25 BEST Things To Do In Kyoto, Japan (2024 Guide)


Looking for the best things to do in Kyoto, Japan?!

Kyoto is a city steeped in history and culture with plenty of sights, activities, and attractions to explore.

From ancient temples and shrines to shopping streets and nourishing restaurants, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

To make sure you don’t miss out on any of the best Kyoto attractions, I’ve put together this complete list of 25 must-see Kyoto tourist spots – you’re in for an unforgettable experience!

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Before we dive into the best places to visit in Kyoto, here are some quick answers to the most frequently asked questions by first-timers.


Kyoto is a city in the Kansai region of Japan, 450 km west of Tokyo.

Located on the eastern side of the island of Honshu, Kyoto is historically known as Heian-kyo, which means “tranquil capital.”

Kyoto was Japan’s capital for over 1,000 years between 794 and 1868 and is today considered one of the country’s most beautiful and important cities.

It’s home to various temples and shrines, beautiful zen gardens, bustling markets, and some of Japan’s best culinary experiences.

Click here or on the image below for an interactive map of Kyoto.

kyoto map


Getting to Kyoto is easy and convenient from Tokyo and pretty much anywhere in Japan.

The fastest way to travel between Tokyo and Kyoto is by taking the bullet train (Shinkansen).

This will only take 2 hours and 40 minutes from Tokyo to Kyoto and only 15 minutes from Osaka to Kyoto.

Alternatively, you can take a flight from Tokyo to Kyoto and this only takes about 1.5 hours.

That being said, the most convenient way to get around Japan is by train using the JR Pass.

The JR Pass allows you to take unlimited trains and buses for free all around the country, and that’s why it’s so convenient.

Read More: Japan Rail Pass Guide

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Kyoto is a great city to explore, with plenty of options for getting around.

The most popular way to get around Kyoto is by bus and on foot.

You’ll find buses on basically every major street in Kyoto, and English-language signs make it easy to roam around.

For those who prefer public transportation, a Suica card can be used on all trains, subways, and buses in Kyoto.

However, remember that the JR Pass offers unlimited bus travel in Kyoto which is great.

You will want to consider Hop On Hop Off Bus too, which only stops at the top things to do in Kyoto and, therefore, makes everything easier.

Alternatively, biking around Kyoto is a good option because it’s a flat city, making it relatively easy to ride a bike around the famous Kyoto attractions.

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Kyoto is definitely worth visiting!

It is the cultural and historical heart of Japan, home to over 1600 Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, palaces, and other Kyoto attractions.

If you travel for food, Kyoto is the right place for you – from traditional teahouses to modern restaurants, you’ll love it here.


For the general traveler, I recommend spending a minimum of 2 full days in Kyoto.

This will give you enough time to explore the main areas within the city and take a half-day trip to the Bamboo Forest.

If you’re not in a rush and want to tick off as many Kyoto tourist spots as you can, then plan for 3 or even 4 days in Kyoto.

This will allow you enough time to visit all the amazing places to see in Kyoto within the city, on the outskirts of the city, and you can also take a day trip to Nara.

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Kyoto is one of Japan’s most famous cities and is considered the cultural capital of the country.

It’s home to countless Buddhist temples, shrines, and gardens, and of course, the Geisha girls that you will spot roaming the streets in Gion.

Another notable activity is going to a tea ceremony. In fact, Kyoto is known for its green tea, with many traditional teahouses offering visitors a chance to sample a diverse range of teas.

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Now that we’ve covered all the FAQs and what the ancient capital is all about, it’s time to get to the fun stuff!

Let’s dive in and uncover the best attractions, places, and activities so you know exactly what to do in Kyoto during your visit.


When you think about Kyoto, the main temple you have in mind is probably this one – The Kiyomizu-dera Temple.

Constructed way back in 778 and completed in 1633, it’s an incredible site, offering both breathtaking historic architecture and stunning natural beauty.

Located on the east side of the city, this Buddhist temple has over 1200 years of history and is one of the most famous Kyoto tourist spots.

It includes several shrines and buildings, including a main wooden stage that overlooks a large veranda with a stunning view of Kyoto.

Plus, when visiting during the cherry blossom season, Kiyomizu-dera Temple holds magical night illuminations (open till 9 pm) that make it even more beautiful and unique.

I recommend coming here after a day exploring Kyoto and taking in the city views during sunset – a show you can’t miss!

Kiyomizu-dera Temple opening hours are between 6 am and 6 pm and the entrance fee is 400 yen.

View All: Kiyomizu-Dera Tours

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Next on this list of things to do in Kyoto is the Fushimi Inari Shrine, which you’ve probably seen on social media at some point in time.

The shrine is home to a giant red torii gate at the entrance, as well as a tunnel of 10,000 smaller torii gates that line the path up Mount Inari.

Along this path, you will find hundreds of fox statues that are said to be messengers of Inari, the Shinto god of rice.

At the top of Mount Inari lies a stunning view of Kyoto city and beyond – something you can’t miss on your trip!

The Fushimi Inari Shrine is also known for its beautiful architecture and gardens, making it an ideal spot for photographers looking to capture some amazing shots.

If you’re coming by metro, get off at Fushimi-Inari Station and from here it’s a short 5-minute walk to the entrance.

Fushimi Inari Shrine is open 24 hours a day and there is no entrance fee.

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The Philosopher’s Path (Tetsugaku No Michi) is a peaceful stroll that you can take while in Kyoto. The path is 2 km in length and runs along a canal in the Higashiyama district.

Click here for the exact location on Google maps.

Along the way, you will find quaint cafes and restaurants that line the path, as well as cherry trees, which are very beautiful in March and April.

Related Guide: 1-Day Kyoto Itinerary

The path was named after Kitaro Nishida, a philosopher from Kyoto University who used to take his daily meditation walks along this route.

Nowadays, it’s the perfect way to walk meditate, have a romantic stroll with, or simply take a few photos for a keepsake!

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Ninenzaka is a historic pedestrian street located in the Higashiyama district of Kyoto.

This 150-meter stone-paved street is lined with traditional Japanese-style buildings that have not only been restored but are also very well maintained.

Walking along Ninenzaka gives visitors a glimpse into the past of Kyoto, as the street has remained relatively unchanged for centuries.

Apart from the architectural side, the street is filled with little shops where you can get ice cream, delicious street food, Japanese souvenirs, and take photos of ladies in Kimono – what a treat!

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Want to experience a unique place where nature, culture, and history combine all at once? Then the Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto is not to be missed.

This beautiful 3-story temple is covered in gold leaf (hence its second name – The Golden Pavilion), making it not only an architectural marvel but also a breathtaking sight to behold.

It has been a symbol of the city of Kyoto since before Japan’s famous feudal period when it was owned by Yoshimitsu Ashikaga – probably like no other place on earth!

It’s not a big place so you can visit the temple and surrounding gardens in about 30 to 45 minutes, but certainly a fantastic place for taking nice shots.

The Golden Pavilion is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm and the entrance fee is only 400 yen.

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Visiting the Ginkakuji Temple (Silver Pavilion) in Kyoto is an absolute must for any traveler to Japan, and it’s just about 10 minutes from the Philosopher’s Path.

While it’s not as impressive as other temples in town, like the Golden Pavilion, the Ginkakuji Temple is the perfect description of authenticity and calm, and the gardens are sensational.

When exploring the grounds of Ginkakuji, you’ll find it filled with captivating gardens and ponds, as well as other sculptures that inspire visitors to take a journey inward.

After visiting the paths around the temple complex, you will eventually reach the Silver Pavilion itself, which stands at the back corners – a place you can’t miss!

And I love the fact that it’s not as touristy and crowded as other attractions in Kyoto, which is very nice.

Related Post: 7-Day Japan Itinerary

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A unique way to explore the thousand-year-old city is by joining this half-day Kyoto bike tour.

Cycle down the Kamo River, past traditional restaurants, and through the Heian-Jingu Shrine.

Marvel at the breathtaking views from Nanzenji Temple’s aqueduct, before taking a leisurely ride along the Philosopher’s Path.

When visiting Kyoto from March to October, it’s a great way to see the different spots, listen to stories from your guide, and stay in shape while the weather is pleasant!

Book Here: Kyoto Bike Tour

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Next up is the famous Hokan-ji Temple and its 5-story-high Yasaka Pagoda, a must-visit tourist spot in Kyoto.

This 46-meter tall pagoda is the last remaining structure of a 6th-century temple complex and is famous for its five-tiered structure with sloping roofs on each tier.

Located in the heart of the Higashiyama district, you can expect crowds of tourists here, but that shouldn’t discourage you from coming – it’s one of the best photo spots in town!

It’s worth noting that it’s an excellent spot to see the cherry blossom if you happen to be in Kyoto during that period.

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The Sagano Scenic Railway, also known as the Sagano Romantic Train, is one of the coolest things to see in Kyoto.

This sightseeing train line takes you on a journey through the beautiful rural region of Sagano, offering stunning views of the natural beauty along the Hozugawa River.

The ride only takes 25 minutes and departs from Saga Torokko Station to Kameoka Torokko Station.

The train has become famous for its open-air carriages, which allow to fully immerse themselves in the breathtaking surroundings.

Please note that the train ride doesn’t run in the winter months from December 30th to the end of February.

During the rest of the year, it operates between 9 am to 4 pm and costs 880 Yen one way – what a bargain for such an attraction!



Nishiki Market, also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” is a must-visit Kyoto attraction for foodies in Japan.

This bustling retail market has over 100 stalls and shops selling fresh seafood, produce, knives, cookware, dried seafood and sushi, and other food-related items.

You might think it’s just another market with street food, but you couldn’t be further from the truth.

The market has been operating for over 400 years and is nestled on Nishikikoji Street, just north of Shijo Street in downtown Kyoto.

Plus, it’s free, making it one of the best free things to do in Kyoto!

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Visit the city in style with a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus and explore all the things to see in Kyoto at your own pace.

The bus route takes you past UNESCO World Heritage sites like Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji, and Kiyomizu-dera Temple, as well as bustling markets and traditional shrines.

The touristic bus goes pretty much through all the Kyoto attractions I cover in this travel guide.

You can buy a ticket for 24 or 48 hours, giving you enough time to see everything and take photos all around town. This is especially great if you’re in town for a limited time.

That’s not all – you’ll be given earphones to listen to stories and facts about Kyoto along the way, which is another reason why you should jump aboard.

Book Now: Hop On Hop Off Bus Kyoto

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Nijo Castle is another one of the top places to visit in Kyoto, and you have the option of coming here on your own or booking a guided tour.

Built in 1603 as the residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, it’s a stunning example of Japanese architecture and culture.

The castle grounds are divided into two concentric defense rings, with Ninomaru Palace at its center.

You can explore the grand chambers, gardens, and corridors, all filled with intricate carvings and paintings.

The information here is written in both English and Japanese, which is nice for understanding the history behind the castle.

Nijo Castle opening hours are 8:45 am to 4:00 pm and the entrance fee is 1,000 Yen ($7 USD).

Book Now: Nijo Castle Guided Tour

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Located between the Kamo River and Yasaka Shrine, Gion is the most popular of the five active Geisha districts in Kyoto and has been an entertainment district since the Sengoku period.

You simply can’t miss it when visiting Japan!

Here in Gion, you’ll have a glimpse of traditional Japanese culture by visiting tea houses, private clubs, and restaurants where you can even see a geiko (Kyoto’s version of geisha).

Make sure to go for a nighttime stroll through Gion because it’s beautifully lit and it’s one of the best things to do in Kyoto at night.

Plus, you’ll have a better chance of spotting the Geisha girls roaming the streets after dark.

You can also book a nighttime walking tour through Gion to do all the above while listening to interesting stories about Kyoto.

Book Here: Night Walk In Gion


The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is easily one of the best things to do in Kyoto for countless reasons.

The towering stalks of bamboo create an emerald green canopy that will instantly transport you to another world.

You can wander around for hours photographing the gardens, the cute statues, majestic trees, and torii gates.

A personal recommendation – make sure to come just after sunrise as photos will look even more stunning and you’ll avoid the group tours.

Talking about group tours, in case you don’t feel comfortable visiting by yourself, consider one of these awesome guided tours.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is open 24 hours a day and there is no admission fee.

View All: Arashiyama Bamboo Forest Tours

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Riding in the back of a rickshaw is a unique and fun experience to have in Kyoto!

And what makes it even more special, is that you can do this inside the Bamboo Forest.

Sitting in a rickshaw, you’ll be surrounded by the bamboo trees and the serenity of the old forest while being pulled along.

When you book the rickshaw ride online, you can choose to go for a cruise through the forest as well as other spots like the Togetsukyo Bridge, Nonomiya Shrine, and the Residential Sagano Area.

All in all, there’s no better way to explore than on a rickshaw!

Book Here: Bamboo Forest Rickshaw Tour

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One of the coolest and best things to do in Kyoto is the Iwatayama Monkey Park, located only a few minutes from Hankyu Arashiyama Station.

The park sits atop Mount Arashiyama and offers stunning views of the city – remember that you’ll have to hike up to get there, so pack a water bottle.

With over 120 Japanese snow monkeys living there, it’s the perfect place to roam around and see them playing in the wild.

There’s a small area where you can feed the monkeys and you can buy a small bag of apples or peanuts for only 100 yen.

And if you come with luggage or a backpack, there’s a storage room at the ticketing counter, which is great for protecting your stuff from the monkeys.

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Just 1-hour away from Kyoto by train, Nara is home to one of Japan’s most important historical sites, Todaiji Temple, and inside you’ll find the 500-ton Great Buddha statue.

On top of that, you can meet the friendly deer that reside in Nara Park, some of whom will bow their heads when you bow your head to them – how cool is that?!

I recommend booking this half-day trip to Nara from Kyoto which includes transportation with an experienced guide, and the sites you’ll get to visit are Todai Ji Temple including the Great Buddha Hall, the deer in Nara Park, and also Kasuga Taisha Shrine.

Book Now: Nara Day Trip From Kyoto

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On the hunt for some fun things to do in Kyoto? Then the Teramachi and Shinkyogoku shopping arcades might just be what you need.

These two shopping streets are packed with retail stores, thrift shops, souvenir markets, and so much more.

Not only is it a great place to pick up some unique items, but it’s also a great way to get a glimpse of local life.

Plus, for budget travelers, it’s the perfect way to save money as you can indulge in delicious, cheap street food while window shopping.

These shopping streets are undercover, so it’s the perfect place to check out if it’s raining outside.

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Nestled in the Arashiyama area, Tenryuji is the most important Zen temple in Kyoto and was ranked first among the five great Zen temples in the city.

Tenryuji was built back in 1339 by Ashikaga Takauji who dedicated the site to the Emperor Go-Daigo.

It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features one of the finest gardens in Kyoto, with stunning mountain views.

The great thing about the Tenryuji Temple is that it’s located right next to the bamboo forest so you can visit both spots on the same day.

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You haven’t truly experienced Kyoto until you’ve seen the cherry blossoms in spring. The cherry blossoms usually bloom between 20 March and 14 April each year.

From the banks of the Kamo River to nearby mountainsides, there are endless photo opportunities.

The best spots to see the cherry blossoms in Kyoto are:

  • Nijo Castle
  • Kiyomizu-dera Temple
  • Maruyama-Koen Park
  • The Philosopher’s Path
  • Shimbashi-dori in Gion District

Picture this – you walk around Japanese streets with cherry blossoms in every corner and Geishas and Geikos cruising around – can it get any more authentic?!



Get to know Japan’s elderly art of tea drinking by joining an authentic tea ceremony.

The best tea ceremony you can book is the one at the Jotokuji temple, a small Buddhist temple not far from Central Kyoto.

Make your way to the Grand Tearoom entrance, take off your shoes, and take your seat inside to start the ceremony.

Here, the Tea Master will go through all the steps and go through why the ceremony is so important in Japanese culture.

It lasts about 70 minutes from start to finish and I guarantee you have never drank such fantastic Matcha tea.

Book Now: Tea Ceremony in Kyoto

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Toji Temple is one of the unmissable Kyoto tourist spots. Founded in 796, it is a significant symbol of the city and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This 5-story pagoda stands 57 meters tall and can be seen from many spots around the area.

During your visit, you can join traditional Japanese activities such as tea ceremonies and calligraphy classes, which is a fantastic experience.

If possible, I highly recommend visiting at nighttime when the shrine and pagoda are illuminated and you’ll get to take incredible photos. That said, prepare for the crowds.

The entrance fee costs 500 Yen and 1,000 Yen when coming at night, which is definitely worth it!

It would be a waste to skip this captivating place when exploring the tourist spots in Kyoto, so make sure to add it to your itinerary.

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Another must-see place on this list of best things to do in Kyoto is the Imperial Palace.

The Japanese imperial family lived here until 1868, making it an important historical landmark.

Beautiful courtyards and gardens surround the palace, and you can take audio tours to learn more about its history.

Inside the main hall are artifacts from many centuries of imperial rule, while outside, you will find a museum that illustrates the palace’s history, which is in English.

Just like other temples in Kyoto, there’s a beautiful Japanese garden outside where you can chill for a bit.

Visiting the whole complex will take you about 30 minutes and admission is free, which is surely appreciated in a country like Japan.

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The Kyoto Botanical Gardens are one of the best things to see in Kyoto, and it’s far from being your typical garden.

Set against the breathtaking backdrop of Mount Hiei, it’s a picturesque spot where you can roam around and see different flowers, cactuses, trees, fish, and more.

Also, if you happen to visit Kyoto during cherry blossom season (March – April), you’ll be able to come in at nighttime with the main areas illuminated – how cool!

Perfect for a lasting memory and plenty of great photo opportunities, it’s no wonder the Botanical Gardens spot is one of the best places to visit in Kyoto!

The entrance fee is 200 yen ($1.50) and opening hours are from 9 am to 5 pm, while the conservatory is only open until 4 pm.

Note that the conservatory entrance is an additional 200 yen.

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When in Kyoto, do as the locals – and if there’s one thing in Japan you can’t miss out on, it’s food.

Joining a cooking class is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the culture and flavors of Kyoto.

A cooking class is an excellent way to learn about local cuisine and understand the ingredients used in traditional Japanese dishes to replicate the recipes back home.

You will be able to understand more about the techniques used to prepare traditional Japanese food and experience first-hand the real flavors.

Sure, most restaurants in Kyoto are fantastic, but tasting some real, homemade food is what the class is all about.

In addition, it gives you an opportunity to interact with locals and get a better understanding of Japanese culture.

Book Here: Kyoto Cooking Class

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Kyoto has hundreds of accommodation options, so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay to fit the needs of budget backpackers, luxury travelers, and everyone in between.

See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend.








If you’re looking for an authentic experience, I highly recommend spending a few nights at a traditional Ryokan (Japanese-style inn) during your stay.

My personal favorite is Kyoto Ryokan Kinoe which is conveniently located in central Kyoto just 5 minutes walk from Gion.

This cozy Ryokan offers spacious tatami mat rooms, 24-hour baths, and multi-course meals served for breakfast and dinner.

Staying here will make you feel like you’re a traveler back in Edo-era Japan!




Didn’t find the perfect accommodation to suit your needs above?

Use the interactive map below to search all the available hotels in Kyoto. Simply enter your dates of stay and hit the search button!



For first-timers planning a trip to Kyoto, here are some useful travel tips to know before you go.


While pretty much all areas of Kyoto are good to stay in, Central Kyoto is the most convenient.

This puts you right at the center of all the main attractions in Kyoto, making it easier and less time-consuming to explore.

From Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Fushimi Inari to Ginkaku-ji and Nijo Castle, most of the major landmarks are located within Central Kyoto, so there’s no need to walk for hours or take a taxi or a bike.

Staying centrally also allows for easy access to popular restaurants, shopping areas, and more, basically providing an optimal base for a few days.

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Kyoto receives 87 million tourists per year on average, so visiting the tourist spots in Kyoto early is a great way to avoid crowds and walk around peacefully.

The popular things to do in Kyoto and all the major attractions are packed with tourists, so it’s wise to go early in the morning when the lines are shorter.

Plus, you’ll benefit from cooler temperatures, which is a plus in the summertime.


To see the cherry blossoms in Kyoto, consider coming in early April when you can really experience the city in full bloom.

The cherry blossom starts in late March but the peak comes in April, and this is precisely where you can see the city as beautiful as ever.


When it comes to Japan, one thing to keep in mind is that tipping is seen as rude and, therefore, it’s better not to tip. In fact, it could even be seen as an insult by the locals.

Instead of tipping, show a sign of appreciation either verbally or with a bow to express gratitude for the service provided. This applies to restaurants and ryokans too.

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Getting travel insurance should be an essential consideration when traveling in Japan. Unfortunately, accidents can happen, and it’s always best to be prepared for the worst.

Additionally, make sure you commit only to reputable companies and read the fine print carefully!

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Most Japanese people can speak English, so if you are ever lost or need help with something you will be able to converse in English.

Also, all the signs at the airports, train stations, shopping malls, etc. are written in both Japanese and English.


The currency in Japan is Yen (¥) and the exchange rate is approximately $1 USD = 130 ¥.

There are plenty of ATMs in Japan located in the majority of convenience stores, in front of banks, inside hotels, etc. where you can easily withdraw cash to have with you during your trip.

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The easiest and most convenient way to discover Japan is with a Japan Rail Pass that is valid for use on the vast majority of railways and local buses operated by JR (Japan Rail) throughout the country.

Choose between an Ordinary Pass, or the Green Class Pass if you’re looking to travel in more comfort with reclining seats, a footrest, extra leg space, and a travel magazine.

The JR Pass includes the Shinkansen (bullet train), Limited Express, Local Trains, Monorail, JR Buses, and the Miyajima Ferry.

The Japan Rail Pass is definitely the best ticket to have when planning your Japan itinerary!


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The best time to visit Japan depends on what you plan to do.

I personally prefer the spring and summer months in Japan (April – September) when temperatures are warm and the landscapes are vividly green.

However, visiting Japan in winter (December – March) is absolutely magical because the landscapes are completely covered in glistening white snow.

Visiting Japan in winter also means you have to opportunity to go skiing and snowboarding in Japan’s alpine regions.

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Japan is visa-free for travelers from over 65 countries and you can stay in Japan for up to 90 days on a tourist visa. 

Click Here to see the full list of nationalities that are eligible for the free 90-day tourist visa. 

You don’t need to apply online for this as you will be granted a 90-day tourist visa at the airport when you arrive.


More Japan Travel Guides


Click the button below to view all articles related to Japan!


I hope you enjoyed reading this article about what to do in Kyoto and if you have any questions, please drop me a comment below this post and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

For a quicker response, be sure to join Jonny Melon’s Travel Tribe on Facebook and post your questions or recommendations to our awesome community.

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Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or it’s your first trip overseas, here are some useful travel resources to help you kick-start your next adventure!


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