Stairs at Kyoto’s Prefectural office
Kyoto, Town Walk

How to experience Kyoto on a budget

Kyoto is my favorite walking ground in Japan. Walking around is the best way to find unique cafes, local shops and traditional handcrafts stores in Kyoto. Kyoto has a good balance to enjoy city life and to experience old traditions. My friend living in Osaka, the second biggest city in Japan next to Kyoto, said he comes to Kyoto often for shopping or drinking with friends, because unique and stylish shops are located there. I’m sure you will never get bored of traveling to Kyoto.

While it may have a notorious reputation for being one of the most expensive cities to visit Japan, the truth is you can experience Kyoto on a budget with reasonable guest houses and free sites to visit. To help you on your way, here’s my selection of the best and cheapest ways to explore Kyoto.

Admire the architecture around Lake Biwa Canal

Lake Biwa Canal near Keage Station Tozai Line was one of my favorite areas to see architecture of the Modern era in Kyoto. Located on the eastern Kyoto, this particular historical site is an incredible display of architecture.Old facilities and Incline are kept from that time and everyone can walk around there. With its iconic canals and picturesque tree-lined slope, Keage area is the best place to enjoy cherry blossoms avoiding the crowds. I had visited the Lake Biwa Canal area in early spring, summer and at the beginning of autumn and I always climbed up to the end of Keage Incline to see Kyoto’s town. Each time, I could enjoy the trees and nature. It was a great pleasure to walk along the incline as it meant escaping from the crowded center of Kyoto city. There were some locals fishing Ayu, sweetfish, with relaxing atmosphere at Lake Biwa Canal. The area was surrounded by beautiful nature and there were no high buildings.

Kansai Electric Power’s Keage Power Station

I preferred to go down from the top of the inline to Lake Biwa Canal to see the water of the Canal. Kansai Electric Power’s Keage Power Station near the Lake Biwa Canal is also an example of modern architecture. The operation started from 1891 and it is still working today.

Kansai Electric Power’s building

How to get there

From Kyoto Station, it takes a 60 minute walk or get on Karasuma Line and Tozai Line to Keage Station (15 minutes). I usually visit Lake Biwa Canal area in the early evening after visiting old temples which close around 4 or 5pm. When we stayed at Azukiya Inn near Lake Biwa Canal, we came here for a morning walk. You can walk through the Tetsugaku no Michi, Philoshpher’s walk, from Ginkakuji Temple to Lake Biwa Canal. This route is also my recommended walking path in Kyoto.

Former Main Building of Kyoto’s Prefectural office

In Kyoto, you can visit several historical modern examples of architecture and come to understand the life of the Modern era, from the 19th and 20th centuries in Kyoto. Doushisha University, Chorakukan and Kyoto National Museum are great examples of modern architecture in Kyoto. Former Main Building of Kyoto’s Prefectural office is right next to the Kyoto Gosho Castle and has half of them been opened to the public, but the architecture is incredible. While the architecture outside is stunning, I strongly urge you to head indoors and discover marvelous decorations. It was a great photo spot to take modern architecture and I could take photos with various lights and shades. 

How to get there

From Kyoto Station, it takes a 50 minute walk or get on Karasuma Line to Marutamachi Station (17 minutes). Opening hours are 10am to 5pm from Tuesday to Friday and my recommended time to visit is early evening.

Sen-oku Hakuko Kan Museum

You will also find various kinds of museums and galleries, from tiny and cozy museums such as Kawai Kanjiro’s house, to Kyoto National Museum, to enjoy Japanese Arts or just take a rest.

Sen-oku Hakuko Kan is located near Tetsugaku-no Michi path between the Nanzenji Temple and the Ginkakuji Temple. If you want to take a rest with some air conditioning, Sen-oku Hakuko Kan is very reasonable with 800 yen. The site was not huge, but I spent nearly 2 hours. One of the financial cliques, Sumitomo Zaibatsu, collected old arts from Japan and neighboring Asian countries from pottery and calligraphy scrolls as well as important Chinese bronzes and Korean ceramics. The collection is large and varied. The design of bronze ware seems very exotic and it’s fun to find several animals in the patterns. My favorite was the collection of hundreds of unique Chinese bronzes the museum has collected over more than 100 years.

How to get there

From Kyoto Station, get on City Bus No. 100 to Miyanomae-cho bus stop (40 minutes). You can visit Sen-oku Hakuko Kan Museum on the way from Ginkakuji Temple to Lake Biwa Canal. Opening hours are 10am to 5pm from Tuesday to Sunday.

How to spend in Kyoto

Once I had a bad experience to travel in Kyoto with my friend from abroad. I wanted to show her how Japanese traditions were great, so I took her around by taxi to visit several famous temples in Kyoto, wearing Kimono and we had a gorgeous Japanese dinner at a high-class Japanese restaurant.

However, I was not sure how much she could distinguish between the several temples and remember where we had visited. My advice is to explore much calmer areas in Kyoto on foot and to visit a few temples and different taste of buildings. So, you would have unforgettable experience.

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