Kyoto Walks

  • Walk 1: Northern Higashiyama Highlights and Secrets
  • Walk 2: Tofuku-ji Temple to Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine
  • Walk 3: Classic Southern Higashiyama
  • Walk 4: Gion Evening Walk
  • Walk 5: Arashiyama
  • Walk 6: Hidden Higashiyama Hike
  • Walk 7: Mountain Hikes

Walk 1: Northern Higashiyama Highlights and Secrets

The Higashiyama (Eastern Mountain) district of Kyoto is the city’s richest area for sightseeing. It contains many of its most important temples, shrines, gardens and museums. This walk takes in some of the area’s real highlights and natural beauty while avoiding its more crowded attractions.

The route includes the rarely visited Honen-in Temple, the flower-lined Path of Philosophy (Tetsugaku-no-Michi), the sprawling Zen temple complex of Nanzen-ji, and a small Shinto shrine called Kumano Nyakuo-jinja, among other secret spots.

Your guide will consult with you at the beginning of the tour to determine where you want the tour to end: If you start in the morning, the tour can finish in an area where you can eat a great Japanese lunch and then continue on to Ginkaku-ji Temple. If you start in the afternoon, at the conclusion of the tour, the guide can take you downtown where you can do some shopping and exploring before dinner.

This walk takes approximately four hours and can be done by anyone in moderately good physical condition. The guide will meet you at your hotel/ryokan in Kyoto or at Kyoto Station.

The walk costs ¥30,000 per group (NOT per person) plus expenses that average about ¥2,000 per person (entry fees, snacks etc).

You can extend this walk to create a six-hour tour (¥36,000 per group). For the six-hour option, you can include part of our Walk 3 (Classic Southern Higashiyama) or you can explore some secret temples on Yoshida-yama Hill, including Shinnyo-do Temple and Kurodani Temple. If you’d like to do an eight-hour tour (¥44,000 per group), you can combine this with the full Walk 3 (Classic Southern Higashiyama).

To book a walk, contact us.

Next walk:
Walk 2: Tofuku-ji Temple to Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine

Walk 2: Tofuku-ji Temple to Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine

The southern end of Kyoto's Higashiyama (Eastern Mountain) district is my favorite area of the city for a walk. Nestled against the mountains are some of the city's most atmospheric temples and Fushimi-Inari Taisha, a fascinating complex of shrines scattered across a wooded hilltop. If you want a taste of the mysterious side of Japan, this walk is for you.

The walk starts at Tofuku-ji, a lovely temple complex that is often overlooked by visitors to Kyoto. After exploring Tofuku-ji, we will work our way through some narrow streets and alleys before we enter the woods and climb the northern slope of Mt. Inari, home of Fushimi-Inari Taisha. Here, we enter a world of vermillion torii (Shinto shrine gates), hidden shrines, strange stone figures and, according to some, legions of ghosts and spirits. After exploring this shrine complex for a while, we will descend the west side of the mountain, pausing to admire the excellent views across the whole of southern Kyoto. Finally, we come out at the base of Inari-san, where we visit the main halls of the shrine before boarding the train to return to downtown Kyoto.

This walk takes approximately four hours and can be done by anyone in good physical condition. The guide will meet you at a hotel in Kyoto or at a meeting point at Kyoto Station. The endpoint of the walk is Fushimi-Inari Taisha, which has bus and train connections to all parts of Kyoto.

The walk costs ¥30,000 per group (NOT per person) plus expenses that average about ¥2,000 per person (entry fees, snacks etc).

You can extend this walk to create a six-hour tour (¥36,000 per group). For the six-hour option, you can include part of our Walk 3 (Classic Southern Higashiyama). If you’d like to do an eight-hour tour (¥44,000 per group), you can combine this with the full Walk 3 (Classic Southern Higashiyama).

To book a walk, contact us.

Next walk:
Walk 3: Classic Southern Higashiyama

Walk 3: Classic Southern Higashiyama

Southern Higashiyama is Kyoto’s most popular sightseeing district, and with good reason: it’s packed with first-rate sights. My route through this area takes in some of the city’s most famous highlights, with a nice dash of lesser-known attractions, all linked by great secret lanes, alleys and streets.

We offer two variations on this route. For those starting at 9am, we recommend beginning near Sanjo-dori Street and visiting the rarely visited Shoren-in Temple, the vast Pure Land temple of Chion-in, the picturesque Maruyama-koen Park and then continuing to lunch along the preserved lanes of Sannen-zaka (your guide can give you a route for the afternoon that includes Kiyomizu-dera Temple, one of Kyoto’s most famous sights).

For those starting at 1pm, we recommend beginning at the atmospheric Otani Cemetery, then exploring the colorful precincts of Kiyomizu-dera Temple, then descending the superb old lanes of Ninen-zaka and Sanen-zaka, before finishing up at Yasaka-jinja Shrine, one of Kyoto’s most popular Shinto shrines.

The walk takes four hours and can be done by anyone in moderately good physical condition. This walk is particularly good for those with children, as there is a lot to do in temples like Kiyomizu-dera.

The walk costs ¥30,000 per group (NOT per person) plus expenses that average about ¥2,000 per person (entry fees, snacks etc).

You can extend this walk to create a six-hour tour (¥36,000 per group). For the six-hour option, you can include part of our Walk 1 (Northern Higashiyama Highlights and Secrets). If you’d like to do an eight-hour tour (¥44,000 per group), you can combine this with the full Walk 1 (Northern Higashiyama Highlights and Secrets).

To book a walk, contact us.

Next walk:
Walk 4: Gion Evening Walk

Walk 4: Gion Evening Walk

Gion is Kyoto’s traditional entertainment district. It is the realm of geisha and hostesses. Gion is loveliest in the early evening, and a visit to Gion at this time offers the best chance of spotting a geisha on the way to or from an appointment.

Our Gion evening walk starts at Yasaka-jinja Shrine, the patron shrine of the district, and plunges into the magical backstreets of the district. Along the way, we pass along what I consider to be the loveliest single street in all of Asia, before taking a pass through the Pontocho entertainment district on the far side of the Kamo-gawa River. This romantic route is truly the best way to experience the magic of Gion.

This walk takes two hours and can be done by anyone comfortable with a short walk. It’s mostly flat or downhill. The walk can be done Monday to Saturday (we do not offer this walk on Sundays, when there’s little chance of spotting a geisha). We don’t recommend doing the walk in the mid-August Obon holiday period or from December 29 to January 3. In order to maximize your chances of spotting geisha, we recommend starting the walk at 5pm between October and April and at 5.30pm from May to September. Note that geisha sightings are not guaranteed.

The walk costs ¥25,000 per group (NOT per person) plus expenses that average about ¥1,000 per person (entry fees, snacks etc).

To book a walk, contact us.

Next walk:
Walk 5: Arashiyama

Walk 5: Arashiyama

Tucked along the base of Kyoto’s western Arashiyama Mountains, you’ll find one of Kyoto’s most charming sightseeing districts. Arashiyama is home to a fine collection of temples, including one of Kyoto’s finest Zen temples, and the single most beautiful villa in the country. The highlight of the area is the famous Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, an incredibly atmospheric grove of bamboo that calls to mind the film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

Our route starts at Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, a unique temple with hundreds of sculptured stone Buddhas, which we access by a short taxi ride from Arashiyama Station. Then we walk gradually downhill via several quiet temples with beautiful gardens and bamboo forests.

Along the way, you’ll also pass a poet’s hut where Basho penned a famous haiku and visit Okochi-Sanso Villa, one of the most superb houses and gardens in all of Kyoto. Then, we walk through the Bamboo Forest and return back to Arashiyama Station via Tenryu-ji Zen Temple garden. Time permitting, we finish with a brief stroll along the banks of the Hozu-gawa River.

This walk takes around four hours and can be done by anyone in moderately good physical condition.

The walk costs ¥30,000 per group (NOT per person) plus expenses that average about ¥2,300 per person (entry fees, snacks etc).

You can extend this walk to create a six-hour tour (¥36,000 per group). For the six-hour option, you can add a visit to one of the major sights in northwest Kyoto: Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) or Ryoan-ji (home of Japan’s most famous Zen garden). If you’d like to do an eight-hour tour (¥44,000 per group), you can combine this walk with both of these famous northwest Kyoto sights.

To book a walk, contact us.

Next walk:
Walk 6: Hidden Higashiyama Hike

Walk 6: Hidden Higashiyama Hike

Duration: 4 hours
Cost: ¥30,000
Difficulty: Moderate (for athletic adults and children over the age of 10)
Season: September 15 to June 1 (i.e., not offered during hot summer season)
*see notes below on the difficulty of this hike*

For athletic travelers who want to combine a hike in the hills with some temples, shrines and culture, this is the perfect hike.

The hike starts with a 30-45 minute climb halfway up Mt Daimonji, the mountain that rises above the Northern Higashiyama Area. We arrive at the giant “Dai” on the mountain that is burned during the August Daimonji Fire Festival. Here, we enjoy an incredible view over Kyoto.

We then head down into Shishigatani Ravine and explore a quiet temple there. Next, we take some back roads and lanes to the south end of the Path of Philosophy, stopping en route at a rarely visited shrine. We then climb to a secret grotto in the hills behind Nanzen-ji Temple. We finish by a nice walk through the forest and down to Himukai Daijingu, a beautiful shrine nestled in the hills above Keage Station on the Tozai Subway Line.

Unlike our other routes where the guide meets you at your lodgings, for this route, you meet at the starting point: Ginkaku-ji Temple. At the finish of the tour, your guide will drop you off at Keage Station, from which it’s a very easy subway ride to downtown Kyoto or Kyoto Station etc. Also, please note that this route can only be done in good weather (ie, it cannot be done on rainy days). Thus, it’s possible to cancel this tour at the last minute without incurring any cancellation charge.

*Are you fit enough to do this hike?*
This hike contains three climbs of 225 meters (738 feet), 100 meters (328 feet) and 60 meters (196 feet). None of these climbs is particularly difficult, but if you’re not used to this sort of thing, they might be a little tiring. There’s also one relatively steep staircase that we descend, one rocky section and several sections with exposed roots that you can trip over if you’re not careful. Basically, if you’re an experienced hiker in good shape, the route should not be particularly difficult. Indeed, you’ll probably find it very fun and enjoyable, especially since we go at a relaxed pace. However, if you think this might be too tiring, we recommend you try another one of our walks.

For more hiking options, see our Mountain Hikes

Walk 7: Mountain Hikes

I also offer hiking tours in the mountains that surround the city. I offer the following walks:

  1. Kyoto Hike #1: Kurama to Kibune Hike (four hours, ¥30,000)
  2. Kyoto Hike #2: Takao to Hozukyo Hike (six hours, ¥36,000)
  3. Kyoto Hike #3: Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine pilgrimage circuit (four hours, ¥30,000)

Send us an email for more details on any of these walks. Expenses on these walks average around ¥1,000–2,500 per person.

Return to:
Walk 1: Northern Higashiyama Highlights and Secrets