One Day Kyoto Food and Sightseeing Guide from an Australian Living in Kyoto

Publish-date: Dec 01 2019 Update-date: Jan 30 2020
Author: SAVOR JAPAN
One Day Kyoto Food and Sightseeing Guide from an Australian Living in Kyoto

As an Australian who lives in Kyoto, I've played guide to visiting friends, family, and colleagues many times. In this article, I'd like to introduce my suggestions for a one day food-focused trip around Kyoto. Within one day, you can only scratch the surface of this ancient city, but with a little organization, you can see some great highlights. In this article, I'll recommend an efficient course through the Kyoto spots that visitors always tell me they like the best, with a focus on delicious places to eat at each stop.

About Visiting Kyoto

One Day Kyoto Food and Sightseeing Guide from an Australian Living in Kyoto
As Japan's ancient capital, Kyoto has such a wealth of history and culture that it could take a lifetime to get to grips with it all. I've had visitors who have stayed for weeks, only to end their trip with a list of things they still wanted to see and do.

My biggest piece of advice when visiting Kyoto for a short amount of time is to be honest with yourself and focus on the kind of things you like most, rather than what the guidebooks tell you to see. There are literally hundreds of beautiful temples and shrines worth visiting here, but I've also seen visitors hit the "temple fatigue" stage very quickly. So, if you like gardens, prioritize temples like Ryoan-ji or Ginkaku-ji; they may not be the most famous, but the gardens are world-class. If you're like my sister, who has no interest in temples at all, rent a kimono and explore the historical streets in search of delicious local food. You'll end up much happier with your day than if you follow someone else's idea of a good time.

In this spirit, with this article, I've focused on areas that have a little something for everyone. No matter what your perfect day in Kyoto looks like, if you follow this one-day route, you'll find some of the most striking shrines and temples, beautiful scenery, great shopping, and of course, some of the best food in town.

[8:00 am] Kyoto Station

[8:00 am] Kyoto Station
If you've just got one day in Kyoto, chances are you're starting off your day at Kyoto Station. Kyoto is very well connected to the neighboring cities of Osaka, Kobe, and Nara, as well as with further-out cities like Tokyo, Nagoya, and Hiroshima by bullet train, so it's an easy stop to fit into your travel plans.

Like most major Japanese stations, there are plenty of shops and restaurants to explore here, but if you've got only a day, we don't recommend using up too much time here. Still, it's worth heading to the Karasuma side of the station to take in the striking glass and steel atrium at the JR Central Entrance. Just out of the main entrance, you can also visit Kyoto Tower immediately across the road from the station. You can go up to the tower's observation deck (770 JPY), but Kyoto Station itself has some open-air observation areas that are completely free, too.
One Day Kyoto Food and Sightseeing Guide from an Australian Living in Kyoto
To take advantage of the free observation areas, head up to the top of the Grand Stairway; you can see this area where the Christmas tree is in the above photo. When you get to the top, you'll find the Sky Garden with its pretty bamboo garden and a great view of Kyoto. Building regulations in Kyoto prevent the construction of any high rise buildings, so you don't have to get too far off the ground to get a good view of the city and the mountains beyond. This is a great place to get your bearings before you start your day. You can also access the Skyway Tunnel, a suspended walking platform, from the station's East Square.

Breakfast: French Dining Top of Kyoto

Breakfast: French Dining Top of Kyoto
For breakfast, head to Royal Rihga Hotel, located around a 5-minute walk from the station building itself. The hotel's restaurant, French Dining Top of Kyoto, is Kyoto's only revolving restaurant, so you can kill two birds with one stone and sightsee while you get breakfast! The breakfast menu here is made with a focus on local Kyoto ingredients, including milk and eggs from Kyoto's scenic Miyama area. Seasonal fruit, meats like smoked salmon and ham, and yogurts add up to a fresh and nutritious breakfast that will have you feeling full of energy without ruining your appetite for all the other delicious foods you'll find in Kyoto!

French Dining Top of Kyoto

Open: Lunch 11:30 am - 2:30 pm (L.O.), Dinner 5:00 pm - 9:30 pm (L.O.), Other 6:30 am - 10:00 am (L.O. 9:30 am)
Closed: None
Average price: [Breakfast] 4,000 JPY
Address: 1, Taimatsu-cho, Higashi Horikawa-dori Shiokoji-sagaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto Map
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[10:00 am] Fushimi Inari Shrine

[10:00 am] Fushimi Inari Shrine
After breakfast, take a local train from Kyoto Station to Inari Station on the JR Nara Line. The journey should take you around five minutes. Here, you'll find Fushimi Inari Shrine, which is perhaps Kyoto's most immediately recognizable shrine, and a hotspot for Japanese and international tourists year-round.

Dedicated to the god Inari, Fushimi Inari Shrine is famous for its paths of torii gates called the senbon torii ("thousand torii gates"). As Inari is the patron god of such endeavors as agriculture and business, these vermillion red gates are each donated by Japanese businesses or individuals who were either seeking or offering their thanks for blessings. The black writing on each gate indicates the name of the patron and the date of when they made the donation.
One Day Kyoto Food and Sightseeing Guide from an Australian Living in Kyoto
Together, these gates create a mystical walk along the forested mountain paths. While it's possible to take 2-3 hour round-trip hike all the way up Mt. Inari, if you only have a day in Kyoto, I recommend simply spending a little time enjoying the lower paths and appreciating the design of the shrine's tower gate and main hall before moving on.

Mid-Morning Snack: Jin

Mid-Morning Snack: Jin
If you're ready for a quick snack after your walk around Mt. Inari, stop at Jin to take part in the bubble tea craze that's booming in Japan. Kyoto Prefecture produces some of the best tea in Japan in Uji City, so Kyoto is a great place to experience Japanese-style bubble tea for yourself. I also highly recommend trying the [Matcha Warabi Mochi Egg Waffle] (800 JPY) here. Warabi mochi, or soft jellies made with bracken starch, are a real Kyoto favorite, and the mix of green tea ice cream, brown sugar topping, and the soft texture of egg waffles makes for a perfect Kyoto-style pick-me-up.

Jin

Open: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm (L.O. 4:30 pm)
Closed: Irregular
Average price: 600 JPY
Address: 63-3, Fukakusa Inari Nakano-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto Map
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[12:00 pm] Higashiyama Area

[12:00 pm] Higashiyama Area
For your next stop, take the Keihan Main Line from Fushimi Inari Station to Kiyomizu-gojo Station; the ride should take you around 10 minutes. You'll now find yourself in the Higashiyama area, one of Kyoto's most pretty and attraction-dense areas. There's so much to see here that you have a wealth of options of what to do, but my pick to begin with is to take the winding path up towards Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The area can be a little maze-like, but if you follow the main flow of people uphill, you'll end up where you need to be.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple is one of the most iconic Kyoto temples, with a grand stage that juts dramatically from the mountainside and a vividly colored pagoda that looks over the Higashiyama area. This temple is known for its gorgeous cherry blossoms in the spring and vivid autumn colors, but the stunning scenery is unlikely to disappoint no matter when you visit. Surrounding Kiyomizu-dera are some charming and historical streets, the most famous being Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka. While often crowded, the preserved traditional architecture and historic streetscapes are some of Kyoto's prettiest.
One Day Kyoto Food and Sightseeing Guide from an Australian Living in Kyoto
After Kiyomizu-dera, you have a wealth of options in the Higashiyama area. If you like temples, take a stroll through Maruyama Park and visit the nearby Chion-in and Shoren-in Temples. Otherwise, simply take an atmospheric walk through the beautiful Gion streets here. In addition to famous shrines and temples, this part of Kyoto is known for its geisha culture and tea houses. Some of the best known streets to take in this atmosphere are the Hanami-koji alleyway that houses the legendary Ichiriki Chaya (formely known as Ichiriki-tei), and the Shirakawa area with its atmospheric canals, traditional townhouses, and weeping cherry trees.

When you're done, take a walk along Shijo Street and across Shijo Bridge to take in the view of the Kamogawa River. This river is very near and dear to Kyoto residents, and is a popular place for cycling, running, or just lounging in the sun in warmer months. If you need a breather from the crowds, head down the stairs and take a break on the riverbanks. Then, head to the nearby Kawaramachi Station, take the train two stops to Omiya Station, then switch to the cute purple Randen trams bound for Arashiyama.

Lunch: CAFE RESTAURANT Yayoi

Lunch: CAFE RESTAURANT Yayoi
Yayoi is a stylish, modern cafe with a spacious layout that makes it ideal for a relaxed lunch away from the busy Kyoto streets.

My recommendation is the [Ochazuke Zen] (1,390 JPY), which comes with freshly-cooked rice and an assortment of small sides, including spiced whitebait, savory omelette, and local vegetable dishes. The restaurant recommends you eat your first bowl of rice plain, and then the second ochazuke style, which is rice with a tea-based broth poured on top.

If you'd like to try pasta with a Japanese twist, try the [Ojako Pasta] (1,390 JPY). Made with seasonal vegetables and topped with Yayoi's specialty dried and seasoned whitebait, this fresh and light pasta also comes with a soup and salad.

CAFE RESTAURANT Yayoi

Open: [Monday, Tuesday, Thursday - Sunday, National Holidays, Day before National Holidays] 10:00 am - 6:00 pm (L.O. 5:00 pm)
Closed: Wednesday
Average price: 1,500 JPY
Address: 481, Gion Shimogawara Kiyoi-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto Map
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Lunch: Yuba Higashiyamayuuzu

Lunch: Yuba Higashiyamayuuzu
For a taste of local Kyoto food, stop by Yuba Higashiyamayuuzu for lunch. This restaurant specializes in yuba (tofu skin) dishes. The yuba is made using soy beans sourced directly from Miyama, Kyoto, and water. While this may sound like an extremely simple ingredient, a meal at Yuba Higashiyamayuuzu will show you just how incredibly versatile it is.

For lunch, we recommend the popular [Yuuzu Set] (2,600 JPY) that comes with uniquely textured yuba meshi (yuba rice bowl) as well as a range of yuba-based sides and a dessert. Another highlight is the [Yuba Hot Pot Set] (2,800 JPY), made with a rich soy milk sauce as a base and seasonal ingredients like local Miyama chicken.

Yuba Higashiyamayuuzu

Open: [Monday - Wednesday, Friday - Sunday, National Holidays, Day before National Holidays] Lunch 11:00 am - 3:00 pm (L.O. 2:00 pm), Dinner 5:30 pm - 9:30 pm (L.O. 8:30 pm)
Closed: Thursday
Average price: [Dinner] 5,000 JPY / [Lunch] 2,000 JPY
Address: 570-218, Gion-machi Minami-gawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto Map
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Lunch: Kyoto Gion Tempura Yasaka Endo

Lunch: Kyoto Gion Tempura Yasaka Endo
Tempura Yasaka Endo is an upscale tempura (battered and deep-fried fish and vegetables) restaurant housed in an elegant space that overlooks a peaceful Japanese courtyard. If you're looking for a special place for lunch, the traditional atmosphere and beautifully fried tempura dishes served here will be sure to delight.

The [Lunch Course "Aoi"] (5,500 JPY) is based around the season's fresh ingredients, including Kyoto vegetables and freshwater fish sourced from nearby Lake Biwa. This set comes with 13 pieces of seasonal tempura, soup, salad, and more. If you'd like an even more leisurely lunch, a full wine and sake (a kind of Japanese alcohol) menu, carefully curated to match various kinds of tempura, is available to choose from.

Kyoto Gion Tempura Yasaka Endo

Open: Lunch 11:30 am - 3:00 pm (L.O. 2:45 pm), Dinner 5:00 pm - 10:00 pm (L.O. 9:15 pm)
Closed: Irregular
Average price: [Dinner] 10,000 JPY / [Lunch] 5,500 JPY
Address: 566, Komatsu-cho, Higashiyama, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto Map
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[4:00 pm] Arashiyama Area

One Day Kyoto Food and Sightseeing Guide from an Australian Living in Kyoto
After enjoying a charming tram ride that gives you a look at Kyoto's more residential areas, you'll arrive in one of Kyoto's most beloved spots, Arashiyama. Best known for its bamboo forest, this area really has something for everyone.

Cross the street from the Randen Arashiyama Station and head straight to Tenryu-ji Temple. This is Arashiyama's most important temple, a World Heritage site, and in my opinion, has one of Kyoto's most beautiful gardens. If you have time before its closing, it's worth buying both the temple building and garden tickets, but if you're short on time, just opt for the gardens.

After exploring the grounds, exit through the North Gate to find yourself right at the famous bamboo forest. Coming out from the gate, if you turn left, you'll head through the most famous, albeit short, path of the forest. At the end of the path, you'll find the beautiful Okochi-Sanso Villa gardens (closes at 5:00 pm) and Kameyama Park. To the right, you can follow the bamboo path all the way back into the main street, where there are plenty of souvenir shops and street foods like yuba and matcha ice cream to enjoy. Don't ruin your appetite for dinner, though; I have some great suggestions for you below!
One Day Kyoto Food and Sightseeing Guide from an Australian Living in Kyoto
Once night falls, Arashiyama's historical streetscape takes on a more atmospheric vibe. If you're lucky enough to be visiting during the spring or fall, you'll have the chance to enjoy some very pretty mountain illuminations. If not, the early evening is a great time to really take in the classical streetscapes and scenery of the famous Togetsukyo Bridge as the tour bus crowds leave.

Togetsukyo Bridge's name translates to "moon crossing bridge", a name given by Emperor Kameyama, who reigned from 1259 to 1274. Moved by the beautiful sight of the moon and the bridge during one of the period's popular evening boating parties, he penned a poem remarking that it seemed as if the moon itself was crossing the bridge. Even today, Arashiyama has a very special feeling in the evenings that I'm sure will draw your day in Kyoto to a memorable close.

Dinner: Arashiyama Yugetsu

Dinner: Arashiyama Yugetsu
First opened over 90 years ago, an evening meal at Arashiyama Yugetsu is a chance to savor Arashiyama's traditional elegance. It has private rooms, making it a wonderful choice for relaxing with family or friends over luxurious yet reasonably-priced course menus.

My recommendation is to choose one of the kaiseki course menus. Kaiseki is a traditional meal that involves small, individually plated dishes made with seasonal ingredients. There are three to choose from here: [Hana] (Flower), [Yuki] (Snow), and [Tsuki] (Moon). They range from 6,000 JPY to 11,000 JPY. If you're on more of a budget, consider one of Arashiyama Yugetsu's affordable range of courses that start from 3,600 JPY. Options include a mini kaiseki course, Japanese beef shabu-shabu (sliced meat parboiled with vegetables), and a Kuroge Wagyu (a type of high-quality beef) sirloin steak course.

Arashiyama Yugetsu

Open: [Monday - Wednesday, Friday - Sunday, National Holidays, Day before National Holidays] From 11:00 am (L.O. 7:00 pm)
Closed: Thursday
Average price: [Dinner] 3,500 JPY / [Lunch] 3,500 JPY
Address: Kanyuchi, Saga Nakanoshima-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto Map
More Details Reservation 

Dinner: Arashiyama Kumahiko

Dinner: Arashiyama Kumahiko
Perfectly located with a view of the Arashiyama mountains and the Hozu River, a meal at Arashiyama Kumahiko is sure to be memorable. It has two floors, with the first floor offering a more casual dining space and the second floor acting as a venue for special occasions, such as a family gathering. Expect beautifully presented dishes made with carefully selected ingredients, such as softshell turtle and Arashiyama bamboo shoots harvested from groves nearby.

Don't know what to order? The [Sagano Course] (15,000 JPY), which is only available if you dine on the second floor and make a reservation in advance, offers dishes that embody the flavors of Kyoto and the spirit of the restaurant founder. It's the perfect way to get a true understanding of just what this restaurant is all about. They can accommodate special dietary restrictions, so don't hesitate to discuss requests with them before your visit.

Arashiyama Kumahiko

Open: [Monday - Wednesday, Friday - Sunday, National Holidays, Day before National Holidays] Lunch 11:30 am - 2:30 pm, Dinner 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Closed: Thursday
Average price: [Dinner] 18,000 JPY / [Lunch] 10,000 JPY
Address: 5-1, Saga Tenryuji Susukinobaba-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto Map
More Details Reservation 

Dinner: Kyo Suiran

Dinner: Kyo Suiran
For Japanese cuisine with a French twist, consider a meal at Kyo Suiran. Located in the luxurious riverside Suiran Collection Hotel Kyoto, this restaurant offers fine kaiseki dining in a luxurious garden-facing dining room.

Two dinner kaiseki courses are available: [Shisui] (16,000 JPY) and [Kinshu] (21,000 JPY). Both make expert use of the finest seasonal ingredients. Traditional Japanese techniques and flavors meet European elements like champagne and consomme to create vivid, exciting dishes that will delight as each arrives at the table.

Kyo Suiran

Open: Breakfast 7:00 am -10:00 am (L.O. 9:30 am), Lunch 11:30 am - 2:30 pm (L.O. 2:00 pm), Dinner 5:30 pm - 9:00 pm (L.O. 8:30 pm)
Closed: None
Average price: [Dinner] 18,000 JPY / [Lunch] 6,000 JPY
Address: 12, Sagatenryuji Susukinobaba-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto Map
More Details Reservation 
I hope this sightseeing guide to Kyoto comes in handy when planning your next trip! You'll definitely sleep well at the end of a day as busy as this, but you should also feel as though you've seen some of Kyoto's best sights! Kyoto is the kind of place that's hard to get tired of, so if you have a little longer in town, you'll have a wealth of choice of what to see next.
Disclaimer: All information is accurate at time of publication.
Publish-date: Nov 23 2019 Update-date: Jan 30 2020
Author: SAVOR JAPAN

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