City of Kyoto / 京都

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Kyoto (map)  is the capital city of Kyoto Prefecture in the *Kansai region. Kyoto forms a part of the *Keihanshin metropolitan area along with Osaka and Kobe.

Kyoto is considered the cultural capital of Japan and a major tourist destination. It is home to numerous Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, palaces and gardens, some of which are listed collectively by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Kyoto contains roughly 2,000 temples and shrines

Prominent landmarks include the Kyoto Imperial Palace (map), Kiyomizu-dera (map), Kinkaku-ji (map), Ginkaku-ji (map) and the Katsura Imperial Villa (map).

+ More information > WikipediaWikivoyageUNESCO

In 794, Kyoto (then known as Heian-kyō) was chosen as the new seat of Japan’s imperial court. The emperors of Japan ruled from Kyoto in the following eleven centuries until 1869, when the court relocated to Tokyo.

The modern municipality of Kyoto was established in 1889. The city was spared from large-scale destruction during World War II and as a result, its prewar cultural heritage has mostly been preserved.

With its 2,000 religious places – 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, as well as palaces, gardens and architecture intact – it is one of the best preserved cities in Japan.

+ *Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)

Other sites in Kyoto include Arashiyama (wiki, map) is a nationally designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (wiki, map).

The Gion district (wikivoyage, map) in front of Yasaka Shrine (Gion Shrine, map). The flagstone-paved streets and traditional buildings of the Gion district, located to the north-west of Kiyomizu-dera, are where you’re most likely to see geisha in Kyoto, scurrying between buildings or slipping into a taxi.

The area just to the north of Shijō-dōri, to the west of Yasaka Shrine, is especially photogenic – particularly around Shinbashi-dōri and Hanami-kōji. Sannen-zaka (“three-year-slope”) and Ninen-zaka (“two-year-slope”), two stepped streets leading off from Kiyomizu-zaka, are also very picturesque – but watch your step, slipping over on these streets brings three or two years’ bad luck respectively.

Philosopher’s Walk (wiki, map), is a pedestrian path that follows a cherry-tree-lined canal.

Among the most famous temples in Japan are Kiyomizu-dera (wiki, map), a magnificent wooden temple supported by pillars off the slope of a mountain.

Kinkaku-ji (wiki, map), the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, officially named Rokuon-ji. It is one of the most popular buildings in Kyoto, attracting many visitors annually. It is designated as a National Special Historic Site, a National Special Landscape and is one of 17 locations making up the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which are World Heritage Sites.

Ginkaku-ji (wiki, map), the Temple of the Silver Pavilion, officially named Jishō-ji. It is one of the constructions that represents the Higashiyama Culture of the Muromachi period.

Ryōan-ji (wiki, map) is considered one of the finest surviving examples of kare-sansui (“dry landscape”). The temple and its gardens are listed as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Heian Jingū (wiki, map) is a Shinto shrine, built in 1895, celebrating the imperial family and commemorating the first and last emperors to reside in Kyoto.

Three special sites have connections to the imperial family: the Kyoto Gyoen area (map) including the Kyoto Imperial Palace (wiki, map) and Sentō Imperial Palace (wiki, map), homes of the emperors of Japan for many centuries.

Katsura Imperial Villa (wiki, map), one of the nation’s finest architectural treasures. Shugaku-in Imperial Villa (wiki, map), one of its best Japanese gardens. In addition, the temple of Sennyu-ji houses the tombs of the emperors from Shijō to Kōmei.

Kitamura Museum (wiki, map), comprises some 1,000 works including thirty-three Important Cultural Properties and nine Important Art Objects, with a particular focus on tea utensils.

The Kyoto International Manga Museum (wiki, map). Collected materials include Edo period woodblock prints, pre-war magazines, post-war rental books, and popular modern series from around the world.

National Museum of Modern Art (wiki, map) The gallery exhibits selected works of Japanese-style painting (nihonga), Western-style painting (yōga), prints, sculpture, crafts (ceramics, textiles, metalworks, wood and bamboo works, lacquers and jewelry) and photography from the museum collection, rotating the works on display approximately twenty times a year.

Kyoto National Museum (wiki, map) is one of the major art museums in Japan. The museum focuses on mainly pre-modern Japanese works (it is said to have the largest collection of Heian period artifacts) and Asian art. The museum is also well known for its collections of rare and ancient Chinese and Japanese sutras.

The Kyoto Botanical Garden (wiki, map) is a major botanical garden, it contains about 120,000 plants representing some 12,000 species.

Sen-oku Hakuko Kan (wiki, map) houses a large collection of Chinese bronze vessels, Chinese and Japanese mirrors, and a few Chinese bronze Buddhist figures.

Toei Kyoto Studio Park (wiki, map) is a theme park and film set modeled after the Edo period located in Kyoto, that opened its doors in 1975. It is situated in Toei Company’s Kyoto Studio where movies have been produced.

Nomura Art Museum (wiki, map). The collection, based on that built up by financier Tokushichi Nomura II, comprises some 1,700 works (paintings, calligraphic works, Noh masks, Noh costumes, and tea utensils), including seven Important Cultural Properties and nine Important Art Objects.

Kyoto is well known for its traditional festivals which have been held for over 1,000 years and are a major tourist attraction. The first is the *Aoi Matsuri on May 15. Two months later (July 1 to 31) is the Gion Matsuri known as one of the 3 great festivals of Japan, culminating in a massive parade on July 17.

Kyoto marks the Bon Festival with the *Gozan no Okuribi, lighting fires on mountains to guide the spirits home (August 16). The October 22 *Jidai Matsuri, Festival of the Ages, celebrates Kyoto’s illustrious past.

Public transport of Kyoto

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Transit Planner | Route Map

For sorting through transport schedules and fares, HyperDia is an invaluable companion; it computes to-the-minute directions including connecting trains, as well as buses and planes.

Arukumachi KYOTO Route Planner ( + Kyoto City Bus & Subway Information Guide

+ How to Get Around Kyoto City ( • Transportation in Japan (

 BUS >   Buses are plentiful in Japan, and over the last few decades they have evolved into a major mode of intercity transportation, especially for overnight travel. Major operators of intercity include • WILLER • JR Bus ( • >> (*Bus travel in Japan)

 RAIL >   JR Central • JR West • Kintetsu RailwayKyoto Subway >> Kyōto Station (map).

Central Japan Railway CompanyWest Japan Railway CompanyEast Japan Railway Company. >> (*Rail travel in Japan)

 AIRPORTS >   Itami AirportKansai International AirportKobe Airport. Most international flights arrive at either Narita Airport near Tokyo or Kansai Airport near Osaka; a smaller number use Chubu International Airport near Nagoya.

Japan has many great opportunities for bikers. Bike rentals can be found throughout the country, especially near popular routes. Some routes (like the Shimanami Kaido Bikeway, which takes you from Onomichi on the main island to *Imabari in Shikoku) have been set up specifically for bikers.

Aomori – Hokkaido

Inland Sea (Seto Naikai)

Kagoshima – Okinawa/Yakushima

  • Kagoshima – Amami-Oshima – Naha: A Line and Marix Line (26 hours, 14,610 yen)
  • Kagoshima – Yakushima: the Yaku-2 ferry departs every morning (4 hours, 4,800 yen) or there is the high-speed Toppy jetfoil (from 2 hours, 8,800 yen).

Sendai/Niigata – Tomokomai