Only Have 3 Days in Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara? Here’s How To Spend It

If you caught the Tree Potatoes’ most recent travel vlog series, you’d know that we recently accompanied the candid YouTubers for an adventure in Japan!

things to do in kyoto

PT I: In Japan? Spend a Weekend in Hiroshima—You Won’t Regret It!
PT II: FIRST LOOK: Get Otak-Cool at Universal Studios Japan (ft. Final Fantasy & More)

Zipping from Singapore to Hiroshima – Kyoto Osaka – Nara, here’s the final part of our adventure itinerary. Full video at the end!

Transport in the Kansai Region

First things firstKansai is a pretty big region, so getting around can be slightly tricky. For the fastest and most efficient mode of transport, we recommend the Japan Rail West Pass: Changi Recommends sells seven JR West Passes, but for the cities featured in this article, we used the Sanyo San’in Area Pass. It covers Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima, and Hakata.


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Kyoto

Next up, here are the best things to do in Kyoto, the cultural heart of Japan.

Getting All Dressed Up

Our first stopYumeyakata! If you don’t rent a kimono for your Kyoto expedition, we’re almost 100 percent sure you’ll regret it. Kimono rentals are super popular in the region, mostly because many of the top attractions are cultural sites where donning the traditional costumes will really add to the experience. For instance, many visitors like to wear kimonos (or yukatas) to visit famous shrines and beautiful palaces.

things to do in kyoto

The most central outlet is located opposite Gojo Street, just one stop away from Kyoto Station. You can choose from the basic kimono, premium kimono, hakama, and yukata outfits. There are also accessories you can add-on to your package (like patterned collars, otaiko sash belts, jackets, and more). If you want to go full out, you may also book a slot to have your hair and makeup done!


[RELATED] Get the best prices when you pre-book your Yumeyakata experience, only at Changi Recommends! Book here <goo.gl/aicw1B>.

#OOTDs At The Palaces & Parks

Yumeyakata opens at 10am, but it’ll take anywhere between two to four hours to get dressed, depending on how extensive your package is. You’ll probably have enough time for at most two activities before having to head back to return the gear. Here are some ideas:

Kyoto Imperial Palace

things to do in kyoto

Kyoto Imperial Park

The palace complex is a 15-minute walk from Yumeyakata Oike Bettei, which is outside the city area. So if you’re in that part of Kyoto, you can consider this. There’s the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Kyoto Imperial Park, and Sento Imperial Palace all in one place. The flower gardens and courtyards are not just a feast for the eyes, but they also make great backdrops for you to take photos in your kimonos! At the Kyoto Imperial Park, you will see a shrine of the famous Itsukushima Shrine that’s at Miyajima Island.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

things to do in kyoto

Le en, at the senbon torii path.

The Fushimi Inari Shrine is another popular place to wear your kimono to! The torii gate path (senbon torii) is iconic, and a well-known landmark of the shrine. The entire temple is decorated with foxes, which are believed to be the messengers of the resident rice deity, Inari Okami. For a full guide of the shrine, read here: Fushimi Inari Shrine Guide (Street Food Recommendations Included!)

Arashiyama

things to do in kyoto

For a more scenic destination, head to Arashiyama. In fact, the place is so beautiful that nobles of the olden days have been enjoying it since the Heian Period. We recommend the Togetsukyo Bridge, which is also called the “Moon Crossing Bridge”. If you’re visiting in Spring, you’ll be delighted to know that there are rows of cherry trees there too. Another hit attraction is the Sagano Bamboo Grove. The rows of tall bamboo trees create a dramatic landscape that’s great for photos (especially during golden hour!).

Nara

After conquering Kyoto, head over to Nara to say ‘hi’ to the adorable deer and visit their stunning temples.

things to do in kyoto

At Nara Park, you will find not just friendly deer, but polite ones as well! They bow at park goers, hoping for a biscuit or two (which you can buy there). Some advice though: If you have paper bags or maps with you, please keep it away. The deer have a tendency of mistaking paper products for food, and may have a go at it!

Nara Park is located at Central Nara, and is a popular spot for tourists who are having just a day trip here because it’s also where all the famous attractions are, including Todaiji, Ksuga Taisha, Kofukuji, and the Nara National Museum. It’s a 20-minute walk from Nara Station.

Osaka

The last stop in Kansai is none other than Osaka! From theme parks to a bustling nightlife scene, there’s so much to do in this metropolitan city.

Universal Studios Japan

If you planned for time in Osaka, you would have most probably saved a day for Universal Studios Japan. One of the most popular theme parks in not just Japan but the world, USJ is a must-go for all adrenaline junkies. The famous Flying Dinosaur and iconic Hollywood Dream roller coasters need no introduction. What really sets the park apart of its competitors is the enthusiastic crowd: You’ll see many locals enjoying themselves there, many of whom are clad in themed outfits! This is especially true in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, where we personally saw throngs of Japanese people in cloaks and carrying wands!

For more on the current Universal Cool Japan event, read here FIRST LOOK: Get Otak-Cool at Universal Studios Japan (ft. Final Fantasy & More). 

Osaka Castle

things to do in kyoto

If you’re not into screaming your heart out, head to the Osaka Castle for a history lesson instead. The castle was rebuilt and destroyed several times throughout history, but the current one standing was built in 1931. The inside of it is a museum and is fully modern. You may notice that renovation works are still ongoingthis is because it is still being restored. The surrounding Nishinomaru Garden has 600 cherry trees, and is hence a popular hanami spot for sakura appreciation.

Dotonbori

things to do in kyoto

The iconic Glico running man sign.

When you’re done with the day, head to Dotonbori for some night-time entertainment. Situated along the Dotonbori-gawa Canal, the district is most famous of its neon signsparticularly the Glico running man one. This lively street features not just delicious food, but great shopping too. We highly recommend having dinner at the famous Ichiran Ramen. (Pssst. Make sure you try the Matcha Beer!)

Potaoes in Japan: Kyoto/Osaka

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Check out ALERT! These Are The Sakura Bloom Dates for Spring 2018, Hotel Travel Guide for the “Pantang” (Read: Superstitious) Singaporean, and Every Spring, These 8 Kyoto Temples Blush A Stunning Shade of Pink!