Kyoto is the prefectural capital of Kyoto prefecture and located north of Osaka in the Kansai region. It used to be Japan's capital for over thousand years, which makes it the most cultural and historical rich city in Japan. It's currently Japan's seventh largest city with a population of close to 1.5 million people.
Thanks to it's historical value, Kyoto was mostly spared from allied air raids during the second world war, allowing the many wooden temples, shrines and historical structures of the city to remain intact to this day. With the notably oldest building being the pagoda of the Daigoji temple, build year 951.
Some of the most visited sightseeing spots in Kyoto.
Kinkaku, translated the golden pavilion in english, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Japan. The most striking feature is the two upper stories that are completely covered with gold leaf. The pavilion and its garden was built to express the Kitayama-bunka, the extravagant culture that developed from the wealthy aristocratic circles in Kyoto at the time. With its placement facing Kyoko-chi(mirror lake) pond, the pavilion and its reflection on the water as well as islets and trees all enhances this beautiful scene.
35 minutes from Kyoto Station to Kinkaku-ji-michi by Kyoto City Bus 101 or 205.
Best known for its hundreds of torii gateways and many small shrines and stone monuments. Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head shrine of Inari, the god of rice, and has around 32,000 sub-shrines spread across Japan. It's located at the base of the mountain also called Inari. The densely wooded mountain paths leading up and around the mountain are sprinkled with shrines and fox statues and sightseers should prepare for about two hours of hiking up and down the stone stairways.
5 minutes on JR lines from Kyoto station to Inari station that is in front of the main torii gateway of the shrine.
This is the largest pleasure quarters and retains the atmosphere of old Kyoto. Present day Gion still has many Ochaya, establishments where customers eat and drink while Geisha and Maiko(Geisha in training) entertain them in the traditional arts, like singing, dancing and playing the shamisen. While Gion isn't the only Geisha district in Japan it's considered to be the most famous.
Another thing not to miss is the Gion Matsuri festival. It begins on July 1st and lasts for one month, and includes traditional musical performances and beautiful festival floats, often described as mobile art museums.
Gion can be reached from Kyoto Station by bus number 100 or 206 (20 minutes, 230 yen). Get off at Gion bus stop. Alternatively, the closest train stations are Gion Shijo Station on the Keihan Line and Kawaramachi Station on the Hankyu Line.
The Kiyomizu-dera temple attracts more than 4 million visitors each year, making it the most popular sightseeing spot in Kyoto. The main attraction of the temple is the main hall built on a steep slope that has a stage in front of it, and offers a spectacular view of Kyoto. The supporting structure of the building is assembled with 139 pillars and no nails are used.
10 minutes from Kyoto Station to Gojozaka bus stop by Kyoto City Bus No. 206 then 10 minutes on foot, or 6 minutes from Shijo-Kawaramachi to Kiyomizu-michi bus stop by Kyoto City Bus No. 207 then 10 minutes on foot.
Kyoto Toei Studio Park, or Eigamura as it's name is in Japanese, is a working movie set that doubles as a theme park. The whole park is a Edo-era set samurai town and is often used as a backdrop for historical tv dramas and movies. Things you can do include dressing up in period typical costumes, watch live studio performances with choreographed sword fighting scenes or just see the exhibitions of the well known tv series and movies filmed there. There is also a haunted house, said to be the scariest in Japan.
Eigamura is open daily from 9am to 5pm (9.30am to 4pm from Dec to Feb).
Take bus number 75 from Kyoto Station to the Uzumasa Eigamura-michi bus stop.