On a Kyoto cruise, discover the fascinating cultural capital of Japan, where countless temples, traditional geishas, Zen gardens, and majestic castles await.
Explore Kyoto’s ancient architecture, including the stunning Golden Pavilion and the mystical red torii gates of the Fushimi Inari shrine. Savor the city’s culinary scene, from hole-in-the-wall ramen joints to Michelin-starred restaurants. If you cruise to Japan in the spring, you’ll have the chance to experience the magic of the cherry blossom season, a time of extraordinary beauty in Kyoto.
Walk through the famous red torii gates of the Fushimi Inari Taisha, a Shinto shrine complex that was dedicated to Inari, the god of rice, in the 8th century. Located in southern Kyoto, Fushimi Inari Taisha has over five thousand torii gates which lead visitors down winding trails around Mount Inari’s forest and the shrines scattered throughout the area. On this gentle hike, you’ll also see a number of fox statues, as the fox is considered to be one of Inari’s messengers.
Admire the sparkling Kinkakuji or Golden Pavilion, a Zen temple covered in gold leaf that is surrounded by a serene lake. This iconic Japanese building dates back to 1397 and was originally a retirement villa for the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. After his death, Yoshimitsu’s will stipulated that Kinkakuji become a Zen temple. Since then, Kinkakuji has been burnt down and rebuilt a number of times, most recently in 1955 after a monk torched it to the ground in 1950.
Enjoy the view from Kiyomizudera or Pure Water Temple, a Buddhist temple named after the pristine Otowa Waterfall nearby. Built in 778, the temple is famous for its wooden structure overlooking the city of Kyoto, and for the fact that not a single nail was used in its construction. During your visit, drink a sip from the sacred water of the Otowa Waterfall, which is said to promote good health and longevity. In the main hall, visit the Jishu Shrine that is dedicated to the gods of love and relationships, which supposedly helps worshippers find love.
Visit Gion, Kyoto’s geisha and entertainment district, where you’ll stroll by wooden merchant houses, tea houses, and intimate alleys illuminated by lanterns. Enjoy a traditional shabu-shabu meal at one of the many restaurants lining the streets, or catch a maiko or geiko performance at the local theater, where geishas entertain viewers with traditional song and dance.
Marvel at the Osaka Castle, an impressive building that was once the largest castle in all of Japan. Built by General Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1583, the structure has weathered two massive destructions: once from enemy troops in 1614, and another in 1665, when a lightning bolt struck the tower and burnt it down. Today, it houses an extensive collection of art and weapons. The castle’s sprawling garden features over 600 cherry blossom trees and is one of the most popular places in the city during the hanami or viewing season.
Experience the wonder of the Ryoanji Temple’s rock garden, the main attraction at this Zen Buddhist temple, which dates back to 1450. Gaze at the minimalist rock garden made up of 15 large stones surrounded by a white plot of pebbles and moss. Visitors head to Ryoanji every day to find stillness and reflect on the garden’s Zen meaning on their own.
When you visit Kyoto on an Osaka cruise, you’ll be able to sample the city’s expansive food scene, where you’ll find all of your favorite Japanese staples (sushi, soba, and ramen) along with local specialties. Make a reservation for an elaborate multi-course kaiseki meal, or stop by a casual yakitori stand and enjoy smoky barbecue bites. Try tofu in a variety of ways, from boiled to frozen in ice cream. Sip on a hot cup of matcha tea in the morning and down some sake after dinner. For a real taste of the city’s local flavors and ingredients, stop by the Nishiki Market, which has been open for more than 400 years.
For over 1,000 years (from 794 to 1868), Kyoto served as the capital of Japan and the home of the Japanese imperial family, until the Meiji Restoration moved the imperial court to Tokyo. Most of the city was destroyed during the 15th century’s Onin War. A massive reconstruction took place during the Edo period, when the city thrived and rose to prominence as an important economic and cultural center. During World War II, the city was briefly considered as a target for the American atomic bomb, but was thankfully spared at the insistence of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, who had honeymooned in the city and understood its cultural importance. Today, Kyoto is recognized as the capital of Japanese arts and culture, as well as the center of the Buddhist religion.
On a Kyoto cruise, you’ll dock in the nearby city of Osaka at the Tempozan Passenger Terminal. Nearby, you will find the Osaka Aquarium, the Tempozan Marketplace Mall, and the Universal Studios Japan theme park. To travel to Kyoto, board a high-speed Shinkansen train that reaches the city in less than 20 minutes.
At the Osaka cruise terminal, you’ll find the Osakako subway station just a few blocks away. The easy-to-navigate subway system takes you around Osaka and also connects you to the train station, where you can travel to nearby cities such as Kyoto and Nara. You can also explore Kyoto on a shore excursion, which includes transportation. Within Kyoto, there are several options for public transportation including subways, buses, and taxis. Kyoto is a mostly flat and compact city, so it’s easy to walk or explore on a bike.
Take a short taxi ride from the Tempozan Passenger Terminal in Osaka to Shinsaibashi, a popular indoor arcade, where you’ll find hundreds of shops ranging from large department stores to smaller boutiques. The main shopping areas in Kyoto are clustered near the Kyoto Station and downtown Kyoto. Some of the best souvenirs include locally made Japanese wash, incense, green tea, yukata robes, and ceramics.
The local currency in Japan is the yen. Credit cards are accepted in major stores and restaurants, but you should carry some cash to pay for taxis and other smaller purchases. Tipping is not customary in Japan, and in some instances can even be considered rude, so don’t worry about leaving a tip even after an excellent meal or service.
Visit Osaka Aquarium, one of the world’s largest aquariums which has over 580 species of sea life on display, or Universal Studios Japan, the company’s first theme park outside of the U.S. Kyoto served as the nation’s capital for more than 1000 years and is home to 17 different World Heritage Sites including Kiyomizudera Temple and Heian Jingu Shrine.