Kiyomizu-dera (dera and jiboth mean temple)
The unusually high terrace of Kiyomizu-dera is good for a panoramic view over Kyoto. Photo by BriYYZ
This magnificent temple is one of Kyoto’s most famous landmarks and one of Japan’s most famous temples, mainly for its spacious main hall with large cliff terrace supported by 18m high wooden pillars. (Japanese people describe a challenge as Kiyomizu no butai kara tobiorita tsumori de. . . meaning ‘like jumping off the Kiyomizu platform’). There’s a terrific city view from the terrace and one of the best walks starts from Kiyomizu-dera too.
See Kyoto Walks
Kinkaku-ji (Golden pavilion)
An unusual photo of Kinkaku-ji (aka the Golden Pavilion) in mid-winter. Photo by Laitche
A lakeside villa converted into a zen temple covered in gold leaf, this is one of the most visited sights in the city and one of the best known temples in Japan. Tourists will never be alone there. Well. . . perhaps in a snowstorm? Built in 1397 as a retirement villa for the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu before it was burnt down by a young monk, and rebuilt of course.
Jisho-ji, known as Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion). Photo by Antoinejou
Never actually covered with silver, Ginkaku-ji is preferred to Kinkaku-ji by some aesthetes due to its more subdued style. It is known for the garden’s white sand waves and two sandy piles designed to reflect moonlight, the Kogetsudai (Moon Mound) and the Ginsaden (Sea of Silver Sand).
There is a pleasant half-hour walking trail between the Ginkaku-ji and Nyakuo-ji Shrine, north of Eikan-do, called the Tetsugaku-no-Michi (Path of philosophy).
Japan’s most famous zen garden, the Rock Garden of Ryoan-ji, viewed from Hojo, used be the head priest’s residence. Photo by Cquest.
Famed for its zen garden of 15 irregularly places rocks on raked white gravel, representing islands in an ocean or some say (after a few too many cups of warm saké), ‘a tiger carrying her cubs across the water’. It is designed so always at least one of rocks is hidden from the view from any vantage point. That is a supreme art work and the best zen temple in Kyoto if not in Japan; if only you were alone there! (try a snowstorm? ! )
An Imperial villa with a fine teahouses and outstanding classical Japanese garden, this exquisite Japanese structure shows how Japanese buildings can coexist with nature. Photo by Raphael Azevedo