Expert Led Tour of Kyoto: Shinto and Buddhism

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Expert Led Tour of Kyoto: Shinto and Buddhism
from £84.21
An old saying states that the Japanese are born Shinto, but die Buddhist. While not completely accurate, the phrase gives insight into the mingling and synchronicity of religions that permeate Japanese culture. On this tour, we will explore the history, traditions, and rituals of both Shintoism, the native spiritual belief of Japan, and Buddhism, which was imported from China and Central Asia. Our seminar starts at the Yasaka Shrine, located in the historic Gion district. This Shinto shrine, a complex with numerous gates and halls, presents the perfect location to outline the basic principles of this spiritual belief. We will be introduced to the kami, spiritual deities, as well as principles of purity and impurity within Shintoism. We then pass through the historic streets of Gion to wend our way toward one of Kyoto’s most well-known temples, the Kiyomizu-dera. We will also have opportunity to explore the historic mingling of Buddhism and Shintoism and their subsequent dismantling.
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In Brief

Kyoto, Japan
3 hours
Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays
Important InfoInfo
This is a typical itinerary for this product

Pass By: Yasaka Shrine, 625 Giommachi Kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0073 Kyoto Prefecture

Visit the Yasaka Shrine

Pass By: Kiyomizu-dera Temple, 1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama, Kyoto 605-0862 Kyoto Prefecture

Visit the Kiyomizu-dera shrine

Pass By: Kennin-ji Temple, 584 Yamatooji Yojo-sagaru Komatsucho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0933 Kyoto Prefecture

Visit the Zen Buddhist temple complex of Kennin-ji

Pass By: Gionmachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0001 Kyoto Prefecture

Explore the neighborhood of Gion


  • Small Group Guided Tour
  • Expert Guide


  • Gratuities
  • Admission Fees (approx JPY800)

Departure Time

1:00 PM

Departure Point

Gion Police Box, 551 Gionmachi Minamigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, 605-0074, Japan

Returns To

Returns to original departure point

Additional Information

  • Confirmation will be received at time of booking
  • Children 12 and younger are not permitted on group tours and require private tour bookings
  • Please send supplier of tour the ages of all participants at time of booking
  • Tour operates rain or shine
  • Not wheelchair accessible
  • Near public transportation
  • Travelers should have a moderate physical fitness level
  • Check-in is 15 minutes prior to tour start time
  • Please note that you may be asked to remove your footwear at some temples
  • This tour/activity will have a maximum of 6 travelers

Booking Information

You can present either a paper or an electronic voucher for this activity.

Cancellation Terms

This trip is fully refundable up to 96 hours prior to the commencement of your trip.

Booking Terms and Conditions

When you book this trip, you need to read and accept the terms and conditions for booking our day trips in excursions.

Scoring an average traveller rating of 4.62 out of 5 based on the last 13 recent reviews

I don't normally do tours, but Japan can be a bit inaccessible. Tour was a small group, and Gavin (tour guide) was awesome. He's been teaching history and religion in Japan for a couple decades, and knew anything and everything you'd want to ask. The shrine we started at is a really popular spot, but he explained all the minutia of it, and he showed us how just beyond the guidebook area, there's a lot more, and basically no crowds. Really worth it, you learn a lot of the culture and history, how to look a bit beyond the popular spots, and how not to make an ass out yourself in doing so.
• Submitted 18 Jul 2019
Our guide was great. Most of my trip to Japan has been self led and having someone with fantastic knowledge and insight was really great. The tour covered all kinds of aspects of religion, philosophy, architecture and culture related Japan both in history and today. We did not cover the shrine with the 10,000 gates but we covered a lot of other shrines that were just as beautiful and impressive in there own ways.
• Submitted 19 Jul 2018
This was a highlight of our stay in Kyoto. Alexander's tour was informative and engaging I highly recommend the walking tour. Despite the cold weather the time flew!
• Submitted 06 Jan 2018
When people ask me, you're back! So how was Japan?! Even though I was away for three weeks and was busy every day, his is what I end up telling them about. This is the third time I've been to Japan, and though I know very little about religion broadly and had been to the area that this tour is in, I was very curious to understand a bit more about the places and rituals I'd seen in the past. I figured this tour would uncover a lot of the things that I'd looked at, or read the brochure about, but never really understood what I was looking at. I got that, and much much more! Our guide was Martin, who is the best tour guide that my partner and I have ever had. He started out by asking about what we wanted out of the tour, and tweaked our experience from there. His tour, stories and information was personalised to what we were interested in and already knew about. I've attached two photos - they're not the most spectacular of the views we saw that day please do the tour and experience those for yourself!. But it is representative of the quality of this walking tour - this area of Kyoto is a stunner and you'll have a great time, guaranteed. Our timing for this tour happened to be perfect - we got to see a Shinto wedding took some gorgeous shots, but I'll not post them out of respect for the people involved in the ceremony, and a Buddhist ceremony for the dead which I obviously didn't photograph. I had seen some of the temples when I'd been to Kyoto in the past, however they're not something I could ever get tired of seeing. Real balm for the soul, regardless of your religiousity Martin was also fantastic for helping us with some of our other burning questions about Japan - he had some great suggestions about where else to go in Japan THANK YOU for your suggestions if you're reading this!, and some really interesting anecdotes that I'm still talking about weeks later. My top tips for this tour - you'll be on your feet for a few hours so wear comfy shoes, bring water, and make sure you've got cash for souvenirs/entry fees/vending machines.
• Submitted 02 Sep 2017
We weren't sure what to expect from this tour but we had an unparalleled experience! Alex was an absolutely fantastic tour guide, it honestly felt like we were hanging out with a really smart, cool friend who was showing us these amazing tempels and shrines. I wish I could go on and on!
• Submitted 02 May 2016
Very good guide :
• Submitted 06 Apr 2016
Fantastic tour for anyone who is interested in learning more about how Shintoism and Buddhism have helped to shape Japanese history and culture. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about the subject matter and thoughtfully answered all of our questions. This tour definitely improved our awareness and understanding of some of the subtleties of Japanese culture. As a result, it also improved our understanding of everything we experienced in the days that followed. Highly recommended!
• Submitted 25 Jan 2016
Absolutely fantastic afternoon! Our guide was a buddhist priest who really brought into perspective the temples we had been visiting. Amazing!
• Submitted 12 Nov 2015
Absolutely amazing experience. Our guide Brian is one of the best guides we have ever had. He is very passionate about what he does and it benefited our tour and vacation tremendously.
• Submitted 10 Mar 2015
We enjoyed our walking tour very much. Our guide was personable and answered all of our questions well. He was knowledgeable but knew when to move on to another topic. He was in tune to our jet lag and our needs to sit for a bit. He was informative about life in Kyoto and Japan in general. I highly recommend this walking tour and this particular guide. We plan to use Viator guides and programs in future travels! We are saving this web site on our "favorites."
• Submitted 22 Apr 2014
Well informed guide. Well structured tour. Wish one more Daikaku-Ji temple was also included.
• Submitted 04 May 2016
Friendly and extremely knowledgeable tour guide. He provided insights I would have missed had it not been for him. Do this tour at the start of your stay as it will make subsequent visits to shrines and temples more rewarding.
• Submitted 11 Nov 2015
Not worth the $100+ I paid for it, even though the guide was nice and knowledgeable.
• Submitted 22 May 2016

In Brief

Kyoto, Japan
3 hours
Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays