Not Tokyo but Kyoto was once the capital of Japan for more than one thousand years. Did you know that Kyoto was spared from the destruction that took place during World War II. It is said that because of one American man (who saw the beauty of Kyoto during his honeymoon) intervened and wanted to save the cultural center of Kyoto thus Kyoto was removed from atomic bomb target list. As a result, Kyoto still has great amount of prewar buildings. Apart from the presence of thousands of religious places like; the Buddhist temples, shrines, gardens and palaces, Kyoto also opens to modernization as seen on its huge glass-metal framed Kyoto station.
A day is not enough to see Kyoto. A right plan will be needed to able to cover a lot of places each day especially if you will only use the city bus unlimited ride for 500 yen. Kyoto is divided into five districts. And each district does have plenty of well-known sightseeing spots. Here are the lists of major destinations per districts.
The Kyoto station – considered as the main gateway to the city, its upper level is an open air garden- a perfect place to have panoramic view of the city and the nearby Kyoto tower. The former residence of shogun - Nijo Castle is also located in central as well as the Sento Palace and Kyoto Imperial Palace surrounded by beautiful gardens. And a lot more.
Higashiyama streets of preserved buildings housing different Japanese shops and restaurants leading to the vast Kiyomizudera. Nearby is the Ginkakuji (silver temple) and Kyoto National museum. Or learn the art of match (green tea) making and walk the narrow streets of Gion at night.
Kyoto’s most famous attraction the Kinkakuji (golden pavillion) can be found here. Adjacent are the other famous temples named as world heritage and some shrines too.
Kinkakuji (Golden pavillion)
Arashiyama – Is considered as the second most visited place in Kyoto particularly the path of bamboo groves which leads to different shrines, temples and gardens. And the scenic view around Oi river.
Arashiyama bamboo groove
Fushimi Inari Taisha – is a trail of torii gates that leads to the Inari shrine at the top of the mountain. The hike roughly takes 2 hours but the view at the top and the mysterious paths are worth the hike. The place is best visited not during the influx of visitors, best in the morning or near dusk and cold season. Another worth to visit ,especially during autumn, is the Byodo-in – a Buddhist temple with spacious beautiful garden, the phoenix hall structure is seen in a Japanese 10 yen coin.
GOING around Kyoto
There are different options to go around Kyoto and is quite easy. You can go hiking, biking, ride a cab, use one day city bus or subway pass or the combination of two which is recommended specially if you only plan to spend few days in Kyoto, or use your pre-purchased Japan railway pass and a rent-a-car option. But be advised though renting a car to go around Kyoto will lessen you waiting and travel time, the parking areas get too expensive especially the areas near the attractions it can go as 600 yen every 30 minutes or the cheapest would be 100 yen every 30 minutes. On the other hand, taxi is good for not-so-far distances and for a group of 4 ~ 5 persons but expect that taxi ride in Japan is expensive. Another is, the one-day unlimited city bus pass for 500 yen- though it is quite tempting because its too cheap, expect that travel time will be quite long because it tends to stop at every bus stops and the traffic jam in down town Kyoto is not so good. The most recommended transportation around Kyoto for those with limited time might be the combination pass of city bus and subway which is only 1200 yen for a day or 2000 yen for two days.
Going around Kyoto suggested plan:
There is no way to compress all this attractions in just a day. Its either you spend as long as a whole week or at least two days. Tourist counter is located outside the Kyoto station. They provide information for tourists in English as well as maps and transportation guides.
→Arashiyama [ in the morning *be early] [this place takes a lot of time]
→Golden Pavillion or the Kinkakuji [*skip the other temples]
(insert Silver temple/ Ginkakuji if you want or have enough time but it is not highly rated)
→Higashiyama [ take your time walking around the area or rent a Kimono and walk around]
→Kiyomizudera [this place takes a lot of time]
→Gion [at night]
** or simplify it and spend more time on each places by visiting only Arashiyama, Kinkakuji in the morning until after lunch and Kiyomizudera at afternoon until evening.
→Imperial Palace or Nijo-jo castle
→Fushimi Inari [this place takes a lot of time]
→Kyoto station [visit the roof top garden at night]
** or simplify it and spend more time on each places by visiting only Imperial Palace, Byodo-in and in the afternoon/ dusk at Fushimi-Inari.
⇒ If you move fast and planned-well you can cover this compact two day itinerary using the two days unlimited pass for subway and city bus. Just be sure you know your whereabouts and don’t hesitate to ask locals, though Japanese value personal space and may seem too polite to bother they are very helpful and kind.