis, lunch and what meals to have , he was extremely friendly and spoke excellent English and knowledgeable of all aspects of Kyoto. We toured the famous sites of Kyoto and had a wonderful time shopping and eating in the areas as well. AAA+ service 👍🏼‼️
read more

“ Kyoto without the usual crowds ”

Very Good
3 days ago Traveler: Lindy -   Tour Guide: Richard

We left it to Richard to devise a slightly off the beaten track itinerary for us in Kyoto and we enjoyed several temples and shrines that were not at all crowded. He was quite a character and entertained us with some history of shinto and buddhism and the shogun era. He hosted a sake tasting which was interesting but ultimately a bit pricey.
read more

“ Extremely good tour guide ”

Very Good
3 days ago Traveler: Larry -   Tour Guide: Yasuna

Yasuna was energetic and showed us everything and more that we wanted to see in the time allowed. She took us to Nara and Kyoto to kid friendly places. We had 3 kids ages 9 to 14 and Yasuna accomodated them very well. She knew where to go to please both the kids and adults. Even though the schedule time was aggresive she maintained the time very well such that we could see everything we wanted...
read more

“ Day in Kyoto with Hiro! ”

4 days ago Traveler: Joe -   Tour Guide: Hero

We decided to get a guide in Kyoto, after arriving to Japan a week earlier after leaving Tokyo. Being from the US, and not speaking the language, it was quite overwelming the first few days, with my wife and two young adult children 18 and 20. We got in touch with Hiro, he responded quickly, asked us what we would like to see and do. We wanted to see Nijo Castle and Kiyomizu temple and eat some lo...
read more

Related cities

Plan your trip to Kyoto

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started