Kyoto, Japan City Information

Kyoto is a magnificent city with amazing cultural treasures unlike any other city in the world. Kyoto has been home to samurai, shogun, the imperial family, monks, and masters. All have left their mark on the city. Ancient temples, pagodas, shrines, and castles are the backdrop for this Semester in Japan program.

Kyoto City Information

There are seventeen UNESCO World Heritage Sites in just Kyoto – more than most countries in the world! Kyoto is the ideal spot to dive into Japanese culture and language. Luckily, the most sacred cultural and historical sites are close to the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies.  Don’t forget to bring your camera because Kyoto is a photographer’s dream city.

Another bright spot: you can reach the city of Osaka by train in just 25 minutes. You’ll have the deep history, culture, and traditions of Kyoto, and some of the best shopping and nightlife in the world in Osaka. Additionally, the fascinating cities of Kobe and Nara are also close. Or, zip over to the Osaka International Airport for a short flight to many of the other beautiful regions of Japan.


Kyoto University of Foreign Studies Campus Information

Founded in 1959, Kyoto University of Foreign Studies (KUFS) was originally a foreign language university. Now KUFS houses a Center for Global Studies and a Center for Japanese Studies. You’ll find a dynamic learning environment in a fascinating city filled with Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and modern buildings. Alongside Japanese Studies courses, you’ll have a hands-on experience with traditional Japanese arts, including calligraphy, tea ceremony, kimono wearing, ikebana, and dance.


Before arriving to Kyoto, we strongly recommend that you have some Japanese Yen on your person when you first arrive. Depending on when you arrive and how much time you might have before the bus to your housing departs, you may or may not have time to change money at the airport or withdraw money at an international ATM.

In Japan, most ATMs do not accept foreign issued cards. Only the ATMs located inside 7/11s accept foreign issued cards, but sometimes a 7/11 is not easily accessible everywhere. So come prepared with a couple of hundred dollars worth of Japanese Yen for your first couple of days so you will have time to settle in and know more about your surroundings before needing to access an ATM.

While credit cards (VISA, Mastercard, AMEX) are accepted at most places in Japan, not at all small shops do. So having a bit of extra cash for those unexpected moments will make you better prepared.

Phone and Internet Access

If you intend to obtain an international SIM card for your phone for use in Japan, please be sure to organize this prior to arrival.

You will be able to access free Wi-Fi located on the KUFS campus and in your housing, but elsewhere free Wi-Fi is not so accessible in Tokyo and Japan overall. However, Starbucks has free and good Wi-Fi, so you may want to stop by and order a coffee while roaming the city. Other options for accessing internet and Wi-Fi throughout Japan can be found here.


The city of Kyoto features a unique mix of shopping, where modern shops selling high end fashion can be found alongside stores with centuries of history selling traditional crafts or specialty foods. This contrast of the modern with the old is well expressed in the city’s largest shopping district along Shijo Street at the heart of central Kyoto.

If you’re looking for a more traditional, old Kyoto shopping atmosphere we suggest that you head over to the streets of the eastern Higashiyama District around Kiyomizudera. Here you’ll find a wide range of souvenirs, specialty foods and handicrafts.

Other shopping areas you may want to explore could include:

Nishiki Market – A colorful and narrow food market street known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen” that runs parallel to Shijo Street. Besides food, local craft-goods such as traditional Japanese paper can be found here too.

Kyoto JR Station – Home to the second largest shopping area in Kyoto, the JR Station is surrounded by department stores and shopping malls. The station itself houses a large Isetan department store and “The Cube” shopping center with a variety of souvenir shops, boutiques and restaurants.

Flea Markets – These occur at various locations throughout Kyoto each month. These are great places to visit if you’re looking for a quirky gift, are into antiques, or looking into buying a cheap secondhand kimono.

Still can’t decide? Here are some more suggestions and tips:

Lonely Plant: Best Shopping and Markets in Kyoto

Inside Kyoto: Kyoto Shopping

Trip Advisor: Best Shopping in Kyoto

20 Kyoto Souvenirs You Should Definitely Buy


Japanese cuisine offers an abundance of gastronomical delights with a boundless variety of regional and seasonal dishes as well as international cuisine. Restaurants range from mobile food stands to centuries old ryotei (traditional Japanese restaurant), atmospheric drinking places, seasonally erected terraces over rivers, cheap chain shops and unique themes restaurants about ninja and robots. Many restaurants are specialized in a single type of dish, while others offer a variety of dishes.

If you’re a Japanese foodie or a first time newbie, be sure to try some of the local delicacies such as ramen, tempura, sushi, soba, and much, much more!

Resources for navigating Japanese cuisine: 

A Guide to Eating Japanese

Lonely Planet Kyoto Restaurant Suggestions

Trip Advisor 10 Best Kyoto Restaurants

Kyoto Cheap Eats

Local convenience store chains such as 7/11 and Family Mart are also widely available. They stock a variety of convenient and reasonably priced takeaway meals that are perfect for locals on-the-go, as well as students on a budget.

Things to Do

Kyoto is a magical city where the past and present collide, and there is so much to see and do. With over 400 shrines and 1,600 Buddhist temples, it’s easy to feel like you’ve leapt through time just after walking several blocks within the city.

If visiting as many temples or shrines doesn’t sound appealing, not to worry! Kyoto has plenty of other activities happening year-round, and there are many other things to see and do, such as:

The cities of Osaka, Kobe and Nara are also near enough for day or weekend trips. They’re all only an easy train ride away from Kyoto JR Station.


Still don’t know what to do with your spare time? Check out these websites for some inspiration:

Lonely Planet: Top Things to Do in Kyoto

Trip Advisor: Things to Do in Kyoto

Japan Guide: Top Attractions in Kyoto 

104 Things to Do in Kyoto


Kyoto is a compact city with an excellent transport system. Central and Downtown Kyoto is laid out in a grid pattern, which makes the streets easy to navigate. It’s also possible to gain access to almost every part of the city via public transportation.

  • Subway – Gets you quickly between north and south (the Karasuma subway line stops at Kyoto Station) or east and west (the Tōzai subway line runs between Higashiyama and the west side of the city). Information about the Kyoto subway lines can be found on the Kyoto Station website.
  • Bus – For destinations not well served by the subway lines (including sites in the northeast of the city, like Kinkaku-ji). Information about the Kyoto bus system can be found on the Kyoto Station website.
  • Bicycle – A brilliant way to explore Kyoto (the city is mostly flat).
  • Walking – Kyoto is a walker’s paradise.
  • Taxi – For short trips, late at night, or if you’ve got heavy luggage, a taxi is your best bet.