|Kyoto Travel Information|
Kyoto is the heart of Japan. This may surprise some visitors – isn’t Tokyo this huge capitol metropolis? – but the history and beauty of the Land of the Rising Sun is all focused in this older city, from which the emperors ruled for almost 1100 years. Kyoto is a very safe place – that is why it was chosen as the capitol centuries ago. After bouncing around between a few locations and being treated to extreme weather or earthquakes every few years, in 794 AD the royal family moved to Miyako, or Heian-kyo, later renamed Kyoto (Capitol City). The ground is relatively stable, suffering little from the 10,00 earthquakes that hit Japan each year (don’t worry, most are too small to be felt). It is far enough from the Pacific and Japan Sea that storm surges aren’t a problem, and the mountains that surround the city on three sides shear off most of the wind from typhoons. As a bonus, Kyoto is also near a variety of exciting tourist spots in their own right. Nara was a short-lived capitol in early Japanese history, and hosts the oldest wooden structures in the world. Osaka is the economic heart of Western Japan and, as previously mentioned, offers all the electric paradigm excitement of Tokyo. And Kobe is an old beautiful port town, with a bay to the south and mountains to the north, where the oldest foreign communities all settled. A day trip away is Himeji, home of the White Crane Castle, often considered the benchmark for Japanese feudal architecture. Taken together, this region of Kansai offers the most diverse and complete experience Japan, or Nihon, has to offer.
Kyoto, with its hundreds of temples and gardens, was the imperial capital between 794 and 1868, and remains the cultural centre of Japan. Its raked pebble gardens, sensuously contoured temple roofs and mysterious Shintō shrines fulfill the Japanese fantasy of every Western cliché hunter.With an astonishing 1600 Buddhist temples, 400 Shintō shrines, a trio of palaces, and dozens of gardens and museums, Kyoto is Japan's cultural treasure house. Seventeen of Kyoto's ancient structures and gardens have been declared UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Kyoto is a sightseer's paradise. It is virtually a living museum of Japan's great artistic heritage. To explore it on foot, at least in each general area, is an intriguing and rewarding experience that creates unforgettable memories. Further, sightseeing is facilitated by the original basic grid pattern in which the city was first laid out. But whichever way you choose to view the treasures of Kyoto, you will never see enough - and never be disappointed.
Kyoto is well preserved as it was not destroyed during WWII. Many temples and shrines are in Kyoto that are worth visiting and it is difficult to see all of them. The Kyoto International Conference Center is located here which hosts many large conferences. With this conference center here and the fact that Kyoto is a large tourist attraction in Japan, you will see many non-Japanese people in Kyoto
Known for its Buddhist shrines, electronics corporations and delicious food, Kyoto is a favorite destination for travelers in Japan. Over a thousand temples still stand, as well as 17 World Heritage sites and imperial parks which are perfect for a stroll.
Kyoto, Japan’s most historically important town, is the country’s sightseeing capital, packed with 1,700 Buddhist temples, 300 Shinto shrines, imperial palaces, gardens and traditional wooden homes, all well preserved and presenting a picture of traditional Japanese culture. The city lies in the mid-western Kansai district on the island of Honshu, surrounded by plains full of rice paddies.
Visitors arriving from the Kansai International Airport or on board the famous Shinkansen bullet train at Kyoto’s modern central station may be disenchanted to initially discover a thriving, overcrowded industrial city with a straight grid of uniform streets presided over by the futuristic Kyoto Tower. The city may present a modern face, but explore behind the scenes in the outer districts or off the beaten track in the old merchants' quarters and you will glimpse cameos and images of traditional Japan, from cherry blossom to geishas, and bonsai trees to shoji screens.
Apart from the architectural legacy, which was fortunately spared the heavy bombings inflicted on other Japanese cities during World War II, Kyoto also boasts some of Japan’s most significant art works, a culturally traditional way of life, and superior cuisine. No visit to Japan is complete without devoting time to experience Kyoto.
Kyoto became the capital of Japan in the 8th century. It had flourished as the center for Japanese politics, economy and culture for some 1,200 years until the capital functions were transferred to Tokyo in the mid 19th century. There remain many temples and shrines that had been built during this long period. Seventeen historic sites including the Kiyomizu-dera Temple and the Nijo-jo Castle are designated as World Cultural Heritage sites.
Kyoto Prefecture is a sightseeing center where people worldwide return time and time again.From the end of the Nara Period (794), Kyoto has functioned as the crossroads of Japanese history. From its beginnings as the Kunikyo and Nagaokakyo settlements until the Emperor moved to Tokyo, it was the capital of Japan for over 1000 years. Even today, Kyoto is the cultural center of Japan, and continues to be loved by Japanese and people of the world alike.
The ancient capital of Kyoto, whose traditions have been matured through the ages, is now making startling advancements.Its rich culture and experience are being utilized in modern technological industries. For example, semiconductor and liquid crystal displays have been made based on the techniques of Kiyomizu Pottery. Traditional skills developed more than 1000 years in this ancient capital are now being utilized in cutting-edge technologies.
Furthermore, the people of Kyoto have produced many religious arts and forms of entertainment. Countless religious Shinto rituals and festivals have captured the imagination of people the world over. Among these, festivals such as Gion Matsuri that were lost in the turmoil of war have been restored, and continue to be carefully maintained traditions.The people of Kyoto as a matter of course open their cultural treasures the world. We hope you will enjoy the inexhaustible charm of Kyoto - its rich natural beauty, culinary culture and arts.
The Kyoto basin was first settled in the 7th century, and by 794 it had become Heian-kyō, the capital of Japan. Like Nara, a previous capital, the city was laid out according to traditional Chinese geomancy in a grid pattern modelled on the Chinese Tang dynasty capital, Chang'an (contemporary Xian).
The ensuing Heian period (literally 'Peace and Tranquility') lived up to its name. Over the next four centuries the city became Japan's cultural and commercial centre as well as its political hub. In this time, isolation from China allowed a native Japanese culture to emerge. Arts and literature flourished, spurred on by the development of a unique Japanese character set called hiragana , and the court reached the apogee of elegance.
However, while the city was to serve as home to the Japanese imperial family from 794 to 1868 (when the Meiji Restoration took the imperial family to the new capital, Tokyo), from the 9th century the imperial family was increasingly isolated from the mechanics of political power. In the provinces a new power was on the rise - the samurai or military class - with an armed force that defended the group's autonomy. Samurai families moved into Kyoto where they muscled in on the court, causing mayhem. This was the beginning of the Shogun feudal system, when a succession of military clans ruled the country until imperial power was restored in 1868.
Despite the decline of the court, Kyoto continued to prosper economically. The Ashikaga period was marked by flourishing arts and the construction of beautiful temples and gardens - many still standing today - but the rest of the country was slowy slipping into civil chaos. In 1467 a feudal argument ignited the most ferocious battle in Kyoto's history. The 90,000-strong Yamana army faced off against the 100,000 soldiers of the Hosokawa. The 10-year Onin war was fought mostly in the centre of Kyoto, destroying most of the city and scattering the population.
The war marked the start of the chaotic Warring States period until 1568, when power was seized by Oda Nobunaga, who used his military genius to consolidate power throughout central Japan. His program continued following his suicide and, by 1590, the whole country had fallen under the rule of 'Mr Monkey' - Hideyoshi. At the time of his death, Hideyoshi had completely rebuilt Kyoto and its population had swelled to 500,000. Soon after a rival government was set up at Edo, and the emperor's authority became nominal.
In Edo, the Tokugawa family virtually rebuilt society, imposing a strict hierarchical social structure and enforcing international seclusion. In Kyoto, a push to increase the power of the shogun led to a wave of antigovernment sentiment and a state of internal unrest. In 1868 the shogun resigned and Japan was again reunified, and began emerging from isolation. Over 1000 years, Kyoto had fought back from its considerable loss of power by using its strongest weapon - culture.
By 1900 Kyoto was again pre-eminent in education, culture and the arts, as well as excelling in industry. The city boasted an electrical system, water system, transport network and hydroelectric power generation.
Fortunately, Kyoto was spared the aerial bombing that razed other Japanese urban centres in the closing months of WWII. The Kyoto Revival Plan was drafted in 1945, and by 1949 the city's university had already produced the first in a long line of Nobel Prize winners. By the late 1950s Japan's economic miracle had made Kyoto an international hub of business and culture. The city rode high on the back of technology and tourism through the 1970s and '80s. With the collapse of the Japanese stock market in 1989, Kyoto again suffered heavily, and recovery - though sure - has been gradual.
Today, even though it has seen rapid industrialisation, Kyoto remains an important cultural and educational centre. It has some 20% of Japane's National Treasures and 15% of Japan's cultural properties. Even though the city centre looks remarkably like the centre of a dozen other large Japanese cities, a little exploration will turn up countless reminders of Kyoto's long history.
You can learn about the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, and other aspects of traditional Japanese culture here.
Chado or Sado (referred to as "tea ceremony" and/or "the way of tea") is a traditional ritual influenced by Zen Buddhism. Powdered green tea (matcha) is ceremonially prepared by adding hot water and mixing it by a bamboo whisk. Then it is served to a small group of guests one by one in a Japanese tea room.
Kado, which literally means "the way of flowers", is the Japanese art of arranging flowers. The practice started in olden times when people arranged flowers to offer them to God or Buddha. In 15th or 16th century when a new building style became popular and the style installed an alcove in a room, arranged flowers were placed in the alcove mainly to decorate the room. Kyoto is a home of kado and there are many flower arrangement schools with their heads actively supporting this traditional art.
Shodo, or calligraphy, consists of artfully writing Chinese characters (known as kanji) as well as the letters forming Japanese syllabary (known as kana). Its tools are brushes, ink, and paper. Shodo was introduced to Japan from China in the 6th or 7th century.
Kodo "The way of Fragrance" is the Japanese art of appreciating incense, within a certain structure of codified conduct. Kodo is regarded as one of the three major classical arts of refinement along with kado (flower arrangement) and sado (tea ceremony).
Kodo was introduced from Korea in 538. Later people were using incense at ceremonies of Buddhism and at the Imperial Court. In the Heian period (8th to 12th centuries), the Court ladies added incense fragrance to their clothes or hair.
To enjoy, you are to burn a piece of wood called chinsuiko and enjoy its fragrance. Kodo involves many rules on behavior and manners. There are some games encouraging people to guess the incense material by smelling the fragrance. These games are conducted in a very elegant atmosphere.
Martial Arts (Kendo, Karate, Judo, Sumo)
Japan originated a number of martial arts, such as kendo, karate, judo and sumo. Kendo is the oldest of several martial arts in Japan which was practiced by samurai warriors. It is a sport similar to fencing using a bamboo sword called "shinai" and protective armor.
Japanese is a language spoken by over 130 million people, primarily in Japan, but also in a number of Japanese emigrant communities around the world.The Japanese language is written with a combination of three different types of characters: kanji, or Chinese characters, plus two syllabic scripts, hiragana and katakana. Kanji often symbolize concepts while hiragana and katakana are phonetic characters representing sounds only.
Japanese Painting & Haiga
Nihonga literally means Japanese painting. Its origin can be traced back to one thousand years ago, but the name Nihonga was given in the Meiji era (1868-1912) in order to distinguish it from other types of art such as oil painting introduced from Europe at that time. However, it was not just pursuing old style Japanese painting.
Weather-wise, spring and autumn are probably the best times to visit Kyoto, although they're also popular times for tourists and school groups. Having said that, although the summers (June-Aug) can be muggy, it's still a nice time to be there. If you're really out to avoid crowds, winter (Dec-Feb) - though very cold - might be just your ticket. Holidays and festivals are celebrated with crowded gusto in Kyoto, so cherry-blossom season in April and Golden Week (late April/early May) are great times to be in the city.
There's no question that the most appealing seasons in Kyoto are spring and autumn. Summers are too muggy; the surrounding mountains keep the air from moving around, making things stifled and sticky and producing ample rain. Winter is cold but not devastatingly so, and aesthetically speaking it's quite pretty. However, spring cherry blossoms and autumn amber leaves are just too good to miss.
The best time to visit Kyoto is during the cherry blossom (sakura) or Autumn leaves (momiji) season because the weather tends to be cool and sunny, the temple treasures are on display and museums have special exhibitions. As a general guide, cherry blossom lasts for about a week and could come any time from the first to the third week of April. Autumn leaves turn red from the second week of November through to the beginning of December. However, hotels and guest houses are usually booked up three months in advance for these periods, especially single rooms in cheaper hotels or guest houses.
Japan is one the most expensive countries in Asia, if not the world for travel, but there are ways of keeping the outlays to a just-about bearable level. A skeleton daily budget, assuming you stay in the cheapest hostels, eat modestly and travel short distances, would work out to US$60.00 . Add about US$10.00 for extras like snacks, drinks, admission fees and entertainment. Staying in business or deluxe hotels and eating in pricey restaurants can easily have the ticker tipping US$200.00 . Long-distance travel is a real budget buster in Japan - if you intend to travel around to different places, it's well worth investing in a Japan Rail Pass. At the other end of the spectrum, high rollers will have no problems off-loading their cash. Japan specialises in establishments catering to the ostentatious flattery of business accounts - the higher the bill, the greater the prestige of the guests
Japan is a shopper's paradise, offering everything from high-tech gadgetry and electronics to traditional arts and crafts. Large department stores, specialty shops, fashion boutiques, hotel arcades and shopping centres abound. Popular buys include cameras, watches, CD players, hi-fi equipment, silk goods, lacquer ware, Japanese dolls, and woodblock prints.
Duty-free shopping is only available in Japan's international airports but tax-free shopping is possible in urban centres at authorised tax-free stores. In these stores, purchases of over ¥10,000 on selected items are exempt from Japan's 5% Consumption Tax but it is worth comparing prices at discount stores and bargain markets before you buy.
Shops & Stores - generally open on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays as well as weekdays. Many smaller specialty shops are closed on weekends, national holidays and over traditional Japanese holiday seasons.Department Stores - usually open on weekends and national holidays. Each store closes one weekday each week.
Kyoto has always been Japan's artistic and cultural workshop, the place where the country's finest artisans worked to produce the goods used in tea ceremonies, calligraphy, flower arrangement and religious ceremonies, as well as in kimono fabrics and other textiles.Searching for souvenirs is a great way to enjoy your Kyoto vacation. Here we'll introduce you to some of the city’s most popular souvenirs, shops, and flee markets.
Wagashi (Japanese Sweets)
"Wagashi", a time-honored Japanese confectionary, are extremely popular, with over 90% of souvenir shoppers adding them to their carts. Wagashi has a long history. Many of the wagashi shops in Kyoto presented special pastries to the emperor. Over time, a unique confectionary culture developed in the ancient capital.Wrapped inside these sweets you will typically find the tasty Yatsuhashi, a local Kyoto delicacy made of bean paste. Fresh Yatsuhashi is made with rice powder, sugar, and cinnamon, and served baked or steamed.
Tsukemono (Japanese Pickles)
"Kyo-yasai" is the name given to famous Kyoto-variety vegetables, and "tsukemono", pickled vegetables, make a wonderful souvenir. From sweet to sour to spicy, there is an endless variety of pickled vegetables to choose from and even the same "tsukemono" can taste different depending on the shop. Many connoisseurs enjoy sampling the same "tsukemono" in various stores, comparing the taste to find the best one to bring home.
During its long reign as Japan's wealthy capital city, Kyoto became famous for its traditional handicrafts, and these remain popular today as souvenirs. Small items such as folding fans, flat fans, bamboo work, items for Buddhist altars, etc are especially popular. In addition, many people bring back "Kiyomizu-yaki", famous Japanese pottery and porcelain from the kilns surrounding Kiyomizudera Temple.
Textiles (Japanese Traditional Textiles)
Beginning with the famous Nishijin silk fabrics and kimonos, Japanese textiles are associated with quality and beauty throughout the world. Since kimonos and yukatas are Japan's native dress, they are popular with foreign travelers. Nishijin textile wallets and bags are also hot items.
Face Blotting Tissue
One of the most popular Kyoto souvenirs among women is face blotting tissue. Kyoto is famous for producing the highest quality tissue in Japan. In the same way that gold leaf is hammered and flattened, Japanese paper that has undergone similar processing absorbs oil very well, and began to be used by apprentice Geisha as face blotting tissue when adjusting their make-up. Kyoto face tissue has a unique color associated with the ancient capital, and it is popular with theater and film crowds, and with Geisha. Recently, fashion models have been adopting the product, and it has become a hit with Japanese teenage girls.
O-cha (Japanese tea)
Tea is by far the most popular beverage among Japanese, and the most famous variety is produced in Kyoto's own Uji City. Eight-hundred years ago, the priest Eisai brought tea from China and it spread throughout Japan. The oldest tea shop is in Kyoto's Kouzan-ji Temple, where Uji-cha originated. Even though all varieties of Japanese tea are made from the same plant, there are many different types of tea depending on the processing method, such as Mat-cha, Gyouro, Sen-cha, and Jouji-cha.
Sukiyaki is prepared right at the table by cooking thinly sliced beef together with various vegetables, tofu and vermicelli.Tempura is food deep-fried in vegetable oil, after being coated with a mixture of egg, water and wheat flour. Among the ingredients used are prawns, fish in season and vegetables. Sushi is a small piece of raw seafood placed on a ball of vinegared rice. The most common ingredients are tuna, squid and prawn. Cucumber, pickled radish and sweet egg omelet are also served.
Sashimi is sliced raw fish eaten with soy sauce.Kaiseki Ryori is regarded as the most exquisite culinary refinement in Japan. The dishes are mainly composed of vegetables and fish with seaweed and mushrooms as the seasoning base and are characterized by their refined savor.Yakitori is made up of small pieces of chicken meat, liver and vegetables skewered on a bamboo stick and grilled over hot coals.
Tonkatsu is a deep-fried pork cutlet rolled in breadcrumbs.Shabu-shabu is tender, thin slices of beef held by chopsticks and swished in a pot of boiling water, then dipped in a sauce before being eaten.Soba and Udon are two kinds of Japanese noodle. Soba is made from buckwheat flour and Udon from wheat flour. They are served either in a broth or dipped in a sauce, and are available in hundreds of delicious variations.
After a day of sightseeing, you’ll want someplace comfortable and convenient to return to. Fortunately, accommodations to meet all tastes are available in Kyoto. You can feast on expertly prepared meals while relaxing in tatami-floored rooms in ryokan (Japanese style inns) and shukubo (temple lodging). Those who prefer something more familiar will be pleased at Kyoto’s range of western-style hotels, while so-called “weekly mansion” apartments are an affordable way to lodge for those who plan on staying in Japan for a bit longer. No matter where you decide to stay, it’s best to make reservations well in advance, particularly when crowds pour into the city to admire the beauty of the blooming cherry blossoms of early spring and the fire-red maple leaves of autumn.
The accommodation charge is subject to a consumption tax of 5%. First class hotels also impose a 10 to 15% service charge as well. Tipping is not customary except at top luxury ryokan, where a guest will tip a maid when she first serves tea in the room.
Japan boasts a rich sporting history and has plenty to offer both spectators and participants alike. Martial arts such as Sumo, Karate and Kendo have been popular in Japan for centuries and these traditional sports are still widely enjoyed today. Japanese wrestling (Sumo) is one of the most exciting spectator sports in Japan for both visitors and locals. Six tournaments, each lasting 15 days, are held annually in Tokyo (January, May and September), Osaka (March), Nagoya (July), and Fukuoka (November). Download a guide to traditional sports in Japan.
Over recent years Japan has also embraced a number of western sports, including golf, skiing & snowboarding, baseball and football (soccer). Baseball is Japan's number one sport and the professional league games, which take place from April to October, are a highlight of the sporting calendar.
There's plenty to do in Kyoto when night falls. Indeed, the area around Kawaramachi-dōri and Kiyamachi-dōri fairly pulses with activity almost any night of the week. You can choose from izakaya (Japanese pubs/eateries), bars, clubs and karaoke boxes, many of which stay open almost until dawn.
Japan offers visitors a wealth of entertainment opportunities, both modern and traditional. Contemporary diversions include clubs, discos, live music venues and bars, as well as international performance arts such as opera, ballet, drama and musicals. For culture lovers who want to sample some of the fascinating traditions of Japanese theatre, there is Kabuki, Bunraku and Noh.
Kyoto has a variety of temples where you can try your hand at things like Zazen meditation and shakyo, or sutra copying. You can also admire the statues on display in these temples. Here we guide you through where to go to do what, and explain how to worship at temples.
Kyoto is loaded with UNESCO Cultural Heritage sites, including Shrines, Temples and Palaces.Kinkakuji is the famed Golden Pavilion. Be prepared for massive crowds, even if you arrive early (before the gates open at 9am). Since the pavilion shines in all weather, it might be a good option to visit in the rain, when fewer visitors tend to be there. Raku Bus 101 takes you from Kyoto Station to Kinkakuji.
Ginkakuji was supposed to be the silver analogue of Kinkakuji. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the silver-gilding never happened. The zen-temple is a wonderful sight though. Raku Bus 102 takes you from Kinkakuji to Ginkakuji.
Ninnaji is another classic zen-temple. Formerly a palace, it was converted to a temple. Bus 59 goes from Kinkakuji to Ninnaji, passing Ryoanji along the way.Ryoan-ji houses what must be the most famous and photographed zen garden in Japan. Be prepared for the crowds of people that throng the site, and it is more likely that you find inner solitude in the surrounding gardens, than at the famed zen garden.
If you have time for it, don't miss Kiyomizu, pretty, set in large grounds and lots to see. Don't miss the shrine with the Rabbit, if you can walk from one stone to another, you'll find the person you're going to marry. The main temple is nice but the views are truly awesome. On Route 101.
Zazen is a unique form of meditation that functions centrally in Zen Buddhism. So central in fact that Zen Buddhists are generally known as the "meditation Buddhists". Its goals are is to calm the body and mind, and experience insight into the nature of existence and thereby gain enlightenment, known as satori. One might also say that Zazen is the study of the self.
Dry Landscape Gardening
"Buddhist image" is a general term which refers to all images of Buddha used as objects of worship, but most commonly refers to Buddhist statues.
Buddhist images are categorized in accordance with materials and methods as follows :
Sekibutsu: Stone carved images
The physical features unique to Buddhist images include snail-coil hair, additional eyes, hands and/or additional small heads above the main head, 3-layered necks, and extremely large ear-lobes.
Buddhist pantheons are categorized as follows.
Architecture influenced by Buddhism came from Korea and China in the 6th century. Temples were built to worship Buddha, and within each compound there were several buildings for the purpose of housing monks or nuns. By the 8th century, each compound basically consisted of seven buildings: the pagoda, main hall, lecture hall, bell tower, repository for sutras, dormitory, and dining hall. Surrounding the compound was a wall made from earth that had gates on each side. Nowadays the main hall in the compound still holds the most prominent object of worship, with the lecture hall being used by monks learning to perform rituals.
Visiting Temples and Shrines
Temples: Temples usually mean Buddhist temples. Buddha's images are enshrined inside their main building known as "Hondo". When you stand in front of the Hondo, you are supposed to bow and pray with the palms of your hands put together. Many temples have Buddhist images and/or beautiful landscape gardens. Your visit would therefore become more enjoyable and informative if you find out beforehand what to see in the temple you visit.
Shrines: Shrines usually means Shinto shrines in Japan. Japanese people visit there on some festive and ceremonial occasions such as celebrating a new year, a newborn baby. Some hold Shinto style wedding ceremonies. People also visit temples to ask the Shinto deity to make their wish, such as passing university entrance examinations, come true. When you stand in front of the temple's main building, you will see an offertory box. You are supposed to throw some coins into the box, shake bells attached to the top of a rope, clap your hands and then offer a prayer. People shake bells and clap their hands to draw the attention of the shrine deities which are believed to reside there.
Copying Buddhist Sutra
Shakyo is the copying of Buddhist sutras. This has been handed down for many generations, and it is still a popular practice. There are many reasons for people to practice shakyo. Some do it simply as a means of improving calligraphic skill; for others it is primarily to improve mental ability of concentration; for yet others still, it is a meditative practice - calming the mind and bringing a state of inner peace after the ups-and-downs of a hectic day.
Kyoto is conveniently accessible from both Tokyo and Osaka. From Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, JR Rapid trains and airport limousines provide quick and easy transportation. From Tokyo’s Narita Airport it’s simple to connect to the Shinkansen bullet train, which will whisk you straight to Kyoto.
Kyoto is easily reachable from a number of major cities in Japan. Ways to get there include the Shinkansen bullet train, standard trains, airplanes, and buses. Immediately below we introduce each of these forms of transportation. The recommended ways to reach Kyoto from a number of cities in Japan follow.
From OverseasBelow are listed the flying times and the time differences between the major overseas airports and KIX/NRT.
Heated competition among carriers has cut the prices of standard airfares to Japan significantly, but fares increase during busy periods like the New Year, Golden Week (late April and early May), and the summer holidays. Many Japanese people fly overseas in these periods, greatly increasing demand for flights to and from Japan. As a result prices jump up.
From the Airport
Thanks to the small area of Japan and to the efficiency of mass transit here, you're never very far away from Kyoto regardless of where you touch down in Japan. Suggested routes to Kyoto from airports throughout Japan are listed below. Accompanying times are estimated using Kyoto Station as the destination.
From Kansai International Airport(KIX)
75min. Airport Express Haruka・
From Narita International Airport(NRT)
In a few cases it may be cheaper to fly from abroad into Narita International Airport near Tokyo than Kansai international.
From Osaka (Itami)International Airport(ITM)
・60 min. Airport Limousine Bus・
From Kobe Airport
・90 min. Train・
From Central Japan International Airport(Centrair)(NGO)
・95 min. Train・
By Shinkansen, Bullet Train
Speeds up to 300 km/h (186 mph) mean the Shinkansen bullet train is the fastest method of overland transportation in Japan. The trains run the length and width of Honshu, the main island of Japan, down to the southern island of Kyushu. They make stops at Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Tokyo, Nagoya, Hiroshima, and most other major cities on Honshu and Kyushu.
Shinkansen trains are grouped by speed. The fastest is the Nozomi, which runs from Tokyo to Kyoto in 2 hours and 15 min. Hikari, which makes a few more stops, takes 3 hours. Kodama, which stops at every station, takes 4 hours. Trains on this line depart several times per hour. They are very punctual. In 2003, JR Central announced that the average arrival time of the Shinkansen was within six seconds of schedule.
Most visitors arrive at JR Kyoto station by Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo. Nozomi trains make the trip in approximately 2 1/4 hours and cost ¥13520. Hikari trains, which run less frequently and make a few more stops, cover the trip in around 2 3/4 hours, but only the Hikari and the Kodama trains can be used by Japan Rail Pass holders at no charge.
Travellers can also take advantage of the Puratto Kodama Ticket (in Japanese), which offers a discount for the all-stopping Kodama services if you purchase at least one day in advance. You get a reserved seat and a free drink on board. With this ticket a trip from Tokyo to Kyoto costs ¥9800 and takes 3 3/4 hours. Note that there is only one Kodama service per hour from Tokyo, and a few early-morning Kodama trains cannot be used with this ticket.
For travel in the Kansai region, a cheaper and nearly as fast alternative is the JR shinkaisoku rapid service, which connects to Osaka, Kobe and Himeji at the price of a local train. Slightly cheaper yet are the private Hankyu or Keihan lines to Osaka and Kobe, or the Kintetsu line to Nara.
Though the Shinkansen is convenient for traveling long distances, it's sometimes necessary to ride normal trains to areas not serviced by it. Hankyu, Keihan, and Kintetsu railways provide cheaper services to Kyoto from Osaka and Kobe than JR.
By Domestic Flights
There are a number of airlines operating domestic Japanese flights, but All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL) cover the most comprehensive area. The flight time from Narita International Airport to Kansai International Airport, Itami Airport, and Kobe Airport from Tokyo ranges from one to two hours. Once you have touched down there it will take another one to two hours to reach Kyoto. For more information on how to get to Kyoto from various airports in Japan, please see From the Airport. You can make reservations with ANA through their homepage. JAL has an up-to-date website listing numbers you can call to make a reservation at JAL.
The popular JR Dream Bus runs between Kyoto and Tokyo. The overnight trip takes about eight hours and costs about JPY 9,000 for a one way ticket. If you are returning within one week a return ticket works out cheaper at around JPY 15,000. Private buses are usually cheaper than JR. A good number of them have English language websites, and a few even allow reservations online.
As Kyoto is a major city, there are many daytime and overnight buses which run between Kyoto and other locations throughout Japan, which can result in significant savings when compared to shinkansen fares.
The JR Bus Group (Japanese Website) is a major operator of the routes from the Tokyo area to Kansai. Buses operate via the Tomei Expressway (to/from Tokyo Station) or the Chuo Expressway (to/from Shinjuku Station). You can receive a discount of between 10 and 35 percent off the cost of the ticket if reservations are made at least 21 days in advance on most routes.
Other bus companies offer trips between Tokyo and Kyoto, but it should be pointed out that seat reservations for JR Buses can be made in train stations at the same "Midori-no-Madoguchi" ticket windows used to reserve seats on trains. Moreover, the Japan Rail Pass is valid on ALL JR buses operating from the Tokyo area to Kyoto. (Note that the pass is NOT valid on buses to/from Yokohama.)
Japan Rail Pass
The JR Pass can be purchased from travel agents overseas and some Japanese airlines, including ANA. It is not available for purchase within the Japan, and is only usable by short-term visitors. You will probably be required to show your passport to verify your short-term visitor status when using it. The pass is only valid on JR lines. Private lines such as the Keihan and Hankyu still require you to pay a fare. More information on the passes is available at www.japanrailpass.net/. Below are instructions on how reach Kyoto from various cities in Japan via ground transportation.
165 min. Shinkansen Hikari.
25 min. Tokaido Line.
In Japan, most people purchase their tickets from ticket vending machines. Rather than destination, tickets are purchased according to fare blocks (how much it costs to travel from the station of departure).
Ticket vending machines
Transportation between Kansai International Airport and Kyoto
Sketch map of Kyoto Station
|Map of Kyoto|