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Really? I went to Kyoto a year ago and had no trouble at all getting in as an American. I speak Japanese, but all of our [my father and I] tickets were largely bought beforehand or with the teller speaking English, and we had no trouble getting in. Really, the only time I spoke Japanese at any of the tourist-y sites was when a group of middle school kids were there on a field trip and became fascinated with asking me questions when they found out I spoke Japanese. Otherwise, everyone I spoke to was largely extremely polite and accepting.
I’d definitely agree that it’s a great experience. Everyone we met seemed to be thrilled to have a foreigner exploring their culture and country.
Quick edit: We went to the Golden Pavilion (金閣寺) as well. Totally worth seeing in person. Some of the reviews on Tripadvisor say that you only get to see it for a few seconds—total bullshit. You have to keep moving forward, but that just means you can’t go back after you’ve left already. But when you’re there, you can totally stay to take pictures. And it is worth it. Incredibly beautiful building.