Kinkakuji Temple’s Golden Pavilion is probably Kyoto’s most famous sight. Covered in glittering gold leaf, the pavilion dazzles admirers as it shimmers in the sunlight over its mirroring pond. Both the temple and its delightful Zen stroll garden are a must visit location for any visitor to Kyoto. The only problem is its location. Kinkakuji Temple is located in the far north west of Kyoto and is not located near any major train lines. In this article we will explore your best options when considering how to get to this iconic Kyoto landmark.
Kyoto City Bus
The easiest, cheapest and most direct way to get to Kinkakuji Temple from Kyoto Station, is by bus. Buses for Kinkakuji depart from the main bus terminal on the north side of the Kyoto Station building. Kyoto City Bus #205 departs from Stand B3 in the center of the bus terminal. Times vary, but this bus usually takes under 40 minutes to reach Kinkakuji. Be careful though NOT to get on the “Rapid #205” service that leaves from the same stop because the rapid service does NOT go to Kinkakuji Temple! Before boarding check that the word “rapid” is not written above the number #205.
You can also take the Kyoto City Bus #101 service from the neighboring Stand B2. This bus also takes just under 40 minutes to reach Kinkakuji, but has the advantage of having announcements made in English, Chinese and Korean. Also, all #101 buses stop at Kinkakuji!
Most of these #101 buses are the standard plain green color, but some have a more brightly colored floral pattern and are marked with the “Raku Bus” logo.
This eye catching design is meant to make the service more distinctive for foreign visitors. However, there is basically no difference between the two kinds of #101 buses: they both follow the same route and have foreign language announcements. As the standard green buses are more frequent you should definitely hop on a plain green #101 bus if you see one first. And if you are still unsure about which bus to take, don’t worry. There is usually a staff member of the bus terminal standing by Stands B2 and B3 who can speak some English and advise you about the best bus to take.
How you decide to go to Kinkakuji Temple will depend on what other tourist locations you want to visit on the same day and how much time you have available. There are a number of touring options available. Here are our recommendations:
The Kyoto City Bus Circuit
If you know which buses to take, you can easily and cheaply do a one day circuit of Kyoto city taking in some of its major sites. There are also a variety of discount tickets available that you can use to take full advantage of Kyoto City Bus services. A Kyoto City Bus & Kyoto Bus One-Day Pass for example, costs just 500 yen for adults and 250 yen for children. You can buy this at the Kyoto Bus Information Center.
This discount pass gives you one day’s unlimited travel on Kyoto City Bus and Kyoto Bus routes within the city’s flat fare zone. Using this pass you could first take Kyoto City Bus #101 to Kinkakuji. From there you could take the Kyoto City Bus #204 service to visit the Silver Pavilion of Ginkakuji on the other side of the city. You could then complete your tour with a trip to Kiyomizudera Temple using the Kyoto City Bus #100 service. For more information on bus routes and discount tickets, check our article on Taking a Bus in Kyoto.
Keihan Bus Tours
Organized bus tours can take the stress out of planning your tour of the city as everything is done for you. The Keihan Bus company operate a variety of daily bus tours that depart from the Kyoto Station bus terminal. These come with on board guidance given in English, Chinese and Korean. Two of these tours include a visit to Kinkakuji Temple.
The Kinkakuji Temple & Higashiyama Tour takes in Kinkakuji Temple, Kiyomizudera Temple, a stroll in the Higashiyama district and Kodaiji Temple. The tour takes 4.5 hours and costs 4670 yen for adults and 2240 yen for children.
The Kyoto’s Best 3 Attractions Tour takes in Kinkakuji Temple, Kiyomizudera Temple and Ginkakuji Temple. The tour takes 5 hours and costs 5300 yen for adults and 2800 yen for children.
To find out more details of these tours or to reserve a tour, visit the tour bus website. You can also make enquiries and bookings directly at the Kyoto Sightseeing Bus Center which is directly outside Isetan department store.
The Sky Bus Tour
In recent months Keihan Bus company have introduced an open top double decker touring service called the Sky Bus. There are two separate tours, a 90 minute “Drive Around” tour which doesn’t stop at Kinkakuji, and a 4 hour tour which does. The 4 hour tour takes a breezy circuit of the whole city passing many major sites along the way, with stops to explore both Kinkakuji and Kiyomizudera temples. The cost of the tour is 4000 yen for adults and 2100 yen for children. For more details check our article on the Kyoto Sky Bus. Both Sky Bus tours and regular Keihan Bus tours depart from the sightseeing bus stand outside Isetan department store on the north side of Kyoto Station.
The Keifuku Randen Line
If you have plenty of time available, you might consider visiting Kinkakuji as part of a more focused but relaxed tour of north western Kyoto. After taking the bus to Kinakuji, other famous temples such as Ryoanji with its famous rock garden, and the huge temple complex of Myoshinji are both within walking distance. From these temples Ryoanji Station on the Keifuku Randen line is not far away. You could then use this quaint little tramline to explore other areas of western Kyoto, such as Arashiyama, at a more leisurely pace. For more information about the best sightseeing spots along this route check our Keifuku Randen Line article.
Hire a Taxi
If you want to splash out on a more personal service several taxi companies in Kyoto offer tours of the city with English speaking drivers that can be custom tailored to your requests. Check our article on Taxis in Kyoto for more details about hiring a private taxi service.
Article and original photos by Michael Lambe. All rights reserved.