Duration: 9.5 hours
Start/End: Kobe port/Kobe port
Highlights: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove – Kinkakuji Temple – Nijo-jo Castle – Kiyomizu-dera Temple – Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
Tour Customizable: Absolutely! (Tell us your specific requirements in the inquiry form)
Welcomed by our local guide and driver on your arrival at Kyoto port, head west to Arashiyama Area to see the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Being one of Kyoto’s most photographed sights with soaring stalks of bamboo, the bamboo grove seems to let you get lost in another world. Stand in the midst of this sprawling bamboo forest and feel the palpable sense of otherness that is quite unlike that of any normal forest you know about.
Take a scenic drive through Togetsu-Kyo Bridge to visit Kinkakuji Temple (the Golden Pavillion) whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. This was the former retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, then it was the inspiration for many temples built in a few decades later. Overlooking a large pond, Kinkakuji Temple boasts an impressive architectural style that echoes the extravagant Kitayama culture that developed in the wealthy aristocratic circles of Kyoto during Yoshimitsu’s times. It was set on fire numerous times throughout its history, and the present structure was reconstructed in 1955. Walk to the temple’s garden holding a few other spots of interest such as the Anmintaku Pond that said to never dry up, and statues people throw coins at for luck. Outside the exit are souvenir shops and a small tea garden in which you can enjoy matcha tea and sweets.
Our tour guide then leads you to Nijo-jo Castle built as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo period. Enter through a large gate to the castle grounds and venture further into the castle will bring you to the Chinese style Karamon Gate, the entrance to the Ninomaru (secondary circle of defense) where Ninomaru Palace, the castle’s main attraction is located. Nijo Castle is surrounded by green space and tree line walking paths. Cherry blossom trees of numerous varieties planted throughout the grounds make the blooming season lasts from late March till the end of April. Further, plum orchard, maple, and Ginkgo offer brilliant autumn colors during the second half of November.
After lunch, winding streets lined with traditional shophouses at Higashiyama District – one of Kyoto’s best-preserved historic districts. Narrow lanes, wooden building, and traditional merchant shops invoke a feeling of the old capital city. Streets lined by small shops, cafes, and restaurants have been catering to tourists and pilgrims to centuries. Shop for local specialties such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets, pickles, crafts, and other souvenirs.
Leave Higashiyama District for Kiyomizu-Dera Temple – one of Japan’s most celebrated temples. Kiyomizu-Dera literally means Pure Water Temple derived from the pure water from the Otowa Waterfall in wooded hills east of Kyoto. From the famous wooden stage jutting out from the main hall, enjoy a great view of the countless cherry and maple trees below that erupt in a sea of color in spring and fall, as well as the view of the city in the distance. Step into the main hall housing the temple’s primary object of worship, a small statue of the eleven-faced, thousand-armed Kannon.
Complete the trip to Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari – the Shinto god of rice. The shrine is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates which straddle a network of trails leading into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari. Admire the giant torii gate in front of the Romon Gate donate by the famous leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Make a small offering at the shrine’s main hall to show respect to the resident deity. Trip ends as our driver takes you back to the cruise port.