In Oct 2018, I went to Kyoto to visit sanctuaries, temples and shrines.
I spent 7 nights in Kyoto, one day was for Osaka, the other day was heading to Nara I was only at Kyoto for 6 days. I wanted to visit so many places and this was not enough time! I think the maximum amount of major temples/ shrines you can visit would be 3, or if you include minor places, it could be 5-6.
I know the city of Kyoto very well as it was my 5th visit of there. I had categorized the areas, and I needed to spend one whole day for each area. Temples tends to close at 17:00, and most of the gates of shrines are open for 24 hours (but make sure to check before visiting!).
There are 3 places (Arashiyama, Kinkkaju-ji, and Fushimi Inari) I wanted to visit, but I also knew that they tend to be crowded. I have to worry about transportation there and back, but it is super tiring to tour around using the crowded local buses.
I decided to buy a packaged tour from KKday that included all 3 areas, I have no worry about being there and back. This time the trip was not sponsored by KKday, I just personally enjoy their services.
Tenryu-ji, and Chikurin no Komichi
“Arashiyama” is a name of the area. We got off the bus at Tenryu-ji (天龍寺), and the ticket for seeing the beautiful garden was included.
This temple is registered as one of the World Heritage Sites.
Originally this Tenryu-ji is the place where was one of the palaces for Emperor Kameyama (亀山天皇), late 1200s. Takauji ASHIKAGA (足利尊氏) made the old palace to a temple for late Emperor Godaigo (後醍醐天皇), the grandson of Emperor Kameyama in 1300s.
If you want to go inside of the building, you need to buy an additional ticket (I did not do this), but the bus guide told us that I could see the inside from the garden. When you want to leave the temple, you can do that whenever you like, but you have to make your way back to the bus yourself.
The back street of this temple is the very the famous “Bamboo path” Chikurin no Komichi (竹林の小径), to Nonomiya Jinja(野宮神社).
(Chikurin no Komichi)
You need to pay for a Rikisha Plan, if you want to take a trip that way. Some cars were there available for the service, and you can use discount coupons when you get the bus tour, but if you REALLY want to do it, I recommend booking a plan. (Guess 30 mins Bamboo Path plan is the best for this bus tour.)
Togetsukyo, Randen Arashiyama Station
I walked up the hill of Kameyama Park (亀山公園), and down to the riverside to Togetsukyo (渡月橋), a bridge.
On the riverside, I ate granita named “Morning of Etona”. It won the world grand prix for granita on Shinpachi Chaya（新八茶屋）, ¥500.
It was not too sweet, which was perfect for me.
I then went back to Tenryuji, through Randen Arashiyama Station. You can use this station if you come from downtown Kyoto on your own.
(Randen Arashiyama Station)
I had been walking around for 2 hours. It seemed as though some people stopped to eat lunch, but others (like me) did not. Lunch is not included in the price of the tour so if you need something to eat, eat in Arashiyama, or bring something to snack on.
Note: there are some other activities in this area, like the river cruise, but I wouldn’t recommend going as it takes 2 hours and you’re only allotted 140 mins of leisure time at Arashiyama (traffic depending). I admit I was at the bus parking 10 mins before the time limit.
Rokuon-ji, aka Kinkaku-Ji
I guess one of the most famous pictures is “Golden Temple”, isn’t it? It is known as Kinkaku, or Kinkaku -i, but actually the official name of this temple is “Rokuon ji” (鹿苑寺).
There is also a beautiful garden to walk through and see!
It was QUITE crowded.
40 mins was not enough time to spend here. I admit, it was quite a hustle.
The fee to enter the garden is included.
Fushimi Inari Taisha
It is also famous for the red gates.
It is free to enter.
You are allowed 45 mins at this stop and that is not enough time to walk up to the hill top, unfortunately.
Note for pictures in shrines and temples
If you are a professional photographer, you are not welcome to take photos in this shrine.
You can not use tripods for your cameras.
The Dazaifu Tenmangu is free to visit, but it is not only a private area, but also a sanctuary. Please respect it and be nice.
For non-Japanese Speakers service
The tour “Day Tour From Kyoto: Arashiyama, Kinkaku-ji, and Fushimi Inari Shrine” is a part of “Kyoto Teiki Kanko Bus”. Seems The “Teiki Kanko Bus” have been running since 1928. No joke. Japanese often buy this bus tour in Kyoto.
In my plan, it was not during a weekend, and it was fully occupied. I recommend to book at least 2-3 days before of your planned date.
I am a Japanese, born and raised, and I do not need to buy non-Japanese Speakers service. However, I bought through Kkday, and it was a non-Japanese speakers course.
The bus is the same as the Japanese Course, the bus guide is the same person who does not speak any other languages, she understands Japanese only. In Fushimi Inari, there was another lady waiting for non-Japanese speaking guests, it sounded like she speaks English, as well as some Chinese and Korean.
On the bus, there is a recorded-guide in English, Korean, and Chinese, to introduce you to where you are going.
You also get a package (above of the picture) from the guide when you get on the bus at Kyoto station. There is a recorded-guide, pamphlet (also described in English), and some discount coupons you can use in Arashiyama.
The grey-white (and dirty) thing is the recorded-guide, it works inside the bus only. Outside of the bus, the pamphlet will help you.
They were strict on timelines, but the guide wrote it down on a paper board what time we needed to be back. As long as you can read Arabic numerals, you will be fine.
For the bus tour, you will need to show the seal (pictured below), it means you are a tour member and it also works as proof of payment for the entrance in Tenryu-ji and Kinkaku-ji.
NEVER try to use it on a different day in another place. The guides are counting the numbers at the entrance, and also the entrance for the group tours are often different from an individuals entrance. They are also very good at remembering your face, and if you are non-native Japanese speaker, they will remember you easily.
If you are visiting Kyoto and want to see how Japanese tourists in Kyoto are doing it, this is the easiest way. The tour members are generally not friendly nor young but ask them if you need assistance. You may find at least one person who can speak English in the fully occupied bus.
You should also remember that these places are historical areas. While they welcome non-Japanese tourists, and have many English language plates. They ARE still historical places, they are full of stone steps, there are rarely any handrails, so if you have problems walking, historical areas are not always friendly. Some temples like Kinkaku-ji rent wheelchairs, but you need someone who helps with the steps.
There are several tours run by Kyoto Teiki Kanko Bus in KKday. The time can be tight, and you need hustle, but I promise that they are experienced, and QUITE well organized.
What I bought is this one.
KKday Day Tour From Kyoto: Arashiyama, Kinkaku-ji, and Fushimi Inari Shrine
There are also,
Kkday Kyoto Bus Tour: Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine & Sanjusangen-do Temple
KKday One day in Kyoto, visit Arashiyama, Kinkaku-ji Temple, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Toji Temple
Kkday Kyoto Bus Tour: Kinkakuji Temple & Nishi Honganji Temple
Kkday Kyoto Bus Tour: Kiyomizudera Temple & Kinkaku-ji
Kkday Kyoto Bus Tour: Ryoan-ji Temple & Nijo Castle
Seasonal Plan (Autumn)
Kkday Kyoto Night Tour: Daigo-ji and Zuishin-in Temple
Kkday Kodai-ji and Kiyomizu-dera Temple Night Tour from Kyoto
Kkday Kyoto Day Tour: Arashiyama, Tenryu-ji Temple, and Tofuku-ji Temple
Kkday Eikan-do Zenrin-ji and Chion-in Temple Night Tour from Kyoto
Kkday Kyoto Bus Tour: Enryaku-ji Temple & Sanzen-in Temple