We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Kyoto with limited time?

Level Contributor
1,305 posts
104 reviews
Save Topic
Kyoto with limited time?


We are heading to Nozawa Onsen for a week in January and have 6 further nights in Japan - I thought we would have three in Kyoto and 3 in Tokyo. This is our first time in Japan. We arrive and depart from Tokyo.

Im just starting to work on the detail, and wonder, with limited time , whether we should include Kyoto as it's a good 5+ Hours travel time from NO, and likewise back to Tokyo? I am completely open to changing things ( apart from NO, which is booked to coincide with Fire Festival) . Above all we want it to be an interesting but relaxing break, so we are content knowing we'll only be scraping the surface this time by not filling every minute with cramming in the sights. We love Japanese food and I think given the 'newness' of everything we will enjoy just wandering about; we do want to look at electronics and where ladies buy their kimono supplies etc, things that are uniquely Japanese.

I' m pretty sure Kyoto warrants the travel ( which will hopefully be part of the fun, and I love looking out train windows) but as I am not aware of what else may be closer to NO and Tokyo, I thought I'd seek your advice, which is, as always, very much appreciated.

Tokyo, Japan
Level Contributor
23,919 posts
120 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Kyoto with limited time?

I think you can include Kyoto, if you aren't coming back soon.

5+ hours travel could be quite nice on that route (local to Nagano; Shinano to Nagoya; Hikari or Kodama to Kyoto). If you don't mind, take a stopover at Matsumoto for the castle, and Nagiso or Nakatsugawa for Magome/Tsumago post town for a couple of hours.

Nagano Castle: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6051.html

Tsumago: http://www.tumago.jp/english/

Magome: travel.kankou-gifu.jp/en/see-and-do/11/

Kyoto-Tokyo is 2hr 15min by Nozomi, 2hr 40min by Hikari (for JR Pass users); it won't take five hours.


>>not filling every minute with cramming in the sights.<<

This is indeed recommended, but my advice is to do at least advance loose scheduling so as not to waste time.

Kyoto Walks map: jnto.go.jp/eng/location/rtg/pdf/pg-503.pdf

Official tourism site: http://www.kyoto.travel/

3-4 nights in Kyoto (add Nara as well) as highlight, and 2-3 nights in Tokyo in the end sounds fine.

Edited: 28 June 2013, 01:47
Level Contributor
1,667 posts
28 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Kyoto with limited time?

I'm going to say something completely shocking here: You don't have to go to Kyoto...(oooh I know I've just upset zillions of people saying this.) But you can always visit Kyoto another time.

If you are keen to visit a big historical city of great significance then go to Kanazawa.

Kanzawa was one of the biggest cities in Japan in the 17th century, ruled by the rich & powerful Maeda clan second only to the Shogun in Edo (Tokyo). The city was not destroyed in WWII so many historic streetscapes still remain. It's been recognised by UNESCO as a world centre of arts & crafts & when you visit you'll see why.

Arguably Kanazawa offers a lot more to the casual, overseas visitor to Japan with only a few days available. The tourist office at the station are super helpful.

Kanazawa is a modern city but is so well set up for overseas tourists - info & transport is easily available in English (& in Chinese & Korean.) It is also a modern city but is packed with historical sights, museums, cultural activities & crafts that I think are much easier for foreign tourists to access. eg. hop on hop off tourist bus, well posted street signs in English around the city. If you want to visit an historic city be quickly immersed in traditional culture & crafts in a short space of time this is the place to go. But at the same time it is modern city with shopping & dept stores too.


Kyoto in contrast is a much bigger, modern, noisy city, not many places are suited to meandering, & lot of time is spent in crowds, breathing bus fumes, in traffic commuting across the city from temple to temple each of them swarming with masses of tourists. Due to sheer numbers, and its status, I feel tourists are taken for granted in Kyoto - you are just part of the herd - in Kanazawa of course there are tourists & traffic too, but I felt more welcomed & there was so much art & craft still alive & people were keen to share with you. That's why whenever I'm in Japan I detour to Kanazawa & now try to visit every year.

Because of the region's historic wealth, food culture is huge and being right near the sea, the seasonal seafood is fanstastic!

I think it is harder to really enjoy Kyoto's history & culture - just because of the size of the modern city & having to find the sights. Plus you need to know a lot about Japanese history & Buddhism otherwise for many people it's just temple after temple ( that's why so many foreign tourists rate the Golden Pavilion & Fushimi Inari Shrine as the best because they are attractive &/ quirky but actually they don't really hold a lot of historic significance in the scale of things.) The really important places in Kyoto don't appear on the radar of the average foreign tourist, most don't bother visiting the truly significant sites but they still head for Kyoto (because they think they must.)

Kyoto requires you to really plan your days carefully & research your trip well, you need to know exactly where places are - it's not really a place to wander around aimlessly. Also if you like traditional culture & arts (other than displays at temples, museums) they are harder to penetrate in Kyoto, you need to do your homework well beforehand.

Don't get me wrong, I love Kyoto & also go there frequently but it requires a whole lot more work to appreciate. And i think Kanazawa is under represented on Trip Advisor.

It will take several hours to reach Kanazawa from Nozawa Onsen (they are seperated by mountains) but it's worth the trip. From there you can easily get back to Tokyo or even go on to visit Shirakawa-go by direct bus.

Wikitravel rightly says that for foreign tourists Kanazawa is one of the "overlooked jewels" of Japanese tourism.

Edited: 28 June 2013, 05:00
Tokyo, Japan
Level Contributor
23,919 posts
120 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Kyoto with limited time?

For Kanazawa, too, you do need some advance research. Elly-san is a bit particular in promoting Kanazawa over Kyoto, and that's not a bad thing.

Kinkakuji (Rokuonji) complex, including the garden is believed as a good reflection of the aristocratic culture of early 15th century Japan. I think many people read from the pamphlet or guide books that the original pavilion was lost by arson in 1950 (itself an epic event, novelized by Mishima Yukio).

Fushimi Inari shrine is the head of the Inari Shrines (some 40,000 that exists throughout Japan, worshiped for harvest). Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the first proper unifier of Japan after long decades of civil war, constructed the administrative town of Fushimi to pull the strings after retirement. He was particularly fond of this shrine (as it granted his wish for her mother's recovery from terminal illness), and many buildings that survive up to today, including the Main Gate, was donated by him around 1589, and seen as representative of the bright and flashy art-style of the Azuchi-Momoyama period.

Actually, they do hold a lot of historic significance, although I don't think many people seem to notice.

Kyoto is Kyoto; Kanazawa is Kanazawa. Which is better depends on people.

Edited: 28 June 2013, 05:56
New Zealand
Level Contributor
4,510 posts
258 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Kyoto with limited time?

I've recently travelled to Japan and spent 4 and a half days in Kyoto and 4 days in Tokyo. I think you could split your 6 days between Kyoto and Tokyo, and have enough time to see some interesting sights. They're both big cities with lots to do, so of course it's not possible to see everything in a 3 day visit, but that doesn't mean you should give up the idea. Just decide what's most important to you.

Level Contributor
1,305 posts
104 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Kyoto with limited time?

Thanks everyone for your helpful advice.We will investigate your suggestions and make a decision.

6. Re: Kyoto with limited time?

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 02 July 2014, 05:18