Once the capital of Japan, Kyoto is renowned for its many beautiful examples of Japanese religious architecture, landscape, and traditional Japanese atmosphere. As the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, this beautiful city is located an easy 30-minute train ride from Osaka or you can travel from Tokyo to Kyoto in a little over two hours.
Travel to Kyoto is very rewarding for first-time and returnee travelers. While in this great historical city, you’ll see shrines and vestiges of the past along with all the modern sights that embody Japan. You can also find great dining and entertainment options while in Kyoto.
Often visited during a trip to Japan, many travelers don’t consider their voyage to Japan complete without seeing this land of temples and shrines. Indeed, Kyoto is one of the most popular destinations in Japan.
With its landlocked location firmly in the center of southern Honshu, Kyoto makes for a great place to begin other trips from. With close proximity to Osaka, Nagoya, Hiroshima, and Shikoku, Kyoto can make your visit to Japan even easier to see some amazing sights. It’s time for you to travel to Kyoto.
Getting to Kyoto
Osaka to Kyoto
From the KIX Airport in southwest Osaka to Kyoto Station will take you about 1 hour and 46 minutes and the one-way fare costs 1,910 yen. From Kansai-Airport Station, take the Osaka Loop Line for Osaka Station and transfer there. The Tokaido-Sanyo Line will get you to Kyoto the quickest unless you want to take the shinkansen.
Tokyo to Kyoto
There are a couple of options if you want to travel from Tokyo Station to Kyoto Station. If you want to spend less money, why not consider a night bus, such as Willer Express? It takes about 6 hours but will typically run less than 5,000 yen. You typically arrive in Kyoto in the very early morning and are dropped off at Kyoto Station. The much faster option, of course, is the bullet train or shinkansen, which takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes with a cost of 14,000 yen; this becomes a great value if you’ve got the JR Rail Pass.
Get around Kyoto
Unless you’re traveling by bicycle, buses are probably the best way to get around Kyoto to the hot spots that aren’t serviced by trains and the subway. Bus routes can be a bit confusing at first if you aren’t sure which bus to get on. Be sure to ask the driver if they will be visiting your destination if you’re not sure. Contrary to Tokyo buses, you enter the buses in Kyoto via their rear entrance. However, if you’re traveling with a group of three or more, consider using a taxi; it will cost roughly the same and be more comfortable.
Traveling Kyoto by train or subway is probably the easiest way to get from A to B in most cases. The city is on the main JR Tokaido/ Sanyo Shinkansen Line, connecting Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Kobe, Himeji, and Hiroshima to Kyoto! And if you’ve got a JR Pass, getting around Kyoto is simple with the plethora of lines, subways, and stops in the city. There are a few destinations outside of the city, such as Kinkakuji, that require the use of a bus or taxi.
With reasonable fares of about 580 to 640 yen for the first 2 kilometers, Kyoto’s taxis are a great way to get around for groups. Up to four people can fit inside. If you do decide to travel by taxi, Kyoto has some great private taxi-rental services, such as Kohno Jumbo Taxi. While most taxi drivers will know enough English for the tourist spots, it may be a good idea to have a business card on hand if you need to go back to your hotel.
Check out our guide on taxis for more information.
While renting a car to see parts of Japan is generally a good idea, Kyoto can be difficult to navigate and parking can be crowded and expensive. However, if you decide to voyage outside of the main city to more isolated areas, a rental car may be your best bet. Especially if you’re traveling with a group of friends or family. Otherwise, keep to the trains and buses for ease and cost-efficiency.
Regularly voted as one of the top cyclist cities in Asia, Kyoto has plenty to offer the adventurous cyclist. With mostly flat terrain and well-maintained streets and plenty of bicycle parking, it may just be the best way to see the city solo or in pairs. There are many rental shops to choose from but the most foreign-friendly is perhaps the Kyoto Cycling Tour Project. This company not only offers cycle rentals but also English maps and even guided bike tours.
With many destinations being located around subway stops, there are many elevator options to exit the stations. However, remote locations still lack the aids to assist people who require assistance. Buses and taxis do provide more accessibility, especially if you call and ask for a handicap-accessible taxi (fukushi takushii).
5 popular destinations
Travel from Kyoto Station to …
Reaching Kiyomizu-dera Temple takes only 30 minutes; you’ll actually be starting from Karasuma Nanajo, which is a 4-minute walk from Kyoto Station. At the Karasuma Nanajo bus stop, catch the Shiei 206 Bus for Higashiyama Dori and ride for 6 stops to Gojozaka. From Gojozaka bus stop, walk 15 minutes to reach Kiyomizu-dera Temple. There are many shops along the route for you to enjoy!
Take the JR Sagano/ San-in Main Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station. The one-way trip takes about 15 minutes. From the station, it’s a 10-minute walk to the bamboo grove; however, for an even more memorable experience, hire a rickshaw driver to take you around the area.
Hop on the Karasuma Line at JR Kyoto Station and ride until you reach Kita-Oji Station. From Kita-Oji, walk two minutes to the Kita-Oji Bus Terminal. A few buses (#101, 102, 204, 205) are available to take you to Kinkakuji-michi bus stop. Alternatively, hire a taxi for the ten-minute ride to Kinkakuji.
A 20-minute bus ride (#100 or 206) from Kyoto Station, the trip costs 230 yen one way; get off at Gion bus stop. If trains are more your style, ride the Keihan Line and disembark at Gion-Shijo Station. It’s a short walk from the station. Don't forget to visit Gion's Yasaka Shrine.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Ride the JR Nara Line to JR Inari Station, only two stops from Kyoto Station. in order to reach this massive shrine. Another route would be to use the Keihan Main Line and get off at Fushimi Inari Station; from there, it’s a short walk to the shrine.