Walking Tour in Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto (Self Guided)

The ancient capital Kyoto embraces several aspects of Japanese culture, being packed with shrines, temples, museums and other interesting spots. Each ward of this city boasts its own cultural heritage, as does the Shimogyo area, located right in the heart of Kyoto. Discover Shimogyo's most popular attractions in the next self-guided tour.
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Walking Tour in Shimogyo Ward Map

Guide Name: Walking Tour in Shimogyo Ward
Guide Location: Japan » Kyoto (See other walking tours in Kyoto)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.7 km
Author: emma
Kyoto Tower

1) Kyoto Tower (must see)

The Kyoto Tower is a modern architectural attraction in a city known for its historical and cultural sites. On a clear day, one can get spectacular views of the city from the observation deck and can see as far as Osaka.

The Kyoto Tower was designed by Makoto Tanahashi, a doctor of engineering from Kyoto University. It is one of the finest examples of Monocoque (structural skin) architecture in the world. The thin outer shell supports the weight of the tower. The main structure consists of specially made lightweight steel plates joined to a cylinder. The inner walls are made of several steel rings piled on top of each other. The tower was designed to withstand strong earthquakes and typhoons. Construction was completed in 1964. It is 131 meters high and the observation deck is 100 meters above the ground.

The Kyoto Tower is supported by a building with nine floors. The basement of the building has an Onsen public bath. The first four floors have shops including a souvenir shop, a bookstore, a 100 yen shop and a dental clinic. The Kyoto Tower Hotel, a 3-star hotel with 160 rooms occupies the rest of the building. Like with most high towers around the world, there is a restaurant at the top called the Sky Lounge.

Why You Should Visit:
The observation deck is very inexpensive and offers beautiful 360-degree views of the city, with stationary binoculars that are free to use.
Good multimedia equipment for a first impression of the city and Tawawa-chan, the tower mascot, is omnipresent and beyond adorable.

Be warned – at times the line to get up to the top can become somewhat long. So, it's better to go on the off-hours and/or the off-season.
There is also a beer garden on floor 10, but don't be too late to use this, as last orders are at 8:30pm.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-9pm (entry until 8:40pm)
Higashi Hongan-ji Temple

2) Higashi Hongan-ji Temple

The Higashi Hongan-ji Temple is managed by the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism and is dedicated to their founder, Shinran Shonin. It is an active temple in the heart of Kyoto and is always full of worshippers and visitors.

The Higashi Hongan-ji Temple was founded by the Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu and built in 1602. The original buildings were destroyed by repeated fires and the present structure dates back to 1859. After the Meiji Restoration, a religious organization called the Shinshū Otani was given the charge of the temple and it was renamed Shinshū Honbyō or the Mausoleum of Shinshu.

The Main Gate of the Higashi Hongan-ji Temple is one of the oldest and largest in Kyoto. It has two floors and a statue of Shinshu is carved on it. Opposite the main gate is the Founder’s Hall with an image of Shinshu. To the left of the Founder’s Hall is a hall dedicated to the Amida Buddha. To the east of the temple is the hall where the Abbotts reside and there is a smaller gate towards the north called the Chokushi Mon. A unique feature is a rope of human hair found between the two main halls. The story behind the hair rope is that when the temple was being built, ordinary ropes did not have the strength to haul the timber. Female devotees donated their hair to make strong ropes for the purpose.
Shosei-en Garden

3) Shosei-en Garden

The Shosei-en Garden is a beautifully landscaped park near the Higashi Hongan ji Temple in Kyoto. Spectacular views of the Higashiyama Mountains add to the beauty of the garden.

The Shosei-en Garden belongs to the Higashi Hongan ji Temple. It was landscaped by Ishikawa Jozan and Kobori Enshu during the Edo period. The Pond within the garden formed part of the estate in Haien of Prince Minamoto no Toru, the younger son of the Emperor Saga called the Rokujo Kawara-in mansion. The land was donated to the temple by the Tokugawa Shogun Lemitsu. It is also known as Kikoku Te because it has many orange hedges and Kikoku in Japanese means orange.

The Shosei-en Garden has a variety of flower, plant and herb species. The paths in the garden are flanked by shady trees, some of which are very old. The trees like the plum trees, Wisteria, maple and cherry trees bloom at different parts of the year and give unique seasonal views for visitors to enjoy especially during spring and autumn. The garden stays open on all days of the week between 9 am to 4 pm. Entry is free and full facilities are provided for visitors with disabilities.
The Costume Museum

4) The Costume Museum

This Museum is dedicated to the different costumes worn by the nobility of Kyoto from the pre-Nara Era to the Meiji restoration. It is a popular destination for visitors of all ages in the city.

The Costume Museum in Kyoto was first opened for public viewing in 1974. It relocated to Spring Palace of the Rokujyo-in in 1998.

The Costume Museum has doll sized replicas of costumes reflecting a specific period in the history of Kyoto. Exhibitions change two times in a year. The costumes of the court ladies during the Haien period are on display. One section is dedicated to the Tale of Genji, a Japanese novel about the life of the aristocracy in Japan. There are miniature depictions of scenes, rituals and everyday life at court. Lady Aoi's Rokujo palace that plays an important role in the novel is recreated at the museum. The replica of the Palace was designed by Dr. Kozo Ike, a professor of technology at the Chubu University. There is also a room with mannequins wearing robes that were worn by the aristocracy in the Haien era. Visitors are allowed to try on the robes and hats for photographs to take back home as souvenirs after a visit to this unique costume museum.

Opening hours: Mon-Sat: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Nishi Hongan-ji

5) Nishi Hongan-ji

The Nishi Hongan-ji temple is the headquarters of the Jodo Shinshu Sect of Buddhism. The temple is one of the largest places of worship in Japan and was registered on the World Heritage List by the UNESCO in 1994.

The Nishi Hongan-ji temple was built in 1591 by the Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu. The Hongan ji branch of the Jodo Shinshu School that manages the temple has 10,000 sub temples across Japan and over twelve million followers across the world. The Nishi Hongan-ji temple has several ancient and important religious features. Only a few of them are open for public viewing.

The Nishi Hongan-ji temple complex is the finest example of Momoyama architecture in Japan. The main hall has several paintings of artists from the Kano School of Art. The statue of Amida Buddha was carved by a master from the Kauga School. The Founders Hall has a statue of Shinran, the founder of the sect that dates back to 1244. The Flying Cloud Pavilion is a three storied building in the middle of a beautifully landscaped garden and pool. Another important structure in the complex is the North Noh Stage, the oldest Noh Stage in the country. The garden of the temple is designated as one of the most beautiful in Japan.
Sumiya Motenashi Museum of Art and Culture

6) Sumiya Motenashi Museum of Art and Culture

The Sumiya Motenashi Museum of Art and Culture is housed in one of the last surviving examples of an Ageya in Kyoto. It was designated as an Important Cultural Property by the Japanese Government in 1952.

The Ageya that houses the Sumiya Motenashi Museum of Art and Culture was once an elegant restaurant where private banquets and dinner parties were held. It was here that the traditional Japanese entertainers called Geikos performed tea ceremonies, sang and danced for the diners. They lived and were employed by Okiyas and were summoned by the Ageya to entertain customers. It functioned as a meeting place for businessmen, literary figures and politicians. The Sumiya was owned by the Nakagawa family for 13 generations from 1641. The present building dates back to 1787.

The Ageya that houses the Sumiya Motenashi Museum of Art and Culture has two floors and a roof made of shingles, tiles and copper plates. It has three parts, the lattice entrance, a large open kitchen and the interior rooms where the banquets were held. Many works of well known artists including Maruyama Okyo and Yosa Buson adorn its interiors. Plum Blossoms, a major work by Buson displayed inside the Sumiya has been designated as an important Cultural Property.

Opening hours: Tue-Sun: 10:00am - 4:00pm
Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum

7) Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum

The Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum in Kyoto was established to commemorate the 100th anniversary of railway transport in Japan. The exhibitions are designed to give a better understanding of the history and culture of railways in Japan.

The Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum was opened in 1972 as a celebration of 100 years of the Railways in Japan by Japan National Railways also called JNR. When JNR split into many regional companies the museum became the property of the West Japan Railway Company also called JR West. It is operated by the Transport Culture Promotion Foundation.

The Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum has two parts. The center is a roundhouse with 20 tracks used to exhibit 19 steam locomotives. The round house, a designated Important Cultural Property is the oldest car shed made of reinforced concrete in Japan. Other railway exhibits are displayed in the two story building of the former Nijo Station, constructed in 1904 and relocated to the site of the museum in 1997. The locomotives were built between 1914 and 1942. Visitors can take a short ride for a kilometer on one of the working steam engines. There is a small shop at the entrance selling railway related trinkets for visitors to take home as souvenirs.

Opening hours: Thursday-Tuesday: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm

Walking Tours in Kyoto, Japan

Create Your Own Walk in Kyoto

Create Your Own Walk in Kyoto

Creating your own self-guided walk in Kyoto is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Philosopher's Path Area Walk

Philosopher's Path Area Walk

Tetsugaku no Michi, or Philosopher's Walk, is a well-known route in Kyoto which starts at the famous Ginkaku-ji Temple and heads south to the Nanzen-ji Temple. It follows a stone path by a cherry-tree-lined canal that was once walked daily by Nishida Kitaro, a famous philosopher and professor at Kyoto University. The Philosopher's Walk passes by some major shrines and other places of...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 km
Kyoto Museums Walking Tour

Kyoto Museums Walking Tour

Even though Kyoto is famous for its wide variety of religious sites, this city is the home of several museums as well. The majority of them are dedicated to Japanese culture, ranging from history to fashion and the arts. A large number of Kyoto's museums are located in its eastern areas, where the next self-guided tour is about to take you. Check it out and prepare to get an insight into the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 km
Central Kyoto Walking Tour

Central Kyoto Walking Tour

They say visiting Japan without seeing Kyoto is worthless, because a visit to Japan will never be complete without knowing Kyoto's treasures. A city of tradition, history, and culture, Kyoto has plenty of touristic spots to offer. The next walking tour takes you to the core of Kyoto and the main attractions of the city that are located in its central area. Enjoy!

Tour Duration: 4 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 8.5 km
Souvenir Shopping Part 1

Souvenir Shopping Part 1

It would be a pity to leave Kyoto without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Kyoto, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.9 km
Higashiyama Area Walking Tour

Higashiyama Area Walking Tour

Kyoto is a city made for tourists, especially the ones with love for history, interest in religion and, of course, Japanese culture. Many of Kyoto's attractions are located in the eastern part of the city, which, in turn, is split into wards. One of them is the Higashiyama Ward, home to several famous temples of Kyoto, as well as the popular Gion geisha district. To find out more about...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.3 km
Kita-ku Temples and Shrines Tour

Kita-ku Temples and Shrines Tour

Kita-ku is one of Kyoto's wards, located in the northern part of the city. Kita Ward contains some spectacular religious sites, such as the famous Golden Pavilion and the ancient Daitoku-ji Temple, as well as a museum dedicated to world peace. Find them all selected and described in the next self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.5 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

18 Japanese Products To Bring Home from Kyoto

18 Japanese Products To Bring Home from Kyoto

The old capital of Japan, the city of Kyoto has once again been the talk of the world lately, thanks to the bestselling "Memoirs of a Geisha" book and the namesake Hollywood blockbuster movie. Renowned for its impeccable craftsmanship, Japan has so much to amaze a foreign eye with. Many of...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Kyoto for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Kyoto has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes

To save yourself time and money visiting Kyoto's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the so-called city passes, such as the Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass or Kyoto Subway & Bus Pass and Hankyū Tourist Pass.

A city pass combines all or multiple Kyoto's (and even neighboring Osaka's) top highlights, tours and experiences in one prepaid attractions pass, using which you can save incredible amounts on general admission fees as compared to purchasing tickets separately. Often, a city pass also allows user to skip lines at major attractions, thus saving precious time.

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels

Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Kyoto hotels conveniently located for a comfortable stroll: Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Shijo, Karaksa Hotel Kyoto I, Nagi Kyoto Shijo.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Kyoto, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours

We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, though, as a guided tour of Kyoto typically costs somewhere between US$30 and US$120 or more per person:

- Pedal your way around Kyoto on a 3-hour bike tour visiting the city's most spectacular sights, stopping at each of them for a bit of rest, watching the surroundings, and learning much about this glorious city from an informative group leader.

- Brace yourself for a full-day of walking to discover Imperial Kyoto in its full splendor on a 9-hour sightseeing tour exploring the city's temples, palaces and ancient shrines. This tour is ideal for those on a short visit to Kyoto, keen on seeing as much of its rich cultural heritage as possible in a single go.

- Another good chance to absorb Kyoto's atmosphere within a shortest possible time is a half-day guided tour embracing all of the city’s top highlights: UNESCO-listed castle, temples and Imperial Palace sights.

- Discover what makes Japanese culture so refined and unique on a cultural walk in Kyoto. Follow a knowledgeable local guide to savor the beauty and charm of this ancient yet elegant city wandering through its Zen gardens, visiting shrines and temples, as well as catching a glimpse of its kimono-clad geishas and more.

- Acquaint yourself with Kyoto’s food culture, its history and taste, at a 400-year-old “Kyoto's Kitchen” market fit to agitate anyone's taste buds with the plethora of unique dishes on offer. Explore the surroundings, including the famous Gion district, for a chance of spotting real-life geishas and other local peculiarities!

- Attend a traditional tea ceremony in Kyoto to perceive its sophisticated philosophy with the help of a local guide who will translate your questions, if any, addressed to the master about this fascinating part of Japanese culture.

Day Trips

If you have a full or half day to spare whilst in Kyoto, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations like Hiroshima and Miyajima Island, Nara, Himeji Castle and Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, or northern Kyoto prefecture. For as little as as circa US$70+ to US$350+ per person you will get a chance to discover highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, see majestic shrines, including some of Japan's oldest Buddhist temples, celebrated memorials, prominent parks and other historic treasures. For any of these tours you will be picked up either straight from your hotel or a designated place in Kyoto, and transported either by a comfortable air-conditioned coach, minibus, train, boat, or a private vehicle (whichever is applicable) to the destination of your choice and back again.