Rent-a-Cycle Sightseeing in Kyoto! Explore Iconic Locations & World Heritage Sites
[Local College Students Tell All!] Rental bicycles are the recommended form of transportation for sightseeing in Kyoto. This is because sightseeing spots are scattered everywhere throughout the city. If you use the riverbed of Kamogawa River, you can access your destination while soaking up the beautiful seasonal scenery. Travel with us on this written journey from the student town of Demachiyanagi to World Heritage Sites like Shimogamo Shrine (Shimogamo Jinja) and Kamigamo Shrine (Kamigamo Jinja)!
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This is a bicycle course introduced by local college students that will take you around several World Heritage Sites in Kyoto!
Start Here! Student City, Demachiyanagi
The departure point will be Demachiyanagi Station on the Keihan Electric Railway and Eizan Railway. There are famous universities in the surrounding area, so you can find many students living in this area.
Demachiyanagi is where the Kamo River (Kamo-gawa) and Takano River (Takano-gawa) meet. After meeting, they form a river that runs through the center of Kyoto City. You can find the World Heritage Site - Shimogamo Shrine - and the neighboring Tadasu no Forest (Tadasu no Mori) in the triangular area between the two rivers. Further north along the Kamo River is the World Heritage Site, Kamigamo Shrine.
Below is a bicycle course that goes around these World Heritage Sites.
Stop By Before Your Departure!
Before your departure, it’s a good idea to stock up on some snacks and lunch for the journey. There are many benches and parks along the river, so you can spend some time relaxing while looking at the beautiful scenery.
During very cold or hot weather, another option is to grab lunch or tea at a cafe or restaurant around the area. These will be highlighted below.
On the east side of the station is Onigiriya-san, where you can purchase simple snacks like Onigiri (rice balls), Karaage (fried chicken), and Tempura (deep-fried fish and vegetables coated in a light batter).
Across the road from Onigiriya-san is a bakery called Bakery Ryugetsudo. Their specialty bread is Kurumi Bread (soft buns filled with walnuts). They also have a variety of sandwiches, hard breads, and sweet buns!
Let's Start! First Stop: Shimogamo Shrine
Time to depart! The first destination is Shimogamo Shrine.
With Demachiyanagi Station (accessible via the Eizan Railway) on your right, head west towards the two-lane Kawabata Street (Kawabata-dori).
Cross the crosswalk of Kawabata Street.
Takano River should appear before you. Cross over using the Kawai Bridge (Kawai-bashi).
As you cross the bridge, you'll see a small street on the right (north). Follow that street northwards.
As you go straight, you'll encounter a branch point. Take the left road that has a torii (Shinto shrine archway) gate.
After a short time, you'll reach the entrance of Tadasu no Forest. Bicycling is prohibited in this place, so turn left and aim for the bicycle parking area.
If you go as far as the west end of the shrine's grounds, you'll discover an entrance to the parking area at the corner. Park the bicycle, then after walking through the torii gate, you will see Kawai Shrine (Kawai Jinja) to the left. It is dedicated to a beautiful god that provides protection blessings for women.
Go straight past Kawai Shrine and through the second torii gate to reach the approach of Shimogamo Shrine, which heads north/south through Tadasu no Forest.
Tadasu no Forest is about 12ha, and contains trees that are between 200 to 600 years old from the Jomon period (around B.C. 10000 - B.C. 300). Enjoy strolling through ancient nature alongside a beautiful flowing river.
Shimogamo Shrine is surrounded by deep forests and woods. It is one of the oldest shrines in Kyoto, made before the Heian period (794 - 1185). There are 2 main buildings designated as National Treasures, as well as 53 buildings that are considered Important Cultural Assets of Japan. The god of Kamigamo Shrine is called Kamo-wake Ikazuchi, who people believe will protect aspects of their lives like marriage, easy childbirth, parenting, safety in traffic, and so on.
After the Shrine, Cycle the Riverbed!
After you're done with Shimogamo Shrine, aim for the riverbed of Kamo River!
When you leave the bicycle parking area, you'll find Shimogamo Main Street (Shimogamo Hon-dori), which runs north/south on the west side of the shrine. Cycle south along this street. You will see a gas station ahead. Pass through its front.
Continue straight ahead and you will see Aoi Bridge (Aoi-bashi) over the Kamo River.
Cross the bridge to the west side of the river.
After crossing the bridge, turn right quickly.
You should find a slope descending to the riverbed.
Go straight down the slope and continue pedaling straight. You will go north along the river.
The riverbed is being maintained as a park, and is a great place to have a snack while enjoying the view of the river. It is very popular as a cherry blossom viewing spot in the spring.
Definitely Visit Kitayama!
Head past two bridges - Izumoji Bridge (Izumoji-bashi) and Kitaoji Bridge (Kitaoji-bashi) - and then when you see the third bridge, Kitayama Bridge (Kitayama-ohashi), go up the slope on the left.
Head for Kitayama, where you can find many popular sightseeing spots. The area has a nice atmosphere with fashionable stores and cafes.
Go up the slope and over Kitayama Bridge. Cross the bridge to the east side of the river.
Go straight east along Kitayama Street (Kitayama-dori). The fence to the right-hand side borders Kyoto Botanical Garden. Go a little further, and you'll find the entrance gate to the botanical garden.
This is the gate of Kyoto Botanical Garden. This is the oldest public botanical garden in Japan. With a total area of approximately 240,000m², the garden holds about 12,000 kinds of cultivated plants. The recommended spot in the park is the circuit-style greenhouse, which is Japan's largest greenhouse. There is also a lawn area, cherry blossoms, rose garden, and plant ecology garden as well!
In The Green is a pizza restaurant next to the botanical garden. This restaurant bakes pizza in a wood-fired oven. They have a variety of dishes for lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. There are seats on the terrace where you can have a BBQ!
Malebranche is a cake shop representative of Kyoto that is diagonally opposite of In The Green (pizza restaurant above). There are lots of pretty cakes and limited seasonal cakes on show at this shop. One very popular cake is the Mont Blanc (chestnut and cream dessert). They use a variety of Japanese ingredients in their cakes, such as green tea, soybean flour, and black beans. Enjoy having cake at the shop, or feel free to request for take away!
Final Stop, Kamigamo Shrine
After enjoying the Kitayama area, head towards the final destination, Kamigamo Shrine.
Return to the riverbed and go further north.
Just before you get to the second bridge, Misono-bashi (Misono Bridge), head up the slope in front of the bridge.
After going up the slope, go straight ahead (northwards) and head towards the bridge.
Cross the bridge to the east side of the river (to the right).
After crossing the bridge, go straight ahead towards Kamigamo Shrine. Before the route to the shrine, visit a recommended cafe.
Cross the bridge, turn right, and go straight. You will find a pottery store that doubles as a cafe, Kamogama, on your left.
Kamogama is a pottery store that doubles as a cafe. It serves coffee, sweets, and macrobiotic dishes on top of one-of-a-kind ceramics. You can eat while having an outstanding view of the riverside. They also sell pottery and other goods. Customers can even participate in pottery-making courses!
*This place closed down in , .
After resting at Kamogama, return to where you crossed the bridge and head for Kamigamo Shrine.
Head away from the bridge and you'll eventually see the torii gate roundabout.
Follow the bicycle parking sign to the left side of the torii gate, and park at the bicycle parking lot north on the west side of the shrine. After parking your bicycle, go back to the torii gate roundabout.
A specialty of Kamigamo Shrine is Yakimochi, which is available from the confection shop, Aoiya Yakimochi Sohonten, that is located in front of the torii gate. Yakimochi is a Japanese sweet that is cooked with sweet red bean paste and coated with mochi (sticky rice cake). They have two flavors: Red beans coated with white mochi, and yomogi (mugwort) coated with yomogi mochi. Try having Yakimochi after visiting the shrine!
Kamigamo Shrine and Shimogamo Shrine are some of the oldest shrines in Kyoto. The deity of both shrines is called Kamo-wake Ikazuchi. It is worshiped for being the protector of the Demon's Gate, as well as for being the ruling deity of the imperial city's castle back when Kyoto was still the capital of Japan. An impressive part of the shrine is the pair of sandy mounds in front of the hall. It is called Tatezuna, and people believe that it is the place where deities descend. In addition to the main hall (honden and gonden) and national treasures in the shrine, it is home to many Important Cultural Assets of Japan, such as the Tower Gate (Romon Gate), Kamon Gate, and West Corridor (Nishiwatari Ro).
A rental bicycle allows you to feel the atmosphere of Kyoto a lot more deeply, since you can enjoy the scenery all the way to the destination or take interesting detours while traveling! Please do try using one at least once!
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.