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Kyoto

Photo © Degolasse

Travel Guide Asia Japan Honshu Kansai Kyoto

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Introduction

Kyoto Shrine

Kyoto Shrine

© All Rights Reserved Peter

Kyoto, Japan's capital until it was moved to Tokyo in 1868, is considered by many to be Japan's most beautiful city. Only Rome lays claim to more designated Unesco World Heritage Sites than this city nestled amongst the mountains of Western Honshu. The magnificent array of temples and shrines include famous names like the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaju and the Ryoanji zen garden. Kyoto is a sightseers paradise and much can be taken in on foot, although don't expect it to be the first impression you get of the city on arrival. Urban sprawl and ultra modern buildings like the glass and steel main train station, show signs of a city embracing modern times despite it's deeply traditional roots. But once you do find yourself in areas like Old Kyoto wandering down alleys of traditional narrow, wooden houses you will learn to appreciate the great artistic heritage that defined Kyoto for over a thousand years.

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Sights and Activities

Buddhist Temples

The temple architecture in Japan was imported, along with Buddhism, from China around the 6th century. Some famous temples in and around Kyoto are:

  • Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavillion) is a three story temple with the top two stories being covered in gold leaf.
  • Ginkakuji (the Silver Pavillion) is a temple surrounded by a large tranquil Japanese garden.
  • Kiyomoizu Dera.

Shinto Shrines

Shinto is the state religion in Japan. However, it is not like a religion in a traditional sense, there is no founder, canon or holy book. It is more of a state of mind and way of life. Some important shrines in Kyoto are:

  • Fushimi Inari Shrine is a shrine dedicated to the gods of sake and rice complete with a 4km path lined with vermillion painted torii gates.
  • Yasaka-jinja.

Ryoanji Zen Garden

Ryōan-ji Zen Garden is one of the finest examples of a Zen garden anywhere in the world. 15 stones are placed in the garden in 5 groups. Gravel surrounds these 15 stones and is carefully raked each day by the temple's monks. The only vegetation you'll find here is some moss around the stones. The garden is designed to be viewed while sitting on the veranda. The stones are arranged in such a way that it is not possible to see all 15 stones at once (apart from aerially). It is said that only those that are enlightened would be able to see all 15 stones at once.

There are several other gardens at the temple also, including a water garden and tea garden. The temple and its gardens are part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Other sights and activities

  • Arashiyama is a peaceful area in the mountains about 20 minutes outside of Kyoto, includes Monkey Park and a lovely bamboo forest.
  • Gion is the home of the Geisha.
  • Path of Philosophy is a 30 minute walk from Eiakn-do to Ginkakuji.
  • Kyoto Imperial Palace is the residence of past emperors for more than 1100 years.

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Events and Festivals

  • Gion Matsuri - The Gion Matsuri is one of the most famous festivals in Japan. It originated as purification ritual performed to appease the gods, in hopes that they would remove the plague from their land. In modern day practice, this event lasts for the entire month of July; streets are filled with decorative lanterns and lined with food vendors. The festival culminates with the procession of a grand parade marked by its extravagant floats, and sounds of traditional Japanese drums.
  • Aoi Matsuri - The popular Aoi Festival features beautiful parades of horse-drawn carriages covered in layers of colorful and fragrant hollyhocks. This procession is intended to be a reenactment of the Emperor's officials delivering gifts to popular Japanese shrines. Onlookers can expect to see about 500 performers dressed in splendid ancient costumes and wearing traditional make-up.
  • Daimonji Bonfire Festival - During this festival, bonfires are lit on Kyoto mountain-sides in the shape of Japanese characters. The lighting of these fires has spiritual significance to some, as the hope is that these symbols will help light the way home for visiting souls. Hours: 8:00pm
  • Manto Nagashi - This annual event takes place on Arashiyama Togetsukyo Bridge. It's a ceremony where people write their wishes on lanterns and place them on the river. Some also use this practice to send off their ancestors' spirits. Hours: 7:00pm
  • Nehan-e Buddah’s memorial - Kyoto is home to many famous Buddhist Temples, and there are many religious ceremonies held in March to commemorate the life and death of Buddah. Special memorial services and events are held at these popular temples: Shinnyo-do Temple, Sennyu-ji Temple, and the Tofuku-ji Temple.

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Weather

Kyoto has a subtropical humid climate with warm, wet summers and drier but mild winters. Summers last from June to September when average highs are mostly between 28 and 34 °C and nights are between 19 and 24 °C. Winters from December to February see highs of 9-11 °C and lows of 0-2 °C. Most of the annual rain falls between March and October, while winters are relatively dry and there is a chance of snow from December to March, with 3-5cm a month on average.

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Getting There

By Plane

As Kyoto doesn't have its own airport, Kansai International Airport (KIX) and Osaka Airport (ITM) are the gateways to Kyoto (and Osaka/Kansai for that matter). The latter only serves domestic destinations.

By Train

Kyoto can be reached by train from Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Hiroshima and Fukuoka, among many other places. Check Hyperdia for more details about schedules and prices.

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Sleep

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
A-yado Gion3F Sakura bldg., 244-2, Nakano-cho, 2 chome ShinmHostel88
Amenity Hotel Kyoto Kiyomizu4-171 Kiyomizu Higashiyama-kuHotel-
Backpackers Hostel K's House Kyoto418 Nayachou Shichijo-agaru, Dotemachi-dori, Shimogyo-kuHostel91
bAKpAK Gion Hostel2-244 Miyagawa Suji Higashiyama-kuHostel86
Kyoto Bakpak Hostel1-234 Miyagawasuji Higashiyama-kuHostel-
Chita Guest Inn343 Takatsuki-choHostel86
Daiya Ryokan292, Nishi Tamamizu-cho, Higashihairu,Higashino ToHostel80
Eco and Tec Kyoto40 Sanjyoboucho AwadaguchiHotel88
Gion ShinmonsoShinmon Mae, Hanamikoji, Higashiyama Ku,Hostel-
Gojo Guest House3-396-2 Gojobashihigashi Higashiyama-KuHostel88
Gojo Guesthouse - Annex11-26 Komatsu-cho 4 Higashiyama-kuHostel89
Guest House Bola-Bola25-17 Horigauchi-cho Uzumasa Ukyoku Kyoto cityHostel87
Guest House Kyoto Costa del Sol134 Ebisu, Shinmachi, Gojo-sagaru Shimogyo-kuHostel84
Guest House Yahata544 Yahata-cho, Gojo-agaru Nishinotoin, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shiHostel84
Guesthouse Bon63-2 Kamimonzen-cho Murasakino Kita-ku Kyoto JapanHostel89
Hanakiya Inn583-101 Higashi Rokucho-me Higashiyama-ku, 605-0856Hostel88
HannariHigurashidori Shimodachiurisagaru Kushigecho, KamiHostel87
Ryokan HirashinTakoyakushi-dori Takakura-Nishi Nakagyo-kuGuesthouse-
Hotel Alpha KyotoSanjo-Agaru, Kawaramachi Nakagyo-KuHotel86
Hotel Sanoya Kyoto Station539, Higashishiokoji-cho Higashinotoindori-NanajoHostel-
Hotel Sugicho172, Moriyama-cho, Tomikoji-oike-agaru Nakagyo-kuHostel87
IchiEnSou4-2 Komatsu-Chou SijoSagaru 4 Choume YamatoOojiDouHostel93
Ikoi-no-Ie Kyoto885 Ushitora-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto cityHostel87
Ishicho ShogikuenKawaramachi Dori Takeya Higashi Iru, Nakagyo-kuHostel-
J-Hoppers Kyoto Guest House51-2, Nakagoryo-cho Higashikujo, Minami-kuHostel89
Hostel Kyotokko (ex Kyoto Cheapest Inn)783 Sabamatsu-cho, Marutamachi-dori Matsuyacyo Nis Kamigyo-kuHostel78
Kyoto Guest House The Earthship33-15 Naka-Adaticho Yoshida Sakyo-kuGuesthouse82
Kyoto Nissho Besso RyokanToninokoji nishi 13 Nakagyo-ku SanjoHostel-
Kyoto Travelers Inn91, ENSHOJI-CHO, OKAZAKI SAKYO-KUHostel-
Kyoto UTANO Youth Hostel29 Nakayamacho Uzumasa Ukyo-kuHostel87
Nagomi-Ryokan Yuu94 Kamiwakamiya-cho, Wakamiya-dori Rokujo Nishi-ir Shimogyo-kuHostel87
O-yado Sato93 Kamiwakamiya-cho Shimogyo-kuHostel87
Orange InnKita-Kinuta 8, NIshi-Nanajyo, Shimogyo-ku,Hostel74
Oyado IshichoKawaramachi Dori Takeya Higashi Iru, Nakagyo-kuHostel-
RokuRoku28-1 Nishiteranomae-cho Shishigatani SakyHostel86
Ryokan NihonkanHigashi Shiokoji-cho, Shichijo-sagaru, Karasuma-doHostel85
Ryokan SankiShimabara Nishi-Shinyashiki-Shimono-choHostel87
Ryokan WajimayaHigashi-iru,Karasuma,Kamijuzuyamachi, Shimogyo-KuHostel86
Ryokan Wakamiya701,Ebisuno-cho, Nishinotoinhigashiiru NanajodoriHostel86
Ryokan Yachiyo34 Fukuchi Cho Nanzenji SakyoHostel-
Sparkling Dolphins Inn KyotoKamigoreicho 56,Higashi Kujyo Minami-kuHostel77
Station Ryokan Seiki24-25 Kitakarasuma-cho Higashikujo, Minami-kuHostel85
Tomato Kyoto Station135, Shimizu, Siokoji-Horikawa-Nishi ShimogyoHostel84
Tomiya Ryokan, Kyoto Station545 Higashishiokoji-cho, Higashinotoin-nishiiru SHostel85
Uno House108 Marutamachi-Sagaru, Shinkarasuma-doriHostel-
Uoiwa RyokanNanajo agaru 143, Horikawa-dori Shimogyo-kuHostel87
Watazen Ryokan413, Izutuyatyo Nakagyoku,Yanaginobanba,Rokkaku,SagaruHostel-
Yamashiroya Ryokan517,shiokoji-cho,nanajousagaru,toudouindori shimogHostel-
Guest House RAKUZA2-255,Miyagawa-suji Higashiyama-kuHostel-
Nine Hours Kyoto Teramachi588 Teianmaeno-cho,Shijyo,Teramachi-dori Shimogyo-kuHostel-
TANAKA-ya5-352-8 Miyagawa-suji HigashiyamaHostel89
Guest House Kyoto401-1 Teppo-cho, Shimogyo-ku,Hostel87
Peace House Sakura (Sakura House)188-1 Kadowaki-cho, Higashiiru Gojo-agaru, Ymatooji-doori, Higashiyama-ku,Guesthouse79
Kyoto Hostel Kanouya493-3Aizenjicho SenbonHisgashi Kamichojamachi-st Kamigyo-ku Kamigyo-kuHostel84
Kyoto Backpackers House25-17,Hinooka Ishizukachou, Yamshina-kuHostel-
Kyoto City Hostel664 Jofukoji Kyotoshi KamigyokuHostel-
Kyoto Globetrotters HostelKyoto shi Kamigyoku 664 Jofukuji DoriHostel-
Guest Inn Kyoto174-5 hanayacho kushige nishiiru yakuenchoHostel74
Guest House NAGOMI108-6 Wakamiyayokocho Kamigyou-kuHOSTEL87
Urban Hotel Kyoto4-59 Nishiura-cho Fukakusa Fushimi-kuHotel85
Kyoto Namba Terrace Guest House334 Kamidachiuri Senbon Area Daikoku-cho -Kyoto-ShiGuesthouse-
Renjishi14 Shimokashiwano-cho, Murasakino Kita-kuHOSTEL87
Kyoto Hana Hostel229 Akezu-no-mon Dori, Kogawa-cho Shimogyo-kuHOSTEL91
Kyoto Guesthouse Roujiya22-58, Ikenouchi-cho, Nishinokyo, Nakagyo-kuHostel90
Ryokan Yamato2-537-1 Shoumenkudaru-yamatooji, Yamatoojidori HigHOSTEL-
First Cabin Kyoto Karasuma4F, Takanoha-Square, 331, Kamiyanagi-cho, Bukkoji-dori Higashi-iru, Shimogyo-kuHOSTEL-
Guesthouse Kingyoya243 Kankicho 3Chome Omiya-Teranouchi (Agaru-NishiiHOSTEL-
Hostel Mundo596 Tenbin-Tyo Kamigyo-kuHOSTEL88
Khaosan Kyoto Guest House568 Nakanocho, Bukkoji-agaru Teramachi-dori, Shimogyo WardHOSTEL91
Jiyujin524,Izumi-cho,gojo-sagaru, higashidouindori,shimogyou-kuHOSTEL90
Guesthouse VENTEN347-1,Inokuma KamigyokuHostel-
Kyoto Bed and Breakfast HostelKamidachiuri dori Jofukuji Sagaru 663Guesthouse-
Guest House Yamato539-26 6Chome 5Jyo Higashiyama-KuHOSTEL87
Capsule Ryokan Kyoto204 Tshuchihashicho Shimogyo-Ku, KyotoHostel88
Small World Guesthouse in Kyoto25-10 Shimotorida-Tyou Murasakino Kita-kuHOSTEL83
Guest House Kinta462,Matubarananseigomon-machi, Shinnmiyagawamachi-dori,Higashiyama-kuHOSTEL87
Hotel Honnoji522 Shimohonnioji Teramaemachi, Oike-kudaru Teramachidori, Nakagyo-kuHOSTEL-
Hostel HARUYA542-4 Furukawa-cho, Sanjo-dori, Shirakawabashi-nisHOSTEL87
Guest House AtagoyaSaga kurumamichi-cho 4-27 Ukyo-kuGUESTHOUSE89
Kiraku Inn Kyoto251, Umemoto-cho, Sinmonzen-dori, Higashiyama-kuHOSTEL-
Kyoto Jalan-do346 Isetacho Gokomachi Rokkaku sagaru Nakagyo-kuHOSTEL-
Guesthouse Waraku-anSannou-cho19-2, Shougoin Sakyou-kuHOSTEL-
Pan and Circus616 Azuchi-cho,Gojo-agaru,Kawaramachi-dori,ShimogyHOSTEL87
Jam Hostel Kyoto GionTokiwacho170 Higashiyama KyotoHOSTEL86
Oyama Guesthouse31-7,Miyanogocho, Kamikatsura NishikyokuHOSTEL-
Kyoto Tsumugi Inn28 Maeda-cho, Chudoji, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto CityGUESTHOUSE-
OKI's Inn542-2 Furukawa-cho Higashiyama-ku Kyoto-shiHOSTEL-
Guest House Itoya KyotoArimachi 202, Kamigyo-ku,HOSTEL-
Hostel HARUYA Aqua1-12 Waki-choHOSTEL90
Guest house Hennka KyotoSouzancho 1-12 Imagumano HigashiyamaGuesthouse-
Hostel Mundo Chiquito485 Aburanokoji Takeyachosagaru Hashimotocho NakagyokuHOSTEL90
Piece Hostel Kyoto21-2 Higashikujo HigashisannochoHOSTEL92
Santiago Guesthouse Kyoto6-503 Gojohashi Higashi, Higashiyama-kuHOSTEL88

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Keep Connected

Internet

Manga cafes are dotted along the streets of almost every city in Japan. For a very reasonable price (about ¥100 per 15 minutes), you receive a private cubicle with a PC with internet access at blistering Japanese internet speeds. The chairs are incredibly comfortable (making them an excellent place to sleep for the cash-deprived), and you can even order snacks and drinks from the staff.

A number of business hotels have Internet access available if you have your own device, sometimes for free. It is also possible to find Wi-Fi "hot spots" around many large cities in Japan, especially near tech-related businesses and large corporate buildings with unsecured wireless networks. 3G Wireless Data and Pocket Wifi are other options.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Payphones (公衆電話 kōshū denwa) are easily found, particularly near train stations, although with the popularity of mobile phones, public pay phones are not quite as numerous as they once were. Gray and green pay phones accept ¥10 and ¥100 coins and prepaid cards. Be aware that not all places with public telephones have phones that accept coins, so it may be worthwhile to buy a phone card for emergency use. Some of the gray phones, as indicated on the display, can make international calls. Pre-paid cards can be purchased at convenience stores, train station kiosk stores and sometimes in vending machines next to the phone.

Modern Japanese mobile phones (携帯電話 keitai denwa or just keitai) tend to operate on unique cellular standards not always compatible with the rest of the world. 3G phones using the UMTS/WCDMA2100 standard and equipped with a 3G SIM card will most likely work. If your phone is up to spec, double-check with your carrier if they have a roaming agreement with either SoftBank or NTT DoCoMo. Coverage is generally excellent, unless you are heading to some remote mountainous areas. If you have no 3G phone but still have a 3G-compatible SIM card, you can rent a 3G phone in Japan and slot in your card, allowing you to keep your home phone number in Japan. For a longer trip, you can also purchase a phone, but doing this legally requires an Alien Registration Card (or an obliging Japanese friend willing to front for you).

The easier way is to get a prepaid phone. Prepaid phones are sold in most SoftBank and AU stores. If you already have a 3G phone, go with Softbank as it can sell SIMs as opposed to au whose prepaid service is phone-based like most CDMA carriers. Prepaid phones use a "card" with a pass key to "charge" a phone with minutes. These prepaid calling cards, unlike the phone itself, can be found in most convenience stores. A prepaid cell phone is available for as little as ¥5000 plus ¥3000 for a 60-90 day call time package, which will get drained at a rate of ¥100 per minute (¥10 per 6 seconds for AU's prepaid service). Both SoftBank and AU offer prepaid phones.

Post

The Japanese postal service is excellent! Domestic and international mail service is very quick and reliable. The prices for sending letters, postcards and parcels vary depending on where you send if from and to which country you send it too, and of course depends on weight as well, so check this calculation page of Japan Post for more details. Post offices generally are open from 9:00am to 5:00pm on weekdays, closing at weekends and also on national holidays, though a few open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 3:00pm. Central post offices are sometimes open until 7:00pm, open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 5:00pm and on Sundays and holidays from 9:00am to 12:30pm. There are post offices in every major city and minor town. Another thing to remember is that the post office is one of the few places in Japan that is guaranteed to have ATMs that take international cards.

Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 35.098129
  • Longitude: 135.718735

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This is version 37. Last edited at 10:25 on Aug 21, 13 by Utrecht. 16 articles link to this page.

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