I must say that Kyoto really kidnapped my heart with its hidden temples, its magical alleyways, with its energy and its special atmosphere that catapults you into the past when Japan was still a feudal country and people lived a simple life. I do not know if I will be able to write something negative about this city :,) To clear the situation I must say that I stayed in this charming city just for 5 days for this reason I could not explore deeply deeply Kyoto but I tried to visit all the main landmarks and even ended up wandering in unknown places. Here I will give you the list of my favourite places in Kyoto:
Some Information about Kyoto
Kyoto is one of the most important cities in Japan from the cultural point of view asit has been its capital for more than a millennium. The whole city is considered UNESCO World Heritage and it is not a mystery why they decided to put the treasures of the city in the list. Kyoto is also known as the city of a thousand temples because it has an astonishing 1600 Buddhist Temples and 400 Shinto Shrines, many of them hidden in the old part of the city. As many of you know, Japan joined the Second World War and in the same way many German cities and villages were destroyed by the Bombs, also in this Asian country happened exactly the same but Kyoto was lucky, it was spared by the fury of the war and kept all its historical monuments.
Upon exiting Kiyomizu Temple, you find yourself in the Higashiyama District, which is located just under Kyoto’s eastern mountains and is one of the most picturesque and oldest part of Kyoto. From Higashiyama you can reach the most famous Kyoto’s landmarks like the Yasaka Shrine, Gion or Kiyomizu Temple but do not underestimate the beauty of this hidden corner of Japan’s old capital. Try to wander aimlessly around, I can assure you, you will find numerous hidden shrines and temples that will not disappoint you.
While Generally speaking, pagodas are always together with a temple but this one stands alone because the ancient temple it belonged to was destroyed by the fire in the past. It is really a good spot where you can take picturesque photos and enjoy an atmosphere that will make you feel to be in old Japan.
This small temple is located in a hidden corner near the Yasaka-no-to Pagoda where you can find a colorful statue that, at first sight, reminds you of Buddha. I made some researches and I found out it is a mythological figure in Buddhist religion called Arhat, the perfected one that attained Nirvana.
Yasui Konpira-Gu Shrine
I do not exactly remember where this temple is located but I clearly remember that somewhere near, there was a love hotel. For me it is a pretty weird thing because in Italy I do not think it is common to find something like this…just think about finding a church near a sexy shop xD In the Shrine we found a big stone decorated with many pieces of paper where some people were passing under. I, later, discovered that it is a common practice there and they do it in order to make a wish come true.
Gion – 祇園
Well, nothing to add about Gion as it is very famous worldwide due to the presence of Geisha. It is one of the poshest street in Kyoto where you can find expensive restaurants and if you are enough lucky, some geisha wandering around…..I am one of those lucky people 😛
Fushimi Inari Shrine- 伏見稲荷大社
This is one of the most popular and worshipped Shrines in whole Japan, every year on the last day of the year Fushimi Inari attracts more than a million of Japanese that come in order to honour the Kitsune (Fox), a mythological figure found in Japan’s culture. It is said that all over Japan, Fushimi Inari has many other Sub-Shrines, at least 30,000.
It is made up of several Torii donated by Japanese and on every of them, there is written the date when it was given as gift to the Shrine. I went to the Shrine at twilight, this makes the temple even more mysterious. Passing under the long Torii pathways was really thrilling, it is crazy that so many people donated all of those!
Torii: The gate found at the entrance of a Shrine whose function is to point out the start of the Shrine’s holy area
Ryoanji – 竜安寺
Ryoanji is a Zen Garden located in North Western part of Kyoto, somewhere near the Kinkaku-Ji. There is a legend, which is actually true, as I witnessed it myself, that from any part you look at the garden, a stone will be always missing.
Sanjusangendo – 三十三間堂
The temple is one of the Japan’s national Treasure built in the XII century and despite the fact it went through a terrible fire, its condition is superb. It contains one thousand life-size statues of Kannon, who embodies the compassion of Buddha and its gender can be either female or male depending on the culture. This sort of museum impressed me for the great amount of statues found inside and the atmosphere they create: it seems they stare at you and read your mind ahaha The photos inside were forbidden so I just took photos of the Temple outside but just to make you understand better about the place, I posted a photo of the statues taken from internet.
Extra: Kamo River
Kamo River is a magical place at night, there are many restaurants overlooking the river where you can have a good meal and the lights of the city reflect on the water creating a surreal atmosphere.