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What to Do in Shimogyo

Shimogyo - Kyoto Attractions

From the ultra-modern structure that is Kyoto Station to the ancient grace of Buddhist temples, Shimogyo ward has plenty to offer interested visitors. A number of museums provide insight into aspects of Kyoto’s history from ancient times, through the industrial revolution right up to the modern era.

Kyoto Tower is a must to get a bird’s eye view of the city from its 131m heights and on a clear day enjoy views all the way out to Osaka Bay.

Other Shimogyo attractions offer visitors a taste of everyday Japanese life like the Hakyusan-yu sento or public bath.

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Kyoto Station

Kyoto Station is a glorious example of modern Kyoto. The futuristic 15-storey station building features impressive and imposing architecture; steel frames and irregular cubic plate glass cover the 238,000 square meter interior which houses not only the regular trains and shinkansens (bullet trains) but also a shopping mall, a hotel, a movie theatre and a department store. The main hall is 70 metres in height and stretches for 470 metres from east to west. Designed by architect Hiroshi Hara, the station was opened in 1997 to commemorate the 1200th anniversary of Kyoto.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 10:00 – 19:00
  • Location: Karasumi-dori
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 361 4410
  • How to get there: All trains and busses converge on Kyoto Station.
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Nishi Honganji Temple

This vast temple complex is the oldest of the two Honganji temples and now headquarters of the prosperous Jodo Shin-shu sect of Buddhism. Not all of the temple is open to the public; the two halls one can enter house exquisite carvings and paintings on paper screens and walls created by the Kano school of artists.

  • Opening Hours: 05.30 - 17.30 (May - Aug: to 18:00, Nov - Feb: 06:00 – 17:00)
  • Location: Horikawa-dori, Hanayamachi-sagaru, Shimogyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 371 5181
  • How to get there: From JR Kyoto Station Central Exit. Head north on Horikawa-dori
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Higashi Honganji Temple

Massive temple doors hint at something special behind them. Founded in 1602 by shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa to rival nearby Nishi Honganji, the temple covers a large area near Kyoto Station. Within the complex, cavernous buildings demonstrate the might of Tokugawa while the large pigeon population may well have annoyed him. An interesting element of this temple is the long black rope which was used during the reconstruction of the temple during the 19th century; it is completely made of female devotees’ hair.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 05:50 - 17:30 (Mar - Oct), 06:20 - 16:30 (Nov - Feb)
  • Type: 3 Karasuma-dori Shichijo-agaru, Shimogyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 371 9181
  • How to get there: From JR Kyoto Station Central Exit. Head north on Karasuma-dori
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Costume Museum

This often over-looked museum has wonderful exhibits of the various Japanese costumes throughout the ages from the royal dress to samurai armor and exquisite geisha kimonos. The museum aims to endow visitors with insight into the world of nobility during the Heian Period of Japanese history. Fans of the world’s first ever novel, The Tale Genji Monogatari, will appreciate the ¼ scale model of the Haru-no-Goten (Spring Palace) on display offering a three-dimensional portrayal of the story.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 09:00 - 17:00
  • Location: Fifth Floor Izutsu Building, Shinhanayacho-dori, Horikawa Higashiru Shimogyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 342 5345
  • How to get there: Kyoto City Bus to Nishihonganji-mae
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Kyoto Tower

Opened in 1964, Kyoto Tower stands 131m above the city. From the observation decks, on a clear day you can see all the way to Osaka Bay. Housed within the tower are a three-star hotel, spa, shopping arcade and restaurants. The modern tower is seemingly incongruous to the rest of the ancient capital however being the tallest building in Kyoto it has been a major icon since its completion.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 09:00 - 20:40
  • Location: Across from Kyoto Station, Karasuma-dori, Higashishichijo-sagaru, Shimogyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 361 3215
  • How to get there: JR Kyoto Station Central Exit
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Osamu Tezuka World

Fan of Japanese cartoons might want to spend time at the Osamu Tezuka World in Kyoto Station. Come to experience firsthand the characters created by talented artist Osamu Tezuka (the inventor of the ‘big-eye’ look) such as Astro Boy and Jungle Taitei.

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 10:00 - 19:00
  • Location: In Theater Zone, Kyoto Station Bldg
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Umekoji Steam Locomotive Preservation Hall and Museum

Japan’s rail system has come a long way since its beginnings in the early 1870s. The museum was commissioned in 1972 to celebrate 100 years of railways and is today devoted to everything locomotive housed in the original 1904 Nijo Station building within a beautiful park that crisscrosses with streams and shady cherry blossom trees. Most of the characterful steam engines exhibited were built between 1914 and 1948 and are still in working order. You can also take a short ride behind a working steam engine.

  • Opening Hours: Tue - Sun 09:30 – 17:00
  • Location: Kankiji-cho, Shimogyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 314 2996
  • How to get there: City Bus to Umekoji Koen-mae
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Hakusan-yu

Experience an authentic Japanese sento or public bath at Hakusan-yu. Here you will be privy to a side of Japanese family life that few outsiders get to see. There are separate male and female indoor baths, a heated waterfall that gives a strong pummel of a back massage, an electric bath and a beautifully landscaped outdoor bath.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 15:00 – 24:00, closed Wednesdays, Holidays: 07:00 – 24:00
  • Location: 893 Ushitoracho Rokujo, Shinmachi-dori, Shimogyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 351 2733
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Sakura Bank Gallery Kyoto Cultural Properties

Excavated artifacts and many fascinating items of cultural import associated with the Gion Festival are housed in this museum built to commemorate the Sakura (formerly Mitsui) Bank’s 300th anniversary. Items from the bank’s long history are also displayed. An interesting museum with no admission fee.

  • Opening Hours: Tue - Sun 10:00 – 16.00
  • Location: 8 Naginataboko-cho Karasuma Higashiiru Shijodori
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 231 8438
  • How to get there: JR Line Karasuma Station, walk 1 block north
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