If you only had one day in Kyoto, the perfect itinerary would have to include a stroll through the historic districts of Higashiyama (東山). Start the day by paying a visit to Kiyomizu-dera where there is a 13-meter (43-foot) wooden temple constructed in the early 17th century without a single nail. Then walk through charming alleys of Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka where you can find a wide range of iconic Kyoto dishes and souvenirs. Along the way there are lots of temples with distinct features. And wrap up this day in Gion where the movie “Memoirs of a Geisha” was shot.
We walked from the Kyoto Station to Higashiyama. I was so tempted to buy pretty ceramic plates and bowls from the many Kiyomizu ware (清水焼) shops, but I did not want to carry them all day and risk breaking them during the long trip home.
Wearing kimono in Higashiyama is a common thing. Most of them are tourists. Probably more than half of them are not from Japan. There are a lot of kimono rental places in Kyoto where you can rent a full outfit for a day to experience historical Kyoto.
Croquets from Kirakuanokamoto (喜楽庵-岡本) were pretty good snacks on the way. (Potato croquets 200 yen; potato croquets with beef 300 yen)
到日本才發現原來從來沒吃過好吃的可樂餅，喜楽庵-岡本在這一帶有兩三家店，是個不錯的點心。(原味馬鈴薯可樂餅200日幣，牛肉口味 300 日幣)
Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺) is a must-visit in Kyoto. It is a Buddhist temple founded in 780 AD. The main temple was repaired and re-constructed in 1633. Kiyomizu-dera was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. It is famous for its main hall — a wooden temple sits about four stories high, supported by 12 meter / 40 foot tall pillars made from 400-year-old zelkova trees. This structure of wooden pillars is earthquake-resistant and did not require a single nail. Unfortunately, when we went to Kyoto in November 2017, the main hall was under renovation. We thought it was pointless to fight the crowd only to see this amazing architecture enclosed in scaffolding, so we did not go in. (The renovation was expected to go from 2017 to 2020.)
The street right in front of Kiyomizu-dera’s entrance is Matsubara Dori (松原通). It’s a souvenir shopping street. Make sure you try some yatsuhashi.
Yatsuhashi (八ツ橋 or 八橋) is a Japanese sweet treat that has become a must-buy souvenir of Kyoto. It is made of rice flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Yatsuhashi was created during the 17th century and was a baked treat. These are cinnamon-flavored cookies with a pretty hard texture. Some of these stores sell soft serve and put one stick of yatsuhashi on top. My husband got a chocolate ice cream from 本家西尾八ッ橋. The chocolate ice cream was rich. He used the cookie as a spoon to eat the ice cream. The baked yatsuhashi was a delicious addition that added cinnamon flavor to the ice cream. (To him anyway. I hate cinnamon.)
清水寺正前方的這條街是松原通 (Matsubara Dori)，整條街都是紀念品店，有好幾家有名的八橋。八橋 (Yatsuhashi, 八ツ橋) 是個京都伴手禮甜食，用糯米粉、糖和肉桂粉做的，西元十七世紀就有的八橋是烘烤過的硬硬肉桂餅乾，在清水寺前的本家西尾八ッ橋買霜淇淋上面會付一條八橋，用這個當湯匙，冰淇淋就加了肉桂味，Aaron說超好吃。
Then there is yatsuhashi that is unbaked. Although this confectionary can be dated all the way back to the 17th century, it did not become a popular treat until people came up with the unbaked version in the 20th century. Yatsuhashi as a favored souvenir is a modern day phenomenon. Companies started making unbaked yatsuhashi with sweet fillings around the 1960s. Popular brands are Shogoin (聖護院), Ganso (元祖), and Honke Yatsuhashi Nishio (本家西尾八ッ橋).
I picked Honke Yatsuhashi Nishio (本家西尾八ッ橋) simply because it was a large store with no high pressure selling. Honke was founded in 1689. (Click here to see how this company transcended from making treats for the upper-class to a popular souvenir sweet treats shop.) Walking away from Kiyomizu-dera and heading down Matsubara Dori, Honke Yatsuhashi Nishio would be on your right. The staff served hot tea for free. This store provided assorted yatsuhashi for tasting. You could get them in small packaging or a large box with nice paper wrapping. There are standard flavors such as green tea, strawberry, and chocolate and also seasonal limited editions such as chestnut for the fall.
Unbaked yatsuhashi has a similar texture to mochi. My favorite was black sesame and green tea with red bean filling.
Further down the road there is a MALEBRANCHE 茶の菓 shop. Those rich macha green tea cookies with white chocolate filling are AMAZING. You can get them near the Kyoto Station and save you from carrying them on this day trip of lots of walking.
Then you want to make a right to walk down the steps of Sannenzaka (産寧坂さんねいざか or 三年坂さんねんざか). This is a preserved historical area with stone pavement walkway and traditional style houses. Don’t fall on Sannenzaka. Legend has it that if you slip and fall on Sannenzaka, you would die in three years, or have three years worth of bad luck.
松原通走一走右轉下樓梯就接到三年坂 / 產寧坂 (Sannenzaka)，這一帶是歷史保護區，都是石板路和傳統日式老房子。走在產寧坂千萬不要跌倒，據說跌倒在三年內就會死掉 (或者會衰三年!?)
We were going to grab lunch at UKIYA – Kiyomizu Kisseian (有喜屋) but it was closed that day. While we were looking for the restaurant entrance, we accidentally walked into this beautiful courtyard behind Inoda Coffee.
There is a Yojiya store in this block. It’s a beauty shop. One of the best-sellers is oil-blotting facial paper.
On Ninenzaka (二寧坂 or 二年坂) you would find one of the most beautiful Starbucks in the world. This store even has tatami seating. It opened in the summer of 2017.
Then you want to slightly backtrack on Ninenzaka to take Yasaka Dori (八坂通) towards the west to get one of the best views of Yasaka Pagoda.
The famous Kyoto landmark Yasaka Pagoda (八坂の塔) is a tower of Hokanji Temple (法観寺). Prince Shōtoku founded this temple in 589 AD. The pagoda has been burned down and rebuilt many times. The current building was reconstructed in 1440. The five-story pagoda is about 46 meters / 151 feet tall.
Lunch Options 清水寺坂坂區的午餐選項
By this point, you are about a third of the way through a one-day walking trip in Higashiyama.
Lunch options are plenty. It depends on where you are when you get hungry and how much money you want to spend. Near Kiyomizu-dera, Okabeya (順正湯豆腐 おかべ家) is one of the three well-known restaurants in Kyoto that serves tofu skin or simmered tofu “yu-tofu.” (About 2200 yen) There is another tofu restaurant Tofu Kutan (奥丹清水) near the turn for Ninenzaka. On Sannenzaka, UKIYA – Kiyomizu Kisseian (有喜屋) is well-reviewed and serves udon and soba. (600-1600 yen. See menu here.) A famous oyakodon restaurant is near Ishibei-koji and Kodai-ji — Hisago (ひさご 葫蘆). Oyakodon literally means “parent-and-child donburi.” It is basically a bowl of rice with chicken and eggs on top. It is typically soy sauce based, flavored with bonito fish flakes. The eggs are usually semi-raw. Hisago is very popular. There is usually a wait. (700-1400 yen)
If you snack along the way and hold out that long, you can go dirt cheap and eat at Gyoza Gion (餃子の王将), a chain restaurant specializing in pot stickers. The restaurant is at the main entrance of Yasaka Shrine at Shijo Dori.
想吃湯豆腐或豆腐皮的話，清水寺附近有順正湯豆腐(おかべ家，大概日幣2200)，二年坂路口有奧丹清水。有喜屋評價好又比較評價，賣蕎麥麵和烏龍麵 (日幣600-1600，看菜單)。高台寺附近有超有名親子丼葫蘆 (日幣700-1400)，一路吃點心又不餓的話，可以到八坂神社那邊再吃便宜連鎖店餃子の王将的煎餃，是八方雲集和四海遊龍的概念。
Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka Walking Map 清水寺二年坂三年坂祇園散步地圖
The Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka area is easily accessible by bus from the Kyoto Station. You can take Kyoto City Bus routes 100, 206 and 207 to close to Kiyomizu-dera. However, during fall color or cherry blossom seasons, buses are packed between the train station and Higashiyama. It may be impossible to hop on those buses. From the Kyoto Station to Kiyomizu-dera it is about 40 minutes of a walk. We walked it.
Below is a Google Map where a rough walking route is marked. Restaurants are marked in light orange; snacks and sweets are marked in dark orange. From the start to end, it is a one-day walking trip. You may be able to walk through the area in a half day if you don’t go in any temples.
I recommend starting your day at Kiyomizu-dera because it gets really busy. You would likely get a better experience early in the morning. Supposedly you are more likely to spot a geisha in late afternoon, and that is around the time you would reach Gion. Also, this itinerary puts you about 10 minutes away from a big shopping district right around dinner time and you won’t need to worry about what to do after dark.
You would end your day near Gion-Shiji, where there are plenty of restaurants and easy access to different subway or bus stops. The Shijō Kawaramachi shopping district is about 10-15 minutes of a walk from Gion. You can grab dinner in this area and then go shopping after dark. LoFt Kyoto sells random stationary and housewares. The fifth and sixth floors of LoFt have the largest UNIQLO in Kyoto. There are a number of shopping malls in this area: Kawaramachi OPA, Kyoto BAL, 0101, Daimaru, Takashimaya and more. And two shopping streets are close by: Teramachi (寺町通) and Shinkyogoku (新京極通). These streets are covered by a rooftop a few stories up so walking around this area would work in case of a rainy day .
清水寺這一帶可以從京都車站坐公車到附近，但旺季 100 和 206 公車在京都車站和東山之間根本爆滿到上不了車，我們乾脆用走的，大概四十分鐘。
我排了從清水寺開始然後祇園收尾，因為清水寺還是早點去人比較少，祇園傍晚比較容易看到藝妓，而且傍晚在祇園的話走個十分鐘就到四條河原町逛街區，是個中山站信義區的概念，不用擔心天黑了不知道要幹嘛，超多好吃好逛的地方，有LoFt和UNIQLO，超多百貨公司 (0101, BAL, 河原町OPA, 大葉高島屋等等)，還有寺町通和新京極通兩條商店街。就算不去四條河原町，花見小路離祇園四條地鐵站很近，要去哪都很方便。