Higashiyama Walking Course
Below is a basic example of our recommended 1 day tour through Kyoto’s Higashiyama area from our machiya house, Sakura House Kyoto.
It’s always recommended to start the day as early as possible, to make the most out of all the hours in the day.
Have a nice homemade breakfast at Sakura House Kyoto or, if you don’t feel like cooking in the morning, make use of any of the cafes, pancake shop or convenience stores in the neighborhood.
Once finished, make sure you have everything you need for the day (camera, phone charger, water, etc.) and walk about 15 minutes (or take a 9 minute bus ride) to the Kyoto Imperial Palace on Imadegaa Dori street, just behind Sakura House Kyoto. Famous for being the former residence of the imperial family, the Imperial Palace and its wide gardens are located in the center of Kyoto City. It is believed to be located as per the laws of Feng Shui, making it stand in unison with the natural energies that give life to such belief.
Take your time here to enjoy the architecture of not only the Palace itself and the surrounding buildings, but also the imperial gardens and their unique beauty.
From the Imperial Palace keep walking on Imadegawa Dori street and cross the Kamogawa river while enjoying the marvelous view both north and south. After crossing, board the Keihan Main Line by boarding the subway at Demachiyanagi Station on the first street from the river. Take the local subway to Kyomizu-gojo Station (4th station).
At Kyomizu-gojo Station, the most convenient exit is number 4. Once outside the station you will find the river behind you once again. Walk away from the river on the big avenue you are one (Gojo Dori street). This street is famous for being the area of many traditional potters specialized in the local “kiyomizu-yaki” style of art. During August, the entire street is filled with stalls offering amazing discounts and unique goods in what is the Ceramics Festival.
Once the avenue makes a turn, take the street to the left (Gojo-zaka street) and start your journey on a hill road through shops and restaurants to Kiyomizu-dera temple. The name of this temple means “Pure Water Temple”, and it is due to it being constructed around the Otowa Waterfall, still present at the temple’s base.
Another interesting fact is that the Jishu Shrine is also within the temple’s ground. This is a shrine dedicated to the deity of love, making it specially popular with young girls.
During autumn and winter, the natural ambiance of Kiyomizu Dera gets illuminated and becomes one of the main attractions to enjoy after the sun goes down.
Strolling around Sannenzaka Ninenzaka Kyoto
After visiting Kiyomizu Dera, on the same street walked previously is the access to Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka Kyoto. Both these slope lanes are one of the most photographed areas in Kyoto due to its unique ambiance. Shopping in these streets is a must, and why not also stop for a cup of tea or coffee at one of the many traditional “machiya” styled shops cafes and tea houses. The famous Ed0-styled Starbucks Ninenzaka is located on this street, blending the old architecture style of Kyoto with the famous Coffee brand.
From here, a continued walk north through the calm streets of Gion shall allow you to reach Yazaka-jinja Shrine, host to the biggest festival in the city, the Gion Matsuri.
This shrine also offers a beautiful park area at its rear, the Maruyama Park, with one of the most amazing cherry blossoms display every spring. A must see.
After enjoying the calmness of both Yasaka-jinja shrine and Maruyama Park, it’s time to walk through the streets of Gion (Japan’s most renown geisha district). Walking through lively Shijo Dori street (right in front of Yasaka-jinja shrine’s main entrance) shall allow you to cross the Kamogawa River once again and access the main business area of Kawaramachi. By this time the sun might be going down already, so the entire area gets lit up to show the city’s night life.
Capping off the night in Pontocho Alley
Finally, there are many ways to get back to Sakura House Kyoto from here. One of the most convenient is the Shijo Karasuma bus stop, offering 5 different bus lines stopping at just meters away from our traditional “machiya” townhouse.
This is just a basic plan usually offered to our guests. Variations can of course be done to adjust it to your own needs. Maybe if you do not feel like walking too much, buses, trains and taxis can be used. If you are not particularly interested in some of the suggested areas, they can be skipped or changed for other more desirable options. That is the benefit of having a concierge in a private house as Sakura House Kyoto. Guests get the privacy of home away from home, a real Kyoto life experience and a the guidance and assistance needed to just focus on the enjoyment of their trip.
Whether you are part of a large family or friends group, or just a couple or reduced group, the keys of Sakura House Kyoto are waiting for you to make it your home in Kyoto.