As always I have to talk about Kyoto from my personal experience. Unfortunately I only had a day in Kyoto, which meant we had to cram all the visits into this day, and temples/shrines all close at sunset. Anyway I did get the chance to have a feel about the city and its strong historical background. The city itself is quite ugly in my opinion, the skyline not impressive at all and the streets are all similar with concrete blocks.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t like the city. I loved it! But that’s because it hosts some of the most beautiful temples I’ve seen. So many incredible temples that it’s unbelievable. The city has 20% of the country’s National Treasures and 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The city of Kyoto, was estabilished under the name Heian-kyō (“tranquility and peace capital”) and became the capital and seat of the imperial court in 794, until the transfer to Tokyo in 1869. The city suffered from the tormented Japanese history, with civil wars and battles such as the Ōnin War, and flourished during the Edo Period becoming one of Japan’s main cities together with Osaka and Edo (Tokyo).
So here are my top 5 temples and shrines to see in Kyoto:
5.RYOAN-JI TEMPLE – This temple’s name means “the temple of the Dragon at peace”, and peace is exactly what you’ll find here. We came here to see the kare-sansui (dry landscape) zen garden, which of course is stunning – I sat to contemplate the beauty of it all for about half an hour, and really let the moment sink into my memory. But what I didn’t expect was the Kyoyochi Pond (water garden) with circles of water lillies floating around to create a beautiful, ever changing, design.
4.JISHO-JI – or as its best known as: Ginkaku-ji, the “Temple of the Silver Pavillon”, is a Zen temple, built to mirror the ‘Golden Temple’ with its main Kannon-den that was planned to be covered in Silver foil when built at the end of the 1400’s. Construction was interrupted to the point that the commissioner Yoshimasa never saw it complete, and was left to look “incomplete” till today. The temple is also known for its sand garden.
3.KIYOMIZU-DERA TEMPLE – This temple is one of the only things I remember from my trip to Japan as a child, but I didn’t get to see it again this time around. I remeber walking up hill, and the street surrounded by shops that sell all kinds of souvenirs, including square watermelons! Kiyomizu (clear water) is located on the top of the hill, close to the waterfalls after which it is named. The whole structure was built without nails, and it offers impressive views over the city of Kyoto.
2.KINKAKU-JI TEMPLE – The “Temple of the Golden Pavilion”, is the name that is generally associated with this temple, even though its official name is Rokuon-ji. But the golden pavillon is stunning. It incorporates three different architectural styles: the simple and natural shinden-zukuri style of the first floor, the aristocratic, samurai, buke-zukuri style on the second, and a traditional, religious Chinese chán (zen) style on its thrid floor. The whole building is topped by a bronze phoenix. I recommend visiting on a sunny day to admire the building and its reflection in the water of the Kyōko-chi pond. After looking at the building you can also stroll through the garden that surrounds the temple, designed as a traditional Muromachi period garden.
1.FUSHIMI-INARI-TAISHA SHRINE – A visit to the Fushimi-Inari-
Taisha shrine should be payed not just for the shrine itself but for the whole experience it entails. I’m sure everyone wants a picture in the tori gates tunnel, and don’t panic if when you get there there are too many people to take a cool photo, you just need to be patient and walk uphill. Sooner or later you’ll find a secluded spot, because not many have the courage or the desire to walk up mount Inari. The trail is 4 kilometers long and takes about 2 hours, and if you are a businessman you must pay your respects, as this is the shrine dedicated to Inari, god of rice, but also the patron of business and merchants. Something very interesting is that each torii gate was donated by a Japanese businessman, and if you look on the back of each you’ll see the name inscribed. Stop halfway up the mountain for a view over the city of Kyoto (even though it isn’t quite as spectacular as one would expect).
I enjoyed this excursion so much, even though we went up in 30°c weather, humidity, and then rain and sweat (I was definitely not a nice sight after that, but it was worth it!