Lake Biwa and What You Need to Know

Lake Biwa | An Introduction

Enjoy an evening of colours and sunset at one of the largest water fountains in the world

Lake Biwa is located in Shiga Prefecture, on the northeast of Kyoto. I visited this Lake on the same day I visited Mt Hiei. It was convenient to do so from Mt Hiei by taking the Sakamoto Cable car.

Cycle route around Lake Biwa – Google maps

How to get to Lake Biwa

Getting to Lake Biwa via Sakamoto Cable Car took us to the Shiga side of the base of Mt Hiei, to Sakamoto Station. The track downhill was two-kilometres and took 11 minutes. The journey proved to be well-worth the money as it offered an awesome view directly over Lake Biwa and an opportunity to stroll through the town of Sakamoto.

View of Lake Biwa from the cable car ride down to Sakamoto
View of Lake Biwa from the cable car ride down to Sakamoto | Image: georgina_daniel

My walk from Sakamoto Station through the town of Sakamoto was quiet and pleasant. There were a number of beautiful spots that offered photo opportunities.

The walk from Sakamoto Station through the town of Sakamoto
Some views along our walk from Sakamoto Station to Biwako | Image: georgina_daniel

Lake Biwa Flower Fountain

The Flower Fountain is one of the world’s largest fountain which is about 400 meters long horizontally and it streams high into the air at 40 metres.

This is by far one of the most beautiful attraction here which you must not miss if you are in this area. With the sun setting in the horizon, the changing colours of the Fountain and the cruise ships sailing in the distance makes this a memorable experience. It certainly was for me because I needed to just relax for a while and take in the atmosphere before heading back home.

As the largest freshwater lake in Japan, it is a breeding ground for freshwater fish such as trout and is home to at least 46 native species and sub-species in the Lake. It serves as a reservoir to Kyoto and Otsu and supplies 15 million residents with drinking water in the Kansai region.

Lake Biwa Flower Fountain, Shiga Prefecture
Biwako Flower Fountain, Shiga Prefecture Image: georgina_daniel
The Flower Fountain streams up high into air at 40 metres.
Biwako Flower Fountain streams up high into air at 40 metres.| Image: georgina_daniel

My visit here was very brief but I did fulfil my intention to capture the sunset and relax after my long day of mountain exploring.

Activities at Lake Biwa

Although I spent only a couple of hours here, Lake Biwa is a destination that warrants at least half a day. If you can fit in a longer time, you will be pleasantly surprised at the various ways to enjoy this Lake. As the largest freshwater lake in Japan in the Shiga Prefecture, you can enjoy cruises to the southern end of the Lake. There are many beach activities such as zip line or water sliding. You will also find that the area offer many popular holiday resorts which you can stay at.

A Cruise Boat in the Distance at Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture
A Cruise Boat in the Distance at Lake Biwa, Shiga Prefecture | Image: georgina_daniel
A cruise boat taking-off to the southern end of the Lake
A cruise boat taking-off to the southern end of Lake Biwa | Image: georgina_daniel

There are historic sites such as the Enryaku-ji Temple in Mount Hiei and Hikone Castle.

Enryakuji Temple at Mount Hiei
Enryakuji Temple and buildings in Mount Hiei, Kyoto
Like other temples, there are shops for souvenirs in Mount Hiei
As with any visits to temples, you would always find shops for souvenirs, light refreshments and incense. You will find that Mount Hiei offer a great selection of these.
Buildings and Temples dotted around the forest in Mount Hiei
Buildings and Temples dotted around the forest in Mount Hiei. Sometimes to pray and sometimes a place to meditate.

Travel tips and Useful information

4 ways to travel to Lake Biwa

Otsu:

From Kyoto station take the JR Biwako line (about 10 min), exit at Hama-Otsu station (about 20 minutes from Sanjo-Keihan railway station)

Enryakuji Temple:

From Otsu Keihanzeze station, take the Keihan line, for Sakamoto. From Sakamoto, take the cable car to the temple.

Hikone: 

From Kyoto to Hikone, it is about 50 minutes journey and is the fastest.

If you have the JR Pass, you can take the Shinkansen to Maibara, about 20 minutes journey and then back to Hikone by JR Biwako which is about 5 minutes.

Omihachiman:

Take the JR Biwako line from Kyoto which is about 35 minutes journey.

My Conclusion

This is a destination that warrants more than a couple of hours. If you are in Kyoto and have the time, visit this lake which is the largest freshwater lake in Japan. For a whole day experience, you can also explore the surrounding areas. For ideas and inspiration to experience Lake Biwa and Kyoto, head over to “More than one way to experience Kyoto”

Ask me any questions you may have regarding booking your trip to Japan. You may wish to take a look at the 6-step guidelines to a stress free vacation and a full guide to resources for a memorable experience.

6 steps to stress free vacation
Resources

You may like to read more on Japan also

Best of Kyoto
Nara in one day
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Himeji in a day

Is this post valuable to you in planning your visits to Lake Biwa? If so please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you.

I wish you a splendid visit to Lake Biwa!

February 2021, Update


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How to make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto

How to make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto

When you travel to Kyoto, and want to experience a little of rural Japan, then head to the historically romantic city of Uji, a little gem located just twenty-minutes train ride to the south of Kyoto city. This nature filled area is home to beautiful museums, historic buildings and delicious matcha tea. You can spend either half a day or one full day exploring this beautiful ancient city. However, I shall strongly recommend that you make it a one-day visit as Uji is a destination worth visiting and spending time at.

This article gives a little background to the city of Uji and cover details on how to to make the best of one day in Uji, Kyoto. The article suggests a carefully planned itinerary and a walking route. This ideal itinerary include the 7 most popular attractions at this little gem of tourist destination which must be seen for a complete experience of Uji. An early start arriving at about 10:00 a.m should also be in the plan.

Georgina says: My itinerary here involves spending one full day in Uji, returning to Kyoto in time for supper. However, if you don’t have a full day to spare, you may want to make half-a-day trip to Uji.

About Uji, Kyoto

Uji is a historical city in the green valley of South Kyoto. It is popular for its shrines and temples in particular for its two World Heritage sites, the Byodoin Temple and the Ujigami shrine. In addition, Uji is famous for the superior quality of Matcha Green Tea and the Tale of Genji, the world’s first novel. The City has a bridge and a river named after it. A walk along this river affords you picturesque views of the mountains surrounding it, with some regarding it as one of the most romantic places in Kyoto because of its prominence in the Tale of Genji.

Uji City is easily accessible (see below: Travel tips and useful information), just a 20-minute train journey from Kyoto Station, either via the JR Line or the Keihan Line. I used the Keihan Line from Kyoto, arriving at Uji for 10:00 a.m.

As you exit the Keihan Uji Station, you will find easy signposting that directs you to the surrounding areas. A landmark to lookout for is the Ujibashi Bridge across the Uji River.

Uji-bashi Bridge and Uji River

Just south of Keihan Uji Station, you will see the Uji-bashi Bridge, which goes across the Uji River. This wood-trimmed concrete and steel was first built in 646 AD. However, it has been rebuilt numerous times since. Walk across it, and along the way, stop and look at the green hills, rushing waters and the red wooden bridges. This ancient town is well-preserved.

Uji, Kyoto: The view when you are on the Uji-bashi Bridge
Uji, Kyoto: The view when you are on the Uji-bashi Bridge | Image: georgina_daniel

The Uji-bashi Bridge is an important point because it is from here that you will access the rest of the 7 top attractions.

7 top attractions in Uji, Kyoto not to be missed | How to make the best of 1 day

The 7 top attractions in Uji which should not be missed are listed below. I have listed them in the order of my walking route so you can have an idea of what to expect when you visit and are considering how to make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto.

Across the Uji-bashi Bridge, you will come to Omotesando Street.

1 | Omotesando Street (平等院表参道), Uji, Kyoto

The Omotesando Street is about 300-meter stretch approach to Byodoin Temple (more on this temple, below). This street is lined with tea shops, eateries and souvenir shops. It is famously known as the Green Tea Street of Uji. Spend some time exploring this quaint street either on your way to Byodoin Temple or on your return.

Shops along Omotesando Street, Uji, Kyoto
Shops along Omotesando Street, Uji, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

There are many tea related products which you can try such as “dango” dumplings, soba noodles or ice-cream.

Loose matcha tea stored in airtight wooden boxes

Matcha tea sold in small packaging as samples

Matcha sprinkled on crushed ice.

Georgina suggests: That you explore the Omotesando street on your return walk back from Byodoin Temple. This means you can take a break for a snack or lunch before you are onward to the next stage of your journey.

2 | Byōdōin Temple (平等院), Uji, Kyoto

Byōdōin Temple is one of the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Uji and its garden is regarded as Pure Land Paradise. 

Once you have bought your entry ticket, take the path on the left, around the lotus pond and this is what you come to …

Byodoin Temple in How to make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto.
Byodoin Temple is one of the two World Heritage sites which should be on every itinerary of a visitor here: How to make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

This 10th century Buddhist Temple was initially built in 998, at the height of political power of the Fujiwara clan during the Heian period (794 to 1192). It was built as a retreat villa for Fujiwara no Michinaga, a powerful politician. The architecture of this temple is spectacularly beautiful and speaks volume. 

However, Michinaga’s son, Yorimichi, turned it into a Temple and ordered the construction of the Phoenix Hall which was built in 1053. The building holds a central hall, two long corridors and is home to a three-meter high statue of Amida Buddha.

Amida Buddha is a wooden statue, covered in gold foil, carved by Jocho Busshi, a Heian period sculptor. His speciality was to join multiple pieces of blocks of wood to carve and join it to form a single piece or figure.

What remains today of this temple is this Phoenix Hall which is home to the soaring shining statue in the midst of heavenly beings playing instruments…it is a treasure well-worth a visit at least once!

The Phoenix Hall is featured on the flip-side of the Japanese Ten yen coin.

How to make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto: The serenity of this place...you simply got to be here to experience it at Byodoin Temple,
Uji, Kyoto: The serenity of this place…you simply got to be here to experience it at Byodoin Temple | Image: georgina_daniel
Side view of Byodoin Temple
Side view of Byodoin Temple, Uji Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

When visiting the Byodoin Temple, take the path around the Hall, and you will come to the museum where you can immerse in its history. One part of the museum holds original artefacts from the temple and the other is almost like walking into a heavenly whirl! Here, dancing celestial beings, child musicians and birds bearing flowers are depicted in rich, vibrant colours.

NB: Cameras were not allowed, so I do not have any pictures to show here.

2.1 | Travel tips and Useful information on Byodoin Temple, Uji

Byodoin Temple & the Museum

Tickets are 600 Yen for both

Phoenix Hall

To visit the Phoenix Hall, it is an additional 300 Yen. You purchase this ticket from a ticket booth within the grounds near the temple. Visits are timed every 20 minutes, so your ticket will have a time printed on it.

Return to the queuing point at least 5-minutes before the ticketed time. A guide will lead the group into the hall for a talk about the building. The talk is in Japanese, no audio guides available. It is a narrow hallway and no photographs are allowed.

Even if you do not understand Japanese, it is still worth paying the extra to view the statue and its interior at least once in your lifetime, after-all you are there already 😊

Opening times:

08:30 to 17:30

Museum: 09:00 to 17:00

Last entry is  15-minutes before closing

Open all year round.

Georgina suggests: **Allow yourself at least an hour in your itinerary – to walk around and enjoy the splendid garden. However, if you are visiting the Phoenix Hall, tickets are timed and you need to allow yourself more time in your plans.

Alternatively, you may wish to experience the Byodoin Temple through a good value for money private tour.

Uplifting Kyoto: Private tour of Ujis Tea and Spirituality

In any case, if you are not pressed for time, spend a few extra moments just to relax and take in the serenity of the garden, the lotus pond and the magnificent Temple.

Byodoin Temple, Uji, Kyoto: Resting Area
Byodoin Temple, Uji, Kyoto: Resting Area | Image: georgina_daniel

3 | Uji Tea in Uji, Kyoto

Uji is famous for its green tea or its Matcha Green Tea.

From a historical perspective, Uji Tea or Green Tea was a popular drink amongst the nobleman and priests in Japan. However, it is ironic that green tea was virtually unheard of in Japan when it first arrived from China in the 700s. It was during the Kamakura period, between 1192 and 1333, that green tea leaves imported from China was cultivated in Uji. This led to popularity amongst the noblemen and priests.

The benefits of green tea, its cultivation and preparation was introduced in a book written by a Zen priest, Eisei. Eisei brought Zen Buddhism to Japan from China, hence, bestowing Uji the reputation of producing superior quality green tea as it was the first place to cultivate green tea.

To experience an authentic and traditional Japanese tea ceremony, go over to Taihoan.

3.1 | Tea House in Uji, Kyoto

A short walk from Byodoin Temple, at the southern bank of Uji River, you will find Taihoan, a public tea house. It offers visitors a unique opportunity to participate in an authentic tea ceremony. It serves matcha tea (powdered green tea) in a traditional tea-house setting and the correct tea ceremony etiquette.

Location of Taihoan Tea House on the southern bank of Uji River, Uji, Kyoto
Location of Taihoan Tea House on the southern bank of Uji River, Uji, Kyoto

You may wonder what makes Japanese Green Tea so special? Get all your answers and more whilst exploring Uji’s history in a private tour AND/OR take a rickshaw tour through Uji, to revered traditional tea shops and centuries-old historical sites with a guide.

Learn more and Book your tour by navigating via the links below:

4 | Ujigami Shrine and the Uji Shrine (宇治上神社)

The Ujigami Shrine is believed to be constructed as early as 1060 during the Heian period and is the 2nd of the two UNESCO World Heritage sites in Uji. It is the guardian shrine to Byodoin Temple. Ujigami shrine is a Shinto shrine and it’s architecture is very simple. The Honden or the main hall is built in the nagare-zukuri architectural style, which is a curved assymetrical roof, extending more on the side of the main entrance than on the opposite side. This design is such to provide shelter to the worshippers.

Entrance to Ujigami Shrine, Uji, Kyoto
A torii gate symbolising entrance to Ujigami Shrine, Uji, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

About 100m south of Ujigami shrine is the Uji shrine, also in the simple nagare-zukuri architectural style.

Entrance to Uji Shrine, Uji, Kyoto
Entrance to Uji Shrine, Uji, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

4.1 | Travel tips and Useful information on Ujigami and Uji Shrines in Uji, Kyoto

Opening hours: 09:00 to 16:30

Open all year round

Admission is FREE

Please give yourself anything between 15 to 30 minutes. It is really quiet and peaceful here. On my visit, I observed a painter sketching the beautiful view from the top of the stairs looking ahead. It was rather pretty.

4.2 | Getting to Ujigami Shrine

Location of Ujigami Shrine and Uji Shrine_1
Location of Ujigami Shrine and Uji Shrine

Ujigami Shrine is on the north of Uji River, close to the Tale of Genji Museum

JR Line

Takes 15 minutes to walk from JR Uji Station

Keihan Line

Takes 10 minutes to walk from Keihan Uji Line

By foot

It is about 10 to 15 minutes (depends how distracted you get from the enchanting scenery around you) from Byodoin Temple, across the river via a small island connected by bridges.

5. Uji’s Riverbank attractions, Uji, Kyoto

Uji’s riverbank attractions are within pleasant strolling distance.

5.1 | Asagiri-bashi Bridge – A beautiful bridge that links-up both sides of the riverbank and the park.

The Asagiri-bashi Bridge links-up both banks of the Uji River., Uji, Kyoto
The Asagiri-bashi Bridge links-up both banks of the Uji River, Uji, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

5.2 | Ukifune and Prince Niou-no-Miya

Asagiri-bashi Bridge and the statue of Ukifune and Prince Niou-no-Miya afloat on the Ujigawa River
Asagiri-bashi Bridge and the statue of Ukifune and Prince Niou-no-Miya afloat on the Ujigawa River | Image: georgina_daniel

This is a statue dedicated to the final ten chapters of the The Tale of Genji, which takes place in Uji. Some scenes depicts the maiden Ukifune (which means “floating boat”) who was caught-up in a bitter love rivalry between Prince Niou-no-Miya and Genji’s son, Kaoru. Ukifune eventually throws herself into the Uji-gawa River.

5.3 | Travel tips and Useful information on Uji’s Riverbank, Uji, Kyoto

Uji Bridge is a 5-10 minute walk north of JR Uji Station

NB: Find all the information on the Tale of Genji Museum, on their official website here.

6 | Hashidera Temple – Ho-join

Hashidera, protector of Uji Bridge was built in 604 by Hata no Kawakatsu on the instructions of Prince Shotoku (574-622 AD)

The grounds of Hashidera Temple, Uji, Kyoto
The grounds of Hashidera Temple, Uji, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

6.1 | Getting to Hashidera Temple, Uji

Hashidera Temple is on the east bank of the Uji River, just 5 minutes walk from Ujigami Shrine.

7 | Mampuku-ji Temple (萬福寺), Uji, Kyoto

Mampukuji Temple was the head temple of Zen Obaku sect and was founded in 1661 by Ingen, a Chinese monk. Ingen was the founder of Zen Buddhism and was responsible for importing the Zen Obaku sect, the most recent form of Zen Buddhism from China into Japan. The architecture is distinctively Chinese, incorporating contemporary designs of the Ming Dynasty. It is profoundly peaceful and quiet here.

The main entrance to Mampuku-ji Temple , Uji, Kyoto
The main entrance to Mampuku-ji Temple , Uji, Kyoto | Image: georgina_daniel

The temple grounds are extensive, set out as a courtyard, connected by stone paved path. It has beautiful Zen gardens surrounded by raked pebbles. There were not many people here when I arrived and gave me an opportunity to get “lost” in the extensive space!

Stoned footpath leads to Mampukuji Temple
Stoned footpath lines the entrance to the Mampuku-ji Temple | Image: georgina_daniel
Picture of the extensive grounds of Mampuku-ji Temple
Picture of the extensive grounds of Mampuku-ji Temple

Mampuku-ji is popular for Shojin Ryori, a sophisticated Buddhist cuisine. It is the traditional dining style of Buddhist monks in Japan and became associated with Zen Buddhism in the 13th century. If you want to experience this traditional dining, you need to book in advance.

7.1 | Travel tips and Useful information on Mampukuji Temple, Uji, Kyoto

Opening times: 09:00 to 17:00

Last entry at 16:30

Admission: 500 Yen

Georgina suggests: The grounds of this temple is huge, so getting here just before 16:30 will not really be worth your while. Half-an-hour is too short. You may need at least an hour minimum but anything more will be great.

7.2 | Getting to Mampukuji Temple, Uji

JR Line

Mampukuji is about five minutes from Obaku Station on the JR Nara Line.

Keihan Railways

Take the Keihan Line from Kyoto, Gion-Shijo Station to Keihan Obaku Station. The one way trip takes about 20 minutes, costs around 310 Yen. It requires a transfer of trains at Chushojima Station. Trains run every 5 minutes between Keihan Obaku and Uji Stations, and its 150 yen). Mampukuji is 10 minutes walk from Keihan Obaku Station.

You can also take the local trains between Kyoto and Obaku but these trains stops frequently, at every station and takes about half-an hour.

On foot

Alternatively, you can walk to Mampukuji in 30-40 minutes from Uji Bridge.

Alternatively, you could join a value for money guided tours and learn all about Uji and wider Kyoto.

My final thoughts

Amongst the seven attractions I visited in Uji in one day, I spent the longest time at the Byodoin Temple and then really enjoyed the walk along Uji’s Riverbank. I hope this itinerary will help you make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto. as well.

Happy exploring Uji, the historic romantic ancient town in Kyoto,

Georgina xx

February 2021, Update


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Ultimate Guide to the Best 5 in Kyoto

Guide to the Best 5 in Kyoto

Update: June 1, 2022

Without a doubt, everything I love about Japan is in Kyoto. Kyoto is my favourite city in Japan, followed by Hiroshima, Osaka, Tokyo and Himeji. Kyoto is a city of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, geishas and centuries old landscaped gardens. Tradition and culture exudes at every corner and street of this pretty city. Kyoto is slower and more deliberate in pace. An atmospheric city that takes me back to a different era of shoguns, samurais and monks each time I am in the city.

There is so much to do in Kyoto, that any time spent here will have you longing for more. However, if you have only a few days to spend in Kyoto, ensure you do not miss the best 5 in Kyoto that are in this guide.


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Travel resources at a Glance

Planning your dream vacation? Excellent! Here are all the Resources and Practical information you need for your self-guided or guided vacation.

Legal entry/Tourist travel Visa

Check Visa requirements with iVisa, a leading independent company in the travel documentation industry.

Flights

I have a few choices. Search Google flights because they offer very competitive prices. You could also try Opodo for cheap airfares. For special experiences, go to On the Beach and Jet2Holidays. My all time favourite has been Qatar Airways for long-haul flights for the comfort and their first-class service. I use British Airways as well. For all other global deals >> kiwi.com

Accommodations

My favourite website for booking hotels is booking.com – I love their flexible cancellation policy which means I’m covered till the last minute. I also like that the totals show up for the whole stay so it helps me budget better. Other favourites of mine are Millennium & Copthorne Group of Hotels and Resorts for their consistent high quality accommodations and service. You could also take a look at the Radisson Hotels chain that caters for all budget. For accommodations in UK that has a personal touch and affordable luxury, stay at Hotel du Vin.

Unique experiences & tours

My all time go to resource for unique experiences and tours is Get your Guide. I am also a fan of Viator for their special deals. You shall find suggestions on recommended tours sprinkled throughout TTS on each experience I write about.

Travel insurance

Never travel without travel insurance and never overpay for travel insurance! I use and recommend World Nomads for your travel insurance needs. They even insure on the go. Before purchasing any any travel policy, read through the terms to ensure that the plan is right for you and your trip.

Travel essentials

Never travel without these! I use and fully endorse all the products on this page but especially: High powered wireless power bank, Universal travel adapter and unlimited portable pocket wifi.


A little about Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto was the former capital of Japan until 1869 and was the residence of the Japanese emperor between AD 794 and 1868. The city of Kyoto and its regions are a popular destination both for tourists and locals.

As a region, Kyoto is home to at least 1600 temples and shrines, both small and large, famous and not so much. In addition there are many imperial palaces and gardens that just beckons a visit. Besides temples, shrines, palaces and gardens, Kyoto is strictly rooted in formal traditions such as kaiseki dining where multiple courses of precise dishes is served and geisha, who is a female entertainer often found in Gion-shiji.

With Kyoto being home to so much culture, food, vibrancy and history to indulge in, I can confidently say that one cannot have too many days in that cultural city. Strolling through Gion or Pontocho to steal a glimpse of the geisha, visiting the many iconic temples or experiencing a traditional ryokan stay will leave you with lasting memories. No matter how much time you spend in Kyoto, saying ‘goodbye’ will always be hard.

As for me, Kyoto is a place I will return to. Having lived in Japan for almost six months I realise there is so much to see and do here that there will always be new experiences to look forward to. Thus, selecting the best places to top my list for the purposes of this article was a difficult task. Nevertheless, here is my recommended guide to the Best 5 in Kyoto which you simply must not miss when you visit Kyoto.

Best 5 in Kyoto, Japan

1 | Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Kyoto

The Fushimi Inari Taisha is a popular destination in Kyoto. A Shinto shrine most recognisable for its thousands (about 10,000) of orange torii gates. These torii gates line up the path on a steep hillside arching over the sacred Mount Inari. The path has about 12000 concrete steps.

These bright orange gates are said to date back to 711 AD and was built to honour the Shinto God of Rice, Inari. The Inari Shrine is characterised by a pair of fox and vermilion torii gates.

Everyone, both young and old who visit Fushimi Inari climb these steps to the top. It took me a little over an hour to reach the top of the mountain, only because I stopped many times to take in the vista, photos of the torii gates from various angles and to chat along with other travellers. One could climb to the top in about 45 minutes without breaks, but then where is the fun in that, right?

Some of the paths are steep. There are resting areas with little tea-houses where you could stop for tea or ice-cream. If you are hungry, you may wish to try a bowl of kitsune udon along with some inari sushi – both are reputed to be Inari specialities. There are designated viewing points along the paths as well.

Fushimi Inari Taisha is well worth the hike! One feels a sense of achievement when you reach the top.

1.1 | Good to Know Information about Fushimi Inari Taisha Kyoto | Best 5 in Kyoto

Where: Fushimi Inari Taisha

Address: 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchicho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto, 612-0882, Japan


1 | When planning a trip to Fushimi Inari Taisha, use the map below to plan ahead so you could time your breaks for refreshments and for viewing points.

Fushimi Inari, Kyoto: A map of the mountain shows where the torii gates are situated and how high you need to climb.
Fushimi Inari, Kyoto: A map of the mountain shows where the torii gates are situated and how high you need to climb | © timelesstravelsteps | georgina_daniel

2 | Fushimi Inari is always open and there are no entrance fee.

3 | This mountain is popular both among tourists and locals which means that it will always be busy. Early mornings are best.

4 | Georgina: “I visited Fushimi Inari in May, and it was quite humid then. Best to take a bottle of water with you”.

1.2 | Getting to Fushimi Inari Taisha:

The nearest station to Fushimi Inari is situated at Inari Station. Inari Station takes about 5 minutes to reach by train on the JR line from Kyoto. From Inari Station, it is a short walk uphill a street lined with souvenir shops, food-stalls and restaurants with unique architecture. If you are unsure which way to turn as you get off the train, just follow the crowd and you will get there😊.

Timeless Travel Steps Best Tips about Best 5 in Kyoto:

If you are planning a visit to Fushimi Inari, and like to explore the shrine with a guide, you could book the following tour/s:

1 | For an enriched experience, you may want to join a guide who will share the history of the shrine and all the stories related to its construction. The symbolism of the torii gate, and why people donate them. The Japanese people make an annual pilgrimage here. Check availability on the Guided tour of the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine.

2 | Hike a scenic trail up the sacred Mount Inari with an experienced guide. The hiking trail is via a secret bamboo forest on a hidden path that leads to the top of Mount Inari. Book your space on the best selling tour of 3-hour Fushimi Inari hidden hiking tour with a guide.

3 | If you are shutterbug crazy, join the popular after dusk photography tour of Fushimi Inari.


2 | Kinkaku-ji Temple | Best 5 in Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji is one of the most beautiful Japanese zen gardens in Kyoto which I have been to. I highly recommend Kinkaku-ji and should top every visitor’s list.

Kinkaku-ji is home to the famous Buddhist temple, Golden Pavilion. The Golden Pavilion is a three-storey building and takes its name from the gold leaf that covers the building. Situated in a picturesque pond, the Golden Pavilion is surrounded by tiny little islands dotted all around.

Kinkaku-ji belonged to a Japanese shogun, Yoshimitsu Ashikaga (1358-1408), who had it built as his private garden. The paths are beautifully carved out, so you could enjoy every corner of the garden, with plenty of shades provided by the tall trees which may have been there since the 14th century or before.

Walking through the garden, you will totally feel the zen, the calmness and the serenity, knowing that you are walking the steps once walked by the Shogun himself! In this beautifully tended garden, you will find pretty little lakes with wildlife where you will want to stop every so often to admire and to capture the moments with your camera. Throughout the garden at this Kinkaku-ji Pavilion in Kyoto, you will find lovely moss covered ground which adds to the softness of the luscious green.

If you need a break, there is a tea-house where you can either sit seiza-style on the floor in-doors or on low-rise benches outdoors.

2.1 | Good to Know Information about Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto | Best 5 in Kyoto

Where: Kinkaku-ji Kyoto

Address: 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan

Kinkakuji is open from 9 am to 5 pm every day. 

1 | Kinkaku-ji is easily accessible from Kyoto city or Gion-shiji. Take either bus 101 or 205 and its 230 yen. The journey is about 40 minutes. If you can, avoid the school rush hour (before 9 a.m. and after 3 p.m.).

2 | Admission to Kinkakuji is 400 yen for adults, and 300 yen for children up to junior high school age.

Timeless Travel Steps Best Tips for the Best 5 in Kyoto:

1 | Enjoy a much richer experience than would be possible independently when you join a guided tour of the Golden Pavilion. Learn about the rich heritage and the historical context of one of Kyoto’s famous landmarks from a knowledgeable and experienced guide. Learn more and check availability on the Kinkaku-ji Guided Walking Tour.

2 | Discover Japanese culture and history on a guided tour of three World Heritage Sites and two shrines. En route, stop for lunch at a popular soba noodle eatery (not included in the tour) before continuing on to your final stop. Check availability on World Heritage Temples and Shrines Tour.

3 | Visit 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Ninna-ji temple, Ryoan-ji temple, and Kinkaku-ji temple and discover the art of Zen while learning the rich history of the temples. Experience the traditional culture including matcha and Shakyo. Book your experience on this 3.5 hour UNESCO historical walking tour in Kyoto.


3 | Arashiyama & Sagano | Best 5 in Kyoto

Arashiyama basically means ‘Storm Mountain’ and is situated on western Kyoto. It is designated as a Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. The Oi River runs through this district and meets Togetsukyo Bridge and changes to become Katsura River. The Togetsukyo Bridge, also referred to as the “bridge under the moon” is a landmark in this district.

This part of Kyoto was popular among the nobles during the Heian period (794-1185). Arashiyama was frequented for its tranquillity and natural beauty, so the name ‘Storm Mountain’ does not really do justice to the serenity of this place.

The one experience all visitors to Arashiyama wish to have is the Arashiyama Bamboo Groves. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of the most photographed areas in Kyoto where people wear their kimono or yukata for the day. It is completely out of this world to walk among the over-arching tall, very tall bamboo stalks swaying gently in the breeze.

In addition to the Bamboo Groves, Arashiyama as an area is picturesque and is dotted with many temples, gardens, quaint shops and restaurants.

3.1 | Good to Know Information about Arashiyama, Kyoto

How to get to Arashiyama from Kyoto Station

Arashiyama is conveniently accessible from Kyoto Station by train.

Take the JR Train from Kyoto Station on the JR Sagano/San-in Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station. When you exit Arashiyama Station, follow signs to the Bamboo Grove. It takes about 10 minutes.

Timeless Travel Steps Best Tips for Arashiyama | Best 5 in Kyoto

best 5 in Kyoto | timelesstravelsteps.com
Arashiyama | Best 5 in Kyoto

1 | A quintessential way to experience the Bamboo Groves and one that is popular in Arashiyama is the hand-pulled rickshaw ride along an exclusive rickshaw path. Enjoy an informative and fully customisable rickshaw tour as you explore the charming and quiet neighborhood streets of Arashiyama. Book your rickshaw ride here.

2 | Explore the best of Arashiyama on a full day guided walking tour. Visit iconic spots such as the Bamboo Forest path, Togetsukyo Bridge, and Kimono Forest on this walking tour along with the best photo spots. Check availability and book your space on this popular activity in Arashiyama.

3 | You may wish to combine sightseeing the best of Arashiyama (beautiful bridge called the Togetsukyo, the scenic bamboo grove and Tenryu-ji temple with beautiful traditional garden) along with food tasting experiences in the Sagano area. Accompanied by a knowledgeable guide who will share the history of Arashiyama, and ensure you have the best experience in Arashiyama. Check availability and book your space on the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and Food Walking Tour.


4. Heian Shrine and Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto

Some may think that this is an unusual combination because Philosophers Path is usually combined with a trip to Ginkakuji Temple, which is just a 5-minute walk, up the road from Philosopher’s Path. However, I have chosen this combination as I rather enjoyed the 20-minute walk from Heian Shrine to Philosopher’s Path.

4.1 | Heian Shrine, Kyoto

The entrance to Heian Shrine is marked by a giant torii gate, about 25 metres high which overlooks the Okazaki Koen Park. The main buildings are said to be 5/8th of the original Imperial Palace from the Heian period. The Shrine is surrounded by spacious grounds and there is a large open court at the centre, with spacious courtyard between buildings.

Heian Shrine is a popular destination for cultural weddings.

Shin’en, Heian Shrine, Kyoto

The most aesthetically impressive part of Heian Shrine is the Shin’en. Shin’en is 33,000 square metres of garden situated at the back of the main building. This garden is divided into East, West, South and Middle. It has lots of flowers, interesting looking trees, ponds and the exact stones that Scarlett Johansson was on in “Lost in Translation” (2003).

4.1.1 | Good to Know Information about Heian Shrine, Kyoto

The entrance to Heian shrine is free but there is a small fee, 600 yen for the garden. I would recommend it if you are looking to spend a leisurely afternoon/evening. There is a sitting area right in the middle of the pond where you can sit, have a picnic or just relax and take in the view.

Getting to Heian Shrine, Kyoto

From Kyoto Station:

Take bus number 5 or 100. It is about half-an-hour journey and cost 230 Yen.

Take the subway to Higashiyama Station and it is ten minutes walk to the Shrine.

Trek from Heian Shrine to Philosophers Path

Best 5 in Kyoto

From the Heian Jingu, I took the 20-minute walk along the residential area till I came to the small winding canal, lined with sakura (cherry blossoms). I didn’t mind the walk as it was an opportunity to see the quiet residential area, the tiny little shops lined up along the canal and really take-in the scenic view.

4.2 | Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto

Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto is a popular destination during the cherry blossom season which is typically late March to early April.

4.2.1 | Useful information about Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto

If you are planning a trip during Hanami (the tradition of viewing and appreciating the beauty of the sakuras), please dedicate some time to planning your travels. The sakura are in full bloom for only 2 to 3 weeks in Spring, between 20th March and 14th April, so you don’t really see them in full-bloom for a full month. Cherries peak at different times and are very weather dependent but they generally peak on 1st April.

If you are travelling to Kyoto during Hanami, ideally, you may need to give yourself more than just a couple of days in Kyoto. Accommodation during the Hanami is typically expensive.

Read: Complete Guide to Cherry Blossoms season in Kyoto


5 | Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto | Best 5 in Kyoto

A visit to Kyoto is incomplete without a visit to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, the iconic Buddhist Temple nestled in the wooded hills of eastern Kyoto.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple which basically means “Pure Water Temple” was founded around AD 780. It is an independent Buddhist Temple and has been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site, part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.

Scaffolding covers the wooded hall at Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto. Closed to visitors.
best 5 in Kyoto | Scaffolding covers the wooded hall at Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto as it undergoes a major renovations |© timelesstravelsteps.com | georgina_daniel .

The Kiyomizu-dera is popular for its wooden stage that stands-out about 13 metres above in the hillside below. The main hall and the stage were built without any nails.

Beyond the Main Hall, you could visit the Jinshu Shrine, which is dedicated to the deity of love, a spot particularly popular with older teenagers and the younger generation in Japan.

Towards the south of Kiyomizu-dera Temple, among the trees, is the the three-tiered Koyasu Pagoda. Popularly visited by women as a visit here is said to bring about an easy and safe childbirth.

5.1 | Good to Know Information about Kiyomizu-dera Temple Kyoto | Best 5 in Kyoto

Where: Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto

Address: 1 Chome-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, 605-0862, Japan

Website: Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto

From Kyoto Station

Take bus 100 or 206. It is a 15-minute journey and cost 230 Yen. Get off at Kiyomizu-michi stop and then it is about a 10-minute walk uphill to the temple.


INSPIRING DESTINATIONS FOR A DAY TRIP FROM KYOTO, JAPAN

Alongside the best 5 in Kyoto, there are a number of destinations around the city of Kyoto that easily make for a day-trip .

Himeji is a popular destination for its white castle, built in the shape of an eagle taking flight and surrounded by nine gardens. Nara, with many of its UNESCO buildings and the people friendly deer is another popular attraction both for visitors and locals alike. While visiting Kyoto, you may not want to miss the romantic city of Uji and the sacred Mount Hiei, – all making a fascinating experience of Japan.


finally … on the best 5 in Kyoto

To select the best 5 places to visit in Kyoto was a difficult decision. There are so many more temples here that requires a visit for example Ginkaku-ji also known as Silver Pavilion, the Nanzen-ji and Toji Temple. There is also the Imperial palace which is a popular destination in Kyoto. Last but not least, are the Kyoto flea markets which go back centuries!

Ultimately, my choices for the best 5 in Kyoto rested upon selecting what would give my readers an authentic experience of history, culture and traditions if you were to have just a few days in Kyoto. I sincerely believe that the Best 5 in Kyoto selected here reflects what is quintessentially Kyoto. It will be a rewarding experience if these Best 5 in Kyoto — Fushimi Inari, Kinkaku-ji, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Heian Shrine and the Philosopher’s Path along with Kiyamizu-dera Temple are on your itinerary when travelling to Japan.

My sincere wish is that this post is valuable to you in planning your visit to Kyoto. If so, use the links to book your flight, hotels, activities and accessories. TTS earn a commission at zero cost to you. As always, we appreciate your continued support.

Have a splendid time exploring the best 5 in Kyoto.

A moment to reflect and admire the beautiful mountains that surrounds this valley. Togetsukyo Bridge, Arashiyama, Kyoto

Just me, Georgina stealing moments to reflect and admire the beautiful mountains that surround the valley in Arashiyama


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best 5 in Kyoto | timelesstravelsteps.com
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Ultimate Guide to the Best 5 in Kyoto first published at timelesstravelsteps.com and is regularly edited and updated. Last update June 1, 2022


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