One of the city's best resources, the Kyoto Tourist Information Center, is on the second floor of Kyoto Station. Heading away from the tracks, take the escalator up one flight; the information desk is next to the entrance of Isetan Department Store. The office publishes pamphlets with five self-guided walking tours, including maps. The tours range in length from about 40 to 80 minutes. The office is open daily 8:30 to 7 year-round, and there's Wi-Fi access. To get the lay of the land, pick up an up-to-date bus map, a tourist map, and a copy of the free monthly Kyoto Visitor’s Guide, which contains invaluable information on restaurants, hotels, and festivals and fairs.
The tourist information center (075/231–1717; daily 10–6) on the east side of Kawaramachi, between Oike and Sanjo streets also offers maps and much information in English, Korean and Chinese.
Visitors require special permission from the Imperial Household Agency to visit three sights in Kyoto: Kyoto Imperial Palace, Katsura Imperial Villa, and Shugaku-in Imperial Villa. It's best to obtain permission at least a few days in advance, but the permission to visit the Imperial Palace can often be obtained for a same-day visit by going to each place where, at 11 am, entry slips will be given on a first-come, first-served basis (I.D. required), or by going to the agency’s office in the northwest corner of the Imperial Palace’s park. You can also apply online (sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/english). Closed Monday. If Monday is a national holiday, then closed Tuesday.
A good general-information resource for tourists, the Kyoto International Community House has a library on-site and can arrange home visits and lessons in calligraphy, the tea ceremony, and Japanese.
Imperial Household Agency. 3 Kyoto Gyoen-nai, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto-fu, 602-8611. 075/221–1215; sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/english.
Kyoto International Community House. 2-1 Torii-cho, Awata-guchi, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto-fu, 606-8536. 075/752–3010; www.kcif.or.jp/HP/kaikan/top/en. Closed Mon. (closed Tues., open Mon. if Mon. is a national holiday).
Kyoto Tourist Information Center. JR Kyoto Station, Karasuma-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto-fu, 600-8555. 075/343–6655.
Kyoto Visitor's Guide. Kyoto, Kyoto-fu. www.kyotoguide.com.