Kyoto summers are hot, but there are plenty of spots where you can go to feel a refreshing coolness. Here are 5 of them to consider.
Sanzen-in is a temple part of the Tendai sect of Buddhism that is lush and cool even in the summer. Around the 8th century, this temple was built on Mt. Hiei as Enyubo, and then moved to the current location in 1871. Ojo-Gokurakuin, a hall within the grounds, used to be part of a different temple, but was moved to be included as part of Sanzen-in in 1871, and has a statue of Amida Buddha flanked by two attendant deities that has been registered as a national treasure. The shrine is surrounded by forest and the grounds are covered in beautiful moss, so you'll feel cool and calm just by looking at it. The Japanese garden and the jizo statues sitting in the moss are must-sees. You'll be able to feel coolness even in the hot summer thanks to the shade of the trees and the babbling of the river.
Entrance fee: 700 JPY for adults, 400 JPY for middle and high school students, 150 JPY for elementary school students
2. Kibune no Kawadoko
Kibune no kawadoko is a sight of summer in Kyoto. A kawadoko is a deck that juts out over or near a river so you can enjoy a meal while you're cooled by the breeze. Kibune, an area of Kyoto that's very popular for its inner parlors and is full of culinary ryokan inns in the long thin valley created by Mt. Kibune and Mt. Kurama, has about 20 restaurants that open kawadoko along the Kibune River in the summer (May to September). It's cool even in the blazing sun of midsummer and the breeze from the waterfall is practically a natural air conditioner. It's said that it's about 10ºC (~18ºF) cooler there than in the city. Since the kawadoko are popular, expect for it to be crowded. It would be good to make prior reservations.
Enjoying nagashi somen (fine white noodles flowing in a flume) or kaiseki course meal while listening to the murmurs of a river that is so close you can almost reach out and touch it is the best. Please experience this at least once.
2. Kibune no Kawadoko
3. Hozu River
The Hozu River, a valley river that runs from Kameoka to Togetsukyo Bridge in Arashiyama, is a river where you can enjoy riding downstream guided by a skilled boatman. It's about two hours, and just when you think you'll enjoy a calm, leisurely ride the whole way there, suddenly the current will pick up and it will turn thrilling! You can gaze at the sight of the beautiful, lush valley with boulders and strangely-shaped rocks throughout the seasons from an angle that you normally can't, so you won't get tired of the view even though the ride is long. While you can be fully satisfied with the sight, you can also enjoy taking photos and buying a light meal or drinks at a sales houseboat you meet on your way. Why not become one with the boat and the splashes of water and forget all about the summer heat?
4. Fushimi Inari Taisha
Fushimi Inari Taisha is a shrine that was built around 1,300 years ago. It's said to be beneficial to pray for success in business there, so it's a popular Kyoto tourism spot. It burned down in the Onin War in 1468, and the main shrine was rebuilt in 1499. Its dynamic and graceful appearance captures the hearts of visitors, and it's registered as an important cultural artifact. Also, Mt. Inari itself is part of the shrine grounds, so if you follow the path behind the main shrine you can do a circuit pilgrimage of the mountain. Halfway up the path, there's the famous vermilion torii gates called the Senbon Inari lined up in an innumerable amount. The light is filtered through so it's perfectly refreshing. It takes about 2 hours to reach the summit of Mt. Inari. It's fine to stop when you reach the main shrine, but it's also good to aim for the summit as a trekking adventure!
5. Chikurin no Michi
The Chikurin no Michi is a long road in Sagano that stretches from Nonomiya Shrine to Okochi Sanso, and it's a famous representative tourism spot in Arashiyama. The road is lined on both sides by bamboo reaching up to the heavens, so the entire scenery looks cool. The breeze that flows through the road is enjoyably refreshing. Nearby is Tenryuji, a Zen temple that has Kyoto's best Japanese garden using borrowed landscape. This is a technique in which a garden is designed so that the mountains, trees, and other features of the scenery outside of the garden look as though they are part of it. Visiting both places would be a good plan.
Please use this article to enjoy a refreshing time in the hot, humid Kyoto summers!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.