Why Explore By foot?
Kyoto is a city with deep roots and tradition, known for its hidden beauty and over 2,000 temples. When visiting, the city is best discovered on foot. Walking through quaint alleyways and passing shops that have been open for centuries transports travelers to the city’s ancient past. You feel like you’ve stepped into a time machine and gone back to the Edo Period or the Meiji Period or any other period of Japan’s past. For over a millennium, Kyoto was the capital of Japan and home to the emperor’s government. The city’s lengthy past can be seen everywhere- from the architecture temples, to the tree lined walkways. At the same time, Kyoto is still a modern city and the advanced public transportation system is a nod to Japan’s ability to combine the past with the present.
Supera Tours has incorporated a walking tour of Kyoto for all Kyoto itineraries. The walking tour is designed to allow travelers to leisurely immerse themselves in Kyoto’s unique elegance. Our Japan Classics Tour and our Japan Kansai Tour include this walking tour.
Total Distance: 2.5 miles
Total Time: About 2.5 – 3 hours
Your first step… The Perfect Walking tour of Kyoto
Takasegawa River canal
Beginning at our hotel in central Kyoto, we’ll first take a walk along the Takasegawa River canal. The canal flows parallel to Kyiamachi Street which is lined by around 200 cherry blossom trees.
Sanjo Ohashi Bridge
From Kyiamachi Street, we’ll make our way to Sanjo Ohashi Bridge and appreciate the views of Kamo River. The bridge itself is famous because it marked the end of two of the famous “Five Routes” for long distance travelers during the Edo Period- the Nakasendo and the Tokaido. We’ll then stroll down the Kamo River. As the main river in Kyoto, the Kamo or Kamogawa has wide walking paths along both sides. The river also has pure waters that were used for Shinto ceremonies.
From our walk along the Kamo river, we then explore one of Kyoto’s most well known neighborhoods, Gion. The neighborhood is located to the west of the Kamo River and is one of the licensed geisha areas in Kyoto. We’ll walk along Shirakawa Dori, one of the most beautiful streets in all of Kyoto. Well preserved buildings including wooden inns and restaurants occupy both sides of the street. Willow trees hang peacefully over the cobblestones, giving the area a timeless feel. This is one of the only places in Japan where you can still see a geisha or maiko (geisha apprentice) walking along the street.
After Gion, we stroll over to Chionin Temple. Standing, 24 meters tall and 50 meters wide, the massive Sanmon Gate welcomes us to the temple. This is the largest wooden gate in Japan. Once you climb the steps and pass through the gate, you’ll see the Chionin temple area is home to a large compound of buildings and sacred halls.
Half way through… time for a coffee break
Just south of the Chionin Temple is Maruyama Park. The park is home to many cherry trees and when in full bloom, the park is one of Kyoto’s main locations for hanami or cherry blossom viewing picnics. After walking about 1.5 miles, we’ll relax here for and enjoy a coffee break at a local cafe.
After our refreshing break, we explore two alleyways that embody Kyoto’s elegance, Nene no Michi Street and Ishihei Koji Lane. These two streets do not allow cars, garish signs or even telephone wires. You will feel like you’ve stepped into the past as few modern features can be seen.
We’ll then make our way to the neighborhood of Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka. Designated by Japan as an important historical architectural preservation district. The age of the district is evident where well-preserved streets emanate an air of the distant past. The shops that fill these streets sell local specialty goods of Kyoto such as Kiyomizu (pottery ware), Yusen-Zome (colorful and artisan tapestry), shichimiya (seven aromatic spices), otabe (sweet snack made of dough), tsukemono (pickled products), Kyogashi (assortment of sweets), traditional hand-held fans, incense, green tea, and more.
After exploring Ninenzaka & Sannenzaka, we’ll head to our final destinations: Kiyomizu-zaka street and Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Kiyomizu- zaka street leads up to Kiyomizu-dera. The street’s businesses and shops have been catering to travelers and pilgrims for hundreds of years. They sell local specialties such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery as well as souvenirs, snacks, and pastries.
We’ll then conclude our walking tour and offer guests the opportunity to explore Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The historic Buddhist temple established in 778. As a part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, an UNESCO World Heritage site, the temple is one of the most celebrated and iconic temples in Japan. The wooden stage affords visitors a spectacular view of the Kyoto city center. Twelve meters above the ground, the stage is supported by high keyaki (Japanese Zelkova) pillars assembled without a single nail. The temple is also the home of Otowa Waterfall. Spring water has been flowing here since the temple was built. The water flows down into three separate streams and visitors may drink the water for longevity, prosperity, and love.
Optional for early birds: Beginning bright and early, we have an optional tour to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Kiyomizu-dera is best enjoyed in a quiet, serene, meditative atmosphere. Unfortunately, it is one of the most popular sights in Kyoto, so these days, it is almost impossible to find a quiet time of day to visit. For the best zen-like experience, it’s best to go very early in the morning before normal tours begin arriving and to avoid the heavy crowds. This is why we have provided a chance to go early. We will go by taxi for the optional morning tour of Kiyomizu (no charge to guests).
This walking tour of Kyoto is included on our Japan Classics Tour and our Japan Kansai Tour.