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11 Places You Have to Visit in Kyoto

Kyoto, which is a place full of history and culture, is popular not only among tourists from abroad, but also among domestic travelers. It is filled with fantastic sights to see, and in this article, we will introduce some special spots you won't want to miss.

2015.12.25
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1. Beyond the Numerous Torii Gates is Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimi Inari Shrine (Fushimi Inari Taisha) is one of the must-sees among the many temples and shrines in Kyoto. It is the head shrine of approximately 30,000 shrines across the country dedicated to Inari-no-Kami, the deity for grains and other foods. In addition to the Honden (Main Shrine), be sure to visit the Senbon Torii, a path leading up to Mt. Inari behind the shrine lined with endless torii gates donated by temple visitors. Its mystical appearance, which photographs wonderfully, seems to draw you into another world. It takes about 1 hour to trek to the top of the mountain.

1. Beyond the Numerous Torii Gates is Fushimi Inari Shrine

2. Bamboo Grove, a Path Lined with Vibrant Green

Bamboo Grove (Chikurin-no-michi) is a path lined with verdant bamboo growing straight up toward the sky. It is an area not to be missed if you are in the area around Arashiyama and Sagano. The bamboo that grows over the path from both sides creates a beautiful sight all year round. The light coming through the bamboo on a sunny day and the gentle sound that the bamboo leaves make in the wind are so relaxing you may forget the passage of time. It is said that aristocrats once lived in the area around Arashiyama, where the bamboo forests are. You can imagine the people taking relaxing walks in in these forests 1,000 years ago. Visit during the week or early in the morning if you want to avoid large crowds.


2. Bamboo Grove, a Path Lined with Vibrant Green

3. The Fantastic Views of Kiyomizu-dera Temple

You'll want to visit the "stage" in the Hondo (Main hall) of Kiyomizu-dera Temple, which juts out into the air, in order to see a panoramic view of the entire city of Kyoto. There is also a full view of the stage from Okuno-in hall near the Hondo. Kiyomizu-dera Temple is currently undergoing extensive renovations. While it is still open to the public, the renovations will not be completed till the year 2020. There may not be a complete view of the Hondo at present, but there is still a lot to do around Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka streets that lead up to the temple are wonderful places to see a quintessentially Kyoto townscape. The early evening, when the dim lights are reflected on the cobblestones, is the best time to get a sense of the ancient city of Kyoto.


3. The Fantastic Views of Kiyomizu-dera Temple

4. Kinkaku-ji Temple, Where People are Enchanted by the Shimmering Gold

The shimmering Kinkaku-ji Temple is covered with approximately 20kg of gold leaf. Yet, it is in perfect harmony with the surrounding mountains and ponds, and has a sense of timeless beauty that does not appear gaudy. It presents a different visage each season, with the cherry blossoms in the spring and colorful foliage in the fall, but it is particularly beautiful in the winter when the snow falls. Try to see it in the snow if you can! The amulet you get in exchange for the entrance fee also makes a great souvenir. The Kinkaku Soft Ice Cream store that serves soft serve wrapped in gold leaf is nearby, so be sure to stop by.

4. Kinkaku-ji Temple, Where People are Enchanted by the Shimmering Gold

5. Go to Gion to See the Maiko

Gion is one of the most famous areas of Kyoto, and is home to many many high-end tea houses, restaurants and bars. Walking around Hanamikoji-dori or Ishibori-koji is a great way to immerse yourself in a uniquely Kyoto atmosphere. If you're lucky, you may be able to see a geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha). If you want to see real maiko at work, go to the Maiko Theater that opened in 2016. Most places where maiko work do not accept first-time guests, but this theater offers options to have a variety of experiences, such as to see the maiko dance, have them serve you tea, or have a conversation with them. The maiko seen up close are enchanting. This is a place to experience their sophisticated hospitality and performance skills.

6. Nishiki Market - Kyoto's Kitchen for 400 years

Nishiki Market, a food market with approximately 130 shops lining a 400m-long street, has been selling food to support Kyoto's kitchens for 400 years. The street is narrow, so when it is crowded, it can become difficult to maneuver around. It is a wonderful place not only to purchase food, but also to look for souvenirs and try a variety of Kyoto specialties from sweets to savory items.

7. Teramachi-dori, a Shopping Street to Purchase Outstanding Items from Kyoto

Teramachi-dori is a street lined with retro shops, including one that has been around for 300 years and a Western-style confectionery that opened more than 100 years ago. It is a fun street to walk down and look at the shops' facades. You can also purchase souvenir items unique to Kyoto at such places as the Japanese tea store, Ippodo, and the stationery and incense store, Kyukyo-do.

7. Teramachi-dori, a Shopping Street to Purchase Outstanding Items from Kyoto

8. Feed Wild Monkeys at Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama

Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama is quickly becoming a major Kyoto tourist destination, thanks partly to the news that a famous Hollywood star visited there. There are approximately 120 wild Japanese macaques living there that you can see up close. You can even feed them if it is from the hut that acts as a rest area. You'll need to walk for about 20 minutes from the entrance to the rest area, but it is well worth the experience. There is also a fantastic view of the city of Kyoto from an altitude of 160m—you can even see Kyoto Tower on a clear day.

8. Feed Wild Monkeys at Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama

9. The Beautiful Gardens of Nijo Castle

Nijo Castle (Nijo-jo) is registered as a World Heritage Site. Within it, the Ninomaru-goten Palace, where the shogun worked and lived, is a huge palace with 33 rooms and a total of 800 tatami mats. Walk on the nightingale flooring (floors laid to deliberately make noise) and enjoy the gorgeous pictures on room partitions and on ceilings. Outside, there are three different gardens, including Seryu-en Garden, which combines elements of Western and Japanese gardens, and Ninomaru Garden, which is distinguished by the splendid arrangement of stones positioned so that they are beautiful when seen from any angle.


9. The Beautiful Gardens of Nijo Castle

10. Kyoto Tower, the Symbol of Kyoto

The area from B1F to 2F of Kyoto Tower has been renovated and reopened as Kyoto Tower Sando, a place where you can enjoy food, shopping, and workshops. One of the unique workshops offered here is for making samples of sushi and other foods. There are lots of opportunities to experience Japan's unique culture. On the 2nd floor, there are shops selling cosmetics, food, and local sake from Kyoto, so you'll be able to get some fabulous gifts to take home.


10. Kyoto Tower, the Symbol of Kyoto

11. Amanohashidate - Kyoto Has More than Just Shrines and Temples

Amanohashidate is highly recommended, even though it is a bit away from the center of Kyoto. It is considered to be one of the three most scenic spots of Japan, and has long been famous for its beautiful views. The landscape with approximately 8,000 pine trees on a 3.6km sandbar is unusual, and has been dubbed "Amanohashidate" meaning "heaven's bridge". This area is also famous for its great food made with fresh ingredients from both the land and sea.


11. Amanohashidate - Kyoto Has More than Just Shrines and Temples

It is said that there are more than 1,500 Shinto shrines and 3,000 Buddhist temples in Kyoto. It has numerous tourist destinations and reveals a new appeal every time you visit! If you go to the places introduced here when you go to Kyoto, you are sure to have a fantastic time.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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Writer: mirin

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