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

Did you like my article?

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

“ Kyoto’s many facets ”

3 hours ago Traveler: Michael -   Tour Guide: Yumiko

Yumiko was the perfect guide for us. She went out of her way to meet us at the train station closer to our hotel and we were off for a grand adventure. Yumiko assembled an excellent itinerary that hit key highlights like Fushimi-Inari, Kiyomizudera and the Gion district, but also some more off the beaten path spots. She was very patient with impromptu stops to shop and picked an excellent tea h...
read more

“ Excellent one-day tour in Kyoto ”

18 hours ago Traveler: RYAN -   Tour Guide: Koichi

Koichi was the guide for my 12 year old son and I for one day in Kyoto (September 2019). Koichi met us at the hotel on time and our day was planned nicely by Koichi to correspond to the specific time we had alloted (not a lot of "down time" and we also were by no means "rushed"). It was a warm day and Koichi worked hard throughout the day to make our day informative, as relaxed as it could be w...
read more

“ Wonderful time in Kyoto ”

Very Good
1 day ago Traveler: Richard -   Tour Guide: Kazuhiko

Kazu took care of all our travel arrangements in Kyoto. He is very well informed about sights, venues and history. Itinerary was all by walking, bus and taxi.
read more

“ It was a very informative and complete visit. ”

1 day ago Traveler: Les -   Tour Guide: Mari

Mari is excellent. She is very knowledgeable of Kyoto, personable, prompt and very organized. Her command of English is flawless. Highly recommend her for future tours.
read more

“ Absolutely fabulous ”

1 day ago Traveler: Elena -   Tour Guide: Richard

Richard is engaging, knowledgeable, flexible, and fun. His personality is icing on the cake. If we return to Japan, we will make sure we hire him for several days, not one like this time. He facilitated the best memories we’ll have from this trip.
read more

“ A fascinating, full day with Yoshie ”

3 days ago Traveler: Jim -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

We just spent a full, fascinating and delightful day being guided through Kyoto by Yoshihisa. We visited many of the major sites, which he curates beautifully, and we never felt rushed nor stressed. A former English teacher, Yoshie is a wealth of history, stories, poems and puns. If you are visiting Kyoto for the first time, I highly recommend spending your first day with Yoshie.
read more

“ Highly Recommend this Amazing Tour of Kyoto ”

3 days ago Traveler: Stephen -   Tour Guide: Seiko

Seiko guided us right from the train platform throughout the day to all of major sights of Kyoto. She is incredibly knowledgeable about all the history, culture, and little details of the city. Plus, she provides the personable touch to ensure you enjoy every moment that you will not get from a big tour company! We are so very greatful to her for an amazing day in Kyoto!
read more

“ Excellent Tour ”

3 days ago Traveler: Rohit -   Tour Guide: Hiroshi

Hiroshi-san is an extremely warm and nice person. He guided us through Kyoto which was an excellent tour. With the summer sun, he was patient with us and also was very accommodating. We had a good chat on various cultural similarities and was a good experience He is highly energetic and is wonderful !
read more

“ Fantastic! ”

4 days ago Traveler: Amy -   Tour Guide: Richard

Super knowledgeable and fun. We did a 1 day tour around Kyoto and saw such a nice variety of things - castle, temple, shrine, and market. He knows it all and is so good at explaining things and sharing his knowledge. Highly, highly recommended.
read more

“ One day must see Kyoto sites ”

5 days ago Traveler: Carol -   Tour Guide: Hiroshi

Despite the crazy rain, humidity, and heat, Hiroshi kept the tour amusing and enjoyable. He was knowledgeable and had interesting anecdotes regarding historical figures and sites. He went above and beyond by escorting us to get reserved seats on the return shinkansen and walked us to the departure point.
read more

Related cities

Plan your trip to Kyoto

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