Get the Most out of your Subway + Bus Pass: One Day of Sightseeing in Kyoto!
It’s likely you’ll need to make use of both Kyoto’s buses and subways when navigating to some of the most beautiful places in the city. With a one-day (or two-day) combination subway + bus pass, you can get unlimited rides on both for the prescribed time period, and master traversing the city in the most cost-effective way possible. Need some ideas for how to spend a day using your pass to see the sights, and avoid the crowds?
Let’s say you start your day like this…
First stop, Gojo-zaka! This charming street has appeared in many a photograph, winding its way up the hill lined with shops–temple spires just sticking out above them. In most photos you’ll find, however, the streets will be full of other travelers taking in the sights.
To beat the crowds, and see a different, quieter side of the street, we’ll be making an early start.
From Kyoto Station: Take City Bus 100 (first bus leaves at 7:35) to Gojo-zaka Bus Stop (Approx. 20 minutes)
For later departure times, you can also depart from the following locations:
From Kawaramachi Sanjo: Take City Bus 86, or Keihan Bus 70, 84B, 86B, 87B, 88B, 92, 93, or 95
From Shijo Kawaramachi: Take Keihan Bus 70, 84, 84B, 84C, 86, 86A, 86B, 87B, 88B, 92, 93, or 95
From this bus stop, walk away from the Kamo-gawa River, and up the slope of this charming street, full of shops and a very popular area throughout the day. This street was once the site of many kilns that pioneered Kyoto’s kiyomizu-yaki style pottery (which you can still see today in the Yamashina area). With an early morning start, you can have the street all to yourself as you make the approach to Kiyomizu-dera Temple at the top of the hill.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple: 8:00
See this iconic temple, famous for its wood joinery construction, in the otherworldly dawn hours before its broad platform is full of other eager visitors. Experience the calm of the large temple grounds, which are remarkable in different ways throughout the seasons, and explore the temple’s numerous smaller shrines, which are popular in their own right.
Hours: 6:00 - 18:00 (18:30 from July to August, and until 21:00 during some special seasonal events)
If you’re up for a morning walk, take a stroll from Kiyomizu-dera Temple through the Higashiyama area by first heading down the slope along Ninen-zaka, another charming slope just to the north of Kiyomizu-dera Temple. From there, continue northwards past rickshaw pullers and historical locations like Kodai-ji Temple and Yasaka-jinja Shrine.
You can continue your walk all the way to Nanzen-ji Temple (altogether about 30-45 minutes), but with an all-day pass, you can ride the bus as much as you like: to skip the walk, walk down Ninen-zaka to Kiyomizu-michi bus stop.
From Kiyomizu-michi Bus Stop: Take City Bus 100 to Higashitennocho Bus Stop (Approx. 17 minutes) and walk ten minutes to Nanzen-ji Temple.
Nanzen-ji Temple: 9:45
Nanzen-ji Temple is a large temple situated at the base of Kyoto’s famous Philosopher’s Path, and the head temple of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. It contains a number of sub-temples for which entrance fees are required, but the temple’s main grounds are free for the public to enter, and feature beautiful foliage displays in the autumn, as well as the remains of the Lake Biwa aqueduct, dating back to 1890. The temple interior contains rock landscape gardens and exquisitely painted sliding doors papered with gold leaf.
Hours: 8:40 - 17:00 (16:30 from December - February)
After all this exploration, you’re bound to work up an appetite. Luckily for you, you’re in a good place to find lunch. Nanzen-ji Temple is known for its tofu (not like any tofu you’ve had before!) and there are a number of restaurants near the temple that serve local tofu-based dishes.
(If you’re interested in checking out a greater variety of cafes and restaurants, you can make your way to the downtown Sanjo Kawaramachi area, too: walk to nearby Keage Subway Station and use your pass to ride to Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station, approx. 5 minutes.)
From Keage Station (or Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station): Take the Subway Tozai Line to Nijojo-Mae Station (Approx. 9 minutes)
Nijo-jo Castle: 13:00
This moat-encircled castle is located right in the center of Kyoto, but it’s quite different in style from many of the other castles you may see in other parts of Japan. Nijo-jo isn’t a bastion built up on a hill, but it’s filled with exquisite details instead–from the marvelous patterns painted across its ceilings and walls, to its famous “nightingale floors,” made to squeak underfoot to alert the castle’s inhabitants to potential attackers.
Hours: 8:45 - 16:00
After your adventures in the castle, head back to the bus to return to central Kyoto. In the evening, the Kamo-gawa riverside is serene and twinkling with lights, and is a lovely place to walk in the summertime.
From Horikawa Oike Bus Stop: Take City Bus 12 or 15 to Shijo Kawaramachi Bus Stop (Approx. 15 minutes), and walk towards the river.
Dinner in Kyoto’s Traditional Districts
For dinner, return to the Kamo-gawa River for a Kyoto-style dinner in either Ponto-cho, a charming alley-like street that wends its way along the river’s western bank, or cross the river to the Gion neighborhood on the eastern side. Both are a maze of hidden Kyoto cuisine, and the perfect place to end your day of sightseeing with a delicious meal.