- November 08 2015
5 Great Tips For Day Trip To Kyoto From Tokyo
The question I am frequently asked is if it’s possible to take a day trip to Kyoto from Tokyo. Well...I personally love nights in Kyoto, especially with its relaxed atomosphere. Also, there are so many things I want them to see... I tell them to stay in Kyoto for 2 nights and 3 days or if they’re really pushed for time, 1 night and 2 days.
However, I want you to experience Japan's beautiful old tradition even if your schedule in Japan happens to be super tight.
Here are the tips that make your day trip to Kyoto come true!
TIP 1: Take The First Shinkansen of the Day To Go, And The Last One When You Return
The Shinkansen, Japan's triumph of engineering and public works, can take you to Kyoto from Tokyo in just a little over 2 hours! So why not take the first departure in the morning and the last return to Tokyo. It gives you a solid 13 hours in Kyoto!
Between Tokyo and Kyoto, there are 3 different Shinkansens available called Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodama. Nozomi is the fastest, it takes 2 hours and 20 minutes to Kyoto Station.
Oh, but if you take the first Nozomi in the morning, it takes 10 minutes less...yes, every minute counts when you’re making this quick trip!
NOTE: You need to reserve seats to take the Nozomi even if you have a JR RAIL PASS!
You may be sleepy, but you can take a nap during your commute to Kyoto! The Shinkansen is surprisingly quiet, and I am pretty sure you are not the only one who will be sleepy early in the morning! Just make sure to find out whether Kyoto is the last stop, because you don’t want to sleep in!
Out Tokyo (6:00) 〜 Kyoto (8:08)
Return Kyoto (21:37) 〜 Tokyo (23:45)
TIP 2: Travel Light...You Are Taking A Day Trip, Not Staying Overnight
Kyoto Station is always busy! Don’t waste your time in Kyoto to look around finding a locker.
Pack your minimal needs in a small purse or backpack and leave your other stuff in the hotel or a coin locker in Tokyo before you leave for Kyoto.
TIP 3: Take A Cab Or Rent A Bike
Many sights in Kyoto are away from its JR and subway stations. I am sure you’ll see guidebooks and Google maps of Kyoto telling you to take buses...but let me tell you one thing. You only have 13 hours including all commute in Kyoto, you want to avoid getting lost or being in traffic.
I recommend taking a cab! I know it is not cheap (but hey, who says Japan is cheap? No one!) You’ll buy some time by taking it. Of course you can take a bus/train to the closest station and take a cab from there as well...mix and match!
You can charter a cab if you want too. A small vehicle for 4 adults costs about 25,000 yen per day.
There’s another choice...renting a bike! No traffic jams or delays, so it may be faster than taking buses/trains. Plus, you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and are free to stop at interesting looking places at your leisure!
There are many shops renting bikes in the city, so why not?
TIP 4: Choose Wisely Where To Go
Oh Kyoto! It has so many sights you’ll love! Popular sights for tourists from overseas are mostly within 5km from Kyoto Station.
Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kiyomizu Temple, Nijojo Castle, Sanjusangendo Hall, Yasaka Shrine, etc...those sights are easy to reach from the station.
Kinkakuji Temple is 8km away from the station. It is a little far for someone who has very limited time, but this temple is the one of Kyoto’s must-see spots, right? So see TIP 3! Let’s take the Karasuma Line on the subway from Kyoto Station to Kitaoji Station and take a cab!
You may want to avoid going to Arashiyama or Uji. They are places of scenic beauty but it will take 40-50 minutes by train to go and of course it needs time to look around in there. Let’s save it for when you have time for a longer stay in Kyoto.
TIP 5: Souvenir? Get It In The Station!
Since this is a day trip, souvenir hunts shouldn’t take too much of your time. I know there are pretty little things anywhere in Kyoto that you’ll want to bring back home with you.
If you choose not to buy souvenirs while sightseeing, you create more time to spend for yourself. In Kyoto Station, there are places you can get souvenirs such as Omiyage Kaido and The Cube shopping mall. They both have Kyoto’s famous sweets and some fancy goods.
They’re open until 8pm on weekdays, so I recommend going back to the station by 6-7pm, hunt souvenirs, and have dinner before going back to Tokyo.
Day trip to Kyoto isn't that bad, is it? I didn't mention it in this article, but even though this is a quick day trip, you can find lunch/dinner somewhere in a quiet and relaxed atmosphere around the Kyoto Station area.
I believe these tips will help you to enjoy a short trip to Kyoto!