Goodbye to Bad Weather & Confusing Bus Schedules! 1-Day Kyoto Bus Tour from Osaka
We've talked about a 1-day Kyoto bus tour before, which many people loved. Today, we’d like to introduce a new Kyoto bus tour that has more to offer than the previous one! With this tour, you won't have to worry about Kyoto's complicated bus lines or stress about the possibility of missing your connection. In fact, you'll be able to leisurely cruise on a tour bus to Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kiyomizu Temple, Kinkaku Temple, Arashiyama, and other popular tourist destinations... all in one day! There’s less waiting around for transportation as well, making it the ultimate way to explore Kyoto!
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*This article was written in collaboration with Hankyu Travel International Co., Ltd.
* You can find the booking link for this tour at the end of the article.
"So, who is planning our next trip to Kyoto?"
K and H were talking about their travel plans for the following week over tea.
"Kyoto has so many amazing sightseeing spots, but just thinking about all the bus transfers stresses me out. And taxis are so expensive..." A lot of H's friends felt that way, apparently.
"I went once during peak season, and everywhere I went was absolutely packed with tourists, so even when the buses came, I couldn't get on! Also, there were so many places that I wanted to see, and even though I went to all of them, I was only at each one for such a short amount of time that all I managed to do was wear myself out!" said K, recollecting on her experience of visiting Kyoto during spring the previous year, when she wasted so much precious time moving from place to place.
"Well, what about this?" said H, looking at the homepage for Hankyu Travel International. "If we take part in this bus tour, we'll be able to see Fushimi Inari Shrine (Fushimi Inari Taisha), Kiyomizu Temple (Kiyomizu-dera), Kinkaku Temple (Kinkaku-ji), and Arashiyama!"
"Aren't all of those really famous spots in Kyoto? Let's do it!"
K quickly made a reservation for her and H.
Depart from Osaka for a Fun Sightseeing Trip to Kyoto!
Before they knew it, the day of the bus tour had arrived! K and H arrived at the meeting location early in the morning.
"I was so excited, I barely got any sleep last night," K said with a tired expression.
"Well, we're getting on the bus now, so you can sleep if you're tired!" said H. "And you don't have to worry about making a bus transfer either!" She continued, "Even if it rains or there is really strong wind, that won't affect us! We'll be able to see all the sightseeing spots on this one bus!"
"The weather is so nice today, so don't say anything to jinx it!" replied K.
Fushimi Inari Shrine (50 minutes)
Fushimi Inari Shrine was the first stop on this bus tour. K and H's eyes were immediately drawn to the storefront of a shop along the road leading to the shrine.
"There are so many people lined up outside! Let's go see!"
This shop specializes in sembei (roasted rice crackers). K looked at the huge selection of sembei laid out in front of her, unable to figure out which one to buy.
"How about this fox sembei? It's perfect for taking a photo!" H said, pointing at bags of Dai Kitsune (540 yen for a pack of 3 sembei).
"Okay! But these ones look tasty too, so let's buy some other varieties as souvenirs," said K. They were on a bus tour, so they could buy as much as they wanted without it becoming a hassle!
These cute and crunchy fox-shaped sembei are perfect for taking a commemorative photo. It's one of the must-buy souvenirs when visting Fushimi Inari Shrine!
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Known as the symbol of Kyoto, this shrine is just a minute's walk down the temple road from Hogyoku-do.
The most famous sight here is the Senbon Torii - a long corridor of bright red torii (shrine gates) that have appeared in many films.
"Until now, I've only seen these torii on the TV and the Internet. Seeing them in person is surprisingly moving!" said H, snapping some photos of the brilliant view.
"Apparently, all these torii were donated by worshipers who have been coming to this shrine since the Edo period (1603 - 1868) to wish for sucess in business." After explaining its history to H, K suggested reenacting a scene from a famous movie in which the protagonist runs through the torii corridor.
After passing through the corridor, they searched around for fox-shaped ema (small wooden plaques on which shrine visitors write their prayers or wishes), which can be bought only at this location.
"Anyone can write whatever comes to mind on these ema. It's like the stories of all the visitors who came to this shrine are written right here," K whispered while staring at the ema, which were so beautiful that they could be considered works of art.
"Inari is the messenger of the gods, so these wishes recieve his divine protection and are granted faster than usual, right?" asked H.
She looked at the backs of the uniquely-shaped ema, realizing that not just Japanese people, but people from all round the world have written on them.
Kiyomizu Temple, Ninen Slope, Sannen Slope (100 minutes)
After leaving Fushimi Inari Shrine, the tour bus headed towards another one of Kyoto's classic sightseeing spots, Kiyomizu Temple.
"I heard the Main Hall of Kiyomizu Temple is closed now..." K muttered with an upset expression as she disembarked from the tour bus.
"You just need to change the direction of your thinking! The hall is under construction right now, but that is in itself is a rare sight! Also, there are still plenty of interesting things to see at Kiyomizu Temple!" H comforted K on the way to an area where a lot of people were gathered.
The Otowa Waterfall is another must-see location when you visit Kiyomizu Temple.
As you can see in the photo above, there are three streams of water, and they each bring a different kind of luck to those who drink from them. From left to right, the three waterfalls bring luck in education, love, and long life, so choose wisely when picking which one to drink from!
"If you drink from all three waterfalls, you don't get any luck at all, so don't be greedy!" H said, warning K.
"Aw man, you caught me! Well, since you can only choose one, which do you want the most?" K asked H.
"Maybe love? That said, you can't do anything without a healthy body and it's also important to have steady associations with society... I can't decide!" The two girls were having difficulty choosing which waterfall to drink from as they waited in line.
"Ah, we're next! There's no more time to think!" The girls stood in front of their chosen waterfalls and sipped water from the small ladles placed there.
The school bag-shaped omamori (protection charm) shown above is only 500 yen!
"Wow, I never thought you would choose the one for luck in love," K teasingly said. H ignored her, quickly deciding the next place she wanted to visit.
"In order to have our wishes granted quickly, let's visit all the love spots!"
And that's exactly what they did. For example, the picture above shows them standing under a torii that's emblazoned with the name of the god of marriage!
"Wow, even the ladles have different wishes written on them!" said K while snapping some photos.
The most interesting thing to see at Jisha Shrine is the set of Love Fortune Stones. These two holy stones are placed 10m apart, and it is said that if you can walk from one of them to the other safely with your eyes closed, then your love wishes will come true!
"I want to try! Can you give me directions from the other stone?" H asked K, making her way to the starting location. She was determined to succeed.
"If you succeed with my help, I wonder if that means your future boyfriend will be someone I introduce to you," K said while laughing and guiding H towards the other stone.
After spending time exploring the grounds of Kiyomizu Temple, the girls grew hungry.
"We only have 100 minutes here, so I want to use our time effectively!"
They eventually decided to get take-out food from a nearby restaurant. There were lots of small food stalls in the area, but which one should they go with?
"I read about this tofu restaruant on a gourmet website! We don't have time to slowly eat a full meal, but I've heard their tofu manju (yeast bun with filling) are very popular!" H said, drooling while staring at the store.
They ended up buying two tofu manju, one for each of them. The outside was fluffy like a cake, and the inside was filled with shaved vegetables and okara (soybean mash leftover after making tofu). They had a simple yet delicious flavor!
"This tofu manju is so good, I could eat about ten!" K proclaimed with delight.
"You're exaggerating! But if we come here again, I do want to go inside and take my time having a full-course tofu meal!" replied H, wishing that they had a little bit more free time.
Okutan Kiyomizu is a restaurant that serves seishin ryori (vegetarian cuisine originally derived from the dietary restrictions of Buddhist monks), so they have lots of dishes made with tofu. The velvety smooth texture of their tofu is one of the true charms of visiting Kyoto.
After eating the delicous tofu manju, K wanted to eat something sweet, so she used her phone to look up wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) places with good reviews in the area.
Fujinami Kiyomizu Branch
A closeby shop called "Fujinami" appeared to have really high ratings on a Japanese gourmet site, so they decided to give it a try. Once they arrived, they were greeted by a delicous smell. Inside the shop, freshly grilled dango (sticky rice dumplings) were being dipped in a special tare (sweet soy sauce glaze) and soft squares of mochi were being covered in kinako (roasted soybean powder).
If you order the Dango Warabi Set (900 JPY), you can enjoy mitarashi dango (mochi dumplings with tare) and warabimochi (mochi squares covered in kinako) together with some special chilled matcha (powdered green tea) called "Rakusui"!
"Thank you, phone, for letting us eat some delicious mitarashi dango!" praised K, right before taking the last bite.
H bought some more Rakusui, this time in its bottled form, saying, "This is also amazing! The matcha is slightly sweet and the drink really quenches your thirst, getting rid of any tiredness. It's the perfect drink for summer!"
Satisfied with their delicious meals, the girls took a stroll down Yasaka Street (Yasaka-dori). The old-fashioned buildings lined on both sides of the street really made them feel like they slipped back in time through a time machine!
Nearby you'll find Yasaka Koshin-do, which is a location that has become quite popular on social media recently.
Despite its small size, the temple was surrounded by a large crowd of visitors. It seemed like they were all there to see the colorful kukurizaru (small, round, monkey-shaped talismans).
"The monkeys have their hands and feet bound, which represents taking control of your desires. So these talismans are meant to help grant the wishes of people who hope to take control of their greed or bad habits," explained K. She had researched this place long ago, and had wanted to come visit ever since.
"It seems like our friends have already been here! We should take a picture with a good pose too!"
The two stood in front of the colorful display, their hearts filled with excitement.
"Oh, make sure to watch the time! It's almost time to us to go back to the meeting place!"
Kinkaku Temple (45 minutes)
"It's a good thing we joined this bus tour, because the buses for Kinkaku Temple are always so crowded!" said K. The last time she visited the temple, the waiting times for the buses were so long that her travel schedule got messed up!
All they had to do was step off the bus to be left in awe. "So, this is the world-famous World Heritage Site! Seeing the gold-plated temple in person... well, it's more magnificent than I thought it woud be! I want to touch the gold..." H wistfully said, all while looking at the reflection of the temple on the surface of Kyoko Pond (Kyoko-chi).
"Just touching the gold leaf isn't enough; let's go eat some!" said K, with a mysterious grin.
Kinkaku Soft is a soft-serve ice cream store. Here, they place gold leaf prepared by an artisan on the soft-serve ice cream to make a luxury product. Not only are there limited servings of this per day, but it is the only ice cream of its kind in all of Kyoto! The gold leaf used for this ice cream is a special type that's made especially for consumption, so anyone can feel safe taking a bite!
"I looked this place up online, and it seems that the matcha they use here is of very high quality and you can really taste the complexity of the matcha flavor," said K. She ordered a matcha and vanilla ice cream, and in just one bite, gave it perfect marks. "The matcha and the vanilla are both delicious. You can also add soybeans or small mochi dumplings as toppings, which I find really cool!"
Each cone of ice cream costs 950 JPY. While that may sound expensive, it's of such high quality that it really is worth trying at least once!
Since their time was up, K and H reluctantly departed from Kinkaku Temple to head towards their next destination - the Arashiyama area.
Arashiyama (90 minutes)
"We were so caught up in seeing the sights, we totally forgot to buy souvenirs!" said H, suddently remembering one of the most important parts of sightseeing.
"Don't worry! I've already looked up a good souvenir shop. I'm sure that you'll like it, too!" K said, guiding H there.
"They have Nihon Ichi Small Kompeito and Sekai Sai-ichi Small Kompeito! I think these will be the perfect thing to give to our friends!" H excitedly said. "Kompeito" are small, coloured sugar candy covered with tiny bulges.
"Besides those, they have lots of other goods related to kompeito! How about this earring?" K picked up a piercing made by Kyoame, looking at herself in a mirror.
Marun is a popular tourist spot in Kyoto that sells a lot of colorful and cute souvenirs. In addition to candy, they also sell jam, local sake, seasonings, dressings, and other foods made using ingredients local to the Kyoto area.
"I'm so thirsty from all the talking we've been doing! I wonder if there's a good place for drinks around here." H thought that it'd be a good idea to leisurely explore Arashiyama with a drink in hand.
"My phone says that there's a good place near here! Let's head there," K excitedly said.
When the girls actually arrived at the shop, their eyes were drawn to a different item - Tofu Soft Serve Ice Cream. This silky smooth ice cream is made with 100% Japanese ingredients, and is apparently so thick that you can hold it upside down without it dripping or falling out of the cone!
"We already ate ice cream earlier... but sweets don't make you full, right?!" said H, suggesting they order a cone to share between them.
"I agree! Besides, I want to test if you can really hold it upside down without it falling out!"
They ordered the shop's classic black sesame and kinako flavor.
"Wow, I really didn't think that we would be able to hold that ice cream upside down! But I'm rather full... should we go for a walk around the area?" H suggested.
"Okay! The Bamboo Grove (Chikurin no Michi) is really close to here, so let's go stroll through that!"
The two grabbed their coffee floats and headed toward the narrow walkway that goes through the lush, green bamboo forest.
The Bamboo Grove is an absolute must-visit location for those who come to Arashiyama. Going through the cool, lush bamboo forest is a great way to escape the hot rays of summer. In the winter, the grove is lit up, taking on whole new and incredibly magical atmosphere.
"It's so cool here! It feels like all my tiredness has gone away!" K took a deep breath of the pure and refreshing air, feeling totally refreshed.
"We actually have more time than I thought, so should we go see Togetsu Bridge (Togetsu-kyo)?"
This bridge is another one of Arashiyama's must-visit locations, and it just so happens to be the symbol of the area as well!
Many visitors come to this area to see cherry blossoms in the spring and fall foliage in the autumn.
"I didn't think the scenery would be so beautiful, even in the summer!"
The view of the green mountains together with the atmospheric Togetsu Bridge makes for a landscape so stunning, it looks like a painting.
"The more you look, the more you get entranced by the view! I think we'll be able to fall asleep right after getting on the bus."
The girls started to feel pleasantly sleepy while standing among the gentle breeze.
Why Take a Bus Tour?
"Looks like we were able to see more sights by not having to wait for buses!" said H as they walked back towards the tour bus.
"Bus tours like this combine the best parts of organized group travel and traveling alone. On top of letting you explore freely, it's also so cheap!" replied K, all while looking through the photos she took on her phone during the trip.
"Right? Now cough up the thanks!" H teasingly said.
"I will, but first, I think we should talk about this experience online!"
The two ended up posting pictures they took that day on social media, along with their thoughts and messages of thanks to the tour company.
Book Here! [From Osaka] Kyoto 1-Day Bus Tour
Tour Dates: January 1, 2019 - December 27, 2019
Cost: 3,000 yen - 6,000 yen
Meeting place and departure time:
- Umeda, Osaka (1F lobby of Hotel New Hankyu Osaka): 8:20 AM departure
- Namba, Osaka (Namba Parks 1F): 8:50 AM departure
This bus tour can be enjoyed even by those who are traveling alone, so make your reservation now to book an enjoyable and thrilling sightseeing trip around Kyoto!
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.