Biking in Kyoto with Ritz Carlton Japan
Travelife Magazine Publisher Christine Cunanan

It was the perfect day for biking in Kyoto: sunny and cool, and we were at the Ritz Carlton Kyoto, which is right next to the Kamogawa River. The river has wide bicycle lanes on both sides. One turn into a side road, and then you’re already along the path on the banks of the Kamogawa River.

Moreover, the hotel rents out Panasonic electric bicycles. These are perfect for city biking and these also make any uphill climbs easy. The concierge team organizes two bike experiences every day, weather permitting. So hotel guests who book in advance can go before breakfast at 630 AM or after breakfast at 830 AM. We chose the latter, preferring to enjoy a relaxing meal prior to heading out.


Biking in Kyoto with the Ritz Carlton concierge team

“Where would you like to go?” Wakabayashi-san, our bicycle guide from the hotel, asked. She gave us several options including a ride through Gion, the old geisha and entertainment district of Kyoto. However the river called out to us. It’s not often once comes across a lovely river that’s made for biking and walking. So we asked for an itinerary that included a long ride along the river.

“There’s the lovely Shimogamo shrine just off the river,” Wakabayashi-san suggested. “It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and it’s very beautiful. We can bike all the way along the Kamogawa and then get onto the street just very near it.”

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Biking in Kyoto along the Kamogawa River with the Ritz Carlton concierge team

That sounded like the exact tour itinerary we wanted. The trip took about 20 minutes along the Kamogawa from the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Once we got off the river bicycle lane, we entered a neighborhood with large trees and old houses. It was the kind of area I often imagine, whenever I think of Kyoto.

One of the houses in this neighborhood was the villa of the Mitsui family. We just passed by it on our way to the Shimogamo Shrine but it certainly looked impressive estate from the outside. I made a mental note to visit this on another trip.

Then we found ourselves passing through a wide clearing of tall trees that led to the shrine proper. The ride all the way to the spring was just so picturesque.


Visiting the Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto

“There’s evidence that this shrine is over two thousand years old,” Wakabayashi-san said. Some archeologists scouring the forests around the shrine had apparently unearthed broken pieces of plates and arrowheads that date back to the Yayoi Period of 4 B.C.

Biking to the Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto with the Ritz Carlton Kyoto concierge team

The Shimogamo Shrine is also a great favorite of members of the Japanese Imperial Family through the centuries, as well as descendants of several famous Shogun. The Emperor Saga (809 – 823) is one of the Japanese emperors most closely associated with this shrine. It is also mentioned in The Tale of Genji, the famous epic story created by a court lady during the Heian era. This is one of my favorite books, by the way.


Biking  to the Shimogamo Shrine in Kyoto with the Ritz Carlton concierge team

For biking in Kyoto, the Shimogamo Shrine is ideal. It’s a famous landmark but it’s also the kind of place that is not quite on the tourist shortlist since Kyoto has so many temples. Nevertheless, it is as important and Instagram-worthy as the better known temples of the city. In fact, in many ways, a visit to Shimogamo Shrine is even more meaningful because it doesn’t feel as commercial or touristy compared to so many others.

So after a morning of exploration here, we biked back to the Ritz Carlton Kyoto along the same river, our hearts and minds full of what we had just seen. We thoroughly enjoyed biking in Kyoto. It’s a great way to explore this ancient city.

Read more about one of the best hotels in Granada and about biking in Kyoto in Travelife Magazine.


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