A guided walk through the cityscape and history of one of the greatest cultural capitals of the world to fabulous temples, exquisite gardens and charming backstreets.
Timed to immediately precede Walk Japan's iconic Nakasendo Way tours.
A fully-guided one-day city tour exploring Kyoto’s Higashiyama district starting at 8am and finishing at 4pm. This tour is open to anyone but an ideal precursor for those joining the Nakasendo Way tour, which starts at 6pm on the same day in Kyoto.
The maximum group size for this tour is 12 persons. We have no minimum size. If we accept a booking we guarantee to run the tour.
Walk Japan's Kyoto Tour takes us through Kyoto’s Higashiyama district found in the lower hills on the city’s eastern edge. Here, while visiting some famous and some less well-known sites unique to Kyoto, we explore its history, arts & crafts and its people - elements that combined over 1,250 years to make the city Japan’s cultural epicentre.
Kyoto was originally known as Heian-kyo, the capital of peace and tranquillity, and modelled on Chang-an, the great capital of the Chinese Tang empire. The city remained the home of the imperial court for eleven centuries before it was removed to Tokyo in the late 19th century. Over 1100 years as the imperial home, Kyoto justly became one of the great cities of the world. At times it experienced turbulence and violence – often at the same time – but it was where some of the most distinct and exquisite arts and one of the world’s greatest cultures were cultivated. This was to such an extent that today to talk of the culture of Kyoto is often to talk of that of Japan as a whole. Our gently-paced walking tour unveils Kyoto’s importance at the heart of Japanese culture and history in typical Walk Japan style, inimitable and fascinating.
2,000 temples and shrines, 17 of which are listed by UNESCO as world heritage sites, together with many gardens and other sites of interest make for an overwhelming number of places to visit in Kyoto. Of these, Walk Japan’s Kyoto Tour visits some of the famous and not-so-famous in the Higashiyama area to provide a coherent and fascinating experience for an understanding of how the city came to nurture such arts as Noh Theatre and chado, the Way of Tea. We learn of the colourful historical personalities such as the Ashikaga shoguns’ Yoshimitsu and Yoshimasa, the tea master Sen-no-Rikyu, Haiku poet Basho and the great samurai warriors Kiyomori and Nobunaga. We also learn how much of the beauty that resides in Kyoto and Japanese culture developed in spite of internecine warfare, treachery and murder, combined sometimes with its rulers’ Nero-like indifference to the surrounding mayhem.
Walk Japan’s Kyoto Tour is a full day of walking, meeting at 8am at the day's starting point as indicated in the itinerary. Walk Japan provides detailed instructions on how to join the tour at its starting point. Please note that Kyoto’s transport system is very comprehensive and easy to use.
The day ends at 4pm in central Kyoto. Your Walk Japan tour leader will help arrange onward travel to your accommodation or other desired location, or give recommendations for some of the myriad excellent local restaurants.
Please note the Kyoto tour finishes at 4pm leaving sufficient time for customers joining the Nakasendo Way tour to reach its start point at 6pm on the same day.
Your Walk Japan Tour Leader welcomes everyone at 8:00am at Ginkaku-ji, the tour start point and one of Kyoto’s most famed destinations. Built in the late 15th Century by the 8th Ashikaga shogun, the Silver Pavilion temple is an exquisite structure set in beautiful gardens: an apposite setting to begin our exploration of Higashiyama, its history and culture including its greatest development the chado tea ceremony.
A leisurely stroll from Ginkaku-ji along the Philosopher's Path, takes us through quiet suburbs and past many temples, and leads us to the Heian-jingu, one of Japan’s most important Shinto shrines. Here, while delving into Japan’s indigenous religion we gain an idea of how Kyoto used to look in its earliest days over 1,000 years ago. A nearby museum is the setting for an entertaining introduction to the many and splendid crafts of Kyoto.
We continue on our way following a forest walk through the peaceful low hills of Higashiyama to Shogun-zuka, which offers us expansive and spectacular vistas over Kyoto. Beyond, we descend on a secluded path to Chion-in, a beautiful temple and home of a 70 tonne bell; Japan’s largest. After strolling through Maruyama park, the city’s hustle and bustle catches up with us for a while as we join the crowds heading for one of Kyoto’s most popular destinations, the iconic Kiyomizu-dera.
We round up our tour in a quieter fashion following backstreets to Yasaka-jinja. This 1,350 year-old shrine is home to the Gion Festival, one of Japan’s most famous. From here it is a short walk back to central Kyoto, where the tour ends at Karasuma Station.
This itinerary is subject to change.
The airport closest to the tour’s start at Kyoto is Osaka’s Kansai International Airport. Transfer is also easily made from both Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda International Airports.
FROM OSAKA’S KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT (KIX)
From Osaka’s Kansai International Airport, Haruka Express trains depart to Kyoto Station, where the train terminates. The journey costs about JPY3,290 per person and takes approximately 1 hour 15 minutes. From here, take a taxi to your accommodation.
FROM TOKYO’S HANEDA AIRPORT (HND)
From Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport, Keikyu Line trains depart to Shinagawa Station, where Shinkansen bullet trains then depart for Kyoto. The journey costs about JPY13,900 per person and takes approximately 3 hours 10 minutes. From here, take a taxi to your accommodation.
FROM TOKYO’S NARITA AIRPORT (NRT)
From Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, Narita Express trains depart to Tokyo Station, where shinkansen bullet trains then depart for Kyoto. The journey costs about JPY16,240 per person and takes approximately 3 hours 30 minutes. From here, take a taxi to your accommodation.
The pre-tour pack includes detailed instructions, including a map, for travel to the starting point of the tour.