[2019 Edition] The Ultimate Kyoto Travel Guide: Transport, Weather, and Where to Visit, Eat, and Stay!
Kyoto is full of amazing things to see, great places to shop, and delicious places to eat. This guide will introduce the unmissable sights, dining, and shopping options available in Kyoto, and give you all the information you need about Kyoto's events, accommodation, climate, transportation, and more. Whether you want to visit famous sites like Arashiyama or Fushimi for its famous sake breweries and the tori gates at Fushimi-Inari Shrine, this travel guide will help you make the most out of your trip!
Jun 17 2019 (Aug 21 2019)
Introduction to Kyoto
Kyoto is located in the Kansai region of western Japan, around 2.5 hours from Tokyo, and about 30 minutes by train from Osaka. Around 2.5 million people live in Kyoto Prefecture. This area is a popular tourist destination thanks to its many sightseeing attractions that offer a sense of Japan's history and culture.
Kyoto was the previous capital city of Japan before it was relocated to Tokyo. Kyoto became the capital of Japan when Emperor Kanmu moved it from Nara to what is now the Kyoto city area in the year of 794. Named Heian-kyo, Kyoto flourished as Japan's capital city for over a thousand years.
With this historical background, Kyoto saw the development of shrines, temples, historical buildings, and unique traditional arts and crafts, all of which shaped Kyoto's elegant cityscape and culture.
Historical shrines, temples, and streetscapes lined with stores that have been in business for hundreds of years remain to this day in areas like Higashiyama, located in the east part of the Kyoto city center, and Arashiyama to the city's west.
Kyoto Prefecture has many other historical and natural sights to see, including Fushimi, one of Japan's three major sake brewing areas; Uji, which is famous for its high-quality Uji tea; Miyama, a village with historical thatched buildings; and Amanohashidate, a sand bridge known as one of Japan's three top views. You can also enjoy shopping and dining in the Kawaramachi area in the Kyoto city center, and Gion, Kyoto's geisha district.
・Where is Kyoto Located?
Kyoto Prefecture is located in an area called Kansai in western Japan, on the island of Honshu. The north area faces the Sea of Japan, and its capital is the city of Kyoto. Neighboring prefectures include Osaka and Nagoya, both of which can be visited in merely an hour by train.
The gateway to this splendidly gorgeous prefecture for most tourists is Kyoto Station, one of the largest train stations in Japan. To try to fit a guide for the station in this article would be doing the station a disservice. Instead, we've decided to make a separate article for it! Before you visit, check out our guide to this beautiful station here, so you can hit the ground running when you arrive.
Weather in Kyoto
・Climate and Rainfall
Kyoto City, which is a particular hotspot for sightseeing, is located in a basin surrounded by the Hiyashiyama, Kitayama, and Nishiyama mountains. While Kyoto's rainy summer and dry winters are similar to the climate of the Setouchi Region, the mountains surrounding the city on three sides gives the city an inland climate with a wide variation in temperatures. The basin geography also means that the winds in Kyoto are typically mild.
This makes the seasons in Kyoto quite distinct. As summer approaches, Kyoto can see heat waves with extremely high humidity and temperatures of over 35℃. If you are visiting in summer, be sure to plan ahead for the heat. On the other hand, Kyoto's winters can be bone-chillingly cold. You may feel particularly cold when visiting Kyoto's shrines and temples as cold draughts can sometimes come through the wooden floors and sliding doors, so be sure to dress accordingly.
Main Sightseeing Areas in Kyoto
Kyoto is full of attractive spots that blend the old and new, including historical buildings and streetscapes, gorgeous natural scenery, and shops and buildings built in a modern Japanese style. Here are some of the popular spots you shouldn't miss while you're in Kyoto.
1. For a Sense of History: Higashiyama and Gion
Higashiyama, located in the east side of the Kyoto city center, is one of Kyoto's most popular areas. Here you'll find many notable shrines and temples, including Kiyomizu Temple with a stage that juts from the mountain; Kennin Temple, Japan's oldest Zen temple; and Yasaka Shrine, which annually holds the Gion Matsuri, one of Japan's three major festivals. Elegant stone-paved streets lined with souvenir stores and restaurants such as Ninen-zaka, Sannen-zaka, and Hanami-koji Street are also popular areas to experience Kyoto's unique atmosphere. One charm of the Higashiyama area is that, if you're lucky, you may catch sight of maiko, or apprentice geisha, in the area.
2. For Natural Beauty: Arashiyama
If you want to take in the seasons in a uniquely Japanese atmosphere, make sure to visit Arashiyama. Located to the west of Kyoto City, Arashiyama has been designated as a historical site and Place of Scenic Beauty by the Japanese government. Its spring cherry trees and autumn leaves beautifully color the mountain slopes here.
Togetsu Bridge over the Katsura River that runs through the center of Arashiyama and the 400-meter path through the bamboo forest here are symbols of Arashiyama, and draw many visitors.
There are plenty of other ways to enjoy Japan's natural beauty and culture in Arashiyama. Tenryu-ji Temple is known for its gardens designed to incorporate its large pond and the surrounding natural scenery. Other activities include the Sagano Scenic Railway, which runs from Torokko Saga Station to Torokko Kameoka Station, and the Hozugawa River Boat Ride, a thrilling 16km boat ride down the river that runs through the valley from Kameoka to Arashiyama.
3. For Shopping and Dining: Kawaramachi
Kyoto's main shopping area is known as Kawaramachi. Here you'll find a wide range of restaurants and places to shop.
Nishiki Market is an arcade with around 1300 years of history. Today, you'll find around 130 stores here. Known by locals and visitors alike as "Kyoto's kitchen", Nishiki Market is stocked with a wide range of groceries and street food including fish, local vegetables, tofu and yuba (tofu skin), and Kyoto-style pickles.
On the west bank of the Kamogawa River is Ponto-cho, a narrow stone-paved laneway lined with traditional townhouses, called machiya, and Japanese style restaurants. In the evenings, plover-patterned lanterns illuminate the street, lending it an even more elegant atmosphere.
The Kawaramachi area also has souvenir and fashion stores, restaurants, bars and gaming arcades, making this a modern area where you can enjoy shopping, dining, entertainment and more!
This, of course, is only the tip of the iceberg. Have a look at this list if you need more inspiration for sightseeing spots around Kyoto on your trip.
Kyoto Gourmet Guide
Kyoto's food scene is full of restaurants that offer high-quality cuisine carefully made from seasonal ingredients. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost: long-running traditional Japanese restaurants often require advance reservations, and there are many restaurants, particularly in Gion, where dinners can cost 10,000 yen or more. However, if you visit for lunch, it's possible to experience Kyoto-style cuisine at one of these famous restaurants for around 3,000 - 7,000 yen.
Kyoto specialties you should make a point to try when you're visiting include yudofu (tofu hot pot), made with tofu simmered in a kelp broth and paired with soy sauce or other sauces, and yuba. Other famous dishes include mackerel sushi and obanzai, a type of traditional home-style cooking that is very familiar to Kyoto families.
Of course, you can't miss trying Kyoto's matcha (powdered green tea) during your visit! Matcha is delicious to drink with traditional Japanese sweets, and also goes great in parfaits, ice cream, and baked sweets.
Uji in Kyoto is famous for being the leading tea-producing area of Japan. There are many shops in Kyoto where you can try foods and drinks made with Uji matcha, so be sure to give it a try.
Yatsuhashi and its variation, nama-yatsuhashi, are famous local Kyoto sweets. Yatsuhashi is made from steamed rice flour blended with sugar and cinnamon, and is baked in the shape of a traditional Japanese instrument called a koto. Nama-yatsuhashi is made with the same dough, but instead of baking, it's filled with bean paste and folded in a triangle shape.
Kyoto's main dining areas are concentrated within the city, and highlights include Ponto-cho, which is located on the west bank of the Kamogawa River (from Sanjo Street to Shijo Street), and Nishiki Market, which sells fresh ingredients and prepared foods unique to Kyoto. Gion is known for its high-end Japanese restaurants and traditional sweet shops, while the Kyoto Station area has underground shopping areas with plenty of places to eat and drink.
While you'll find many restaurants within the city open until late night, please be aware that restaurants in sightseeing areas like Uji and Fushimi often close earlier in the evenings.
Kyoto Shopping Guide
There are some striking differences between the types of products sold in different areas of Kyoto. When shopping in Kyoto, it's best to decide what area to visit based on the type of products you're looking to buy.
Kyoto's popular shopping areas like Kawaramachi and the Kyoto Station area have plenty of Kyoto souvenirs as well as fashion and department stores that stock the latest trends. Kyoto's big two sightseeing areas, Higashiyama and Arashiyama, have plenty of souvenir stores that sell traditional handicrafts, as well as items like Japanese-style accessories and sweets, so you can enjoy some shopping on your way to different sightseeing areas.
Gojo-zaka, nicknamed "Teacup Hill", is located close to Kiyomizu Temple. Here there are many potters that create Kyoto's unique Kiyomizu-yaki ceramics, and shops that sell their works.
The area at the east bank of the Kamogawa River between Sanjo and Shijo Streets is famous as a shopping area for antiques like ceramics and furniture. This area is not just famous within Japan! There are many antique lovers who come from overseas to shop here.
The Kyoto Museum of Traditional Arts Fureaikan, located near Heian Shrine, has a wide range of traditional Kyoto handicrafts that range from high-quality pieces to more affordable items. You're sure to have a wonderful time simply browsing these skillfully-crafted works.
If you're looking to efficiently shop for famous Kyoto products, then the basement food floors at the department stores in the Shijo Kawaramachi and Kyoto Station areas are the perfect choice. These stores have everything from traditional, long-running stores to up-and-coming patisseries all grouped on one floor, so you can compare all their offerings as you make your selections.
But of course, if all you want is to find some of the best souvenirs here, we've got you covered!
Events in Kyoto
There are many traditional and historical events held in Kyoto, and it's a great idea to come along to some while you're visiting. You'll be sure to connect with Kyoto's history and the people who live here. Here are a selection of the most important events in each season.
・Spring (March, April, May)
Spring in Japan means one thing: cherry blossoms! Cherry blossom season typically falls from late March to mid-April, and during this time Kyoto welcomes visitors from within Japan and all over the world.
There are many cherry blossom spots in Kyoto. Highlights include the Keage Incline, where around 90 cherry blossom trees bloom along a disused railway track, and the Philosopher's Path, a tree-lined path that runs along the Lake Biwa canal. Maruyama Park has large weeping cherry trees that are illuminated at night, while Ninna-ji Temple is known for its late-blooming cherry blossoms. Another famous sight is the Sakura Tunnel, a 200m section on the Randen Kitano line where the train passes through dense cherry trees between Narutaki Station and Utano Station. If that wasn't enough, here is a whole slew of other places for admiring flowers!
One of Kyoto's three major festivals, the Ao Matsuri (Hollyhock Festival) is held on May 15th (or May 16th in the case of bad weather). In this festival, a procession of 500 people adorned with hollyhock flowers and dressed in reproductions of traditional clothing from the Heian era parade from the Kyoto Imperial Palace to the Shimogamo and Kamigamo Shrines. You'll also see horses, ox carriages, large shades decorated with irises and peonies, and a portable shrine which holds the Saiodai, a local Kyoto woman chosen each year for the festival. The colorful and elegant procession makes for a gorgeous sight.
・Summer (June, July, August)
Every year from May 1st to September 30th, you can see a Kyoto summer highlight called kawayuka or (river floors). Kawayuka are terrace-like structures where meals are served. They often have straw mat flooring to sit on, and are built either over rivers or on the banks with views over the water. You can find kawayuka at a number of rivers in Kyoto, including the Kamogawa riverbanks and on the rivers of Kibune and Takao. The number of restaurants serving meals on kawayuka are increasing, so today you can enjoy not just kaiseki and Kyoto-style cuisine, but Italian, Chinese, and even yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) in this style. More and more restaurants are also offering kawayuka with table seating, too.
Of course, worthy of special mention is the Gion Matsuri, a festival considered not just one of the major three Kyoto festivals, but one of the major three in all of Japan. First held in the Heian era to pray for the end of a plague, this festival is run by Yasaka Shrine, and consists of a range of events through the month of July.
The Yamaboko Junko float parade held on the 17th and the 24th of July is also a must-see. A mikoshi (portable shrine) from Yasaka Shrine and 33 floats parade through the Shijo Karasuma, Shijo Kawaramachi, Kawaramachi Oike, and Karasuma Oike areas. Each float has their own characteristics, and the beauty of their embroidery and decorations has earned them the nickname of "portable art galleries". The Kyoto Gion Matsuri Yamaboko Junko parade has also been designated as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Property.
・Autumn (September, October, November)
In the Heian era, moon-viewing parties and boating were popular among the aristocracy during the mid-autumn harvest moon. The exact date of the harvest moon changes each year, but it falls around mid-September to early October. Even today, there are events that celebrate the harvest moon on autumn evenings all over Kyoto.
The most famous is the Kangetsu no Yube (Moon Viewing Evening) held at Daikaku-ji Temple in the Arashiyama area. On three mid-autumn evenings around the harvest moon, you can take in the beautiful sight of the autumn moon during a 15 to 20-minute boat ride on the large pond in the Daikaku-ji garden. There are two types of decorative boats used for this event: ryutosen, or dragon-head boats, and gekishusen, headed with a mythological Chinese waterbird. This elegant event allows participants to take in the sight of the moon and the natural beauty of the garden's pond.
The final of the three major Kyoto festivals is the Jidai Matsuri, or Festival of the Ages, held at the beginning of October. This festival, held by Heian Shrine, features a procession of 2,000 townspeople dressed in styles from different historical periods who parade from Kyoto's Imperial Palace to Heian Shrine. Clothing, hairstyle, and ritual goods from each period are recreated for the parade, and some participants will even dress as famous historical figures such as feudal lord Oda Nobunaga and Murasaki Shikibu, author of The Tale of Genji. This beautiful parade is sometimes called a "living picture scroll".
Kyoto is known for cherishing the natural beauty of each season, and there are also many famous spots where you can take in a view of the autumn foliage. Some highlights include the Jisou-in Temple with its "maple floor", where the vermilion leaves are mirrored on reflective polished flooring, and Eikando Temple, where leaves from over 3,000 autumn trees cover the gardens. Walking the grounds of Tofuku-ji Temple in the fall feels like strolling through a sea of autumn-colored clouds. There is also a 250m section of the Eizan Electric Railway line between Ichihara Station and Ninose Station where approximately 280 maple trees form what is called the "Maple Tunnel". The sightseeing train Kirara with seats that face its large windows offers an amazing view of these autumn colors.
While the exact dates the leaves change to red and yellow vary from year to year, typically the autumn leaf season in Kyoto is from early November to early December. If you're planning a trip to Kyoto around this time, make sure to include some autumn foliage spots in your trip.
・Winter (December, January, February)
From late November to early December, many temples hold an event called Daikon-daki, or Daikon Radish Cooking, to pray for health and prevention of illnesses. Each year on the 7th and 8th of December, Senbon Shakado (also known as Daihoon-ji Temple) serves flavored boiled daikon radish (1,000 yen). Origins of this custom vary from temple to temple, but at Senbon Shakado, Sanskrit characters were once written on sections of radish as a ward against evil spirits. Even today, these characters are written on the radish, which are prayed over before being sliced and cooked.
At Ryotoku-ji Temple, around 3,000 radishes are cooked and served to worshippers on the 9th and 10th of December. The radish served here is also known for the agedofu (deep-fried tofu slices) added to it.
Kyoto has some impressive New Year's events, too. Chion-in Temple's Joya no Kane ceremony, where the temple bell is rung 108 times to ring in the new year, takes a team of 17 monks working together to pull the ropes. The bell is rung 108 times because in Buddhism, this is said to be the number of kleshas, or emotional states that cause suffering. The striking of the bell is said to cast out the year's kleshas so that worshippers can start the new year with a pure mind. Many people gather each year to watch this show of strength. Gates open for worshippers at the shrine at 8:00 pm on New Year's Eve, but the bell ringing itself starts at 10:40 pm and goes until 12:20 am. People do start to line up to see this ceremony as early as around 7:00 pm, so it's best to come early.
Hatsumode is the name for the first shrine or temple visit of the new year, and it's a chance to offer thanks for the year that has passed and pray for safety and peace in the coming year. Countless people come to Kyoto each year for their hatsumode at the shrines and temples here. Popular locations are Heian Shrine and Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is famous for its thousand torii gates and its blessings for harvests and business. World Heritage sites Kamigamo and Shimogamo Shrines are also popular destinations. Many visitors also take this chance to buy a written fortune, called o-mikuji, which foretells their fortune for the coming year.
Have a look at some of the other big events in Kyoto and see if any of them intrigue you, as any one of these events would make for a memorable trip!
How to Get to Kyoto
Kyoto is located beside Osaka Prefecture, which has two airports: Kansai International Airport and Osaka International Airport (also known as Itami Airport). Limousine buses that go directly to Kyoto run from both of these airports, and bullet trains also stop at Kyoto Station, so Kyoto is easy to get to whether you're coming from inside Japan or from overseas.
Traveling Within Kyoto
Kyoto's subway network is underdeveloped in comparison to Tokyo or Osaka. This is because Kyoto's long history means that land must be surveyed for any buried cultural artefacts before any tunnels can be built. Large scale developments are also avoided in order to protect the town's scenery, which means many narrow streets and one-way lanes remain as they did in the past. While many of Kyoto's main sightseeing areas are concentrated within the city, these factors mean that you will likely need to use both trains and buses to get around. Make sure you plan the right transport so that your trip goes as smoothly as it can!
If there is a train station close to where you're going, this is usually the most convenient option. Trains aren't impacted by traffic conditions which can make for an easier trip. The main lines in Kyoto are the Kyoto Municipal Subway, JR, Keihan Electric Railway, Hankyu Railway, and Kintetsu Railway.
While the Kyoto Municipal Subway's standard fare of 210 yen is a little high in comparison to Tokyo or Osaka, you can take advantage of a number of discount passes. These include the Subway One-Day Pass (600 yen for adults, 300 yen for children) and the Bus & Subway One-Day Pass that includes the subway, City Bus, Kyoto Bus, and Keihan Bus.
There are three particular routes that are recommended for being a sightseeing activity in and of themselves. The Eizan Railway, which covers the route from Demachiyanagi to Kurama and Mt Hiei, has become popular with tourists for their sightseeing trains that offer views of tunnels of autumn leaves and other beautiful scenery. The Randen tram (Keifuku Electric Railroad) from Shijo Omiya to Arashiyama is loved by locals for being Kyoto's only tram line. The Sagano Scenic Railway that goes between Kameoka and Arashiyama gives a view of the changing seasonal landscape of the Hozugawa riverside and valley, and is particularly popular in the cherry blossom and autumn leaf seasons.
Kyoto City Official Travel Guide: Subways and Trains
The Kyoto bus system is complicated, and many travelers find it hard to know what bus they should catch. We've put together a few links below that you can use to plan your route in advance.
Kyoto City Bus has a flat fee ticket system for all stops (with some exceptions). Tickets cost 230 yen for adults and 120 yen for children. To use a Kyoto City Bus, board the bus from the back door. Once your bus passes the stop before the one you want to get off at, press the buzzer, and then pay your fare with an IC card or cash at the box by the driver's seat, and get off the bus at the front door.
Buses in Kyoto can fill up and have delays on the more popular sightseeing routes and during busy seasons, so if you're traveling by bus, be sure to factor in a little extra travel time just in case.
City Bus & Subway Route Map
Bus and Train Veteran (Route Planner)
* Child tickets are valid for children 6 to 11 years of age. (12 year olds will be counted as a child if still attending elementary school.)
Taxis are recommended if you're looking to easily navigate Kyoto's narrow and one-way streets. Many drivers are well versed in the area, so they can take both time and location into account to come up with the best route. The initial fare within Kyoto City is 450 yen. If you're traveling in a group, a taxi can sometimes work out to be more economical than a bus or train.
Foreign Friendly Taxis, which prioritize international tourists, are recommended if you're looking to get around Kyoto by taxi. They cost the same as regular taxis, but the drivers have undergone training in foreign languages and customer service. These taxis also accept credit cards and IC travel cards. Foreign Friendly Taxi stands are located at the taxi stands by JR Kyoto Station's Karasuma and Hachijo Exits.
PDF Guide: Foreign Friendly Taxi
If you have an international driving license, a rental car is a good option for times when you want to travel without worrying about set schedules or public transport coverage.
Public transport in Kyoto is affordable and convenient, but if you're traveling outside the city area or are in a group, a rental car can work out to be less expensive. However, when driving in Japan, please pay extra attention, especially at intersections where accidents often occur.
It's a good idea to avoid driving in busy times like Golden Week (late April to early May), Obon (mid-August), and the year-end holidays, as traffic jams that can extend tens of kilometers are not uncommon.
Bike rentals are the perfect way to go at your own pace while taking in the sights of the Kamogawa River or Kyoto's charming streetscapes, especially in the milder spring and autumn weather. Since you can stop to take in whatever sights catch your eye, you can enjoy your time in Kyoto just like a local.
Do be aware that, as a general rule, street parking is banned and can result in your bike being seized. You can park your bike at store parking areas or public bike parking lots. Also keep in mind that Kyoto City slopes from north to south, so traveling long distances uphill from south to north by bike can be very tiring and is best avoided.
Kyoto City Cycle Site
Travel by rickshaw is a very Kyoto-style way of getting around while taking in the sights. These carriages are pulled by people with the riders sitting in the back. You'll find rickshaw drivers working in the Higashiyama and Arashiyama areas, so if you see one, why not say hello and take a ride? The fares vary from company to company, but as a guide, a 30-minute ride costs around 7,000 yen for a solo rider, 9,000 yen for two people, and 13,500 for three people (in two carriages).
Kyoto Accommodation Guide
The rush to build more accommodation in Kyoto is continuing as the numbers of tourists increase. While this construction is alleviating issues the city has had in past years with accommodation availability, popular hotels continue to quickly book out, so it's best to make reservations early. Many visitors choose to stay in the Kawaramachi and Kyoto Station areas for their convenient transport options, as well as in the Higashiyama area for its wealth of tourist attractions.
If you want to relax and enjoy a little peace and quiet away from the crowds, the popular tourist areas of Arashiyama, Kibune, and Kurama are also recommended. While these spots have less nightlife to enjoy, accommodations are more likely to have hot springs, and are a great place to unwind surrounded by natural beauty.
You can look for accommodations by area or by your budget and requirements. As a major international tourist destination, you're bound to find accommodation that suits you in Kyoto.
Japanese hotels generally cost around 8,000 - 20,000 yen per person, per night. Most of them have concierges that can give you detailed local information about how to get around and where to eat. Recently, more of these concierge services are offered in different languages, so make a point to take advantage if you can. Another advantage to hotels is that there are a wide range of options that can meet your requirements and budget.
Stays at a ryokan (Japanese-style inns) typically fall in the 10,000 - 20,000 yen per person per night range. The exact range of services available will vary, but these are a good choice for anyone wanting to enjoy the local culture with tatami mats, yukata robes, hot springs, and Japanese gardens and architecture. The charm of a stay at a ryokan is that you can experience a sense of Japanese style in everything from the traditional in-room dining to seasonal Japanese decorations. If the ryokan has a public bath, you can unwind and relax while soaking in the bath during your stay as well. Here is a list of our favorites to get you started!
If you're looking to keep costs down, try staying at a business hotel. These hotels range from 6,000 - 10,000 yen per person per night, which works out to be a more affordable option than standard hotels or ryokan. The reason these hotels are cheaper is that they tend to provide more simple furniture, electronics, and amenities for your stay.
Since this type of hotel was originally developed for business travelers, they're often found in great locations close to train stations. The wealth of affordable, clean, and comfortable options has made this style of hotel more and more popular with international tourists in recent years, too.
A uniquely Japanese style of hotel worth experiencing is the capsule hotel, which range from 2,500 - 5,000 yen per person per night. These hotels provide just enough space for one person to sleep, and originally were developed as a place for office workers to stay if they missed the last train home.
Recently, they have become popular with tourists who are looking for affordable accommodation and a uniquely Japanese experience. Today, many "next generation" capsule hotels with stylish designs and plenty of amenities are being built. Once simple hotels that focused mainly on affordability, these new capsule hotels take pride in their style and comfort.
Guest houses are a popular choice among backpackers. Prices range from between 3,000 - 7,000 per person per night. They're not just affordable; they also offer communal spaces where you can get to know other travelers and locals. Guest houses with linked cafes and bars are becoming common, so you can experience real local hospitality while you chat with the owner or local customers.
* Stated price estimates may vary in busy periods.
Kyoto Tourist Information Centers
If you've lost your way or need help finding your destination, tourist information centers can help. There are many tourist information centers around, but we recommend going to ones that have received JNTO authorization. JNTO stands for the Japanese National Tourist Bureau, who categorizes tourist information centers using factors like location or function.
Here are three selections among the tourist information centers in Kyoto. All of these can handle enquiries in English, and some also offer support in other languages too. On top of that, they are conveniently located in areas that see many international visitors.
Take advantage of the tourist information centers here and you're sure to have a pleasant trip!
・Kyoto Tourist Information Center (Kyoto Station)
This center is a joint tourist information center for both Kyoto City and the wider Kyoto Prefecture. It provides advice about sightseeing and accommodation in Kyoto Prefecture, and also offers a range of other services including ticket sales.
Kyoto Tourist Information Center
・Kawaramachi Sanjo Tourist Information Center (Kawaramachi)
This center offers English language advice and information about sightseeing in the area, and also sells tickets for sightseeing attractions. The linked Gurunavi Information Center not only provides information about dining options, but it also has multipurpose spaces that can be used for anything, including nursing babies and praying.
Kawaramachi Sanjo Tourist Information Center (Multi-language webpage)
・Kokoka Kyoto International Community House (Keage)
Kokoka is located in the Okazaki area near attractions like Heian Shrine and Nanzen-ji Temple. With services that include a communal lobby, library, restaurant, and message corner (a space for distributing flyers), this center offers a wide range of information for not just tourists but the international community that live in Kyoto as well. Their official website provides information for help in emergencies or natural disasters, as well as guides for life in Japan, so this is a recommended page to bookmark just in case.
Kokoka Kyoto International Community House
Kyoto Emergency Information
・Doctors and Hospitals
If you fall sick or suffer an injury while in Kyoto, please consult the website below. On this site, you can search a database of over 900 medical facilities that accept international patients nationwide. The downloadable PDF guide to using medical facilities provides information on how to access medical help, a bilingual chart you can use to explain your symptoms, and a guide to help you in the case of earthquakes or other disasters.
If you lose something, get lost, or are the victim of a crime, visit a nearby koban (police box) or police station. The below website has answers to common questions about lost property, as well as emergency numbers for police stations in Kyoto Prefecture. Giving this information a read beforehand means you can enjoy your travels in Kyoto with peace of mind.
Kyoto Prefectural Police Information Guide
Downloadable PDF Guide: Information for Foreign Tourists [Crime Prevention and Bicycle Rules]
・Information for Muslim Travelers
Please consult the below website for information about Muslim friendly restaurants. You can refine your search by keyword, area, and type of food, so you're sure to find just what you're looking for.
Halal Gourmet Japan
Traveling from Kyoto
Whether by bullet train, plane, or bus, there are many ways to get to other major sightseeing areas in Japan including Hokkaido, Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Okinawa. Research the best option for your budget and destination to travel efficiently and comfortably in Japan.
・ Bullet Train (Shinkansen)
The Japan Rail Pass offers unlimited use of the entire JR rail and bus network, including travel by bullet train, which makes it great value. This pass comes with either a 7 day (29,100 yen) or 14 day (46,390 yen) validity. You can find our guide here to help you pick the right pass.
Depending on where you're going, travel by plane can be a faster way to cover long distances.
It takes around an hour and a half from Kyoto Station to Kansai International Airport by train. These trains depart approximately every 30 minutes and cost 2,250 yen each way. Limousine buses to Osaka International Airport (Itami Airport) take around 50 minutes and cost 1,310 yen. These buses leave around every 20 minutes, so their price, speed, and frequency make them a very convenient option.
One appeal of Japanese airlines is that you can experience Japan's unique level of hospitality. There are a lot of low-cost airlines emerging recently which allow you to get to another city quickly and affordably. At certain times of the year, morning and late-night flights from airports in the nearby Osaka can be as low as 5,000 yen return to Tokyo and Hokkaido!
・ Express Bus
Express buses are a good option if you don't want to spend too much on travel. They take longer than bullet train or plane, but fares can cost less than half the price of a bullet train ticket, so it's possible to travel for only a few thousand yen. At the cheapest times, it's even possible to get from Kyoto to Tokyo for as low as 1,500 yen. Taking the night bus means you can sleep while you travel, so definitely consider this option if you're looking to save money and make efficient use of your time as well. Enjoying local foods during breaks at service areas during your trip are also a fun aspect of traveling by express bus.
* All prices shown above fluctuate depending on the time and date of actual purchase.
・Kyoto to Hokkaido (Hakodate Station)
Bullet train: Approximately 7 hours 20 minutes (Tokaido Shinkansen from Kyoto Station → Tokyo Station → Shin Hakodate Hokuto Station → Hakodate Station)
Plane: Approximately 3 hours 50 minutes (Kyoto Station → Osaka International Airport → Hakodate Airport → Hakodate Station)
・Kyoto to Tokyo (Tokyo Station)
Bullet train: Approximately 2 hours 20 minutes (Kyoto Station → Tokyo Station)
Express bus: Approximately 7 hours (Kyoto Station Hachijo Exit → Tokyo bus terminals)
・Kyoto to Osaka (Shin-Osaka Station)
Train: Approximately 25 minutes (Kyoto Station → Shin-Osaka Station)
・Kyoto to Fukuoka (Hakata Station)
Bullet train: Approximately 2 hours 50 minutes (Kyoto Station → Hakata Station)
Plane: Approximately 3 hours 20 minutes (Kyoto Station → Osaka International Airport → Fukuoka Airport → Hakata Station)
・Kyoto to Okinawa (Naha Airport)
Plane: Approximately 4 hours 20 minutes (Kyoto Station → Kansai International Airport → Naha Airport)
* These estimates are minimum travel times. Actual times may vary depending on the time of day and traffic conditions.
Kyoto is welcoming more and more international tourists every year. Please refer to the information in this guide to help make your trip easier, more pleasant, and more affordable!
(Also, did you know that Kyoto is surrounded by other beautiful areas that you can easily reach by train? For instance, there's Osaka, a popular tourist destination with affordable dining options and a wealth of shopping areas. Nara offers abundant nature and historical streetscapes, and there's the sophisticated port town of Kobe in the neighboring Hyogo Prefecture. Consider adding them to your travel itinerary, too!)
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Note: All information is accurate at the time of publishing.
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.