Backpacking Kyoto, Japan 3D – 4N Itinerary

Kyoto was the capital of ancient Japan for more than one thousand years and presently remained as the Capital of Kyoto Prefecture in the Kansai region. It is a known place to experience the old Japanese traditions which are shrouding around the atmosphere of the old city. A thousand-year old culture, beautiful Zen temples, gardens, shrines, kabuki drama, geisha dancing and the tranquility of  the old Japanese customs are the boasting highlights of Kyoto.

To Kyoto by Train:

From Kansai International Airport:

Several discount and regular train tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket booths in the airport. To lessen the overwhelming ticket options, I recommend Haruka Discount Ticket which I realized as the cheapest. One-way is for 1600 yen. Round- trip for 3200 yen.  Haruka links directly to major stations in the Kansai Region.  It takes approximately an hour and 15 mins. from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto.

From Osaka:

  1. Shinkansen is a bullet train service that takes 15 mins. to Kyoto from Shin-Osaka Station for 1420 yen.
  2. Special Rapid Service ( JR Kyoto Line ) 29 mins. to Kyoto for 560 yen. It departs from platform 8, 9 and 10 in Shin-Osaka Station.
  3. Keihan Main Line is a private train company that doesn’t cover  JR Pass. From Yodoyabashi  Station to Sanjo Station (Kyoto) – 55 mins for 410 yen.
  4. Hankyu Kyoto Main Line is another private train company. It’s the cheapest train line service to Kyoto. From Hankyu Umeda Station to Kawaramachi Station – 44 mins for 400 yen.

Where to stay:

SoundTrip Hostel is the most budget friendly hostel that I found. For 500.00php, it provided basic accommodation and amenities. It has a laundry room, kitchen, 2 vending machines, TV and kimono for rent. The room that I got has  four wooden  bunk beds  good for 8 people (women). Other rooms are available too. Private room costs 2000 – 3000 yen. Unfortunately, the hostel doesn’t serve meals. You can walk 5-10 mins to convenience stores, restaurants and fast foods around the area for food. Train and bus stations are nearby. Gion District is only 15 – 20 mins walk from the hostel. If you are interested to ride a bike while checking the locality,  you can rent a bike from the hostel receptionist for 100 yen a day.

Where to Eat:

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Try the local restaurants in Gion district. Aside from their appetizing menus, some restaurants are seriously decorated with fun caricatures or animes which make these restaurants more enticing. There are also traditional restaurants that look like tiny Japanese houses from the outside, but with a menu stand at the door or with restaurant attendants at the entrance who will welcome guests. Traditional restaurants are somewhat expensive. Food prices range from 1000 yen – 3500 yen or more. Regular restaurants that are randomly located in the streets of Kyoto costs 500 yen – 2500 yen. Cheaper food options are available in convenience stores,  McDonald’s, cafés, Subway and street foods.

Travel Itinerary:

Day 1

Gion District

Entrance: Free
Address: 605-0078 Kyoto Prefecture, Higashiyama Ward, Tominagacho, Kyoto

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This place was originally made to accommodate travelers and  Yasaka shrine dwellers during the Middle Ages. In the course of time, it progressed as one of the renowned geisha district in the whole of Japan.  Geisha meaning “ a woman of art “. Apprentice Geishas are called Maiko, they wear light colored Kimonos while Geishas wear kimonos with darker colors. Gion district will take you back to ancient Japanese setting with traditional restaurants, rickshaws, geishas, shrines  which are the highlights of the district.

Kennin-ji  Temple

Entrance: Free
Hours: 10:00am – 4:30pm
Address: 584 Komatsu-cho, Higashiyama-ku Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

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Known to be  the oldest Zen temple in Kyoto located near Gion District. The place is very  tranquil and the old temple is impressively well preserved. It has been standing for a few centuries. Built in 1202 AD, the temple doesn’t show obvious trace of being worn out. Weary visitors can take a break or take pictures in the vicinity while admiring the calmness of the temple.

Yasaka – jinja Shrine

Entrance: Free
Hours: 24 hours
Address: 625 Gionmachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto Prefecture

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A shrine in Gion district that holds a lot of history. It  was constructed in 656 AD and was one of the most important government protected shrines in Japan. Most of the shrines in Kyoto have the same structure and colors, ( I don’t understand the difference ) but knowing that it stood for centuries, makes it so interesting. Annually, Yasaka shrine is crowded with curious and traditional new year ritual attendees. During springtime, the shrine also holds cherry blossom celebrations.

Day 2

Fushimi Inari Taisha

Entrance: Free
Hours: 24 hours
Address: Fushimi-ku, Kyoto

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One of the many  important  Shinto shrines in Kyoto, located in Fushimi-Ku.  The shrine sits at the foot of Mount Inari and was completed  in 1499. The locals worship Inari as the god of rice, which the shrine is dedicated to. Aside from that, Inari is also the patron of businessmen and entrepreneurs. When you get to the shrine, you will observe foxes (statues), which you might not find in other shrines in Kyoto. The shrine’s unique foxes look similar to the foxes of ancient Egypt. Later I learned that the foxes are believed to be guardians or messengers. The shrine draws millions of worshipers and tourists every year.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest  

Entrance: Free
Hours: 24 hours
Address: Ukyo Ward, Kyoto Prefecture

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Located  just outside Tenryu – ji Temple, a beautiful bamboo forest that can be enjoyed by tourist with no fee. The sound of the wind blowing the leaves of the bamboos are considered to be one of the hundred must-be-preserved sounds of japan by the Japanese government, unusual but remarkable. This place is a must to visit when you are in Kyoto.

Tenryu-ji Temple

Entrance: 500 yen
Hours: 24 hours
Address: Ukyo Ward, Kyoto Prefecture

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A Rinzai Zen Buddhist Temple located in Ukyo Ward, Kyoto, Japan. The temple was founded in 1339 and was completed 1345. In 1994 the temple was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. Within the grounds of the temple, a calm and beautiful Zen garden is located in front of it. It is best to witness the beauty of the garden during spring when flowers bloom and during fall when the leaves of the trees turn breathtakingly colorful.

Rokuon-ji or Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Entrance: 600 yen
Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm
Address: 1 Kinkakuji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto Prefecture

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One of the most beautiful temples in Kyoto with a history that dates back to the 12th century. It is one of the temples that completed the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto and was acknowledged as one of the World Heritage Sites. The Buddhist temple draws thousands of visitors every year, although when you get to the location, visitors are only allowed to watch or take pictures from afar since the temple is fenced. Visitors are not allowed inside the temple. The tour will be a quick 30 min sightseeing and picture taking  or less, however, the beauty is worth it.

Day 3

Nanzen – ji Temple or Zuiryusan Nanzen-ji

Entrance: Free
Hours: 8:40am – 5:00pm
Address: 606-8435 Sakyo Ward, Kyoto Prefecture

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Another Zen Buddhist Temple  which was built in 1291 AD during the Kamakura period. I have read a lot of wonderful  reviews regarding this temple, however, I am not well versed with Japanese art and religion so I cannot comment much. Most of the Japanese temples look the same, the structure, the era when it was built, the garden surrounding it, the calm ambiance  and the beauty of each are just astounding. What I found interesting about this temple was the Japanese cemetery behind it which I didn’t see in other temples.

Zenrin-ji Temple

Hours: 9:00AM – 4:00PM
Entrance: 600 Yen
Address: 3-16-23 Hanehigashi, Hamura 205-0014, Tokyo Prefecture

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Constructed in 853 AD when the construction of temples were still forbidden in Kyoto. It was made to worship the Gochi Nyorai or the Five Wisdom Buddhas. Today, the well preserved temple is still active in practicing ancient temple prayers and activities. The structure itself is amazing. There are ancient paintings on the walls, which visitors are forbidden to take pictures, maybe because it was holy to them. Behind the temple is a pagoda overlooking the garden and the temple. My personal favorite is the garden. It has the most beautiful garden that I have seen in Kyoto.

Thinking of getting a visa to Japan? Read on Japan Tourist Visa Application for Philippine Passport Holders.

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