1. Two Rival Temples – Higashi Hongan-ji and Nishi Hongan-ji

Conveniently close to Kyoto Station are these two rival temples, the Higashi one of the largest wooden buildings in the world and reopening in October 2009 after major renovation, and the more ornate Nishi designated as a National Treasure. Both are headquarters of rival Buddhist sects.

2. The Emperor’s Palace and Gardens – Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sento Goshu and Katsura Imperial Villa

This is the old Imperial Palace where the Emperors of Japan lived for over a thousand years, although this building dates only from the 19th century. You will need to apply online to the Imperial Household for permission to visit and there are guided tours of the palace in English twice a day, at 10 and 2, Monday to Friday.

If you are visiting between 1st – 10th November 2009 there are special Open Days, 9am-3.30pm, because this is the 20th anniversary of the accession of the Emperor, and you can just turn up.

There are also tours of the Sento Goshu Gardens next door, at 10 and 2 in English, with the same application process. Imadegawa Station, Karasuma line

The Gardens of Katsura Imperial Villa are quintessentially Japanese with beautifully manicured trees, elaborately staged viewpoints, ponds, bridges and elegant teahouses in 7 hectares. Again, you need to apply online to the Imperial Household for permission to visit. JR Kyoto Station, Kyoto Shiei Subway Karasuma line, Hankyu Karasuma Station.

3. Japanese arts and crafts – Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

A complete display of every traditional craft in Japan, such as ceramics and lacquerware, textiles and kimonos, from the days when Kyoto was the imperial capital of the country and home to the Imperial Court. Descriptions of the crafts and the processes used to create them are in English and there is a lovely museum shop too.

4. Whisky tasting – Suntory Yamazaki Distillery

At Japan’s first whiskey distillery in the Vale of Yamazaki with a great source of really pure water, just outside Kyoto, you can taste the country’s most popular single malt. Guided tours of the distillery take around an hour and are free, 10am-3pm every day except Sundays. JR Yamazaki Station, JR Kyoto line.

5. Fascinating flea market – Toji Temple Antiques Market

This is held on the 21st of each month, 7am-4pm in the grounds of the Toji Temple, a 15-minute walk from Kyoto Station – look for the tall wooden pagoda tower. Bargain for ceramics, kimonos, chopsticks, books and prints from over a thousand vendors. There is also a smaller market held here on the first Sunday of each month.



About the author: Tara


The travel professional with years of experience in the travel industry – in guiding, reservations, operations, contracting, customer service and product development – and have travelled extensively in Asia and Eastern Europe not just on holiday but also for work, inspecting hotels, visiting attractions and seeing exactly what each destination has to offer. The only way I could do this properly was with my own guide, car and driver and this inspired me to create my own range of customised private day tours for other people to be able to explore in-depth and learn to love their destination as much as I do.