If you’re looking for information about a one day trip to Kyoto from Osaka, you’re in the right place. Kyoto is a great place to go on a day trip since it’s only about 15 - 30 minutes away by train. There’s a lot to see but since it’s so close, it’s almost as if it’s in the same city. So having your accommodations in Osaka is not a problem.
If you’re only planning to be in Kyoto for one day, you won’t have time to wander around the city aimlessly so make sure to create an itinerary to follow. And try to research how much time it will take from one sightseeing spot to another, how much time you want to spend at each place, and around what time or area would be a good time to fit in a lunch break. A lot of temples and shrines close in the early evening, so you’ll need to think about that as well when you’re making your plans. You can get some ideas for your itinerary here.
How to get to Kyoto
The fastest way to get to Kyoto from Osaka is by Shinkansen. It’s only a 15 minute ride. For those of you who have a Japan Rail Pass, if you ride on the non-reserved seating car, there’s no extra fee. But be aware you can only ride the “Hikari” and “Kodama” Shinkansens and not the “Nozomi”. For people who don’t have a Japan Rail Pass, it’s 1,420 yen one way for a non-reserved ticket on any Shinkansen.
You can also get to Kyoto by regular train. There are two types of trains you can use, the JR train or the Hankyu train. They are two different train companies.
The easiest and the fastest way is to use the JR line. You’ll need to get on the “Shin-Kaisoku” or new express train. You can get on from either JR Osaka station or JR Shin-Osaka station. The cost is 560 yen one way and it takes 25 - 30 minutes depending on which station you get on from. You’ll be arriving at JR Kyoto station. The only downside is that JR Kyoto station is a bit of a distance from the center of the city where places like the famous Gion area is located.
The other route is to use the Hankyu train from Hankyu Umeda station in Osaka to Kawaramachi station in Kyoto. Umeda station is actually connected to JR Osaka station, though it’s a 5 - 10 walk from one station to the other. And Kawaramachi station is in the center of Kyoto city, so it’s easier to go shopping or sightseeing from there, and it is close to the Gion area. In order to get there, you need to take the Limited Express (“Tokkyu” in Japanese) bound for Kawaramachi station. It takes about 45 minutes and the cost is 400 yen one way.
Famous sightseeing spots in Kyoto
Kiyomizudera was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1994. It was founded at the location of the Otowa Waterfall in 780, hence the name of the temple, Kiyomizu, meaning pure water in Japanese. The roof of the main hall has been under renovation since February 2017 and will continue to do so until March 2020. However, it’s still possible to go inside to sightsee.
Kiyomizudera is famous for the large balcony outside the main hall. It is called the “stage” of Kiyomizu in Japanese. And you’ll see why when you see it. It hangs 13 meters high in the air like a performance stage you can view from the surrounding hillside below. As you can imagine, the view from the platform is amazing. In the spring, there are pink cherry blossoms everywhere. And in the autumn, the woods become like a carpet of red, yellow, and orange maple trees.
Kiyomizuzaka, which is the long sloping street leading to the temple, is the best place to do some shopping. You’ll find lots of shops lining the streets with souvenirs of Kyoto and many Japanese knick knacks you can’t help but buy. And there are restaurants or cafes to stop by if you need to take a break from all the sightseeing.
The rock garden at Ryoanji Temple is said to be the most famous rock garden in Japan. It is a simple but somehow beautiful and soothing scene that hundreds of tourists come to see every day. It’s less crowded in the early morning so that is the best time to visit. The temples were originally built in the Heian Era as a villa of an aristocrat. Then in 1450, it was converted into a Zen temple.
The garden can be viewed from the Hojo building. When the garden was created or who designed it is unknown. The Zen garden is in a rectangular shape and has grey rocks placed at several points in a sea of small white pebbles. It has a curious and highly calculated design in which at least one of the rocks is hidden from view by another rock at any angle you look at the garden from. If you don’t believe me, try looking at the garden from multiple standpoints. You’ll find that it’s true. The meaning of the placement of these 15 rocks is unknown. Some say it represents an old Chinese theme of a tiger carrying her cubs across a body of water.
Many Japanese people sightseeing in Kyoto think of Ginkakuji Temple (Silver Pavilion) and Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) as a set, because of the names of these temples have the color silver or “gin” and gold or “kin” in their names. But if you go to Ginkakuji Temple thinking that it’s covered in silver, just as Kinkakuji Temple is covered in gold leaf, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The temple actually has another official name, but as it was modeled after Kinkakuji, it is called by this more popular name.
It was built as a villa for Yoshimasa Ashikaga, but was converted into a Zen Temple after his death. There are several buildings along with a moss garden and a dry sand garden. These unique gardens can be enjoyed by following the circular path. It takes you up onto the hill side so that you can enjoy a wonderful view of the entire temple grounds.
Arashiyama is popular for its green bamboo forest. It’s about 30 minutes away from central Kyoto but well worth the train ride. You’ll find several temples in this area surrounded by nature. However, since it’s such a popular sightseeing spot, you’ll also find a great many tourists there as well. To be able to visit this area without navigating the crowds, going there early in the morning is best.
The Togetsukyo bridge is also a highlight. In the cherry blossom season of spring, the bridge is illuminated so that it creates a mystical scene with the cherry blossoms in the background. It’s also an area popular in the summertime since it’s closeness to the river and the shade of the trees makes the heat of summer a little more bearable.
Blogs about Kyoto
Tips and Recommendations
If you’re not too keen about thinking up an itinerary by yourself or researching how to get from one sightseeing spot to the other, then why don’t you just hire a tour guide to pick you up in Osaka, take you to Kyoto and back? It’s much easier and less stressful than trying to do something you don’t feel up to doing. Below are some tours to consider.
Your most memorable Kyoto tour by Local Guide Kazuhisa
One day Highlights of Kyoto tour by Local Guide Yasuo
And if you are confident enough to travel to Kyoto by yourselves, you can just have a tour guide meet you at Kyoto station or Kawaramachi station. They can make sure to get you back to the same station at the end of your tour and help you to get on the train that will take you back to Osaka. Below are some web pages to help you choose a one day tour of Kyoto.
One Day Kyoto Highlights tour by Local Guide Mari
Customized One Day Tour of Kyoto by Local Guide Kenji
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