During your hectic Japan Itinerary, you may only have time for one day in Kyoto, it’s not enough, but here are the attractions you must visit on a day trip.
One day in Kyoto, I can’t fathom why you’d want to have a single day Kyoto tour, but in a world where we are rushed and continuously on the move, these things are hard to avoid during a hectic Japan trip.
My Kyoto Itinerary consisted of four days, I wish it were longer to be truthful, but I can tell you this, I chalked up around one-hundred-thousand steps on the old Fitbit because I didn’t want to miss a beat of all the things to do in Kyoto.
I saw many amazing Kyoto attractions, most were mesmerising and even inspiring to be in the vicinity of such history. It was apparent from the get-go why a Kyoto trip comes highly recommended for all tourist visiting the country, it is one beautiful city.
It also made me realise why many travellers are rushing around the country to catch a glimpse of everything because this incredible country is one big tourist attraction after another.
If I had to spend one day in Kyoto, what would be the must-see attractions to visit in such a short amount of time? This list is hard to do because quite honestly, you will miss out on a fair bit if you don’t spread out the Kyoto sightseeing tour a little further. However, I gave it my best shot for those crazy enough to be here for a single day.
One Day in Kyoto – Top Tourist Attractions You Must Visit in a Day
Enjoy a Kyoto City Tour with Klook
In the package, you’ll see the best temples and shrines including Kiyomizudera, Fushimi Inari Shrine and Kinkakuji Temple. You’ll stop by at plenty of the best landmarks and discover the famous ancient sites in Kyoto. You’ll also visit Arashiyama and the renowned Bamboo Grove, meaning, you are not missing on any of the best bits during your brief Kyoto tour.
Transportation in Kyoto
As one would expect, transport in Kyoto is well-organised and runs like clockwork. Not only that, it’s a terrific walking city with plenty of footpaths and crossing lights to get from point A to point B.
Walking won’t suffice during your one-day tour in Kyoto, the city is too large and spread out for that, but with affordable trains and buses to catch using your ICOCA card, you’ll get to most attraction in quick time with minimal spend. If all else fails, you can catch a taxi which is everywhere. However, that’ll hurt your budget a lot more.
Start the Kyoto Day Trip with Higashiyama District in Eastern Kyoto
There is a whole line of Kyoto attractions that make up the Higashiyama District, and the famous area has many tourists and locals out and about for sightseeing.
It is an excellent area to try fabulous Japanese cuisines, drink your favourite tea from a fancy Japanese tea house and to admire the many temples and shrines associated with the District.
Let’s have a look at the must-see attractions in the Higashiyama District of Eastern Kyoto and get your single day Kyoto Itinerary off on the right foot.
Yasaka Shrine: Yasaka shrine is worth your attention and the first place to start when visiting Eastern Kyoto. Yasaka shrine has dazzling colour, impressive structures, and the culture is alive with many people wandering around in their Kimono dress and creating a vibrant atmosphere.
Kodai-Ji Temple: The picturesque Kodai-Ji Temple, established in 1606, will grab your attention during your Kyoto one day tour as the beauty of the temple rises to breathtaking levels.
The temple has unique structures which blend in perfectly with the gorgeous landscapes that shadow the temple grounds.
Ninenzaka: A Popular street thoroughfare, Ninenzaka is full of culture, tradition and many Japanese style housing containing retail outlets, tea houses and restaurants.
Like any attraction in Kyoto, the crowds gather along the main street with people enjoying the vibrancy of the area and taking in a positive atmosphere.
Kiyomizudera: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kiyomizudera is a wonderfully structured temple, which in translation, means “pure water” and is said to be the most attended temple in Kyoto.
The common thing to do at Kiyomizudera, besides admiring the surrounding beauty, is to go to touch the special water at one of the waterfalls. It’s meant to give you magical powers by contacting the water, so what have you got to lose.
Move on Quickly to Kinkakuji Temple
You don’t have to spend a significant amount of time at Kinkakuji Temple, but it’s a must-see tourist place you need to check out when you are visiting Kyoto.
The Golden structure of the Kinkakuji Temple is nothing short of spectacular with the mountains appearing in the backdrop. All in all, there isn’t much else to do at Kinkakuji other than to gaze your eyes over the incredible golden structure, which is worth the admittance price alone.
A trip to Arashiyama is compulsory
Arashiyama is a gold mine for tourist and any trip to Japan is not complete without a visit to the popular tourist spot situated a little outside of Kyoto.
There are tons of attractions to visit with an abundance of temples, gardens, tea houses, a monkey park, and of course, the world-famous Bamboo Grove walk, which is a real hit for all visitors.
However, the big appeal of Arashiyama is its natural beauty; it’s gorgeous to walk through the breathtaking attractions and take in the surrounds and nature around you.
Main attractions to quickly squeeze in at Arashiyama:
The Bamboo Grove: Thousands of bamboo trees lined up as far as the eye can see, as you walk down the path through the middle of the Bamboo tree. It certainly is a captivating place, even with all the crowds hanging around.
Ten-Ryu Temple: A stunning temple of Arashiyama, but the big eye-opener off the attraction will be the abundance of natural beauty that surrounds the temple.
It makes for a great photo opportunity at the picturesque temple.
Okochi Sanso Garden: It’s the best walk in Arashiyama, with beautiful gardens, Japanese buildings and mesmerising views over Kyoto seen from some amazing vantage points on the hills.
It’s quite an admission fee for entry into the garden but more than worth it once you try the Green Tea and sweet cake in the picturesque tea house.
A quick stroll down Katsura River: A beautiful riverside walk down the Katsura River is the tonic you need. It makes for an ideal chance to enjoy ramen at a riverside restaurant, or enjoy a boat ride in the river.
Before making your way back to the bustling town centre and catch a train to the next major attraction in your Kyoto Day Trip.
The Fushimi Inari Shrine
The very last stop of the Kyoto places of interest during your one day trip is the world-famous Fushimi Inari Shrine.
The main Shrine of the Fushimi is a stunning feature with beautiful Japanese decorated buildings in splendid bright colours that have all tourists gathering for the best possible photo shoot in amongst the large crowds.
Once you disperse from the crowds at the main buildings of the entrance, you go further into the Shrine until you reach the famous orange torii gates, which is the number reason you visit the iconic attraction.
The Torii gates are meant to represent the staple of all holy Shinto sites, and the Fushimi Inari Shrine has thousands of them, which ultimately leads to a short hike through the bushlands as you follow the row of Torii Gates.
The length to hike through the Torii gates is approximately 2.4km kilometres in total, and in the process, you’ll pass through grave sites and religious relics, before walking down the hill and finding more incredible views that overlook Kyoto City. One final look over the region before you depart the city.
If time remains, explore the city area
You would have exhausted all your energy before you finally head back by train to your hotel in Osaka, or even Tokyo. Perhaps you are catching the overnight bus to another destination in Japan, for another busy day tomorrow.
With that in mind, you may have a little extra time to explore the area near Kyoto Station and relax in a café for coffee, eat a delicious Japanese meal for dinner or unwind with a cold beer at a nearby bar.
Whether the energy levels allow you to keep moving, I am not quite sure; one thing is for certain, your one day in Kyoto would have been a day full of fond memories that you’ll never forget.
I do not doubt for a moment that you’ll be coming back for a more extended stay, someday in the future.