Day Trip: Ultimate Photo Tour Through Kyoto, Japan

Your perfect day trip guide to shooting street photography in Kyoto, Japan. Recommended locations and tips by using Moment lenses.

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If you’re heading to Japan, you obviously can’t miss Kyoto, the country’s old capital. Kyoto is known for its kaiseki (multi-course meals), geishas (called “geiko” here), shinto shrines, and countless other fascinating cultural markers.

Once you’re there, follow this guide to a perfect photographic tour through the city. This street photowalk can be done in an afternoon with no commuting required.  

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Pontocho is a narrow alley, running from Shijo-dori to Sanjo-dori. It’s lined on both sides with tea houses, restaurants, and bars. It’s one of the few places in Japan where much of the architecture and form are protected and preserved, so walking along this alley gives you an “old Japan” vibe.  

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Just a short walk away from Pontocho is Hanami-koji. You will usually see both locals and foreigners in colorful kimonos walking the street, taking in the sights, or going to dine at one of the many restaurants and tea houses that line the street. The many side streets and alleys that sprout from Hanami-koji give you the perfect backdrop to the picturesque scenes.

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If you want to see geiko and maiko in Kyoto, Miyagawa-cho would be your best bet to see them walking around. The best time to go would be in the afternoon, when maikos are running around prepping for the night, and geikos are traveling to their respective teahouses. Make sure to be polite when you do see one, and try not to get in their way, as they are busy getting things done.

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Ishibe Alley

Ishibe Alley is only about a 5-10 min. walk away from Hanami Koji. One of the best things about this place is it’s virtually undiscovered, so it’s not as crowded as Hanami-koji or other parts of Gion. Walking along the residential homes and guesthouses, it seems like you’ve walked onto a movie set.

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Ichinen-zaka, Ninen-zaka, Sannen-zaka

Ichinen-zaka, Ninen-zaka, and Sannen-zaka are three pedestrian-only streets that are filled with beautifully restored shops. Most times of the day, the streets are filled with visitors, foreign and local alike, browsing the many dessert and souvenir shops. There is a myth that if you fall down in Ninen-zaka, you will die in 2 years. So make sure to look up from your phone, and be careful when climbing the steps. 

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