5 star rating: Highly Recommended 5 Reviews

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  • Location:Kyoto, Japan
  • Duration:3 hours (approx.)

Scholar-led Kyoto Walking Tour: Shintoism and Buddhism in Japan

Join a local scholar of religion on a 3-hour walking tour of Kyoto, exploring Shinto and Buddhist landmarks. Visit Yasaka Shrine, Kennin-ji Temple and Kiyomizu-dera Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.You’ll learn about the synchronicity of religions and spirituality that permeate Japanese culture, historically and in present day. Explore the history, traditions and rituals of both Shintoism — an indigenous spiritual belief — and Buddhism, which was imported from China and Central Asia. Numbers are limited to 6 people, ensuring an intimate experience with a small group.


  • 3-hour Kyoto walking tour with a religious scholar
  • Stroll through the Gion district with your local guide to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples
  • Learn the meaning of the gates and halls at the Shinto Yasaka Shrine
  • Visit the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Buddhist temple of Kiyomizu-dera
  • See the Dharma Hall and Abott’s Quarters at Kennin-ji
  • Discover daily rituals of Buddhist monks and spiritual seekers
  • Small-group tour with a maximum of 6 people ensures a personalized experience

What You Can Expect

Scholar-led Kyoto Walking Tour: Shintoism and Buddhism in Japan

Small Group Tour: Synchronized Spirituality - Shinto and Buddhism

Meet your guide in front of the Lawson's General Store and embark on your small-group walking tour of Kyoto. First, head to the historical Gion district and start at the Yasaka Shrine, a Shinto complex that includes numerous gates and halls. Here, witness the temizu, a ritual hand washing conducted before entering a Shinto shrine.

Your guide, a local scholar, will outline the basic principles of this indigenous spiritual belief system and introduce you to the kami, spiritual deities. Hear an interesting discussion on the role of folklore and its use in the nationalism promoted by the 19th-century Meiji regime.

Stroll through the streets of Gion and wend your way toward one of Kyoto’s most renowned temples, the Kiyomizu-dera. This UNESCO World Heritage-listed temple was established in 788 AD and its main hall, perched halfway up Otowa Mountain, provides spectacular views across the city. Your introduction to Buddhism begins with a small-group discussion of the the religion's origins and a basic understanding of how temple complexes are structured. You’ll also learn how charms and amulets are used to help change one’s fortune or provide protection.

Your final stop is the Zen Buddhist temple complex of Kennin-ji, rebuilt several times since it was established in 1202 AD. As you explore the complex with your guide, you’ll gain a better understand of the daily life of Buddhist monks, and discover how work and meditation are used to reach enlightenment. Structures you might visit are the Abbot's Quarters, the Dharma Hall (Hatto), a teahouse built in the 16th century and the Imperial Messenger Gate.

By the end of your small-group walking tour, you’ll have a better understanding of the symbols of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples for a more fulfilling experience during your time in Japan!

Customer Reviews

Jennie F

5 star rating: Highly Recommended January 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!

Johanna C P

5 star rating: Highly Recommended November 2015

Absolutely fantastic afternoon! Our guide was a buddhist priest who really brought into perspective the temples we had been visiting. Amazing!

Alison M

5 star rating: Highly Recommended March 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.

Kathleen C

5 star rating: Highly Recommended April 2014

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."


4 star rating: Recommended November 2015

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.

From USD $ 101.00

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Tour code: 5411KYO76541SG


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