Kyoto Life and Visitor Travel Tips

(Kyoto, Kansai, Central Honshu, Japan)

Photo of local Geisha girlOnce the capital of Japan until the mid-19th century, Kyoto is a vast city with a population of around 1.5 million inhabitants. Known for its exceptionally high number of World Heritage Sites and fine university complexes, Kyoto's many outstanding buildings provide a useful way to navigate around the city, with the eye-catching Emperor's Imperial Palace being located in the heart of the city centre.

A great source of information about life in Kyoto and the best places to visit is the free 'Kyoto Visitors Guide', which is published on a regular basis and available at the tourist offices, the Maruzen bookstore and also at the majority of main hotels. The Kyoto Visitors Guide is full of information about the best places to eat out, walking trails, maps of the city and in-depth articles about city life. Also of interest is the 'Kansai Time Out' magazine, another English-language publication with many listings and travel sections. Here are some travel tips about life in Kyoto.

Picture of popular rickshaw transport

Useful Contact Details

Plenty of tourist information is available for those staying in Kyoto and whilst these are mainly targeted towards Japanese visitors, there are often English-speaking staff on hand to assist with your enquiries. The Kyoto Tourist Information Centre (TIC), on the ninth floor of the Kyoto Station Building, is the best source of detailed information about life in the city. Close to the Isetan Department Store and part of the Kyoto Prefectural International Centre, the TIC will be able to help you find accommodation if you have chosen not to book ahead.

Kyoto City Tourist Information Centre
Address: 2nd Floor, Kyoto Station Building, Kyoto, Japan, JP
Tel: +81 075 343 6656
Open hours: daily - 08:30 to 19:00

Kyoto Tourist Information Centre (TIC)
Address: 9th Floor, Kyoto Station Building, Kyoto, Japan, JP
Tel: +81 075 344 3300
Open hours: daily - 10:00 to 18:00, closed second and fourth Tuesday every month

No. 1 Travel Agency
Address: Shinkyogoku-dori-Shijo agaru, 3rd Floor, Kyogoku Toho Building, Kyoto, Japan, JP
Tel: +81 075 251 6970
Open hours: Monday to Friday - 10:00 to 18:30, Saturday - 11:00 to 17:00

Kyoto Central Post Office
Address: Higashishiokoji-cho, Kyoto, Japan, JP
Tel: +81 075 365 2414
Open hours: Monday to Friday - 09:00 to 19:00, Saturday - 09:00 to 17:00, Sunday - 09:00 to 12:30

Language and Dialect

Japanese is the main language in Kyoto and throughout Japan, which is particularly complicated when written down. Locals in Kyoto only usually speak a little English at the absolute most, and so if you are intending to communicate in the native tongue, a phrasebook is a good idea. The standard version of Japanese is known as 'hyojungo' although in the Kansai region, many people speak the strong local dialect of 'Kansai-ben'. Useful Japanese phrases to use in Kyoto are as follows:

Hello / Good afternoon - konnichiwa
I am looking for a... - ... o sagashite imasu
Hotel - hoteru
Guesthouse - gesuto hausu
Youth hostel - yusu hosuteru
I'd like a room - heya o onegaishimasu
What time is breakfast? - asagohan jikan wa nan desu ka?

Visa Information and Passports

In general, unless you wish to work in Kyoto rather than arrive for holiday purposes, you will not need to arrange a visa in advance. Instead, when you arrive in Japan, you will automatically be allocated a 'tanki-taizai', better known to the English as a temporary visitors visa.