Kyoto Day Trips
Nara, Himeji, Osaka, Kanazawa
Short (inner city) Kyoto Trips
- The two calm, rural villages of Ohara and Kurama (see the walks page) are 100 minutes by bus from the city centre. - Takao district in north-west Kyoto (north of Arashiyama) is a one hour bus or train ride; the temples of Kozen-ji and Jingo-ji are especially vivid in the autumn.
Hiei-zan (Mt. Hiei) and Enryaku temple complex, the headquarters of Tendai Buddhist sect, is one of Japan's most important monasteries. It's one hour by bus or 15 minutes by train and cable car.
Day trips out of Kyoto
Travel time depends on the line but Nara is about 50 minutes train ride from Kyoto.
Nara*** (50minutes) another ancient place encompassing some of Japan's most significant sites is a must-do if you have a full day to spare, even if you have to cut into Kyoto time as Nara is a lot less built-up, greener and more relaxed than Kyoto yet offers some of Japan's best ancient sites in a relatively compact area.
For example, the Todai-ji's Daibutsu-den (Hall of Great Buddha, image above), is the world's largest wooden building; other Nara attractions, including 8 UNESCO Heritage Sites, are almost equally awesome, such as 30,000 cherry trees blossoming on Yoshino mountain in the springtime is blooming ridiculous, but it's one of Japan's Natural World Heritage sites and worth a trip in April.
Daibutsu-den Hall, Todai-ji, housing Japan's largest Buddha (16m high, consisting of 437 tonnes of bronze and 130 kg of gold), is also the world's biggest wooden building, even though the reconstruction (completed in 1709) is only two thirds of the original size.
Kasuga Taisa, a World Heritage shrine in Nara, was founded by the Fujiwara clan in the 8th century. New Year's day and lantern festivals held twice a year attract many visitors.
Himeji Castle, Japan's finest surviving example of early 17th century castle architecture
Himeji castle** (90 minutes) Japan's largest and most spectacular castle, nicknamed the White Heron after its elegant white winged form, has been standing for more than 400 years and displays a highly advanced and effective defensive system. Travellers might as well visit Koko-en, Edo-style gardens just across the moat while in the vicinity.
Himeji is in Himeji town, Hyogo Prefecture, 90 minutes Shinkansen ride from Kyoto JR station.
Osaka* (30 minutes) Japan's third biggest city, is no beauty but a powerful, down-to-earth, commercial centre offering great dining and nightlife, half an hour from Kyoto by train.
Kanazawa Kenroku-en (garden)
Kanazawa** (2 hours by express train i.e. not the Shinkansen) is home to a so-so castle; a quaint and tranquil, mud-walled samurai residential quarter; a wood-walled geisha district with a golden lining; but best of all is a totally knockout, massive and manicured traditional Japanese garden (picture above) that used to belong to the castle.
Koya-san** (2.5 hours, Mt Koya), a monastic complex encompassing over 100 temples including Okuno-in, one of the most sacred places in Japan and Kongobu-ji, the headquarters of Shingon Buddhism sect, where visitors can experience 'Shukubo' (temple lodging) at any one of 50 temples and eat Shojin-ryori (monk's vegetarian food). Seize the opportunity to participate in the morning prayers as well (if the ipod's broken).
2.5 hours by train via Namba and Osaka from Kyoto; a day trip is possible but a couple of days is better.
Photos: Tokyo | Kamakura | Japan Pictures | Kanazawa | Takayama Festival
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