Every year hordes of tourists are drawn to Kyoto's historical streets. Images of places like Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine and Kinkaku-ji Temple pop up on newsfeeds and social networking sites, inspiring more and more people to buy tickets to Japan to see these famous destinations in person.
While Kyoto is quite well set up for tourists, and largely dependent on the revenue that they bring to the city, navigating the confusing system of trains, buses, and unfamiliar streets can be daunting. There are limitless options for travel and numerous companies boasting the best package or the most conveniently placed stations. With all these options to choose from, how can you decide? With so many choices, many tourists overlook the services offered by Keihan Railway, one of the better-known companies offering transportation throughout Kyoto and Osaka. Keihan Railway operates local trains throughout the two cities, as well as more expensive premium car for visitors with sore feet who are tired of standing. I had the opportunity to visit Kyoto recently and traveled exclusively with Keihan Railway and its affiliates. I found the locations and travel options to be well located, comfortable, and convenient.
Osaka to Kyoto by Premium Car
Often traveling in the Kansai region can be extremely tiring; carting around heavy luggage and walking from place to place can leave visitors with sore feet and irritable. The last thing they want to do is stand on a train for an hour, while trying to make it to their next destination.
Luckily, Keihan Railway offers a Premium Car option, which boasts luxury reserved seats and a faster trip to some of Kyoto’s main tourists locations such as Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine and stations near Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The train runs from Yodoyabashi Station to Demachiyanagi Station, stopping at various locations along the way. For more information on the Premium Car option, or the line itself, see Keihan’s English website here.During my trip, I traveled on the Keihan Line to visit some of the more interesting locations in Kyoto, starting with the famed Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine.
Home to the Thousand Torii Gates
I’m sure you have seen pictures of the famous Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine; the string of bright torii gates leading up to the top of the small mountain is one of the most picturesque locations in Kyoto, and people from all over the world flock to the shrine daily. Originally established in 711, the shrine has become one of the most popular spots in Kyoto for both Japanese visitors and overseas visitors alike. If you are up for it, follow the trail of torii gates up to the top of the mountain for some really lovely views of Kyoto. Hiking all the way to the top also offers you a better chance to escape the crowds that buzz around the main shrine.
Fushimi’s Old Town and Sake Village
If you are a fan of Japanese sake, or just looking to escape the overcrowded areas of Kyoto, take a detour to Fushimi old town, located just two stops away from Fushimi Inari Station on the Keihan Main Line. While there are quite a few things to do in this quiet area, most of them involve sake, so if you are up for some taste testing make your way to Chushoji Station and take a walking tour of the area. As you leave the station, take a detour along the Horikawa River. There you will find a number of traditional sake breweries, which use locally sourced spring water in their sake production. The buildings are made with traditional wood paneling, and you can see traditional flat-bottomed boats floating on the river. These boats were once used to cart goods from the sake breweries to other locations, but now they serve as sightseeing boats for tourists.
This was one of the highlights of my trip, mostly because of the wonderful souvenirs I was able to purchase in the gift shop. Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum is located only five minutes from the station on foot and offers a unique glimpse into the traditional brewing of sake. The museum entrance fee is only 300 yen, which includes access to some lovely displays on sake brewing as well as complimentary sake for guests to take home. Gekkeikan is one of the leading brewers of sake and the museum boasts some really interesting historical artifacts.
Not far from Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum sits the famous traditional inn Teradaya. The inn’s original building remains intact and visitors can admire the beautiful wood paneling from the outside, or venture inside to learn more about some of the historical events that took place inside this famous inn, mainly an assassination attempt and a battle between two feuding samurai families. Supposedly you can still see bullet holes and gouges in the walls from each of these events. If you are interested in the history of Japan, this is a must-see spot.
Finally, before leaving the area, grab lunch at one of the street stalls in Fushimi Sake Village, located just down the road from Teradaya. The Fushimi Sake Village consists of a number of small restaurants, and food vendors offering visitors sake taste testing sets, as well as meals. After visiting the main areas in Fushimi, I decided to make my way to towards Uji Station to visit some other well-known locations in Kyoto.
Multiday Passes, and Sightseeing Passes with Keihan Railways
It’s worth noting that the Keihan Railway offers a few different options for travelers when it comes to train passes. If you plan on staying in Kyoto for more than one day, or even if you plan on visiting multiple locations in a single day, the different day pass options are worth checking out. Visitors with the Keihan Railway Pass are eligible for special treats at participating stations. The passes are only offered to tourists visiting from outside Japan and can only be purchased at specific locations. For more information on locations and pricing check out the Keihan Railway's English website.
Uji / Fushimi 1-Day Ticket
The Uji/Fushimi 1-Day Ticket is a great deal if you plan on visiting both the Fushimi and Uji areas during one of your travel days. The ticket is valid for one day (the day of purchase) and saves guests roughly 30 percent on train fees. All of the sites I’ve listed in this article, as well as sites like Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine and Fushimi Sake District, can be reached using the Uji/Fushimi 1-Day Ticket. The price per ticket starts at 600 yen for adults and 300 yen for children and can be purchased at Keihan Railway stations.
Kyoto-Osaka Sightseeing Pass
The Keihan Kyoto-Osaka 1-Day Pass can be purchased for either one day or two days and allows visitors unlimited rides on all Keihan Railway Trains. Guests can visit a number of famous locations along the Keihan Railway Lines with the pass, including Gion, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine, Byodoin Temple and Osaka Castle. Unlike the Uji / Fushimi 1-Day Ticket, the railway passes can only be purchased at specific locations. Be sure to check out their website for more information.
Originally from Seattle and currently living in Japan for four years now, working as a writer and an English teacher. The Kansai area is one of my favorite places to visit in Japan because I think it offers so much to do and see. I especially love to get away from the crowds and visit places that are less traveled. I hope my experience will let you get a feel for the country and the unique mixture of traditional and modern culture !