Have you been to Kyoto in winter? The frigid winter in Kyoto is a time when you can enjoy snowscapes, illuminations, and other events that can only be experienced there. Here are five of the recommended spots in Kyoto where you can witness gorgeous winter scenery.
Official name: Rinzaishushokokujiha Kitayamarokuonjikinkaku
Kinkakuji (also known as the Golden Pavilion) is a sightseeing spot that has been a true symbol of Kyoto since it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. While its beauty needs no explanation, do you know that it also has a magnificent winter landscape? It is exceptionally gorgeous that they even have a saying that “people from Kyoto rush to Kinkakuji as soon as snow falls.” The 2015 snowfall marked the first time that the city witnessed snow in about 60 years, so the people there now can’t wait for the next time that they will get to marvel at the breathtaking winterscape at this temple. If you’re ever in Kyoto and it begins to snow, then how about rushing to Kinkakuji temple like the locals? There’s no doubt that you will be gazing upon a majestic view that you will never forget.
2. Kifune Shrine
Official name: Kifune Sohongu Kifune Jinja
Kifune Shrine has a history of being used for ceremonies to beg the gods for clear weather or rain. It is currently famous as a power spot for marriage and matchmaking, too. However, this shrine shows a whole new face when it is covered with snow during winter. It is actually a shrine that opens specially at night for worshipers and have illuminations only on days when there is snow. However, its event is different from those held at theme parks, shopping malls and other commercial establishments because here, it is the shrine that is lit up at night. The illumination further boosts the unique grandeur and tranquility of this place. You will feel deeply immersed in Japan’s mystical world of prayer when you witness this event. The atmosphere is completely different during day, so for shrine fans, you might want to check out Kifune Shrine both day and night if you can.
Official name: Rinzaishudaihonzan Nanzenji
Japan’s Nanzenji sect has a history spanning more than 400 years, and out of all the temples and shrines under this sect, Kyoto’s Nanzenji is the most prestigious. It may be famous for its autumn foliage as seen from the Tenjuan sub-temple that was built within this area, but it also offers a magnificent vista during winter. Nanzenji, which sits quietly still while snow is falling, will make you feel the unique kind of solitude that you see in old Japanese movies. The winterscape viewed from Tenjuan, which has a contrast of the pure white snow, the red corridors, and the black trees, creates a world that is all its own. You have to check out the winter scene at Nanzenji to thoroughly experience Japan’s unique brand of beauty that is called “wabisabi" (taste for the simple and quiet, and subdued refinement).
Official name: Rinzaishushokokujiha Higashiyamajishojiginkaku
Similar to Kinkakuji, Ginkakuji (also known as the Silver Pavilion) is a World Heritage Site. Unlike Kinkakuji, however, the winter scene at this site will make you feel a sense of melancholy. The white snow stands out against the black lacquer applied on the surface of Ginkakuji that is said to have no silver foil attached to it at all. The Muromachi Period (1336 – 1573), when Ginkakuji was built, is also the era when Japanese ukiyo-e ink paintings flourished throughout the country. Ginkakuji creates a winter scene where you can enjoy the simple beauty that interweaves the colors of lacquer and snow, which are the same colors of ink and paper, right before your eyes. So, if you are visiting Kyoto on snowy days, how about going to Ginkakuji after visiting Kinkakuji at dawn after a snowfall?
The winterscape that can be seen from Togetsukyo Bridge is absolutely gorgeous. When viewed from the bridge, Arashiyama blanketed in snow creates a dramatic vista both against the light of the morning and the glow of the sunset. This bridge produces a spectacular scene thanks to such detailed effects as its railings that are made of wood so that they melt in the Arashiyama landscape. In the presence of old-fashioned buildings and grand nature, you will probably feel like you have slipped back in time to ancient Kyoto during winter! You have to check out Togetsukyo in winter when you can feel the warmth of the ancient days of Kyoto.
Kyoto has a magic during winter when it is enveloped in white snow that is totally different from its beautiful landscapes created by cherry blossoms in spring and the changing colors of leaves in fall. So, how about making your own extraordinary memory of winter in Kyoto?
*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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