Tips for visiting Japan – Part III – Kyoto

Today’s post is the third piece of our four-part tips-and-tricks bible for travelling to Japan.

This post will outline some general tips for travelling around Kyoto together with short-hand details you might need to know to visit must-see spots.

Here we go!

Hachijo burger french fry fly Japan engrish Kyoto jaPlanning travel

[Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]
…with French Fly!

Visiting Kyoto


  • Before you arrive at the train station clarify the best exit to take to get to your hotel as there are North, East, South, West and Central exits and it can be very overwhelming if you’re not prepared.
  • You don’t need to shy away from using a taxi in Kyoto as they are much cheaper than those in Tokyo.
  • Take a little booklet or file detailing all of your addresses in English and Japanese – this will make using taxis much smoother. Also consider taking local area maps from GoogleMaps and printing important bus schedules and information.
  • If a taxi has left it’s back door open it’s available. 
  • The regional word for ‘thank you’ in Kyoto is Okini. If you switch to using Okini instead of Arigato the locals will love you for it!

Must-see places in Kyoto

Miyako Odori

  • The Gion-Kobu Kaburenjo (theatre) is located at the end of the Hanamikoji-dori (off the Shijo-dori) near the Kennin-ji Temple.
  • The closest train station to the Kaburenjo is Gion-Shijo on the Keihan line.
  • Prior bookings are essential and tickets cost between $20 – 50 depending on the class (Special, First and Second).
  • Exchange your Miyako Odori email confirmation for tickets at the theatre office on the right-hand side of the Kaburenjo.
  • Arrive for your show fifteen minutes early so the hostesses can have you seated in a timely fashion. Take note of your ticket type when you’re lining up on the left-hand side of the Kaburenjo.
  • If you’ve chosen the 2nd class tickets you’ll be seated on the 3rd floor on traditional tatami mats. To sit here you must remove your shoes. 

Nijo-jo Castle

  • Travel to Nijojomae Station on the Karasuma Subway line or Tozai line to visit Nijo-jo Castle and see some incredible gardens and architecture.
  • Entrance is 600 JPY.
  • Make sure to bring a camera!

WAK Japan

  • Visit WAK Japan to learn a variety of traditional Japanese arts from some lovely Kyoto housewives.
  • Expect to pay between $30 – $300 at WAK depending on what you want.
  • Bookings in advance are essential. 
  • The closest train stations to WAK are the Marutamachi station on the Karasuma Subway line or Karasuma-Oike station on the Karasuma Subway line/Tozai line.
  • WAK is located on the left of the Takakura-dori which is the fourth street along intersecting with the Marutamachi-dori that runs next to the Imperial Palace.

The Ponto-cho

  • Make sure you visit this lovely Hanamachi for an unforgettable night.
  • The closest train stations are Gion-Shijo station or Sanjo station on the Keihan line.
  • At either end (Sanjo or Shijo) you can find the Ponto-cho entrance just next to the Kamo-gawa (river).
  • Keep an eye out for a real-life Geiko or Maiko!

Spotting a real Geiko/Maiko

  • When you’re in Kyoto you might be fooled into thinking you see a lot of Geiko or Maiko. This is because there are many kimono hire services in Kyoto.
  • In our experience, when looking for a real Geiko or Maiko you should assess:
  • Shoes – the real Maiko we saw was wearing the traditional tall wedge shoes with white socks. 
  • Hair – real Geiko/Maiko will have their hair styled professionally and it will look flawless. Real Maiko will likely be wearing a dazzling array of beautiful hair combs and decorations.
  • Makeup – real Maiko will have their faces painted white with red accents on their lips, nose and eyes.
  • Company – real Geiko and Maiko will likely be accompanying wealthy businessmen.
  • Demeanor – real Geiko and Maiko will not simply walk down the street – they will float. Everything from their smiles to their bows to their voices and mannerisms will be highly trained and very elegant. 
  • Have Respect – Maiko are often the target of over enthusiastic travellers who want to take photos. While they try to be as gracious as possible it must get very annoying – particularly if they’re entertaining a paying client. So either take your photos from a respectful distance or make sure to ask permission if you want a closer picture. If you are declined thank her anyway. 

Maiko Makeover

  • Consider visiting Yumeyukata where you can be dressed in the traditional makeup and kimono of Maiko, or, borrow a kimono for the day.
  • The minimum cost for Maiko Makeover is 8,800 JPY. 
  • Visit Yumeyukata by travelling to either Gojo station on the Karasuma Subway line or Kiyumizu-Gojo station on the Keihan line. 
  • From Gojo station, turn right on the Gojo-dori and take your fourth left. From Kiyumizu-Gojo station cross the Kamo-gawa down the Gojo-dori and take your ninth right. 
  • Look for the tiled building with the green flags near the door.

Kinkakuji – The Golden Pavillion

  • To visit the Golden Pavillion make your way to the Kitaoji Station on the Karasuma Subway line.
  • Find Bus Platform F and ride bus 101, 102 or 205, or, at Plaform G, you can ride bus 204 to get to Kinkakuji.  

Make sure to take a moment to ‘stop and smell the roses’ in Kyoto. It really is a wonderful place that has a totally different feel to Tokyo.

Next post: Tips for visting Japan – Part IV – Tokyo

Until next time,

Kally & Mon.

[Feature Image Credit: Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]

[Image Credit (1): Mnq Nlsn Photograffiti]

What’s your best travel tip for visiting Kyoto?


6 thoughts on “Tips for visiting Japan – Part III – Kyoto

  1. Pingback: Tips for visiting Japan – Part II – Arrival & Etiquette | JaPlanning

  2. Pingback: Tips for visiting Japan – Part I – Preparing to Leave | JaPlanning

  3. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been to Kyoto a few times but there are definitely some new things here for me to try next time. I’d love to go back to Kinkakuji too. It was pouring with rain when we were there. 😦

    • Hi Jen,

      You’re welcome! And that’s a shame about Kinkakuji. Of course the building would still be amazing but, obviously, it’s best viewed in good weather. Or snow! I’ve seen a few pictures of Kinkakuji in winter and it looks amazing. What is your favourite thing about Kyoto? I’d love to go back some day, any suggestions for a ‘must see’?? 🙂

      – Kally x

  4. Oh, I’d love to see Kinkakuji in the snow. It must be beautiful. Hmmm…must sees in Kyoto. I really enjoyed Eikando Temple. I don’t think many tourists make it there, but I loved it. There’s also a 551 Horai outlet at Kyoto station if you like dim sums. Yum. 🙂

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