September 17, 2017
By Kensei Iizuka, Yuta Kobayashi and Takanori Tsuhako
As you know, in Kyoto, there are a lot of attractive places. However, how do you visit such nice places? Do you use buses or trains? Now, let us introduce the most active and flexible way to move around Kyoto: by rental cycle.
In Kyoto, there are many rental cycle shops and you can rent a bicycle for one day, which costs somewhere between 1 and 2 thousand yen. Optionally, you can rent a sport-type bicycle, a power-assisted bicycle, or child’s bicycle.
Merits of Using Rental Cycles
There are many merits of using rental cycles. First, it is the most active way to move around Kyoto. For example, if you like athletics, it is the best way to sightsee. Second, it is the most flexible. While you are sightseeing, you don’t have to worry about time like you do when taking the bus and/or train. Therefore, you can simply enjoy the places you like and just forget about the clock. In addition, because of its flexibility, you can enjoy Kyoto by going wherever you want to go. For example, you can bike down interesting Kyoto-like back alleys, encounter a temple which suddenly appears in front of you, or stumble across a friendly café. You can discover places which are not written in guide books, while choosing your destinations with your own senses.
Pay attention to the seasons. If you come to Kyoto in the spring or autumn, you can enjoy your bicycle tour because you can feel a comfortable wind and see great cherry blossoms (in the spring) or red and yellow leaves (in the autumn). However, if you come to Kyoto in the summer or winter, you must pay attention to the temperature. In the summer, it is very hot and muggy, so you should be careful about heatstroke. And in winter, it is too cold to ride a bike, so you must wear warm clothes, a scarf and some gloves. At last, we don’t recommend renting a bicycle in June because it is the rainy season in Japan. You will get wet.
Places to Rent Bicycles
In Kyoto, there are many places to rent bikes. It is easy to access if your hotel is near the rental shop. Some shops are near the train stations. For example, here are some popular stores around Kyoto station:
Kyoto Eco Trip (http://www.kyoto-option.com/english/)
Kyoto Cycling Tour Project (KCTP) (http://www.kctp.net/pc/en/)
Kyoto Miyabiya (http://k-miyabiya.jp/index.html)
How to Rent / Return
Renting a bike is easy. For example, we rented some bikes at Kyoto Eco Trip, near Kyoto station. You can reach it in five minutes after getting off the train. First, at the desk, a staff member gave instructions to us. Then, we could choose the type of bicycle and the plan. Some places rent an electric bike, which is a little bit more expensive than a normal bike, but you can ride it easily. It is necessary to show your I.D. card in order to rent a bike.
There are various kinds of plans by stores. It is good for you to choose a store by looking carefully at the plan. You pay in advance, but if you end up renting it longer than you had planned, you can pay the difference when you return. It’s convenient, isn’t it?
After paying the rental fee, the staff will bring you a bike and explain how to use it. The shop we rented from uses a dial type of key. You can decide whatever numbers you want to use. We also received some ice-cold bottled water for our journey. It was a very hot day, so we were really happy about that.
Famous Spots around Kyoto Station
One of the main symbols of Kyoto is Toji Temple, located in Minami-ku, which was registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994. When you are just about to arrive at Kyoto station by a bullet train, you can see this five-storied pagoda from the south side window of your train. It only takes about 7 minutes on bicycle to arrive at Toji Temple from Kyoto station.
There is a modern aquarium to the west of Kyoto Station, which was established in 2012 inside Umekozi Park. This is the first aquarium to use complete artificial seawater to keep displays beautiful in Japan. 15,000 different kinds of fish and animals are put on display there, such as the Japanese Giant Salamander (Andrias Japonicus), which is designated as a special natural monument, and which lives in the local Kamogawa River. There are also various kinds of penguins, dolphins, and fish there. It is only a 10-minute bicycle ride from Kyoto station.
Kyoto Railway museum
There are two hot spots in Umekozi Park, one is the Kyoto Aquarium and the other is the Kyoto Railway Museum. This museum is newer than the aquarium, and opened in 2016. There is the largest of Japan’s train museums. You can see many different kinds of trains there, for example a retired 0 series shinkansen. Also, you can take a short ride on an old steam locomotive. How special? It is also 10-minute bicycle from Kyoto station.
Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who is the famous builder of Osaka castle, established this temple in 1591. Inside the temple, a lot of traditional buildings and gardens representing the Azuchimomoyama Era are there. This temple is also registered as a World Heritage Site in 1994. It is approximately 3 minutes by bicycle from Kyoto station.
This temple is placed in almost in front of Kyoto station and you can reach it even on foot in 5 minutes. Furthermore, the shape of temple is very similar to that of Nishihonganji temple, and these temples are very close to one antoher. It can be fun for visitors to examine the differences between them.
Shoseien is a completely sophisticated and beautiful garden located in middle of the city. Although you are in the city, you can see brilliant green trees and shaped pond as soon as you enter. You can calm down and relax with a tweeting of birds in the garden. Also, you can view Kyoto Tower, which is a main symbol of Kyoto from the garden. It looks like a strange landscape, but it is actually wonderful. It is only a 7-minute bicycle from Kyoto Station.
Kyoto Tower stands just in front of Kyoto station and is the highest building in Kyoto city. It was built in 1964. This is an important spot for visitors to get souvenirs from a complete range of souvenir shops and can enjoy local foods in the surrounding restaurants. At the top of the tower, you can see the whole landscape of Kyoto. It is a valuable spot to see other famous places from a high point.
After arriving at Kyoto station, go to the Hachijo-guchi exit (South Gate). A few minutes’ of walking will bring you to Kyoto Eco Trip. Check in and rent a bike; then your trip has started. First, go to Toji temple. It is in a south-west direction from Kyoto Eco Trip. You can get a map at Kyoto Eco Trip, so you can ride around without getting lost. It takes about 10 minutes from Eco Trip to Toji Temple. Park your bike near the car parking lot. If you are not sure, just ask the staff. If you park on the road, your bike might be removed by the authorities. In Kyoto, the places which you park your bike are basically free. Some places are only free for a few hours, so be careful about it.
Next, to go to Umekoji Park by heading north. It takes only five minutes to reach the park. There you can enjoy the Kyoto Aquarium and the Kyoto Railway Museum, too. There are a lot of nice restaurants near there as well. We decided to visit a sushi restaurant for lunch, which was delicious.
After taking a rest and eating your fill, move on to Nishihonganji and Higashihonganji temples. It only takes about 10 ~ 15 minutes to get there. Seisyoen is also near Higashihonganji. You can feel the real Kyoto spirit there. After feeling Kyoto, you can visit Yodobashi Camera and buy anything you want. There are a lot of restaurants there, too. You can also visit Kyoto Tower while you are at it. Finally, go back to Kyoto Eco Trip, give your bike back and end your trip. What a great day!