Kyoto orange gates

I had the pleasure of embarking on a captivating journey through the enchanting city of Kyoto, where ancient traditions meet modern allure. In Kyoto, every moment is filled with exquisite beauty and profound cultural significance. This article unveils the most unforgettable experiences and must-see attractions to make the most of your one day in this cultural gem of Japan.

Immerse yourself in the sacred serenity of the countless temples and shrines, each deserving of a place on your itinerary. Discover the tranquility of the iconic Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, as it glistens in the sunlight. Wander through the enchanting bamboo forest of Arashiyama, finding solace in its whispering tranquility. And don’t miss the breathtaking Fushimi Inari Shrine, with its vermillion torii gates leading you to breathtaking vistas.

Beyond the temples, Kyoto offers vibrant markets, traditional tea ceremonies, and tantalizing cuisine. Awaken your senses with a stroll through the bustling Nishiki Market, an endless kaleidoscope of colors, flavors, and scents. Indulge in an authentic matcha tea experience as you savor the delicate flavors. And of course, make sure to sample the local delicacy, Kyoto’s famous kaiseki cuisine.

Ruth Lee at Fushimi Inari, Kyoto

Prepare for a day of awe and inspiration as you uncover the secrets of Kyoto. Let its magic captivate you as you explore the timeless traditions and extraordinary beauty that define this remarkable city.

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Exploring Kyoto’s historical sites

Kyoto is renowned for its rich history and abundance of historical sites. Start your day by immersing yourself in the sacred serenity of the countless temples and shrines that dot the city. One must-visit destination is Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Golden Pavilion. As the sunlight dances off its gilded exterior, you’ll be left in awe of the sheer magnificence of this architectural masterpiece. Take a leisurely stroll around the surrounding gardens, where meticulously manicured landscapes provide the perfect backdrop for contemplation and reflection.

Another must-see attraction is the breathtaking Fushimi Inari Shrine. As you pass through the iconic vermillion torii gates that wind their way up the mountain, you’ll be enveloped in a sense of spiritual tranquility. The vibrant colors and mystical atmosphere make it a truly unforgettable experience. Take your time to explore the various trails that lead you to stunning vistas of the city below.

For a change of scenery, head to Arashiyama and lose yourself in its enchanting bamboo forest. As you wander through the towering bamboo groves, you’ll feel a sense of peace and serenity wash over you. The soft rustling of the leaves and the filtered sunlight create a magical ambiance that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Kyoto and Fushimi Inari temple

Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari was one of my highlights during a two-week Japan getaway. An ancient pathway of bright orange torii gates and shrines, just a five-minute-train-journey from Kyoto Station.

I’d wanted to see it for myself ever since watching Memoirs of a Geisha, in which the main character (as a small girl) runs through the blur of orange. In person, it’s even more staggering.

On arrival, the crowds were dense and slow, with incessant exquisitely-posed selfies interrupting the thick snake of people starting the ascent. But as we climbed, the crowds drifted away, tourists deterred from the 233m Mount Inari in the August heat.

And as soon as you’re out of the throng, the experience becomes so much more enjoyable: the simple beauty of bright orange set against the lush green mountain. It’s free, simple and wonderful – please do it.

Kyoto famous orange gates

Experiencing Kyoto’s traditional culture

Kyoto is a city that prides itself on preserving its rich cultural heritage. One of the best ways to immerse yourself in Kyoto’s traditional culture is by attending a tea ceremony. Experience the art of tea preparation firsthand as you participate in this ancient ritual. The delicate flavors of matcha tea will tantalize your taste buds, while the serene atmosphere will transport you to a bygone era. Be sure to book a tea ceremony in advance to secure your spot.

To truly appreciate Kyoto’s traditional culture, visit the Gion district. This historic area is famous for its geisha culture and traditional wooden machiya houses. Take a stroll along Hanami-Koji Street, lined with beautifully preserved machiya, and keep an eye out for a glimpse of a geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha) hurrying to their appointments. It’s a rare opportunity to witness the grace and elegance of this traditional art form.

Trying Kyoto’s local cuisine

No visit to Kyoto is complete without indulging in its renowned culinary delights. Kyoto is famous for kaiseki cuisine, a multi-course meal that showcases the region’s seasonal ingredients. Each dish is meticulously prepared and presented, creating a feast for both the eyes and the palate. From delicate sashimi to flavorful grilled meats, kaiseki offers a sensory experience like no other.

For a more casual dining experience, be sure to explore the bustling Nishiki Market. Known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” this lively market is a food lover’s paradise. Stroll through the narrow lanes and immerse yourself in a kaleidoscope of colors, flavors, and scents. Sample local delicacies such as tsukemono (pickled vegetables), yuba (tofu skin), and wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets). The market is a true culinary adventure that will leave you craving for more.

black ramen in Kyoto

After our walk at Fushimi Inari, we wound down with a delicious bowl of black ramen from Ramen Muraji in Kyoto. Which, despite involving a 45-minute queue, was definitely a good decision.

Ramen Muraji is a small restaurant situated in a charming wooden building in Gion. Tables are communal and the menu is simple and utterly delicious. We both opted for black ramen as our main – the broth was thick, creamy and had a huge depth of flavour – the chicken radiating warmth in our full bellies. Sides of crispy fried chicken and chicken fried rice (with the egg muddled into the rice at the table) and matcha green tea ice cream (the smoothest ice cream I’ve ever tried) were perfect

Enjoying nature in Kyoto

Kyoto’s natural beauty is as captivating as its historical sites and cultural traditions. Take a break from the city’s bustling streets and immerse yourself in the tranquility of its gardens and parks. One of the most picturesque spots is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, where towering bamboo stalks create a mesmerizing atmosphere. Enjoy a leisurely walk or rent a bicycle to explore the surrounding area, including the nearby Tenryu-ji Temple and the tranquil Okochi Sanso Villa.

If you’re a fan of cherry blossoms, a visit to Maruyama Park during sakura season is a must. This sprawling park comes alive with vibrant pink hues as the cherry trees burst into bloom. Join locals and visitors alike as they picnic under the cherry blossoms, capturing the essence of hanami (flower viewing) culture.

Unique experiences in Kyoto

In addition to its famous attractions, Kyoto offers unique experiences that will make your visit truly memorable. For a touch of whimsy, visit the Sagano Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama and take a rickshaw ride through the enchanting scenery. Let the rhythmic sound of the rickshaw puller’s footsteps transport you to a bygone era as you glide through the bamboo-lined paths.

Another unique experience is exploring the traditional machiya houses that are scattered throughout the city. Some of these historic houses have been converted into cafes, galleries, and shops, offering a glimpse into Kyoto’s architectural past. Take a moment to step inside and appreciate the intricate craftsmanship and design.


We happened to be there on Daimonji, an obon fire festival. Five fires are lit on the mountains surrounding the city to welcome spirits back to the world of the living. We watched the kanji character (meaning ‘large’ or ‘great’) burning brightly on Mount Daimonji from the banks of the Kamo river with our friends. Drinking beer and watching the night light-up really was a wonderful final chapter to an unforgettable trip.

Daimonji festival Kyoto

One day itinerary for exploring Kyoto

To make the most of your one day in Kyoto, here’s a suggested itinerary:

– Morning: Start your day at Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion, to beat the crowds and experience its serene beauty. Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the surrounding gardens.

– Mid-morning: Head to Fushimi Inari Shrine and embark on a peaceful hike through the torii gates. Take your time to explore the trails and enjoy the breathtaking views along the way.

– Lunch: Grab a quick bite at one of the many street food stalls near Fushimi Inari Shrine or indulge in a traditional kaiseki lunch at a nearby restaurant.

– Afternoon: Visit Arashiyama and lose yourself in the bamboo forest. Take a rickshaw ride to explore the area and visit nearby temples and gardens.

– Late afternoon: Explore the Gion district and immerse yourself in Kyoto’s traditional culture. Enjoy a tea ceremony or simply stroll through the historic streets.

– Evening: End your day at Nishiki Market, where you can sample a variety of local delicacies for dinner. Wander through the vibrant market and soak up the lively atmosphere.

nature and Fushimi Inari, Kyoto

Tips for visiting Kyoto in one day

– Plan your itinerary in advance to make the most of your time in Kyoto.

– Consider purchasing a one-day bus pass to easily navigate the city.

– Start your day early to beat the crowds at popular attractions.

– Wear comfortable shoes as there will be a fair amount of walking involved.

– Be mindful of cultural etiquette when visiting temples and shrines.

– Try to sample a variety of Kyoto’s culinary delights throughout the day.

– Take breaks and soak in the serene beauty of Kyoto’s gardens and parks.

– Don’t rush through each attraction; take your time to truly appreciate the experience.

– Consider hiring a local guide to gain deeper insights into Kyoto’s history and culture.


A one day visit to Kyoto may seem short, but with careful planning and a sense of adventure, you can uncover the magic and beauty that define this remarkable city. From exploring historical sites and immersing yourself in traditional culture to indulging in delicious cuisine and enjoying breathtaking nature, Kyoto offers an unforgettable experience at every turn. So, embark on this captivating journey and let Kyoto’s allure leave a lasting impression on your heart and soul.

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