1. Sightseeing around Kyoto by bicycle

Sightseeing around Kyoto by bicycle

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Masaya Osada

Born and raised in Kyoto. I love traveling. The more I was exposed to foreign culture, the more I realized how fascinating Kyoto is. This is why I am writing this English article for you to make your trip in Kyoto much more enjoyable!

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Kyoto, known as the 1000 years old capital city, is a suitable place for

sightseeing by bicycle. Major tourist spots are spread within 10 km (6.21 miles) without steep slopes. Recently, a number of tourists with a bicycle has been seen in the city. Probably, they know the merits of the bicycle that is finding not just major spots but also off-the-beaten-spots with your own style. Would you like to follow them and create your own Kyoto trip?
Here is basic information about cycling around the city.

City Overview for cycling

|Flat city

Although there are some slopes, Kyoto is a relatively flat city. So the city is suitable for cycling to visit sightseeing spots. Major spots such as Kinkakuji temple (Golden Pavilion ), Fushimi Inari shrine and Higashiyama districts are easy to access without steep slopes by bicycle.

|Grid pattern roads

Kyoto streets are laid out in a grid pattern such as San Francisco, the U.S., and Melbourne, Australia. In particular, Kyoto city consists of roads from north to south and from east to west. So it is easy for you to find whether heading for north or south. In addition, thanks to no high buildings under the city regulation, you can always see mountains of the north and the east. So you can easily know the directions and do not worry about getting lost. Caution: hot and humid in summer. Due to surrounding mountains, the mid-summer climate in Kyoto is hot and humid. Sometimes temperature is over 35 Celsius degrees (nearly 100 Fahrenheit ). Even if you feel a little bit comfortable breeze with cycling in mid-summer, you are required to carry something to drink. If not, you might get heatstroke. If you forget drinking bottles, you can easily get them at vending machines or convenience stores dotted everywhere in the city.

| No road congestion by bicycle

Kyoto city is annoyed with road congestions throughout the year. Buses are often delayed, and jam-packed. If you return to Kyoto station from Kinkakuji temple, you would make a long line at the temple bus stop and ride over 40 min. On a packed bus. If you rent a bicycle in the city, you would avoid road congestion. Sometimes you can go back to Kyoto station faster than bus riding. In addition, you can easily pass by off-the-beaten backstreets where you can meet daily life of local people.

Rules for cycling


|Light at night

Japan’s law says that it is illegal to cycle at night without turning on the bicycle light.
To avoid an accident, you should use the light when it begins to darken. Before renting, you are expected to check whether the light is installed or not.

|Keep left

Under Japan’s regulation, cars and bicycles have to keep left like the U.K. and Australia. If not, it is so dangerous.

|Pedestrians priority

Running along a river or on a pavement, keep pedestrians priority. Do not ring a bell frequently. Of course, reckless driving is out of the question.

|No Earphones or Mobile phones while riding

No use earphones or mobile phones while riding. If using, you would pay a fine under Japan’s regulations.

|No alcohols before or during riding

As same as car driving, riding a bicycle after drinking alcohol is strictly prohibited. While riding, you might be invited by the attractiveness of alcohol. Of course, it is also banned.

|Park a designated place

A lot of major spots are equipped with their own parking areas for the bicycle. When you visit spots, it would be better to park there.

3 recommended tour with a guide

Guided tours are efficient to cycle around, and you don’t miss must-see-spots. Here are 3 recommended tour with a guide.

|Cyclekyoto: Kyoto South Course

Cyclekyoto offers some city tours from a half day tour to a full day tour. For beginners, Kyoto South Course would be better. It includes two World Cultural Heritage sites such as Honganji temple (the gorgeous Karamon gate and the Giant Main Hall) and Toji temple ( known as the tallest five-story wooden Pagoda in Japan). And the tour also visits Gion (the Geisha district with the traditional atmosphere) and Fushimi Inari shrine ( the most visited attraction in Japan with thousands Torii gates ).

Tour name: Kyoto South Course
 Fee: 6000 yen
 Distance: about 16km (10 miles)
 Duration: 3-4 hours
 Includes: bike, helmet, guidance, water 
 Starting place: about 5 min. walk from Hachijo gate at Kyoto station
 Address: 7 Higashikujō Nishisannōchō, Minami Ward Kyōto City, Japan
 Website:  http://cyclekyoto.net

|Kyoto Cycling Tour Project (KCTP) Kinkaku Arashiyama Golden Cycling Tour

Kyoto Cycling Tour Project (KCTP) covers from Western Kyoto such as Arashiyama to Eastern Kyoto like Fushimi Inari shrine with tours. Each tour starts at the most convenient places to visit spots. Kinkaku Arashiyama Golden Cycling Tour starts near Kinkakuji temple ( Golden Pavilion ), via Ryoanji temple ( Zen temple with a dry landscape garden ) and ends at Arashiyama. Not return to the starting place, so you can visit Kyoto efficiently. The tour includes some of the most popular spots in Kyoto such as two World Cultural Heritage Sites ( Kinkakuji temple and Ryoanji temple ) and Arashiyama (Togetsu bridge and the Bamboo Forest ).

Tour name: Kinkaku Arashiyama Golden Cycling Tour
Fee : 1 person 8,900 yen (4 people / more)
Duration: 3.5 hours
Morning section 9:30 – 13:00
Afternoon section 13:30 – 17:00
Meeting place: KCTP Kinkakuji Cycling Terminal
Address: 51, Hirano Kamihatchoyanagicho, Kita-ku Kyoto-shi 
Located in Hotel chrysantheme 
3 min walk from Bus stop Kinugasako-mae.
Includes: guide fee, admission fees, rental bike, accident insurance
Website: http://www.kctp.net/pc/en

|Kyoto Urban Adventures Kyoto Cycling Tour

Kyoto Urban Adventures offers various kinds of tours such as night tour, hiking, and cycling. Most tours have got higher reputations. The tour includes popular sightseeing spots such as Philosopher’s path, Nanzenji temple ( a spacious Zen temple with dry landscape gardens ), and Heian Jingu shrine ( known as the giant red Torii gate ). And the tour also takes you to calm canals with old teahouses and traditional bathhouses among the cherry trees. You can enjoy not just sightseeing spots but also backstreets of Kyoto. In particular, in early April, cycling among full-bloom cherry trees would be great experiences for you.

Tour name: Kyoto Cycling Tour ( join in tour )
Fee: 1 person 7,813 yen
Duration: 3.5 hours
Departure: 8:45 am
Meeting place: In front of Kyoto Tourist Information Center on 2nd floor of Kyoto
Station next to Isetan Department Store.
In Japanese: “Kyoto-kan-koo-annai-jo”.
Address: 2nd Floor Kyoto Station, Karasuma, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City, 
Includes: guide fee, rental bike, and helmet
Website: http://www.urbanadventures.com/Kyoto-tour-Kyoto-cycling-tour

3 recommended DIY (Do It Yourself) course

Here are 3 recommended DIY courses with your own pace.

|Explore Arashiyama and Okusaga area

Speaking of Arashiyama, the Bamboo Forest and Tenryu-Ji temple are top tourist spots. Actually, over the bamboo forest from the center of Arashiyama, there are numbers of hidden gem temples with the relatively serene atmosphere. ( it is called Okusaga area ) However, in Okusaga area, visiting temples on foot is inefficient. This course offers that you can visit both famous spots in Arashiyama and hidden gem areas such as Adashino Nenbustuji temple and Gioji temple. In Arashiyama and Okusaga area, you can appreciate seasonal beauty: cherry blossoms in Arashiyama mountains, cool breeze in the Bamboo Forest in summer, autumnal foliage like a colorful carpet on the ground and snowy winter.

Start: Hankyu Rent-A-Cycle Arashiyama

Hankyu Rent-A-Cycle Arashiyama is located right in front of Hankyu Arashiyama Station, near the ticket gate.

| 【3min】
Togetsu bridge The scenery of the mountain from here is so marvelous.
| 【25min】
Toriimoto Featured by remaining thatched roof farmhouses. 
You can experience another atmosphere of Kyoto.
| 【3min】
Adashino Nenbutsuji temple Thousands of stone statues are famous. 
The Hidden bamboo forest is good for photo taking.
Various colored autumnal foliage is so beautiful.
| 【7min】
Gioji temple Featured by the beautiful moss covered garden. 
The combination of marvelous colorful autumnal foliage and green moss attracts tourists. 
| 【5min】
Rakushisya Featured by a small hut for a poet.
You can appreciate the serene atmosphere.
| 【5min】
The Bamboo Forest 
The worldly famous bamboo forest. 
In the forest, Nonomiya shrine, which has 1000 years history, is located.
The shrine is good for love romance.
| 【3min】
Tenryuji temple 
Designated as the World Cultural Heritage Site for its pond centered. 
greenery garden.
| 【5min】
Goal: Hankyu Rent-A-Cycle Arashiyama

Taking time: 3.5 hours
Distances: approx. 7km ( 4.38miles )
Bike terminals for rent: Hankyu Rent-A-Cycle Arashiyama



|Explore the center of Kyoto

Visiting the center of Kyoto, bus and subway hopping is needed. To cut waiting time, cycling would be better. The center of the city is the really flat area, so it is beginner friendly route. In this route, you can start from downtown Kyoto, and visit two World Cultural Heritage sites such as Nijo castle and Shimogamo shrine, Kyoto Imperial Palace and Manga museum. On the way to each spot, you can see traditional Kyoto style houses called Machiya and feel locals daily atmosphere. Finally, with the cozy wind along Kamo river, return to the starting spot.

Start: KCTP Kawaramachi Cycle Terminal

Kyoto Cycling Tour Project (KCTP) is the largest bike rental company in Kyoto and has bike rental services at several cycling terminals. They are located near Kyoto station, Kinkakuji temple, Kawaramachi and Fushimi Inari. All of them are located in convenient places for sightseeing, so you can rent a bicycle easily. Kawaramachi CT is located in Kyoto Royal Hotel & spa along Kawaramachi street.
| 【5min】
Kyoto International Manga Museum
Free reading manga on the grass garden in the museum 
Renovated as a modern atmosphere museum
| 【5min】
Nijo castle Famous tourist spot
World cultural heritage site with Ninomaru Palace and Garden.
The place where the shogun declared the end of the Samurai government
| 【15min】 
Kyoto Imperial Palace
Used as the Imperial Palace until the mid-19th century 
when the Emperor moved to Tokyo.
| 【15min】
Shimogamo Shrine
World cultural heritage site 
Over 1000 years history older than the capital of Kyoto.
Native forest ( Tadasu no Mori ) remains. 
along the Kamo river
| 【15min】
KCTP Kawaramachi CT

Taking time: 4 hours
Distances: approx.. 10km ( 6.25 miles )
Bike terminals for rent: KCTP Kawaramachi CT



|Explore from North to South

After visiting Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion), a lot of tourists think that they return to Kyoto station by bus. To avoid the jam-packed bus, let’s rent a bike, and you can appreciate both famous spots and local atmosphere. This course offers visiting both tourist spots and local towns. Kitano Shrine, Nijo castle and Nishijin kaikan are major tourist spots as tour buses often drop at such places. In addition along this route, you can experience local atmosphere with old town houses called Machiya. Recently Machiya has been renovated as inns, museums or cultural experience spots such as tea ceremony. Also, Nishihonganji temple front alley is another atmosphere of Kyoto. Stores sell various things related to Buddhism such as incent sticks or Buddhist alters.

Start: KCTP Kinkakuji Cycle Terminal located in Hotel chrysantheme 
| 【5min】
Kitano shrine 
Good for school scores or passing school entrance exams.
Plum blossoms in early spring. 
The 25th day of every month: local flea market is held.
| 【2min】
Kamishichiken geisha districts
The oldest Geisha district in Kyoto with a serene atmosphere.
| 【15min】 
via Nishijin district 
Kyoto’s kimono fabric manufacturing district
Old town house called Machiya can be seen.
Nishijin Kaikan 
Experience kimono trial and see kimono show
| 【7min】
Nijo castle Famous tourist spot
World cultural heritage site with Ninomaru Palace and Garden. The place where the shogun declared the end of the Samurai government was here 
| 【20min】
via narrow streets 
Old town house called Machiya can be seen.
Nishihonganji temple 
Gorgeous Karamon gate and the Giant main hall via Front temple alley. Thanks to temple believers the alley is flourished throughout the year. The traditional atmosphere remains.
| 【7min】
Goal: KCTP Kyoto station CT
Address: Higashiaburanokojicho, Shimogyo-ku Kyoto-shi, 
5min walk from Kyoto station central exit (North side).



Even foreigners can now have access to Geisha and Maiko

We are proud to offer an excellent opportunity for foreign visitors to Kyoto to meet and interact directly with Geisha, at an exceptional price, every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday from 6 pm to 8 pm. This tour includes dinner, an English guide, watching a traditional dance performance, and be able to play a unique game with the Geisha.
Are you curious about this tour? Check the detailed information, and make an online reservation now to meet an authentic Japanese Geisha in Kyoto!


Make an online reservation to have a precious time with Geisha!