In my previous article I talked about my favourite and less tourist places found in Kyoto but this time I will write about the main highlights of Japan’s old capital. Despite the fact they are packed with tourists and pretty well-known, the most part of these visitors are japanese and their fame is just known among Asians or asia-lovers…Japan is yet to be discovered by western mass tourism xD When I was in Japan, I did not encounter so many westerns, just a few Americans and surprisingly many Spaniards!
- Kiyomizu Temple – 清水寺
The first Kyoto’s landmark, which absolutely is not to miss, is Kiyomizu Temple, located on the outskirts near the Higashiyama District I talked about in my previous article. The complex was built during 平安時代 (Heian Period 794-1185), when Japan enjoyed a long period of peace that made the literature flourish. Even though the actual building was renowned under the rules of Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867). A very special thing about Kiyomizu Temple is that the whole construction was built without any nails!
We went by foot from the nearest bus stop until the top of the mount…yeah I must say it is not that relaxing but it is really worth it as the street is very picturesque and full of nice souvenir shops, where my father and my boyfriend stopped to buy useless stuff ahaha xD At the top, we could admire Kyoto in all its beauty! The view is just breathtaking from there and just this scenery is worth the visit but the temple architecture will not disappoint you, I am sure 😉 There were a lot of nice Japanese couples dressed in kimono that were taking photos there…this made everything look more picturesque and authentic *^*
There is a kind of 13 meters high wooden stage dominating the surrounding green area, which is the best known feature of the temple. Unfortunately when i went there, it was still summer so I could not witness the colour changing of the leaves during the autumn. It seems it is a massive popular practice for the Japanese to come here when the leaves change its colour from green to a golden yellow so I have to visit another time! This is a good excuse to come back I think 😉
Behind the Kiyomizu Temple, there is a small Shinto temple dedicated to the deity of love called Jishu Shrine where I went with my actual boyfriend but at that time he was not xD There you can find many stands selling love amulets or items that promise to you the eternal love of the person you like. Since We do not believe in these things, we did not buy anything but decided to write an Ema together and hang there, in the temple of love…now that I think about it, it is pretty romantic, isn’t it?!
- How to Reach:
Kiyomizu Temple can be reached from Kyoto Station by bus number 100 or 206, the journey takes 15 minutes and you should get off at Kiyomizu-Michi stop, which is just 10 minutes away from the temple. Another option is using Keihan Railway Line and get off at Kiyomizu-Gojo. The ticket price is 400 Yen and there are no closing days.
2. Yasaka Shrine – 八坂神社
Yasaka Shrine is a Shintoist sanctuary found in Gion area, in Kyoto’s city centre. It includes other religious buildings like small Shinto shrines scattered here and there and a big stage with hundred lanterns. Here, one of the most famous celebrations in japan, the Gion Omatsuri, takes place.
It consists of a group of people bringing a sanctuary palanquin to the Shrine. I recommend to visit this Shrine after a nice walk in the nearby shopping area where you can also taste the typical Kyoto sweets, famous in whole Japan. but do not expect to eat the normal western sweets like cakes or pastries, their concept is sweet is different from ours, so different that I would not call them with the word “sweet” but using the Japanese word that is to say “okashi” 😉 and most likely the main flavour will be green tea ahah
- How to Reach:
It can be reached from Kyoto Station by bus 100 or 206 getting off at Gion stop or else it is possible to walk through the narrow lanes of Higashiyama departing from Kiyomizu Temple. The entrance is free and there are no closing days.
3. Arashiyama – 嵐山
Arashiyama, as I like translating “the stormy mount”, is located on the western part of Kyoto and famous for its Bamboo Path, the main highlight of this tranquil place far away from the busy city life. During Heian Period, Arashiyama was the favourite destination for the noble families, as it was a pleasant place where they could have a relaxing stroll and enjoy nature at its fullest. During this period, nature played an important role in literature and poetry, according to literature criteria the perfect man was the one that is sensible to his surroundings and can live in close contact with the nature.
I came here after visiting Kinkakuji which is located somewhere near the feet of the mount by a local railway line but I could not fully explore this beautiful area because I reached here when it was already very late and the rain did not even stop for a moment =_= I just visited Tenryuji, a buddhist temple notable for its Zen garden that according to Zen principles, it is able to calm the spirit. The small pond is very cute and there are a lot of lotus flowers, at least, we think they were xD Unfortunately when I reached here, the temple was already closing so I advice you all to come here earlier and on a sunny day! Even though the thin fog contributed to create a surrealistic atmosphere.
While wandering through the bamboo path, we ended up discovering this Nonomiya Shinto Shrine I did not expect to find here. Throughout Heian Period, imperial princesses stayed at this Shrine in order to get purified before joining the Royal Family. The place is really suggestive: there is this small red Shrine surrounded by lanterns, the only light source there when it gets dark. I read there is also a lovely river flowing on the mount but I did not have the time, nor the weather allowed me, to see it and have a tour on a ferry. Ah by the way, it is also very humid there @_@
- How to Reach:
- Arashima can be reached from Kyoto Station through JR Sagano Line, the trip takes 15 minutes.
- Another way, much more picturesque, to reach this place (I used this) is the use of the small trains, which run on railways located in the middle of a residential area, belonging to Keifuku Railway. If you are visiting Kinkakuji or Ryoanji, you can access this Line at Kitanohakubaicho Station, not far away from these places.