Kyoto was the ancient capital of Japan and is home to a large number of temples and shrines, several of which are World Heritage listed. These sites, combined with some well preserved areas and architecture make Kyoto an attractive city to visit; indeed tourism is a major part of the economy. For foreign visitors, the city’s proximity to Tokyo makes a short trip feasible and very worthwhile.
I found Kyoto to be, like Tokyo, an excellent place to explore on foot. The city tourist association produces a ‘Kyoto City Map’ which includes some recommended walks. I did three of them, described below, and can recommend them all. The three chosen take in all the major attractions of the city, including the Kiyomizudera Temple, the Golden and Silver pavilions and the Ryoan-ji stone garden.
I’ve scanned the relevant parts of the map for each walk – the walk routes are marked by a solid red line.
1. Kiyomizudera Temple and Gion, home of the Geishas
This walk takes in the very popular and World Heritage listed Kiyomizudera Temple as well as the district of Gion, traditional home of the Geishas and many other interesting and attractive temples. I found Kiyomizudera Temple lived up to its reputation – and it was very busy the day I was there (Saturday).
The walk could be started anywhere along the route, but the easiest access points are probably Keihan-Shijo station or walking/taxi to Kijomizudera Temple or Heian Jingu Shrine.
2. The Path of Philosophy
This walk takes in more temples including the excellent Ginkakuji Temple (Silver Pavilion). A large part of the route follows a path by one of the old canals called the “Path of Philosophy”. I found this section to be particularly atttractive.
The obvious points to start this walk are at either end – the southern end is easily walkable from the Heian Jingu shrine, the northern finish point of walk #1 and the northern end is served by a bus stop (Ginkakuji-michi).
3.The Ryoan-ji Stone Garden and the Golden Pavilion
This walk is based in the Kinkakuji/Uzumasa Area. The two major highlights are the Ryoan-ji Temple and its stone (dry) garden and the Golden Pavilion at Kinkakuji Temple (which is a replica, the original was burned down). I particularly like Japanese gardens, and both the Ryoan-ji and Kinkakuji Temples have fine examples that are worth exploring.
Access is via train to Uzumasa Koryuji station or cab. I took the train there and then hopped in a taxi at Kinkakuji Temple (there were plenty available) to return to my hotel.
Access to Kyoto: Probably the easiest way to get to Kyoto from Tokyo is via the Shinkansen (Bullet train), which takes between two and a half and three hours. If arriving from Tokyo airport on the JR train and continuing straight on to Kyoto, allow yourself plenty of time to change trains – it’s quite a walk from the airport express platforms to the Sanyo Shinkansen tracks that are used by the trains to Kyoto – it took me a bit over 20 mins to transfer and I was travelling fairly light.