The Top Attractions in Kyoto That You NEED to See

Kyoto is quickly becoming one of the world’s tourism hot-spots. With it’s seemingly endless stream of activities to do while in the city, it’s not hard to see why the city has become so popular, so quickly. On this short list, you will find the absolute must dos while you are in the city, even if you are only there for a day, you should definitely try visiting at least one of them! Without further ado, here is the list for the top attractions in Kyoto that you must see!

Fushimi Inari Taisha (Fushimi Inari Shrine)

Fushimi Inari Taisha is without a doubt the top attraction in Kyoto, with tens of thousands of visitors daily. The shrine is so popular due to the some 10,000 bright orange torii gates which line the pathway and scales a small mountain. While you have to be a very patient photographer to get a photo without anyone in it, but it is certainly doable should you decide to scale the mountain to the top.  You can make it to the top and back in about 1 you if you are rushing, but an hour and a half is easily do able. At the bottom of the shrine, you can find an endless stream of souvenir shops to spend a whole ton of money at as well. 

Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of the top attractions in Kyoto. Marked by thousands of bright red torii gates

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

The golden temple is one of the top attractions in Kyoto for a very good reason. While it many not be the easiest to get to, for only 400 JPY, you can take a short walk through the kinkaku-ji gardens and observe the UNESCO World Heritage Site in all it’s glory. The Walk in the gardens will only take about 20-30 minutes total to complete, providing that you take your time and check out the little souvenir shops along the way. 

The Temple has a history which dates back to 1397, making it older than the golfball by 3 years.

The Kinkaku-ji temple makes it on our list for the top attractions in Kyoto

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is just a short 5 minute walk away from JR Saga-Arashiyama Station, allowing for easy access from Kyoto Station. As it’s name wold suggest, it is a bamboo grove, and a massive one at that. One side to the other should take about 20 minutes of walking, and is one of the most highly sought after photography spots in Kyoto, right after Fushimi Inari Taisha. 

Like Fushimi Inari Taisha, it is also free to access, so if you are travelling on a budget, then the Arashiyama bamboo grove is perfect for you. This areas easily makes it onto the list of the top attractions in Kyoto.

Arashiyama bamboo grove is one of the top attractions in Kyoto

Kiyomizudera Temple

Kiyomizudera temple, which translates roughly to fresh water temple, stands on the western side of Kyoto on the side of a mountain. It get’s its name from the spring fed creek which the temple was purposely built on. As you approach the temple, you can find the waterfall with the water from the aforementioned spring., which has 3 streams flowing down. It is said that if you drink from one of these streams, you will have good luck. Drinking from all 3 is frowned upon as it is an indicator of selfishness, and you will not receive good luck if you do.  After passing through the waterfall, you will approach the main temple, which offers stunning views of the Kyoto skyline.

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And Now back to the list of Top Attractions in Kyoto!

Gion District

The Gion Distrcit is a famous historic entertainment district, full of Geishas. Geishas are performing women, who basically did whatever their master desired. Now a days, their actions are purely limited to singing, dancing and cultural performances. 

This area is very lively when the sun goes down as tourists – both domestic and international, flock to the theatres and restaurants which have Geisha performing in them. In addition, there is also the Kiyomizudera temple nearby, so you can easily make an afternoon out of the two.

Mr. Yamasaki's Ramen Tour

Mr.Yamasaki’s Ramen Tour is one of a kind. See, Mr. Yamasaki LOVES Ramen, so much so, that he writes for a website called and has basically eaten at, and reviewed every Ramen restaurant in the city. Mr.Yamasaki has the Kyoto ramen scene in Kyoto down pack, so he will ensure that should you decide to go on his Ramen tour, you will not be disappointed what so ever. I had the pleasure of taking Mr.Yamasaki’s ramen tour and it was without a doubt the best lunch I’ve ever had. To take Mr. Yamasaki’s Ramen tour, message @MrRamen4 on twitter, and someday you too could be dining on the top Ramen in Kyoto.

Yasaka Shrine & Maruyama in the Late Evening

Yasaka Shrine  & Maruyama park are an absolut must see as the sun is setting and night begins to take over. This is because both areas are illuminated with lanterns and lights which provide some beautiful sightseeing. While the daytime is perfectly suitable for visiting, visiting these areas when the dark begins to take over is truly awe-inspiring.

In Maruyama park, there is a tree called the weeping willow tree, which left me speechless the first time I saw it when it was fully in bloom. Luckily, the area is located very close to the Gion district, making the Gion District, Yaska Shrine, Maruyama park and Kiyomizudera temple a day jammed pack full of a great time.

We hope that your enjoyed our list on the top attractions in Kyoto, we certainly had a lot of fun making this article and we hope that you find it useful for creating your itinerary for Kyoto. If you feel like we missed something, then feel free to contact us on twitter @offthetrackjpn or on our email [email protected] and let us know how we can improve our list!

Want to see more of what Kyoto has to offer?

Of course you do! Click here now to see what the rest of Kyoto prefecutre has to offer In addition, we are currently writing a comprehensive trave guide for the city, and we are nearly done. We are predicting that it will be ready the 1st of April. Stay tuned for it’s release!

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1 Month Without Spending ANY 1 yen Coins – Contest

For the entire month of February, I intend to not spend ANY one yen coins. 


Good question. I always found that I can never spend them, and they eventually just build up and continue to do so until i eventually ‘accidentally lose’ them via one mean or another. So i figured, what would happen if I just didn’t spend them at all? Also, 1 yen coins are useless to me.

You know that 1yen coins are useful right?

Yes. Yes I do. For those who don’t know, it’s common in Japan that people will tend to pay for things in the exact amount of coins, for the very reason to prevent the 1yen and other smaller coins from building up. See, I’m someone who likes to be efficient. If I go to the convenience store and get my morning usual – a iced coffee and a sandwich, which usually comes to about 491yen – So bet your sweet behind that I’m going to pay for that with a 500yen coin.  Unfortunately, that means I usually add 4, 1 yen coins to my sack of 1 yen coins before the clock even strikes 8am. 

So what are you trying to accomplish by not spending any 1 yen coins? 

To be honest, I was thinking of just carrying around a backpack where I go and just stuff more 1 yen coins but then I thought that after a day or so, that would start to get heavy – Trust me, i somehow end up with a shocking amount of 1 yen coins in seemingly no time. So instead, I decided that I will head down to the 100yen shop tomorrow after work and get a medium sized jar, and at the end of the each day, insert the days haul.  I’ve even got some close friends in on it and will have them also contribute their haul to the jar. Basically, the goal of all this is to just get a mass of one yen coins. There’s really not much to it. 

Why should I care about this?

I was thinking that at the end of February, I will either take a photo of the Jar, or build a massive tower out of the stash. Either way. It will be posted to our company twitter @OffTheTrackJpn , and the we will hold a contest. Whoever can guess the closest to the actual amount of 1 yen coins accumulated throughout the month of February, will win some prizes!

Prizes you say? I’m interested! 

That’s right! We will award the 2 closest guesses with the jar’s value in Japanese Candies/sweets/lollies (or whatever you call it in your country). They will be delivered to your door free of charge!

So let’s say that the jar comes up being 986 yen. You will get 986 yen (or as close as we can) worth in Japanese candies. Everything from the familiar, to maybe a little strange. It’s a real mystery what you will get should you be one of the lucky winners!

Sounds Great! What are the rules and how do I enter?

Rules are simple. One Entry per person. Must be a follower on Twitter(@OffTheTrackJpn) and as such, all participants must have Twitter. Mark it in your calendars, the entries begin on the 1st of March, 2019 at 9:00am and will last to the 7th of March at 9:00pm. All times are JST. You must reply to any of our contest tweets with a numerical value -These tweets will be marked with ‘Contest’. Once you enter, your twitter handle will be documented and your name and guess. If you are the lucky winner, we will message you asking for your shipping details. You will have 48 hours to reply to us, otherwise you will forfeit your position. 

Is there anyway I can improve my chances of winning?

Well we will be posting weekly updates to twitter and to our website, with a photo of the jar thus far. If you keep on top of it throughout February, then you might just be able to count or do some math to figure out  everything as the contest progresses.

Anything else we should know?

Nope! Just good luck! Remember the dates! Coin collecting will begin February 1st!

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Teaching English in Japan – JET Programme experiences.

Without a doubt, the JET programme is one of the most popular methods for foriegners to go and work in Japan. It’s easy to see why, with attractive incentives and the promise of working in Japan, without even knowing the language very well. The JET Programme really does making starting your life in Japan a breeze. That’s why, we decided to interview some past JET Programme participants to share in their experiences on the exchange.

We’d like to extend our appreciation to our guests who so kindly volunteered to allow us to interview them for this article.  

Interview with Analiese and Hayden O'Niel from New Zealand

Firstly: What made you decide to go on the JET Programme?

Hayden: I studied Japanese at high school and I remember we were recommended to read this book by someone from Wellington, who had studied Japanese in university and had gone on to do the JET Programme near Osaka. He definitely over embellished it, but it did seem like he had a great time over there. I think from that time on, I had always wanted to go on and do the JET Programme as well. 

Analiese: For me, I had heard the term JET program floating around a bit, but I really came across it at university, there was a lot of promotion for it, especially since I studied Japanese at Victoria University. I went to a Q/A session featuring people who had gone on the Jet Programme and I knew that I wanted to do the JET Programme from there. 

Could you tell us about the application process? How long did it all take from when you submitted your application, to the day you got accepted?

Hayden: From receiving the application online to finishing it, it did take a while, having to write up a bit. It took about a week or 2 doing bits and pieces here and there. Once the application is done and submitted, it takes a couple months until you hear back about the interview. There was one interview around January, it was about half an hour and then it was about 3 months from there until we heard back about the interview. It’s kind of a long process, but it’s pretty easy.

Did you have a choice of what city or region you’d be working in or did they just throw you into the city?

Hayden: On the application, there’s a section for 3 places applicants would like to work, but we didn’t end up in any the places we wrote.

Analise: Yeah, they do say you aren’t necessarily going to get the places you want, but they consider it. However, we ended up in Tokyo, and we really enjoyed it.

Thinking back to your first day in Japan, what was going through your head?

Analiese: It was very exciting, everyone was buzzing. The Japanese Embassy in New Zealand had put all the people doing the JET Programme (the ‘JETs’) on the same flight. My first thought when I arrived, because it was opposite season from New Zealand, was about how warm it was. We had just gone from winter in New Zealand to Summer in Japan. I was also wondering about what the hotel we were going to stay at would be like. For the first few nights us JET’s stayed in a nice hotel for training. 

Was Public Transport in Tokyo as hectic as YouTube makes it out to be, or was it pretty relaxed?

Hayden: It’s really a mixed bag you know, it all depends on whereabouts in Tokyo you are and where you’re going. For example, going out of the main Tokyo area, it was pretty vacant, you could easily get a seat on the way there, but on the way back into the city it gets more squished.

Analiese: I’m not great at finding my way around. The advice I’d give is to allow yourself as to repeat the route as much as possible before you start work, so that it becomes routine. There are also plenty of station attendants, as well as google maps to help you.

Hayden: Despite how busy it can be at a times, it’s amazing how often the trains come and how close stations are to each other. Coming back to New Zealand, it takes so much longer to get somewhere via public transport.

What was your accommodation situation like?

Hayden: As a couple, we were able to combine our wages and find a 40 square metre apartment. Those who went by themselves, usually had a lot smaller apartment; not much over 20 square metres. It also depends on where your school is. If you’re out of the city, you’re probably going to be able to get a larger house for about the same rent.

Analiese: Yes, usually, the further you are away from Tokyo, the larger and cheaper accommodation gets. Also, since we were in Tokyo, we were responsible for finding our own place and furnishing it, but those who lived in more rural places had certain, fully furnished accommodation and could just move in.

Tell us about the school environment when you eventually got to teaching.

Analiese: We found that we had very different experiences, I was working at a public school and Hayden was at a private school. I was usually the only native English teacher, there was another native English teacher who came occasionally, but that was it. There were large classes; 40 students in each class. I was in charge of the 8 classes of first-year senior high school students (16 years old). I also occasionally taught 2nd and 3rd year students. There was a lot of waiting around at work during the summer, but when term started, I taught a lot. Building rapport with the teachers was very important and it helped in the classroom.

Hayden: My school was a bit different, it was a private school. My school had only just started receiving JETs 2 years before me and I found that there wasn’t a lot of work for me to do at my school. This was because there were already 6 other native English teachers. I found myself more as a helping hand, I did a lot of marking and admin.

Did you have a good relationship with the students, or did you find that the Japanese were quite shy and not willing to talk with you out of class?

Analiese: I found there were a lot of students, so it was impossible to learn everybody’s names. However, I did get to know a few students; the most talkative or naughty students. That being said, I did find Japanese students were a lot more respectful to teachers than students are in New Zealand. There were a handful of students who did come to my desk and talk, they were usually the more extroverted students. I do find that Japanese students are really good at writing and reading, but are very shy when it comes to speaking because they fear the possibility of being wrong.

Hayden: I usually spent time in the office, and the students weren’t allowed in the offices, so I didn’t really get to interact with the students outside of class.

What about the other teachers at the school? Similar sort of attitude towards you? Did they want to talk with you, or did they leave you be?

Analiese: The English teachers had more confidence communicating as they could speak English, though when I asked for help, all teachers happily helped me out.

Hayden: In my school I got put in the part-time teacher’s room, alongside some of the other English teachers who were quite friendly and wanted to talk. However, I found that most Japanese teachers were a little hesitant to come up and chat, perhaps they were worried about the language difference.

Was there any particular cultural differences you noticed?

Hayden: I suppose, there were lots of small things, like people don’t blow their noses, they just sniff all day and it gets annoying.

Analiese: One thing was gargling water. Apparently, there is a there is a theory that if you gargle water, you won’t get sick, so teachers often gargled water. Another thing is Japanese people don’t really say what they think, they imply it and you’re supposed to pick up on that. However, I think if you get to know people, it is easier to pick up on what they really mean.

Hayden: Yes, I have an example of Japanese people being indirect. At my school there was had a toy bear; it was the rubbish bear. The bear would be passed around and when it was on your desk, you had to take the rubbish out. When it was my turn, I noticed that the rubbish wasn’t quite full enough so I didn’t put it out. When I came back later, the bear had been moved from the back of my desk, right to the front, as if to say; TAKE THE RUBBISH OUT.

Analiese: One last thing, Japanese people are very particular when it comes to the cleanliness of their house. They think their house has to be absolutely spotless if visitors are coming around. Because of this, they usually socialise at cafes and restaurants etcetera, so don’t be offended if they don’t invite you to their house.

Last question, do you see yourself returning to Japan in the near future, to live, work or travel?

Analiese: Yes! We really liked Hiroshima, it has beautiful scenery and is less busy than Tokyo, so we’d like to go back and possibly live in that area.

That’s all for today. If you have any further questions about teaching English in Japan, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us, we can get in contact with several current and previous English teachers in Japan, and they would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have for them.

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