Kyoto is the most popular tourist destination in Japan, with more than 50 million people visiting each year. Herds of schoolchildren and flag-following foreign tour groups swarm its famous cultural sites. Still, a day in Kyoto is unforgettable, and with good timing you can still experience the depth of the city’s extraordinary culture.
As in many of the world’s most touristy spots, the best idea is to start early. Waking up at 5 a.m. may not sound like the beginning of a vacation, but if you take advantage of your jet lag, you can have Kyoto practically to yourself. Begin on the western edge of the city in the Arashiyama district, along the scenic Katsura River.
6 a.m.: Arashiyama Bamboo Grove