Friday, March 31, 2017

KYOTO : The must-see places.

Kyoto was once the imperial capital and center of Japan. A city where a countless of temples, shrines and other historically priceless structures are found and are still standing up to this day and some were named as a World Cultural Heritage Sites. A place where it is rich in culture and tradition. There is something in Kyoto that attracts travelers from around the world, definitely its history and people.

Kyoto has been my favorite city in Japan since the day I laid my eyes and set foot in it. It always amuses me as everywhere you go it seems there are hidden stories behind each place which I am curious about. Here are some places which I think is a must-see in Kyoto Japan.


Arashiyama is located in the western part of Kyoto. It is famous for its bamboo forest but honestly, there are more interesting spots in this area than that. There are shrines and temples in the area, some beautiful garden and small shops where you can eat and enjoy local food.

Bamboo Forest In Arashiyama
Shinto shrine in Arashiyama
If you are fond of walking, just a tip is that if you walk further in the bamboo forest you can enjoy a tourist-free portion of it. I randomly walked around the area and I found a Japanese traditional house open to the public where you can check what it looks like inside. The locals within the area are also offering their own tea ceremony at a small fee, this way you can get a chance to experience and interact with locals.

A random neighborhood in Arashiyama.
You are welcome to check inside.
Train Tracks and tourist riding a rickshaw
On the other side of Arashiyama by crossing the Togetsukyo Bridge, there are also interesting places to visit such as shops and small villages.

Togetsukyo Bridge

For me, I would say that the minimum time to spend in Arashiyama would be a half day to a week, If you are visiting for a couple of hours then I am afraid you would not enjoy the beauty of the area.


Kinkaku-ji is a zen Buddhist temple located in the northern part of Kyoto. It is one of the famous buildings in Japan making up the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which are World Heritage Sites.

Visiting Kinkaku-ji requires an admission fee of 400 yen.

Ticket to Kinkaku-ji

The Kinkaku-ji has 3 floors in it. The upper two levels are made up of Gold Foil on lacquer covers which echo the extravagant Kitayama culture that developed in the wealthy aristocratic circles of Kyoto during Yoshimitsu's times. Each floor represents a different style of architecture. A shining phoenix stands on top of the shingled roof.

Closer look of the Golden Pavilion
The Golden Pavilion

The first level is built in the shinden style of the 11th- century imperial aristocracy; the second level is in buke style of the warrior aristocracy(used in samurai residences) and the top level is in the Chinese zenshu-butsuden style.

The Golden Pavilion

Inside Kinkaku-ji is a pond and islets which are the center of the garden. Rocks within it are donated by various provincial lords of the period and placed throughout the garden. The garden is listed as a National Special Historic Site and Special Place of Scenic Beauty.

After passing the Golden Pavilion, you will then pass some small temples and gardens. The gardens hold a few other spots of interest including Anmintaku Pond that is said to never dry up, and statues that people throw coins at for luck.

Landscape inside the Golden Pavilion

Traditional Houses inside the Golden Pavilion
Tourist sending their offerings for luck

After the gardens, it will lead you to Sekkatei Teahouse. In this area, you will find souvenir and food shops.

Going to the shops

For me, I would say that the minimum time to spend in the Golden Pavilion would around 2-3 hours depending if you want to enjoy your tea time.

Fushimi Inari-Taisha

Fushimi Inari is a shrine located below the Mt. Inari. It is located down south of Kyoto. It can be accessible by bus from Kyoto Station (you can use the Kyoto Bus Pass) or via Train. From the bus stop or JR Station, it would take around 5 - 10 mins walk to reach the shrine itself.

Fushimi Inari

Arriving at the shrine, you will then be greeted with a huge Torii Gate. Fushimi Inari has been a patron of Businessmen, merchants, and manufacturers as Inari is a God of Rice. Each Torii gate you see in the shrines are donated by businessmen with their names engrave in it. It is said that if you placed a Torii gate in this shrine it will bring you luck on your business or your endeavors. Small Torii gates are sold around the area if you wish to try your luck.

Piles of Torii Gate

Fushimi Inari has lots of different shrines within it and there are lots of temples to go through as there is a hiking trail leading to the peak of Mt. Inari. Most tourist who came here only limit themselves into the array of Torii gates which is located near the foothills of the mountain. Either they are lazy to go up or they are just there to enjoy their selfie time. Little do they know the more you go farther from the base the less crowd you can get, so you'll probably like own the entire area and you can get the picture-perfect photo you've always wanted.

The Hiking Trail Map
The hiking trail usually takes around 2hrs depending on your pace and if you do a lot of some small stops on some of the temples and shrines that interest you. There are also vending machines along the way and the prices would really soar up depending on how far you are from the base. There is also a small lake along the way and place where you can place/offer your small torii gates you bought.

Piles of small Torii gates with the small lake behind it

It was almost dark when I started to climb up the mountain. The more you go up, the fewer people you can meet or see. Climbing alone and in the dark creates a fearsome mood as there are cemeteries along the way and it is creepy to think of.

View from the top (almost halfway, though)
Reaching the summit really is rewarding for some but do you know what's on the top? To be honest the summit is a bit of a bummer for me, I was expecting a more impressive view of the city but instead, it was a temple or a cemetery(not really sure what it is). Even said that it is still worth the climb, how would you know what's on the top by going through it right? Although it was not what I expected (my expectation was a bit high), I still learn something and seeing the history and tradition of the area plus I also burn lots of fats.hahah

Signage on the top
Temple / Cemetery at the top

For me, I would say that the minimum time to spend in the Fushimi Inari would be around 2 - 4 hours depending if you want to do the hiking trail. I still recommend the hiking part especially if you do it at night time.

Kiyomizu Dera

Located halfway up Otowa Mountain in the eastern part of Kyoto, Kiyomizu-dera is a historic temple that was established in 778, even before Kyoto became the capital of Japan. The temple has been burned down many times and the current building was rebuilt by the third Shogun.

The Main Hall(Hondo) of the temple is designated as a national treasure. The temple was registered on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.

I decided to visit Kiyomizu-dera at night as I heard there are special night viewing on spring and might as well check how it looks like at night. The entrance fee was around 400 yen for adults and 200 yen for students.

Temple in Kiyomizu-dera 
Children show at Niou- Mon gate

Niou-mon is a magnificent gate in the Maromachi style. The gate is called "Akamon (Red gate)." When I visited it there were children singing just below the gate.

Children show at Niou- Mon gate

The two most famous parts of the temple are the Main Hall, where the Eleven-Headed and Thousand Armed Kannon Bodhisattva - which is famous for its power of answering prayers - is enshrined, and Kiyomizu Stage, the veranda of the Main Hall, which extends over a precipice.

A Pagoda just after the entrance

A huge bell right after the entrance.
Upon entering the temple, I was curious on an exhibit that depicts how ancient Buddhists usually lived and do in a basement. For a donation of 100 yen, you get the chance to experience to go through an underground passage which was very dark with barefoot and without any light to go through the other end of it. It was a quick and a bit scary journey but then I will leave it to you on what you will see underground once you are there.

Tourist paying their tribute
Kiyomizu-dera is the temple of the Goddess of Mercy, a symbol of religious belief for more than 1,200 years.

I went to the Main Hall and the view was fascinating at night. You can see the entire city of Kyoto with its colorful lights.

View from the Hall
It was relaxing seeing those lights that shine like diamonds. The gardens were also lit up well and it was very serene.

A small pond inside the temple

The area was so big that I even don't know which parts to check first as all of them are inviting. So I just randomly go through each of them once and then went back to the exit part. Upon reaching the exit, I heard a girl playing on traditional Japanese music beside the Niou-Mon Gate, so I decided to stay and listen for a while. It was really relaxing listening to it to as it is like you are transported back to ancient Kyoto.

Japanese Girl Playing Traditional Music

For me, I would say that the minimum time to spend in the Kiyomizu-dera would be around 3 - 5 hours depending if you want to relax and enjoy the beauty of it.

There are lots of places to go to and things to do in Kyoto like the Gion Area to see a real Geisha, The Imperial Palace in Kyoto, Philosophers walk. Traditional Onsen and much more. Kyoto has been my favorite city in Japan out of the city that I've been to and will definitely stay here for the next visit that I will make in Japan.

The above temples/attractions are my recommendation if you want to check the best of Kyoto and are having a limited time and hard time choosing for which temple/attraction to visit.

Have you been to Kyoto? Share your stories and experiences below.

1 comment:

  1. Arashiyima is such an awesome place the scenaries are really still wondering how I had no idea about this location bearing in mind I was in japan over the holiday anyway thanks for sharing ekoy