Walking Tour: Southern Higashiyama Highlights

  • Start Gojō-zaka bus stop
  • End Higashiyama Station
  • Length 5km; four hours

From the starting point at Gojō-zaka bus stop on Higashiōji-dōri (bus 100, 110, 206 or 207), walk up Gojō-zaka slope. Head uphill until you reach the first fork in the road; bear right and continue up Chawan-zaka (Teapot Lane). At the top of the hill, you’ll come to Kiyomizu-dera. Before you enter the temple, we recommend that you pay ¥100 to descend into the Tainai-meguri, the entrance to which is just to the left of the main temple entrance. Next, enter Kiyomizu-dera.

After touring Kiyomizu-dera, exit along Kiyomizu-michi. Continue down the hill and take a right at the four-way intersection down stone-paved steps. This is Sannen-zaka, where you will find tiny little Kasagi-ya, which has been serving tea and Japanese-style sweets for as long as anyone can remember. It's on the left, just below a vending machine and a few doors before Starbucks. Halfway down Sannen-zaka, the road curves to the left. Follow it a short distance, then go right down a flight of steps into Ninen-zaka. At the end of Ninen-zaka zigzag left (at the vending machines) then right (just past the car park) and continue north. Very soon, on your left, you’ll come to the entrance to Ishibei-kōji – perhaps the most beautiful street in Kyoto. Take a detour to explore this, then retrace your steps and continue north, passing almost immediately the entrance to Kōdai-ji on the right up a long flight of stairs.

After Kōdai-ji continue north to the T-junction; turn right at this junction and then take a quick left. You’ll cross the wide pedestrian arcade that leads to Higashi Ōtani cemetery and then descend into Maruyama-kōen. In the centre of the park, you’ll see the giant Gion shidare-zakura, Kyoto’s most famous cherry tree. From the park, you can head west into the grounds of Yasaka-jinja. Then return to the park and head north to tour the grounds of the impressive Chion-in. From here it’s a quick walk to Shōren-in. From Shōren-in walk down to Sanjō-dōri to Higashiyama Station.

Walking Tour: Night Walk Through the Floating World

  • Start Yasaka-jinja
  • End Kawaramachi Station
  • Length 3km; two hours

Start on the steps of Yasaka-jinja (at the intersection of Shijō-dōri and Higashiōji-dōri), a 10-minute walk from Shijō (Keihan line) or Kawaramachi (Hankyū line) stations. Cross to the south side of Shijō-dōri and just after passing the APA Gion Hotel turn left. Walk 150m and take the second right. Another 100m brings you to Hanami-kōji, a picturesque street of ryōtei (traditional, high-class restaurants). Take a look then walk back north to Shijō-dōri.

Cross Shijō-dōri and go west for about 20m then turn right into Kiri-dōshi. As you continue along Kiri-dōshi, you’ll cross Tominagachō-dōri, which is lined with buildings containing hundreds of hostess bars.

Kiri-dōshi crosses another street and then narrows to a tiny alley. You are now about to enter Gion’s most lovely area, which lies just across Tatsumi-bashi bridge. This is the Shimbashi district, which features some of Kyoto’s finest traditional architecture, most upmarket restaurants and exclusive hostess bars.

At the fork in the road you will find a small Tatsumi shrine. Take a left and walk west along the canal. Admire the views across the canal into some of the finest restaurants in Kyoto. You will occasionally spot geisha entertaining guests in some of these elite establishments.

At the end of Shimbashi, take a left onto gaudy Nawate-dōri. Head west on Shijō-dōri, passing Minamiza, Kyoto’s main kabuki theatre. Cross the Kamo-gawa on the north side of Shijō-Ōhashi and walk to the kōban (police box) on your right. You are now standing at the intersection of Shijō-dōri and Ponto-chō. Heading north brings you into an entirely different world of upmarket restaurants, bars, clubs and cafes.

At the north end of Ponto-chō at Sanjō-dōri, take a left and another left on Kiyamachi-dōri. This is a much more casual and inexpensive entertainment district.