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Kyoto, Japan

Kyōto (京都) was the capital of Japan for over a millennium and carries a reputation as its most beautiful city. However, visitors may be surprised by how much work they will have to do to see Kyoto's beautiful side. Most first impressions of the city will be of the urban sprawl of central Kyoto, around the ultra-modern glass-and-steel train station, which is itself an example of a city steeped in tradition colliding with the modern world.

Nonetheless, the persistent visitor will soon discover Kyoto's hidden beauty in the temples and parks which ring the city center and find that the city has much more to offer than immediately meets the eye.

Districts

Though dwarfed in size by other major Japanese cities, Kyoto is vast in terms of its rich cultural heritage - the material endowment of over a thousand years as the country's imperial capital. The city's numerous palaces, shrines, temples,... Read more

Kyoto, Japan

Destination:

Kyōto (京都) was the capital of Japan for over a millennium and carries a reputation as its most beautiful city. However, visitors may be surprised by how much work they will have to do to see Kyoto's beautiful side. Most first impressions of the city will be of the urban sprawl of central Kyoto, around the ultra-modern glass-and-steel train station, which is itself an example of a city steeped in tradition colliding with the modern world.

Nonetheless, the persistent visitor will soon discover Kyoto's hidden beauty in the temples and parks which ring the city center and find that the city has much more to offer than immediately meets the eye.

Districts

Though dwarfed in size by other major Japanese cities, Kyoto is vast in terms of its rich cultural heritage - the material endowment of over a thousand years as the country's imperial capital. The city's numerous palaces, shrines, temples, and other landmarks are spread out over the following districts:

  • Central - Site of

    Nijō Castle

    (a former residence of the Tokugawa shōguns) and the stately grounds of the Imperial Palace. The district's southern end is anchored by the massive glass-and-steel building of the city's main gateway, Kyoto Station.
  • Arashiyama

    (Western Kyoto) - Set against the beautiful tree-covered hills of Arashiyama, this district is rich in both historic and natural wonders.
  • Higashiyama (Eastern Kyoto) - Nestled between the Kamo River and the temple-studded mountains of Higashiyama, this area's many attractions include the famed geisha district of Gion and the historic sites strung alongside the well-known Philosopher's Path.
  • North - Graced with scores of centuries-old shrines and temples, including several World Heritage Sites. One of Kyoto's most famous attractions - the magnificent gilded pavilion of Kinkaku-ji - can be found here.
  • South - This district covers a large part of Japan's former capital, stretching from the Ōharano area in the west to Fushimi-ku, Daigo, and the southern tip of Higashiyama-ku in the east.

Understand

Nestled among the mountains of Western Honshu, Kyoto was the capital of Japan and the residence of the Emperor from 794 until the Meiji Restoration of 1868, when the capital was moved to Tokyo. During its millennium at the center of Japanese power, culture, tradition, and religion, it accumulated an unparalleled collection of palaces, temples, and shrines, built for emperors, shoguns, and monks. Kyoto was among the few Japanese cities that escaped the allied bombings of World War II and as a result, Kyoto still has an abundance of prewar buildings, such as the traditional townhouses known as machiya. However, the city is continuously undergoing modernization with some of the traditional Kyoto buildings being replaced by newer architecture, such as the Kyoto Station complex. Kyoto is also home to Japan's second most prestigious university, Kyoto University.


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Kyoto, Japan: Port Information


You can get to Kyoto from a cruise port in Kobe, Osaka or Maizuru.
Take an organized tour. Besides, Kyoto is easily accessible by train from each of the ports mentioned above.

Get around Kyoto, Japan


The sheer size of the city of Kyoto and the distribution of tourist attractions around the periphery of the city make the city's public transport system invaluable.

One of the easiest ways to plan a route is through Hyperdia. This website contains station-to-station route plans, which reference public and private trains and subways as well as buses throughout Japan.

If you are planning to travel beyond city limits you might consider using the tickets from Surutto Kansai. For use in west Japan, including Kyoto, there are some other useful tickets: a rechargeable smart card, ICOCA, can be used on rail, subway and bus networks in the Kansai area and also Okayama, Hiroshima, Nagoya (Kintetsu trains) and Tokyo (JR East trains). These cards are available at vending machines at these rail stations. For use in Kyoto only there are some other useful tickets:

  • The Kyoto Sightseeing Card can be used for unlimited travel on the subway and city buses as well as a part of the Kyoto bus route. 
  • The Traffica Kyoto Card can be conveniently used up to face value on all subways and buses by simply sliding it through the ticket gate. They offer a 10% bonus value.

By train

Kyoto is criss-crossed by several train lines, all of which are clearly sign-posted in English. Although the lines are run independently and prices vary slightly between them, transfers can be purchased at most of the ticket machines. The Keihan train line can be useful for traveling in eastern Kyoto, while the two Keifuku tram lines are an attractive way of traveling in the northwest. Across the street from the northern terminus of the Keihan Line is the Eidan Eizan line, which runs to Mount Hiei and Kurama. The Hankyu Line starts at Shijo-Kawaramachi downtown and connects to the Karasuma Line one stop later at Karasuma. It's useful for reaching Arashiyama and the Katsura Rikyu; it runs all the way to Osaka and Kobe. JR lines run from Kyoto station to the northwest (JR Sagano line), to the southwest (JR Kyoto line) and to the southeast (JR Nara line). There are local and express trains so check if they stop at your station before you get on.

By subway

There are two subway lines which only serve a rather small part of the city. The north-south running Karasuma Line runs under Kyoto Station, and the west-east running Tozai Line links up with it near the city center. Both are useful for travel in the city center but not really suitable for temple-hopping. The Tozai Line does connect with the Keihan Line, however, which runs parallel to the Kamo-gawa, and is convenient for reaching Gion and southern Kyoto; it also gets you within a short walk of many of the sights in eastern Kyoto.

By bus

The bus network is the only practical way of reaching some attractions, particularly those in north-western Kyoto. Fortunately, the system is geared toward tourists, with destinations electronically displayed/announced in English as well as Japanese. Unlike other Japanese cities, a tourist probably is advised to use the buses here.

Confusingly, however, there are two different bus companies in Kyoto, which occasionally even have overlapping line numbers. Green-and-white Kyoto City Buses (市バス shi-basu) travel within the city, and are the most useful for visitors; unless otherwise noted, all buses listed in this guide are city buses. Red-and-white Kyoto Buses travel to the suburbs and are generally much less useful.

Many buses depart from Kyoto Station, but there are well-served bus stations closer to the city center at Sanjō-Kawabata just outside the Sanjō Keihan subway line, and in the northern part of the city at the Kitaōji subway station. 

The municipal transport company publishes a very useful leaflet called Bus Navi. It contains a route map for the bus lines to most sights and information. You can pick it up at the information center in front of the main station.

  • Raku Bus - The city has three routes (100, 101, and 102) which are specifically designed for foreign tourists wishing to hit the tourist spots quickly. The buses skip many of the non-tourist stops and are thus a faster way to get from one sight to the next. The Raku Bus leaves from platform D2 at Kyoto Station. 

By bicycle

Particularly in spring and fall, but at any time of year, getting around by bicycle is an excellent option. Cycling forms a major form of personal transport year-round for locals. The city's grid layout makes navigation easy. The city is essentially flat, excepting a few places in the lower parts of the surrounding hills where you may have to climb a bit or park your bike to visit on foot. You can rent bicycles in many places in Japan for a reasonable price. During the peak tourist seasons, when roads are busy and buses tend to be crammed beyond capacity, bicycles are probably the best way to navigate Kyoto.

Kyoto's wide, straight roads make for heavy traffic in many parts of the city, but it is possible to find back alleys that are quieter and offer better chances to happen upon all sorts of sightseeing/cultural gems. Riding on major roads is OK, especially if you are confident and used to riding with traffic on the road, rather than on the sidewalk and especially again if you are used to riding/driving on the LEFT-HAND side of the road.

Be aware that it is forbidden to park your bike where it is not explicitly authorized, in which case it could get towed and you would have to pay a fine to get it back. So you will have to find a legal bike park near the place you want to visit and pay for it. It will not be the preferred transportation means if you have planned to go to a district and visit it by foot along a non-circular route (like the Philosopher's Path in Higashiyama).

  • Kyoto Cycling Tour Project (KCTP), ☎ +81 75-354-3636. A five-minute walk from the North Exit (the side with the buses and Kyoto Tower) of Kyoto Station. They can hold on to your luggage while you are riding. There are four other locations of KCTP and you can return your bike to any location, however, you will incur a charge if you return the bike to a location other than the one you rented from. Guided bike tours are also available that include guide, bike rental, lunch/snacks, accident insurance and admission to some attractions on the tour. Minimum of two people to guarantee departure/maximum of 10. Needs to be reserved three days in advance if you want a tour. Don't worry if the mountain bikes sell out - Kyoto (like Tokyo) is a city with perfect kerb transitions so an 8 speed with basket and bell is fine if a little bumpy on the river path.
  • There is a friendly bicycle rental shop across the street from the Keihan Demachiyanagi station, behind the taxi rank. Has 22" children's bikes which come with a free helmet. Opens early (< 9AM) - 7 PM.
  • There is a small rental shop just north of Sanjo Keihan station on Kawabata Dori that rents bicycles, which doesn't have "tourist signs" attached. On the downside, they do not speak English. 

What to see in Kyoto, Japan


Kyoto offers an incredible number of attractions for tourists, and visitors will probably need to plan an itinerary in advance in order to visit as many as possible.

Japan National Tourist Organization's self-guided "Kyoto Walks" pamphlet enables first-time visitors to tour the city with ease and with minimum fuss by providing bus numbers, names of bus stops and clearly marked walking routes. There are a variety of self-guided walks in different districts to sample Kyoto's various sites. 

World Heritage Sites

In 1994, 17 historic sites were inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List under the group designation Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. Fourteen of the listed sites are in Kyoto itself, two are in the neighboring city of Uji and one is in Ōtsu.

Listed by location, the fourteen World Heritage Sites in the city of Kyoto are:

Imperial Palaces and Villas

Stroll through the regal retreats of the Imperial Palace or one of the two Imperial villas with gardens and teahouses managed by the Imperial Household Agency. These are the Imperial Palace (京都御所 Kyōto-gosho) and Sentō Imperial Palace (仙洞御所 Sentō-gosho) in Central Kyoto, Katsura Imperial Villa (桂離宮 Katsura-rikyū) in Western Kyoto, and Shūgakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮 Shugaku-in-rikyū) in Northern Kyoto. All four of these sites are open to the public by reservation through the Imperial Household Agency. The gardens located within the precincts of each palace and villa are at their most scenic during spring cherry blossom season and autumn where a riot of colors enchant visitors. Each property is still used from time to time for official state functions or for private visits by the current royal family members.

The Imperial Household Agency maintains a quota on the number of visitors to each site per tour. Admission is free. English guides are available at the Imperial Palace; however, tours of the Sento Imperial Palace, Katsura Villa, and Shūgakuin Villa are conducted in Japanese only (English pamphlets are given at each destination upon entry and books are available for purchase if you'd like to know more). Overseas visitors can apply online to the Imperial Household Agency in English here. On its website are write ups and videos in English for interested visitors to gauge which ones they would like to visit before making an online application. Please note that advanced applications first become available on the first day of the month, three months in advance of the applicant's preferred touring month. For example, if your preferred date of visit falls in the month of April, you can begin applying on January 1. As these visits are over subscribed by the Japanese and overseas visitors, the Imperial Household Agency has to draw lots to pick the successful applicants. All applicants are notified on the status of their applications whether they are successful or otherwise within a week after closing date. Most applicants to the Imperial Palace are accepted, and early reservation is not usually necessary; however, those planning to visit the Sentō Imperial Palace or either of the Imperial Villas should apply on the first available day of application as they are highly competitive and entire months of tours often become full within the first few days. Winter tours are typically much less competitive, but be aware that the gardens will not be as beautiful as other times of the year.

If an applicant is not successful, they can still go direct in person to the Imperial Household Agency Kyoto Office to enquire whether there are vacancies, as they typically save a few spots for walk-ins. Many people are able to do this successfully for the Imperial Palace, but it can be more of a risk for the others, so go early. Address: Imperial household Agency Kyoto Office, 3 Kyotogyoen, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto, 602-8611, tel: +81-75-211-1215.

What to do in Kyoto, Japan


Public baths

Public baths have been a cornerstone of society for centuries in Kyoto. The first public baths, or sentō (銭湯), were documented in the 13th century. Soon they became one of the few places in society where social status was irrelevant. Noblemen shared baths with commoners and warriors. Today over 140 bath houses remain in Kyoto. Funaoka Onsen is the oldest of these and dubbed "king of sentō", but newer bathhouses and super sentō are just as much part of the Japanese bathing culture. If you have the time, make your way to one of the many public bath houses Kyoto has to offer.

  • Funaoka Onsen (船岡温泉), Kyoto, Kita Ward, Murasakino Minamifunaokacho 82-1 京都市右京区太秦東蜂岡町10 (take bus line 206 from Kyoto station), ☎ +81-75-441-3735. 15:00 - 01:00. Funaoka Onsen is one of the oldest public bath houses in Kyoto still in operation. Its classic building is an excellent example of bath house architecture of the beginning of the 20th century. Funaoka Onsen is popular with both locals and visitors and is a must if you have an hour to spare. 

Film industry

Kyoto is the traditional home of the Japanese film industry and while it has declined since its heyday in the 1950s, to this day, the majority of Japanese period dramas (時代劇 jidaigeki) continue to be produced in Kyoto.

  • Toei Kyoto Studio Park (東映太秦映画村 tōei uzumasa eigamura), Kyoto, Ukyo Ward, Uzumasa Higashihachiokacho 10 (take bus line 75 from Kyoto station), ☎ +81-57-006-4349. 09:30 - 16:30. Toei Kyoto Studio Park is an active film studio which continues to be used for the filming of period dramas. Visitors may visit the outdoor sets used in many samurai movies, and if they are lucky, could potentially observe the filming of a period drama.

Meditation

Well known for its abundance of historical sites, Kyoto often draws visitors eager to experience traditional Japanese culture. Buddhist meditation sessions are one of the most popular of these activities, and multiple options are available. In Northern Kyoto, Taizo-in and Shunko-in (both sub-temples of Myoshin-ji) offer authentic Zen meditation sessions, complete with explanations of the meaning and significance of such meditation. Reservations are necessary.

Blossom viewing

Cherry blossoms

Kyoto is arguably the most well-known place in the country to view cherry blossoms, and there is certainly no lack of options. On the Official Top 100 cherry blossom spots list, three are in Kyoto (Arashiyama, Daigoji, Ninnaji).

Eastern Kyoto is particularly popular during the cherry blossom season. A walk from Nanzen-ji to Ginkaku-ji along the Philosopher's Path, lined with cherry trees, is enjoyable, as there are a variety of temples and shrines to stop at along the way. The garden of the Heian Shrine, not far from the Philosopher's Path, features colorful pink blossoms, which is a nice contrast to the white blossoms you'll see on the Philosopher's Path. The famous cherry tree in Maruyama Park is often the center of attention in the evenings when it is lit up. Vendors line the pathway leading up to it, creating a festive atmosphere. Kiyomizu-dera and Kodai-ji have extended hours during the first few days of this season offering visitors the opportunity to view them at night, lit up against the blossoms. Blossoms can also be seen along the Kamogawa River. The entire area literally blossoms in the spring!

In Central Kyoto, the northern section of the Imperial Park is home to a variety of different types of cherry blossoms. Nijo Castle hosts its own Nijo Light-Up, in which visitors can walk the grounds of the castle at night among the cherry blossoms (typically for 10–14 days). You cannot enter the castle during the light-up, so those who want to enter should visit during the day to see the castle and the blossoms. Just south of Kyoto station, the grounds of Toji Temple bloom beautifully below the towering pagoda.

In Arashiyama, a large portion of the mountainside is bright with cherry blossoms, along with the area around Hankyu Arashiyama Station. During the day, many people enjoy viewing the blossoms on the mountainside from the "Romantic Train" that travels through Arashiyama. At night, the area is lit up and food stalls are set up with a variety of delicious snacks.

Northern Kyoto offers cherry-blossom scouts worthwhile experiences at Hirano Shrine and Kyoto Botanical Gardens, and a walk inside the large grounds of Daigo-ji in Southern Kyoto is certainly made memorable when all the blossoms are in full bloom.

Plum blossoms

Although they are less well-known to foreign tourists, who tend only to focus their attention on seeing cherry blossoms, for those with plans to visit Kyoto from mid-February through mid-March, plum blossom viewing makes for a great alternative. Kyoto has two popular plum blossom locations; Kitano Tenmangu and the Kyoto Botanical Gardens, both in northern Kyoto. Kitano Tenmangu has a large grove of plum trees just outside the shrine entrance that you can stroll about. Within the shrine grounds, there are many more trees (viewable for free). The shrine even hosts annual performances by geisha amidst the plum blossoms. Plum blossoms have a very pleasantly distinct fragrance. These Japanese ume trees are actually more closely related to apricot trees. However, an early mistranslation by the Japanese resulted in these trees being called "plum" trees instead.

Festivals and events

  • Setsubun (February 3 or 4) A large bonfire and Shinto ceremony is held at Yoshida Shrine.
  • Cherry Blossom Season (April 1–15; days vary depending upon the weather) Although viewing the blossoms is enough for many, special events are often held throughout the city. (See "Cherry Blossoms" above)
  • Aoi Matsuri (May 15) Beginning at Kyoto Imperial Palace, a large procession dressed in Heian Period garbs walks to Shimogamo Shrine and finishes at Kamigamo Shrine.
  • Gion Matsuri (July 17) Many Mikoshi are paraded through the streets. It is considered to be one of the top three festivals in Japan.
  • Daimonji Gozan Okuribi (August 16) The hillside in Northwestern Kyoto is lit aflame in this festival honoring one's ancestors. Candle lanterns are floated out in Hirosawa Pond.
  • Jidai Matsuri (October 22) People dressed in traditional garbs parade to Heian Shrine.

Tours

MeetUs Kyoto offers various cultural activities hosted by locals. The project is organized by university students, and they will translate between English and Japanese during the tour (usually locals don't speak English.) More than 15 things to do are listed and each has specific available dates (Japanese hairstyle arrangement and Kimono, for example, is not available on Monday). 

What to eat and drink in Kyoto, Japan


Eat

If the first thing on your mind is a bite to eat, there are several restaurants on the tenth and eleventh floors of the Isetan department store attached to Kyoto station. Most of the offerings are Japanese, including a veritable Ramen village, with a few casual Italian cafes as well. If you have a lot of money, Kyoto is also an excellent place to experience kaiseki (懐石), which is a meal of many small courses and a quintessential type of Japanese fine dining; in Kyoto, this will typically entail a private room with traditional Japanese architecture.

Matcha

Kyoto and the nearby city of Uji are well known for matcha (抹茶 maccha) or green tea, but visitors don't just come to drink the tea; there are a wide variety of matcha-flavored treats. Matcha ice cream is particularly popular, and most places selling ice cream will have it as an option. It also shows up in a variety of snacks and gifts.

Yatsuhashi

Yatsuhashi (八ツ橋) is delicious Kyoto snack, made from rice flour and sugar. There are two types of yatsuhashi: baked and raw. The hard yatsuhashi was originally made using cinnamon and tastes like a crunchy biscuit. Today, while the biscuits remain the same, you can also buy hard yatsuhashi dipped in macha and strawberry-flavored glazes.

Raw yatsuhashi, also known as hijiri was also made with cinnamon, but the cinnamon is mixed with bean paste and then folded into the hijiri to make a triangle shape. Today, you can buy a wide variety of flavors, including macha, chocolate and banana, and black poppyseed. Many of the flavors are seasonal, such as the sakura (cherry blossom) yatsuhashi available in the spring and mango, peach, blueberry, and strawberry, available from May to October.

Although yatsuhashi can be purchased at most souvenir shops, the best place to purchase raw yatsuhashi is the famous Honkenishio Yatsuhashi. While other stores may carry yatsuhashi, this is the place to find all of the seasonal flavors, as well as free samples. Most of these shops are located in Higashiyama. The most convenient for tourists is probably the one on Kiyomizu-zaka, just below the entrance to Kiyomizu-dera.

While many tourists find raw yatsuhashi to be a delicious (and highly affordable) souvenir, be aware that it only lasts for one week after purchase. Baked yatsuhashi on the other hand, will last for about three months. Consider this when deciding what gifts to take home with you.

Other specialties

Other Kyoto specialities include hamo (a white fish served with ume as sushi), tofu (try places around Nanzen-ji temple), suppon (an expensive turtle dish), kaiseki-ryori (multi-course chef's choice that can be extremely good and expensive), and vegetarian dishes (thanks to the abundance of temples), particularly the vegan shōjin ryōri, which isn't cheap, but has a great reputation for quality.

Drink

Kyoto's night scene is dominated by bars catering to local needs, most of which are located in Central Kyoto around Kiyamachi, between Shijo and Sanjo. This area offers a wide variety of drinking options for all types of people. You'll also have no trouble finding the host and hostess bars, courtesy of the staff pacing around out front trying to entice visitors. There are plenty of options beyond this street in other regions, but with such a large concentration of bars along in the same area, it's easy to locate a place where you feel most at home to relax.

Sake

Some of Kyoto's most famous sake comes from Gekkeikan Brewery in the Fushimi area of Southern Kyoto. A 400-year-old brewery that still produces great sake, Gekkeikan also offers tours of its facilities.

Shopping in Kyoto, Japan


There is a nice selection of reassuringly non-tacky traditional souvenir shops around Arashiyama station in Western Kyoto, selling fans and traditional sweets. More tacky stores can be found in Gion and the approach to Kiyomizu Temple, selling keyrings, cuddly toys, and garish ornaments. Other traditional souvenirs from Kyoto include parasols and carved wooden dolls.

More unconventional but colorful (and relatively cheap) souvenirs are the wooden votive tablets produced by Shinto shrines, which bear an image relevant to the shrine on the reverse. Visitors write their prayers on the tablets and hang them up, but there's no rule that says you can't take it with you.

Manga and anime enthusiasts should visit Teramachi Street, a covered shopping street off the main Shijo-dori, which boasts a large manga store on two floors, as well as a two-story branch of Gamers (a chain of anime stores), and a small two-story anime and collectables store.

Many ATMs in Kyoto do not allow non-domestic credit cards to be used, but ATMs in post offices and Seven-Eleven usually do. So if you find your card rejected or invalid in an ATM then try and get to a post office (郵便局 / yuubinkyoku or JP (in orange letters)) to use their ATMs instead. Look for the PLUS or Cirrus logos, whichever you find printed on the back of your ATM card. Another option is Citibank, which should work, too. There is an old standby international ATM at the top floor of Takashimaya Department Store at Shijo/Kawaramachi in the "Cash Corner." The bank of ATMs in the basement of the Kyoto Tower shopping center (across the street from JR Kyoto Station) also includes one machine where international cards may be used.

Splurge

In the shopping areas adjacent to Kiyomizudera (on the other side of the Kamo River), it is possible to purchase samurai swords and top of the line kimonos. 

Kyoto incense is also famous. It usually has a very delicate yet fragrant bouquet. You will be able to find it between Nishi and Higashi Hongwanji.

Damascene

Damascene, a special metal created by imbedding other metals, originated in Damascus, Syria over 2000 years ago and was first introduced to Japan in the 8th century. Since then, it has ceased production worldwide with the exception of Kyoto city, which continues producing it even today. The technique used to create Kyoto's damascene is quite complex, as it must be corroded, rusted, and boiled in tea, along with inlaying many layers of metal to produce the final product. Today, visitors can purchase a variety of jewelry, as well as vases, tea utensils, lighters, and other accessories made using this technique.

Safety in Kyoto, Japan


Street crime is extremely rare. Of course, little crime does not mean no crime, and it is no excuse to ditch your common sense. Women traveling alone should take care as they would in their home countries and should never hitchhike alone.

Pickpocketing does sometimes happen: if you take your usual precautions in crowded places, you should be fine. 

The infamous yakuza (ヤクザ) (Japanese gangsters) may have earned a partly undeserved reputation of being a bunch of violent, psychopathic criminals due to their portrayal in various films. However, in reality, they almost never target people not already involved in organized crime. Just do not find trouble with them, and they will not bother you.

Red-light districts in large cities can be seedy but are rarely dangerous for visitors, but some smaller backstreet bars have been known to lay down exorbitant cover charges or drink prices. In some extreme cases, foreigners have reported being drugged at such establishments and then charged for as much as ¥700,000, or close to $7000, for drinks that they do not remember ordering. Never go into a place that is suggested by someone that you just met, and you will avoid that problem.

Note that drug laws in Japan are stricter than those in many Western countries. The Japanese do not distinguish between hard and soft drugs, so possession of even personal-use quantities of soft drugs can land you a prison sentence of several years. Do not assume that just because you have a prescription from your home country that you can take it to Japan. If you have prescription drugs, check with the Japanese Embassy prior to your departure to find out whether or not your medicine is allowed in Japan. If it is illegal, they should also be able to give you information regarding what medicines you can buy in Japan to use in place of your prescription while you are there.

Police boxes (交番 kōban) can be found on every other street corner. The police are generally helpful (although they rarely speak English), so ask if you get lost or have any trouble. They usually have a detailed map of the area around showing not only the difficult-to-understand numbering system but also the names of office or public buildings or other places that help to find your way.

Also, if you carry travel insurance, report any thefts or lost items at the kōban. They have forms in English and Japanese, often referred to as the "Blue Form". For lost items, even cash, filling out this form is not wasted effort, as Japanese people will very often take lost items, even a wallet full of cash, to the kōban. If you happen to find such an item, take it to the kōban. If the item is not claimed within six months, it is yours. If it is claimed, you may be due a reward of 5-15%.

Japan has two emergency numbers. To call the police in an emergency, dial 110 (百十番 hyakutoban). To call for an ambulance or fire truck, dial 119 (a reversal of the US 911). 

Language spoken in Kyoto, Japan


The Japanese spoken in Kyoto is a distinctive dialect, which may be a little difficult to understand if you have just started learning Japanese. While standard Japanese is universally understood, it is not uncommon for locals to reply in dialect even when spoken to in standard Japanese. If you don't understand, just politely ask the person to repeat what they say in standard Japanese (標準語 hyōjungo) and they will usually oblige. The Kyoto dialect is similar to the Osaka dialect, with a lot of shared regional vocabulary, but unlike the rough-sounding Osaka dialect, is typically regarded as being very elegant and gentle compared to standard Japanese.

As Kyoto is a very touristic city, the staff at most tourist attractions have a functional command of English. Outside of that, English is generally rarely spoken. Other foreign languages such as Italian, French, Korean or Mandarin may be spoken by some staff at the main tourist attractions due to a large number of tourists speaking those languages.

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http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 ||| Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Ginkaku-ji, Kyoto, Japan
Average: 9.8 (10 votes)

Ginkaku-ji (銀閣寺, lit. "Temple of the Silver Pavilion"), officially named Jishō-ji (慈照寺, lit. "Temple of Shining Mercy"), is a Zen temple in the Sakyo...
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ ||| Public domain Nanzen-ji, Kyoto, Japan
Average: 9.3 (10 votes)

Nanzen-ji (南禅寺, Nanzen-ji), or Zuiryusan Nanzen-ji, formerly Zenrin-ji (禅林寺, Zenrin-ji), is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. Emperor Kameyama...
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 ||| Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto, Japan
Average: 9.7 (10 votes)

Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺), officially Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera (音羽山清水寺) is an independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. The temple is part of the...
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5 ||| Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Shoren-in, Kyoto, Japan
Average: 9.2 (10 votes)

Shōren-in (青蓮院) is a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan. Also known as the Awata Palace, it was built in the late 13th century. Shinran Shonin, the...
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5 ||| Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Nijo Castle, Kyoto, Japan
Average: 9.6 (10 votes)

Nijō Castle (二条城, Nijō-jō) is a flatland castle in Kyoto, Japan. The castle consists of two concentric rings (Kuruwa) of fortifications, the Ninomaru...
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0 ||| Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Tenryu-ji, Kyoto, Japan
Average: 9.1 (10 votes)

Tenryū-ji (天龍寺)—more formally known as Tenryū Shiseizen-ji (天龍資聖禅寺)—is the head temple of the Tenryū branch of Rinzai Zen Buddhism, located in...

Latest travel blogs about Kyoto, Japan




Arashiyama. Horin-ji And Srine Of Electricity


Before my trip to Japan, I read on the internet about the shrine of electricity. And while walking through  Kyoto , I thought that it would be nice to visit such an original place. However, it was not. I decided that I wouldn't forgive myself if I did not go there. Arashiyama  is...

I finally arrived in  Kyoto ! Hurray! I was glad to leave boring Nagoya. It was May 8 when I made it to  Kyoto ! As for Kyoto, I had some prejudice and a skeptical attitude: it's a popular tourist place, where EVERYONE wants to go. The town is famous for its temples. But it's...
Hongan-ji  was founded in 1591. But by order of Tokugawa Ieyasu, it was divided into two parts: East (Higashi) and West (Nishi). This was done to weaken the influence of the large Buddhist sect. So, there are now two large temple complexes in the center of  Kyoto . Let's start with...
I continued walking around  Kyoto (Kyoto. Sanjusangendo and Kiyomizu-dera. P.1). I reached  Kiyomizu-dera . Here's some information about the atomic bomb. There was a nasty turn in the weather, it to drizzle. But I was elated, and it was just an unfortunate misunderstanding...
I came to  Kyoto , took a map, and set off. It was overcast. On the way, I visited a convenience store, bought coffee and onigiri, had breakfast, and went to the  Sanjusangendo  Temple. Such a difficult name, try to say it out loud :) It means "Thirty-Three Length...
Higashiyama is one of the preserved historical districts of the city. There you can feel the atmosphere of ancient  Kyoto . I came out of the  Kiyomizu-dera Temple and saw a lively picture. Several streets lead down from Clear Water Temple: Kiyomizu-zaka,...
Yasaka Shrine  is located in the Gion district. The temple was built in 656 and is dedicated to the mighty god Takehaya Susanoo-no Mikoto, his wife Kushi-Inada-Hime-no Mikoto, and their eight children. This is a Shinto shrine. It is often called a joss house. The place is very...