Fushimi-Inari Taisha, the boss shrine of more than 40, 000 Inari shrines throughout the country, this is one of oldest in Kyoto. A pathway through hundreds of red torii (photo here) is quite an experience.
Best Kyoto Temples
Best Architecture in Kyoto
Hoo-do (Phoenix Hall), Byodo-in temple, Uji. Photo by 663highland
Katsura Rikyu, an Imperial villa with a fine teahouses and outstanding classical Japanese garden. This exquisite Japanese structure shows how Kyoto buildings could coexist with nature. Advance bookings only!
Sanjusangen-do (do=hall) temple is known for its 1, 001 wooden statues of Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy), and for the 100-meter main hall which houses the statues, Japan’s longest wooden structure.
Byodo-in, a building resembling a Phoenix (featured on the 10 Yen coin), is one of the few remaining Heian period pieces. The temple, reflected in a pond, is one of Japan’s most magical man-made sights.
Best hidden treasures
Moss garden at Saiho-ji. Photo by Andreas Tack
Sanzen-in Temple, located in the quiet town of Ohara (10 km north Kyoto) has a moss-covered Yusei garden surrounded by cedar trees, one of Japan’s most photographed gardens.
Saiho-ji, also known as the Moss Temple since its garden is covered with a mossy carpet, is truly a gem, but unfortunately viewing is by tour reservation only and requires plenty of time and money. However, nearby Jizo-in, known as the bamboo temple, has a similar ambience but no entry fuss.
The Kyoto National Museum is the place to see fine Japanese art – including more than 200 National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties.
If you are Otaku or a comic lover then Kyoto International Manga Museum is the one to impress with a collection of 300, 000 Japanese comic books; but no sukebe manga (erotic comics).
Best cherry blossom sights
Hanami party at Maruyama Park. Photo by Japanexperterna. Is that gaijin having a hay-fever attack? !
Also popular are:
Ninna-ji Temple with its five-storied pagoda.
Kamigamo Shrine, a Shogun favourite.
Daigo-ji with 1, 000 cherry trees including sacred weepers.
Kodai-ji, near Kiyomizu-dera, is popular for its illuminated garden on spring and autumn evenings.
The 90, 000sqm Maruyama Park with its enormous shidarezakura (willow-like cherry tree), is a popular venue for hanami (blossom viewing) parties.
Amazing Haratani-en near Kinkaku-ji, is a private and pricey garden open only in cherry blossom season.
Kyoto maiko (junior geishas) in the early evening before heading off for work. You too can dress like this and shuffle round town with no shape, no stride and a pancake face after a Geisha makeover. Photo by Flowertourism.
Kyoto offers a host of traditional Japanese cultural activities such as:
Geisha/Maiko makeover (yup, guys too).
Experiencing or learning the tea ceremony ritual.
Calligraphy (drawing Chinese characters).
Ikebana (flower arranging).
Origami (paper folding).
Zazen (zen meditation).
The city has many theatres and halls for traditional dramatic arts such as Buto, Kabuki, Nō or Geishas. If you didn’t get to sleep the night before then these will help!
If you are a movie fan, touristy ‘Toei Uzumasa Movie Village’ park, an open-air samurai movie studio, maybe of interest.
An example of Kaiseki-bento (lunchbox). Photo by 663 highland
Kyo-ryori (Kyoto cookery) is regarded as one of Japan’s gourmet centres.
Healthy Yu-dofu (hot pot tofu dish) particularly near Nanzen-ji zen temple, is a winner – even with carnivores – especially in cold winter months.
If you are confident in Japanese table etiquette and carry a fat wallet, try Kyo-kaiseki (Kyoto haute cuisine) distinguished by the use of purely seasonable ingredients. Its quality and delicacy is the ultimate in Japanese cuisine, but intimidating even for Japanese people.
Arts and crafts
Kiyomizu-yaki, one of Japan’s distinguished ceramics developed in Kiyomizu-dera area.
Nishijin-ori, glorious silk weave textile, known for its lavish gold brocade.
Kyo-washi (handmade paper).
Kimonos decorated with Yuzen dye, and so on…
Try the Kyoto Handicraft Centre, the best place for souvenirs.