Hello again everyone,
I recently put out a post about Cheap Travel to Kyoto, you can read it here: Cheap Travel to Kyoto! Well, now that you have arrived in Kyoto, its time to have some fun! But I’m sure your wallet is probably starting to get stretched a bit thin, so here are some options for some cheap things to do during your visit.
Fushimi Inari Taisha
Fushimi Inari Taisha (Fushimi Inari Shrine) is a well-known Shinto shrine in Kyoto. Most people are familiar with its thousands of vermilion torii gates that wind up Mount Inari, located behind Fushimi Inari.
This is a wonderful place to reflect on your life, as you stroll through the tunnels of torii gates. Just imagine, you have traveled to the other side of the world and are walking up a mountain through thousands of beautiful gates. It is a very “zen” experience. But be sure to get there very early, as thousands of people visit this shrine every day—though most people arrive after 9:30am.
You will also see a multitude of “kitsune” or “fox” statutes throughout the shrine, as foxes were seen as messengers of the Shinto god Inari. Try and see how many you can count!
And the great thing is that it is absolutely free! There is no admission whatsoever, and it is open practically all of the time. It is also very easy to get here, as it is literally across the street from JR Inari Station. Just take the JR Nara Line from Kyoto Station, and you will be there in no time. The train ride will only cost you about $1.50 one way.
Arashiyama is actually a district in the western part of Kyoto, and contains many different things to do, including temples and shrines. But one of the most popular things to do is visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove.
The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is just that, a grove of bamboo with a path down the center. But when you walk down this path, you will be amazed at the height of the bamboo and how rich the colors look. It is probably one of the most photographed parts of Kyoto, and it is also free to enjoy! Similar to Fushimi Inari, I recommend that you arrive early to avoid the enormous crowd of people.
Another landmark of the Arashiyama district is the Togetsyu-kyo Bridge (“Moon Crossing Bridge), a wooden bridge that crosses the Katsura River. With the beautiful river running below it, and the Arashiyama Mountain behind it, it is a very picturesque scene—perfect for photos that will make all your friends wish they were here too.
One of the interesting things about this bridge is that there is actually a lot of superstition associated with it. In fact, couples that walk across the bridge are told to never look back when they are crossing, if they do, it will bring bad luck to their relationship that will lead to a break-up. I remember that my fiance and I avoided walking across the bridge, just in case! Haha!
And yes, this is free too!
Also, in this Arashiyama-area is the Kimono Forest, which are about 600 cylinders containing kimono fabrics of all colors. Most people aren’t familiar with this “forest”, so it is usually not crowded at all. It is also a great place to visit at night, as the pillars are lit-up and the colors shine brightly for all to enjoy.
Also, a pro-tip is to look for a small foot spa, where you can dip your feet for a bit.
And have I mentioned that this is completely free! Well, it is. So look for it at Randen Arashiyama Station, near Tenryu-Ji Temple.
Sagano Romantic Train
For all of the love birds out there, if you have a little bit more time in Kyoto, then I would highly recommend the Sagano Scenic Railway, also known as the Sagano Romantic Train. It is an old-fashioned train that goes along the Hozugawa River, and provides beautiful views of the mountains, trees, and river. It is especially romantic during Sakura (Cherry Blossom) season and Autumn, when the leaves change colors.
This has become a popular activity, so make sure you reserve your seats as soon as possible. And though it isn’t free, the $6 price per ticket is very, very cheap!
I’ll be making a separate post about my experience on this train, so lookout for that soon!
And yet another must-do in Kyoto is a visit to Kiyomizudera Temple (Pure Water Temple). It is particularly popular in Autumn, as the view from the wooden platform allows you to look over a sea of beautiful colors.
At the base of the main hall of Kiyomizudera, you will see the Otowa Waterfall, coming down in three small streams. Each of the streams will bring you long life, help you with school, or give you luck in love. Drinking out of two is fine, but if you drink out of all three, then you are greedy!
Also, behind Kiyomizudera Temple is Jishu Shrine, which is best known as a shrine dedicated to the god of love. Many Japanese people visit this shrine with the hopes of finding their true love.
In fact, there are two rocks at this shrine that are about 59 feet apart. If you are able to walk from one rock to the other, with your eyes closed and without any help, then you will find your true love. If someone helps you get to the second rock, then you will also need someone’s help to find your true love. So close your eyes and believe!
Next, no trip to Kyoto would be complete without a visit to Kinkaku-Ji (Golden Pavilion). It is a Zen Buddhist Temple in northern Kyoto, and an extremely popular attraction, so expect to see many people here.
One of the most recognizable traits of Kinkaku-Ji is its bright gold, which is actually gold leaf covering the top two stories of the building. As you stand in front of this building sitting on top of a peaceful pond, you can’t help but reflect on the beauty you can find in Kyoto.
Tickets to visit this site are about $3.50 (400 yen), which is a steal to see such a historic location. Plus, you can take plenty of cool travel photos for free!
To get here, simply hop on the Kyoto City Bus that will take you straight to Kinkaku-Ji for only about $2 (230 yen).
Another popular Zen Buddhist Temple is Ginkaku-Ji (Silver Pavilion). If you notice similarities with Kinkaku-Ji, it is because Ginkaku-Ji was modeled after Kinkaku-Ji.
Surrounding Ginkaku-Ji are ponds, and you will notice bowls inside of the ponds, underwater. You will also see plenty of coins around the bowls and in them. This is because people will try to throw coins into the bowls, and if you make it, then you are said to have good luck. I’m not sure if it is true, but it is a fun thing to at least try. But be sure to do this only in the designated areas, as you don’t want to throw coins in other parts of the pond with live fish—we want to keep the fish safe!
There are also some pretty great views of Kyoto from the top of this area, so be sure to bring your walking shoes.
Entrance to Ginkaku-Ji is slightly more expensive than Kinkaku-Ji, as it costs about $4.43 (500 yen). And similar to Kinkaku-Ji, the most efficient way to get here is via Kyoto City Bus, at a cost of about $2 (230 yen).
Nijo Castle was the residence for the Tokugawa Shoguns, so it is a great way to get a glimpse of the past and see how shoguns lived.
One of the cool things about Nijo Castle is that you are allowed to walk through most of the castle….with your shoes off of course! But that is what makes for a more realistic experience. In fact, once you feel the cool wood planks under your feet as you walk down the long corridors, you are almost transported back in time.
Don’t forget to take a picture of the garden outside of the castle, as it is one of the purest examples of a traditional Japanese garden.
The cost to visit Nijo Castle is about $5.30 (600 yen), and you guessed it, one of the easiest ways to get there is via Kyoto City Bus for about $2 (230 yen). Of course, you can also get there via subway, but will need to make one transfer before getting there.
Sanjusangen-do is a Buddhist Temple known for having 1001 statutes of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. However, as pictures are not allowed of the statutes, you just have to see them for yourself—though you can find some pics of the statutes online, haha.
Admission is $5.30 (600 yen), and is easily accessed via the Kyoto City Bus for about $2 (230 yen).
Kyoto Tower is probably one of the first things people see when they arrive in Kyoto, as it is directly across the street from Kyoto Station—so you can’t miss it. It is the largest structure in Kyoto, standing at 430 feet (including spire), and has an observation deck at the top.
Entry into the observation deck is about $6.82 (770 yen), though taking pictures of the tower is free!
Kyoto International Manga Museum
For all of you manga and anime otaku, I highly suggest a trip to the Kyoto International Manga Museum. Yes, your read that right, an entire museum dedicated to manga! The majority of the manga are Japanese, so you can find Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, Ranma 1/2, Astro Boy, and more. But you can also find some overseas manga artists, as one of their goals is to expand manga throughout the world.
Entry is slightly more expensive than the other sites listed, at about $7.08 (800 yen), but it is definitely worth it if you are a fan of manga. Getting here is easy, as it is a two minute walk from the Karasuma-Oike Subway Station—just take a train from Kyoto Station at about $1.86 (210 yen).
AND SO MUCH MORE
Of course, there are many more things to see and do cheaply in Kyoto, but it would make my post too long to read! But feel free to let me know if you want to know more about any of the above sites, or any other Kyoto site that is not listed.
See you soon!