Kyoto Full-Day Private Tour (Osaka departure) with Government-Licensed Guide

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  • Day Trip
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  • E-Ticket
  • 8 hr

Temples, shrines, and tea ceremonies. The traditions of ancient Japan are still alive and well in the old capitol, Kyoto. Walking around this beautiful city can feel like you are in a time machine as its architecture has been preserved for centuries. Kiyomizu Temple towers over the historical Gion district, famous for its rich history of geisha. There is much history in this city that you don’t want to miss so book our Government Licensed and Experienced English-speaking guides for a walking tour of Kyoto! Once your reservation is made, a guide will be in touch to plan your personalized tour. Choose 4 to 5 spots that you wish to visit and your guide will plan a personalized itinerary. If you do not know where to visit, ask the guide to send you their recommended itinerary based on your interests. Whether you are a history buff, love the beauty of old Japanese architecture, or just want to enjoy a green tea parfait, Kyoto has something for you!

Itinerary Details

Operated by: Japan Guide Agency

This is a typical itinerary for this product

Stop At: Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine

You can see Japan's background that is off-limits to ordinary tourists after the tour. This short trip is a fantastic and great value way of experiencing Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine! We are here to help you discover new things, the Fushimi Inari Shrine is so more than its famous tunnels of vermillion-red torii gates. Most people are satisfied by a scenic view of it. But this has a lot of stories to tell that will connect you to the Japan's history and culture and your guide will show you deeper. You will see a fascinating story attached to the origin of the shrine dedicated to the god of grains – that’s what “Inari” means – . This is also why you’ll see statues of the fox around the shrine. “Kitsune” or the fox is a servant to the god Inari. They are cunning tricksters, clever minded animals who make perfect guides for the treacherous business world. You may would want the foxes on your side after this tour.

Duration: 1 hour

Stop At: Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Discover one of Kyoto’s most popular temples—Kiyomizu-dera Temple by going on a comprehensive 1-hour guided tour. Exploring the temple grounds with a guide means you’ll be able to learn about Japan’s history and culture as you explore the magnificent building. Enjoy commentary from your English-speaking guide who will make sure you don't miss any important features.

Duration: 1 hour

Stop At: Nijo Castle

With a National Licensed and Experienced English speaking guide, you can see Japan's background that is off-limits to ordinary tourists after the tour. This short trip is a fantastic and great value way of experiencing Nijo-jo Castle! We are here to help you discover new things, places and experiences in Nijo-jo Castle. You will see the gorgeous style of this castle was intended as a demonstration of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616)'s prestige.​ Learn why the best example of feudal era castle architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site is significant in terms of history, culture, and art history. Come enjoy the tour, the best way to explore Nijo-jo Castle!

Duration: 1 hour

Stop At: Gion

Exploring the narrow alleyways of Kyoto’s Geisha District—Gion can be daunting for a first-time visitor. Eliminate the worry of getting lost by going on a guided tour. It’s a great way to discover hidden places that locals love, and to hear about Kyoto’s ancient past. Highlights include learning about Geisha culture and rituals, and visiting Gion, Pontocho, and Miyagawacho.

Duration: 1 hour

Stop At: Nishiki Market Shopping District

Nishiki Market (錦市場, Nishiki Ichiba) is a narrow, five block long shopping street lined by more than one hundred shops and restaurants. Known as "Kyoto's Kitchen", this lively retail market specializes in all things food related, like fresh seafood, produce, knives and cookware, and is a great place to find seasonal foods and Kyoto specialties, such as Japanese sweets, pickles, dried seafood and sushi. Nishiki Market has a pleasant but busy atmosphere that is inviting to those who want to explore the variety of culinary delights that Kyoto is famous for. The stores found throughout the market range in size from small narrow stalls to larger two story shops. Most specialize in a particular type of food, and almost everything sold at the market is locally produced and procured.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Kyoto Imperial Palace

The Kyoto Imperial Palace (京都御所, Kyōto Gosho) used to be the residence of Japan's Imperial Family until 1868, when the emperor and capital were moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. It is located in the spacious Kyoto Imperial Park (京都御苑, Kyōto Gyoen), an attractive park in the center of the city that also encompasses the Sento Imperial Palace and a few other attractions.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Pontocho

Pontocho (先斗町, Pontochō) is one of Kyoto's most atmospheric dining areas. It is a narrow alley running from Shijo-dori to Sanjo-dori, one block west of Kamogawa River. The alley is packed with restaurants on both sides offering a wide range of dining options from inexpensive yakitori to traditional and modern Kyoto cuisine, foreign cuisine and highly exclusive establishments that require the right connections and a fat wallet. Business hours and closing days of the restaurants, bars and shops along Pontocho vary by establishment, but most places are usually open from around 17:00 to 23:00. Some also open for lunch. An increasing number of establishments offer English menus.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At:

The Higashiyama District (東山) along the lower slopes of Kyoto's eastern mountains is one of the city's best preserved historic districts. It is a great place to experience traditional old Kyoto, especially between Kiyomizudera and Yasaka Shrine, where the narrow lanes, wooden buildings and traditional merchant shops invoke a feeling of the old capital city. Recent renovations to remove telephone poles and repave the streets have further improved the traditional feel of the district.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Ginkakuji Temple

Ginkakuji (銀閣寺, Silver Pavilion) is a Zen temple along Kyoto's eastern mountains (Higashiyama). In 1482, shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa built his retirement villa on the grounds of today's temple, modeling it after Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), his grandfather's retirement villa at the base of Kyoto's northern mountains (Kitayama). The villa was converted into a Zen temple after Yoshimasa's death in 1490. As the retirement villa of an art obsessed shogun, Ginkakuji became a center of contemporary culture, known as the Higashiyama Culture in contrast to the Kitayama Culture of his grandfather's times. Unlike the Kitayama Culture, which remained limited to the aristocratic circles of Kyoto, the Higashiyama Culture had a broad impact on the entire country. The arts developed and refined during the time include the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, noh theater, poetry, garden design and architecture.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Nanzenji Suirokaku

Nanzenji Temple (南禅寺), whose spacious grounds are located at the base of Kyoto's forested Higashiyama mountains, is one of the most important Zen temples in all of Japan. It is the head temple of one of the schools within the Rinzai sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism and includes multiple subtemples, that make the already large complex of temple buildings even larger. The history of Nanzenji dates back to the mid 13th century, when the Emperor Kameyama built his retirement villa at the temple's present location and later converted it into a Zen temple. After its founding, Nanzenji grew steadily, but its buildings were all destroyed during the civil wars of the late Muromachi Period (1333-1573). The oldest of the current buildings was built after that period.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Tofuku-ji Temple

Tofukuji (東福寺, Tōfukuji) is a large Zen temple in southeastern Kyoto that is particularly famous for its spectacular autumn colors. The temple was founded in 1236 at the behest of the powerful Fujiwara clan. Its name is a combination of the names of two great temples in Nara that were also associated with the Fujiwara, Todaiji Temple and Kofukuji Temple. Tofukuji has historically been one of the principal Zen temples in Kyoto, and is a head temple of one of the schools of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism. In autumn, people come from all over Japan to see Tofukuji's autumn colors. The most popular view is of the Tsutenkyo Bridge, which spans a valley of lush maple trees. The view from the bridge is equally spectacular, and the 100 meter long, covered walkway becomes extremely crowded when the colors reach their peak, usually around mid to late November.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Toji

Toji Temple (東寺, Tōji), literally "East Temple", was founded at the beginning of the Heian Period just after the capital was moved to Kyoto in the late 700s. The large temple, together with its now defunct sister temple Saiji ("West Temple"), flanked the south entrance to the city and served as the capital's guardian temples. Toji Temple is one of Kyoto's many UNESCO world heritage sites. About thirty years after the temple's establishment, Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism, was appointed head priest of Toji, and the temple became one of the most important Shingon temples besides the sect's headquarters on Mount Koya. Kobo Daishi also added many of the large wooden buildings that stand on the grounds today.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Kinkakuji Temple

Kinkakuji (金閣寺, Golden Pavilion) is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Formally known as Rokuonji, the temple was the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and according to his will it became a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect after his death in 1408. Kinkakuji was the inspiration for the similarly named Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion), built by Yoshimitsu's grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, on the other side of the city a few decades later. Kinkakuji is an impressive structure built overlooking a large pond, and is the only building left of Yoshimitsu's former retirement complex. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history including twice during the Onin War, a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto; and once again more recently in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Ninna-ji Temple

Ninnaji (仁和寺) is one of the many great temples in Kyoto which are listed as World Heritage Sites. It is the head temple of the Omuro School of the Shingon sect of Buddhism and was founded in 888 by the reigning emperor. Over many centuries, a member of the Imperial Family used to serve as Ninnaji's head priest, and the temple was also known as Omuro Imperial Palace. Due to the many wars and fires that ravaged Kyoto throughout its history, none of the buildings from the temple's foundation in the 9th century still survive. The oldest buildings date back to the beginning of the Edo Period in the early 1600s, including the main hall (Kondo), the Kannon Hall, the Niomon front gate, the Chumon inner gate and the five storied pagoda.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Shugakuin Imperial Villa

Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮, Shugakuin Rikyū) was built in the 17th century by Emperor Gomizuno and is now managed by the Imperial Household Agency. It consists of the Upper, Middle and Lower Villa areas, each featuring gardens and buildings of the traditional imperial style. Shugakuin's name comes from a former temple built on the same site in the tenth century. The Imperial Villa was constructed between 1655 and 1659, with a palace for Gomizuno's daughter added ten years later. More recently in 1964, the surrounding farmlands were bought by the Imperial Household Agency. They are leased out to local farmers who continue to work the fields.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Kibune River

Kibune (貴船) is a small town in a forested valley in the northern mountains of Kyoto City, which developed around Kifune Shrine. According to legend, a goddess traveled in a boat from Osaka all the way up the river into the mountains north of Kyoto, and Kifune Shrine was built at the site where her boat journey had come to an end. Kifune Shrine is dedicated to the god of water and rain and believed to be the protector of those at sea. Here you can obtain a unique type of fortune written on paper slips (omikuji) that reveal their messages when dipped into water. Okunomiya, the inner sanctum and original site of Kifune Shrine, lies about one kilometer further up the valley. It has a large rock, known as the boat stone, which is said to be where the goddess' yellow boat is buried.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Kurama-dera

Kurama (鞍馬) is a rural town in the northern mountains of Kyoto City, less than one hour from the city center. Kurama is best known for its temple Kurama-dera and its hot spring, one of the most easily accessible hot springs from Kyoto. Outdoor and indoor baths can be enjoyed at Kurama Onsen, a ryokan located at the upper end of the town of Kurama. It can be reached in a 10 minute walk from the train station along the town's only road or along a nature trail following the river. Staying guests can use the baths for free, while daytrippers pay 2500 yen to use all of the baths or 1000 yen for just the outdoor bath (rotemburo).

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Ryoanji Temple

Ryoanji Temple (龍安寺, Ryōanji) is the site of Japan's most famous rock garden, which attracts hundreds of visitors every day. Originally an aristocrat's villa during the Heian Period, the site was converted into a Zen temple in 1450 and belongs to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, whose head temple stands just a kilometer to the south. As for the history of Ryoanji's famous rock garden, the facts are less certain. The garden's date of construction is unknown and there are a number of speculations regarding its designer. The garden consists of a rectangular plot of pebbles surrounded by low earthen walls, with 15 rocks laid out in small groups on patches of moss. An interesting feature of the garden's design is that from any vantage point at least one of the rocks is always hidden from the viewer.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Arashiyama

Arashiyama (嵐山) is a pleasant, touristy district in the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185), when nobles would enjoy its natural setting. Arashiyama is particularly popular during the cherry blossom and fall color seasons. The Togetsukyo Bridge is Arashiyama's well known, central landmark. Many small shops, restaurants and other attractions are found nearby, including Tenryuji Temple, Arashiyama's famous bamboo groves and pleasure boats that are available for rent on the river.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At:

Saihoji (西芳寺, Saihōji), more commonly known as Kokedera (苔寺), is one of Kyoto's Unesco World Heritage Sites. Entrance to this temple requires a reservation made well in advance. Kokedera means Moss Temple, referring to the temple garden's estimated 120 different varieties of moss. Visitors to the temple can walk through this spectacular garden, which has strongly influenced subsequent Japanese garden design. Kokedera was originally the site of Prince Shotoku's villa before becoming a temple in the Nara Period. In 1339, the temple was renovated and converted into a Zen temple under the priest Muso Soseki. Muso is also credited with creating Kokedera's gardens.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Katsura Imperial Villa

Katsura Imperial Villa (桂離宮, Katsura Rikyū) is one of the finest examples of Japanese architecture and garden design. The villa and garden in their present form were completed in 1645 as the residence for the Katsura Family, members of Japan's Imperial Family. Visiting Katsura Imperial Villa requires joining a tour. The tour follows the garden's circular walking trail around the central pond. Palace buildings can be viewed only from the outside, and photographing is allowed only from designated spots. Tours in English are available.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Daikaku-ji Temple

Daikakuji (大覚寺) is a large temple in the northern part of Kyoto's Sagano district. It was originally built in the early 800s as the detached palace of Emperor Saga, who thoroughly enjoyed spending time in this calm area on the outskirts of Kyoto. Thirty years after the emperor's death, the palace was converted into a temple and has since been one of the highest ranked temples of Shingon Buddhism. Daikakuji has had a role in several significant historical events. A succession of retired emperors reigned from here, and in the 12th century the temple hosted peace talks that reunited the Northern and Southern Imperial Courts after 50 years of civil war. Daikakuji is also featured in the Tale of Genji, the first novel in Japanese literature. Today, the temple is one of the best places to still feel the ancient court atmosphere described in the novel and is often used for filming historical dramas.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Tenryuji Temple

Tenryuji (天龍寺, Tenryūji) is the most important temple in Kyoto's Arashiyama district. It was ranked first among the city's five great Zen temples, and is now registered as a world heritage site. Tenryuji is the head temple of its own school within the Rinzai Zen sect of Japanese Buddhism. Tenryuji was built in 1339 by the ruling shogun Ashikaga Takauji. Takauji dedicated the temple to Emperor Go-Daigo, who had just passed away. The two important historic figures used to be allies until Takauji turned against the emperor in a struggle for supremacy over Japan. By building the temple, Takauji intended to appease the former emperor's spirits.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Yoshimine-dera

Yoshiminedera (吉峰寺) is a temple of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism located in Kyoto's western mountains. Similar to Kiyomizudera on the opposite side of town, Yoshiminedera is built along the mountain side and looks out onto Kyoto. The temple grounds are spacious and there are many buildings distributed up the mountain side. A priest from Enryakuji, named Gesan, established Yoshiminedera as a personal retreat in 1029. In 1467 the temple was destroyed in the Onin War but was rebuilt in 1621. The temple's main objects of worship are a Kannon statue carved by Gesan and a Kannon statue given to the temple by Emperor Gosuzaku in 1042.

Duration: 30 minutes

Pass By: Togetsukyo Bridge

The Togetsukyo Bridge (lit. "Moon Crossing Bridge") is Arashiyama's most iconic landmark. It was originally built during the Heian Period (794-1185) and most recently reconstructed in the 1930s. The bridge looks particularly attractive in combination with the forested mountainside in the background. A riverside park with dozens of cherry trees is located just adjacent to the bridge.

Pass By: Bamboo Forest Street

The walking paths that cut through the bamboo groves make for a nice walk or bicycle ride. The groves are particularly attractive when there is a light wind and the tall bamboo stalks sway gently back and forth. The bamboo has been used to manufacture various products, such as baskets, cups, boxes and mats at local workshops for centuries.

Stop At: Okochi Sanso Garden

This is the former villa of the popular actor Okochi Denjiro (1896-1962), located in the back of Arashiyama's bamboo groves. Okochi Sanso consists of several different gardens and buildings, including living quarters, tea houses and gates. The buildings can only be viewed from the outside. Admission includes matcha green tea with a snack.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Monkey Park Iwatayama

Located in the Arashiyama mountains, the entrance to the monkey park can be found just south of the Togetsukyo Bridge. After hiking uphill for about ten minutes, visitors will find an open area with over a hundred monkeys roaming freely. There are also nice views down onto the city.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Tenryuji Temple

Ranked among Kyoto's five great Zen temples, Tenryuji is the largest and most impressive temple in Arashiyama. Founded in 1339 at the beginning of the Muromachi Period (1338-1573), the temple is one of Kyoto's many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In addition to its temple buildings, there are attractive gardens with walking paths.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Daikaku-ji Temple

Daikakuji is a temple of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. Formerly the residence of an emperor, the buildings were converted into a temple in 876. During its history the temple traditionally had members of the imperial family serve as the head priest. Beside the main temple buildings there is a large pond and a pagoda.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Jojakkoji Temple

This mountainside temple was founded in 1596. With small, attractive buildings and gates, the temple has a quiet and understated atmosphere. Maple trees and moss are located just beside the paths and stairs that lead across the temple grounds. From a number of spots, visitors can enjoy views over Kyoto.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Nisonin

Similar to Jojakkoji, Nisonin Temple is a hillside temple with slightly larger and imposing buildings. A generally understated atmosphere on the temple grounds is partly due to the overhanging trees along approach. Founded in the mid 9th century, Nisonin is a temple of the Tendai sect. There are views over the city from the upper grounds.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Gio-ji Temple

Gioji is even more nestled into the forest than Jojakkoji and Nisonin. It is known for its moss garden that is punctuated with tall maple trees. The temple's entrance gate and small main hall have thatched roofs. The latter has an attractive round window looking into the gardens.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple

Adashino Nenbutsuji is located at the end of the Saga-Toriimoto Preserved Street. The temple was founded in the early 9th century when the famous monk Kobo Daishi placed stone statues for the souls of the dead here. Today, the temple grounds are covered by hundreds of such stone statues. In the back of the temple, a short path leads through a bamboo forest.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple

Another ten minute walk north of the similarly named Adashino Nenbutsuji, the Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple is famous for its 1200 stone statues of rakan, devoted followers of Buddhism, each with a different facial expression. Created relatively recently in the 1980s and early 1990s, the many statues stand across the temple grounds which cover part of a forested mountain slope.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Katsura Imperial Villa

Katsura Imperial Villa (桂離宮, Katsura Rikyū) is one of the finest examples of Japanese architecture and garden design. The villa and garden in their present form were completed in 1645 as the residence for the Katsura Family, members of Japan's Imperial Family. Visiting Katsura Imperial Villa requires joining a tour. The tour follows the garden's circular walking trail around the central pond. Palace buildings can be viewed only from the outside, and photographing is allowed only from designated spots. Tours in English are available.

Duration: 30 minutes

Stop At: Shugakuin Imperial Villa

Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮, Shugakuin Rikyū) was built in the 17th century by Emperor Gomizuno and is now managed by the Imperial Household Agency. It consists of the Upper, Middle and Lower Villa areas, each featuring gardens and buildings of the traditional imperial style. Shugakuin's name comes from a former temple built on the same site in the tenth century. The Imperial Villa was constructed between 1655 and 1659, with a palace for Gomizuno's daughter added ten years later. More recently in 1964, the surrounding farmlands were bought by the Imperial Household Agency. They are leased out to local farmers who continue to work the fields.

Duration: 30 minutes
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