When you come to Kyoto for the first time, you probably first want to go to the sightseeing spots and restaurants in downtown. But when it’s your second or third time, you probably want to also go see the outskirts of this ancient city. So, if you read this article, you’ll probably get a few ideas for some half-day itineraries in Kyoto, in places that guidebooks don’t usually write about!
So come with Vanessa, who has already lived in Kyoto for four years, and find out what nice things Kyoto has in store for you. We start our trip from Osaka, from Hankyu’s Osaka Umeda Station, so take your luggage with you; we’re going to have fun!
◆ We start by buying the Hankyu Tourist Pass which gives you unlimited travel on Hankyu trains. This way you can save a lot of money, and can see many destinations for the same flat price! At the Hankyu Tourist Center, Osaka Umeda, they have English and Chinese speaking staff, so if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them!
Here you can get all kinds of useful information about transportation, things to do, and restaurants around the Kansai region. By buying the Hankyu Tourist Pass you get to conveniently use the Hankyu trains when traveling for a flat fee. You can also get some sightseeing maps here, so no matter where you’re going to in Kansai, the Hankyu Tourist Center, Osaka Umeda, is worth a visit.
So we start from Umeda Station and take Hankyu Railway toward Kyoto, but before we get there, we’re going to take a look at what you can find on the way! And because we have the Hankyu Tourist Pass, we can get off and on the train as many times as we want for the same low price! So convenient and also cheap, but now let’s start our journey toward Kyoto!
◆ Get to know the history of Japanese Whisky, and the process of making malt whisky. At the Suntory Yamazaki Distillery, where Japanese whisky was born, you get to take part in a tour of the distillery (for a 1000 yen fee), where you get to learn how whisky is made and even get to taste Yamazaki single malt whisky. Or you can just enjoy "Yamazaki Whisky Museum" for free. You can try tasting whiskies at the tasting counter for an extra fee (rare limited-edition whiskies or component whiskies). Note that you need a reservation for both.
I was so excited to see countless bottles of whisky all around me! They had whiskies from all around the world on display, so for a whisky fan, Suntory Yamazaki Distillery is a place where your dreams will become reality!
After the tour, you get to taste whisky, but if that’s not enough for you, you can taste many different kinds of whiskies from around the world at the tasting counter (paid). I would still like to recommend you have another glass of Yamazaki, as the sweetness in the aftertaste is something I truly love.
◆ Lunch at a local Italian restaurant TagamiTagami may look quite simple from outside, but their dishes are certainly not, and they also make use of the great water of Yamazaki in the food they make. Their dishes are so vividly colored that I’m getting hungry just looking at this picture!
The pasta here is served al dente, and the skillful chefs prepare it in a way that best makes use of their fresh ingredients. I really like the taste of the pasta here.
Lastly, you get the dessert plate, which is both beautiful and tasty, and when this lunch ends in such a beautiful way, I have to say that I’m just so happy!
I recommend first having some breakfast or brunch in Kyoto, and then using the afternoon to see some shrines!
◆ Enjoy the great views around Hachijogaike PondEnjoy the view of the vast pond, and feel the mysterious, refreshing power of the shrine!
In autumn, you can see the shrine surrounded by autumn leaves, and the world around you just turns from green into beautiful shades of red and yellow. This shrine can be said to be one of the greatest little-known secrets of autumn leaves. Of course, in spring the area around the pond turns into a romantic pink world of cherry blossoms!
◆ Quiet but atmospheric Nagaoka Tenmangu ShrineNagaoka Tenmangu Shrine enshrines the god of learning, Sugawara no Michizane, and the shrine grounds are vast but there are usually very few people at the shrine, so you can walk around at your own pace. In May you get to see the stately shrine take on a softer look when it is surrounded by the flowering red azaleas.
There are many sayings about the god of learning and bulls, which is why you can also see bull statues at the shrine. It is said that if you pet the bull’s head, you will get wiser, which is why this shrine is very popular among students. And if you pet its eyes and ears, your sight and hearing are also supposed to get better. Even though I’m not a student, I still petted the bull’s head – I hope it’ll make me wiser!
◆ A colorful fruit parfait for afternoon tea at Hana no KiAt the grounds of Nagaoka Tenmangu Shrine, you can find a café famous for its fruit parfaits. They use seasonal fruits, so you get a different parfait every time you go to the café! And yes! Their parfaits really are as big as the one in the picture! Sooo much fruit!
Their fruit sandwiches are also popular. The cream they use is not too fatty but has a neat, clean aftertaste. The bread used for these sandwiches is very soft, so eating it feels almost like you were eating cake! The portions are really big so I recommend sharing this with someone.
Let’s go to a movie-themed sightseeing spot by taking the cute and not-oft-seen Randen tram!
Changing from Hankyu to Randen is very easy in Saiin; right when you get out of the station, you get to see the Randen platform! So, now it’s time to head toward TOEI Movie Park!
By taking the tram, you now only get to see the beautiful city of Kyoto from it, but you also get to enjoy the tram trip too. Getting from Saiin Station to TOEI Movie Park takes around 20 minutes.
◆ Kyoto’s Hollywood – TOEI Movie ParkTOEI Movie Park is a real movie studio, but it’s not only used as a place to shoot movies since it’s also a theme park where you can even transform into historical figures and walk in the park dressed as a ninja or a samurai!
So you can all dress up as people from the Edo period of Japanese history, and have fun! I was so happy I could wear a kimono! This is sure to be an experience in Kyoto you won’t forget.
◆ Uzumasa Shopping Street and some very non-Japanese brunch! This nostalgic shopping street is movie-themed, and even the signboards are topped with replicas of old movie cameras! This street is something you just have to see!
You can also see this statue of a Japanese movie character from over 50 years ago, called Daimajin, on the shopping street. The statue was brought to here in 2013, and now it has become a convenient meeting place and a new symbol of the shopping street.
There are many nice restaurants around Shijo-Omiya Station, and even some temples, so this area is also one you shouldn’t overlook.
The area around Omiya Station is very convenient, as there are many restaurants and shops close by, and it’s also easy to get to Arashiyama from here. Because of this, many foreign tourists choose a hotel located in the area around Omiya Station. There are also many izakaya-bars around this area, Because of this, the area around Omiya Station is very popular among those who want to see a bit of nightlife during their stay in Kyoto. So let’s take a look at what Omiya has to offer!
〇 Mibu-dera Temple and its historic relations with the Shinsengumi After walking around 10 minutes from Hankyu Omiya Station, you get to Mibu-dera Temple. At Mibu-dera Temple they worship Jizo Bosatsu, who are thought to be guardians of children. Still, the temple is a very popular place among older people in Kyoto. Every year in February, April, and October, farcical short plays called Mibu Kyogen are held at the temple. These plays are pantomime; in place of lines, there is the sound of bells, flutes, and Japanese drums, meaning you don’t have to know Japanese to enjoy the plays!
Mibu-dera Temple is also deeply related to the Shinsengumi, a special police force in Japan who were active during the final years of the shogun’s rule. At the temple, you can see a statue of the Shinsengumi commander Kondo Isami, so many people who are into Japanese history make a point to come to this temple when in Kyoto. There are very few tourists at the temple, so you can walk around it at your own pace, so this temple is great for those who don’t like crowds.
〇 Kyoto can be said to be a battleground of ramen restaurants.
I’m a ramen pilgrim! Seaburanokami makes their soup stock from fatback and dried sardines!
You may think Kyoto’s ramen is all sophisticated, but at Seaburanokami you can have a bowl is a lot more. The pork fatback and dried sardines stock is stewed for hours and hours, to make one of the tastiest and most well-known bowls of ramen in Kyoto.
Can you see those small bubbles on top of the soup? It’s melted fatback, which gives the ramen its delicious and full-bodied taste. It may look very fatty, but the taste is surprisingly light. The chashu (stewed pork) you get here is very thick and sure to leave you satisfied. The noodles here are on the thicker side, so they suck up the flavor of the soup well. So now you can see how special ramen in Kyoto is! This restaurant is often in the top of the lists of best ramen restaurants in Kyoto!
|Vanessa[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ]|