It is said that there are more than 1,600 temples in Kyoto. Until Tokyo is recognized as the capital around the 19th century, Kyoto was the center of culture as the capital of Japan since the latter half of the 7th century. Therefore,Many temples were built there.We will introduce the best information to deeply enjoy Kyoto temples.
The Best Temples In Kyoto
Kinkakuji (World Heritage) was built in 1398, and is a garden and buildings surrounding the golden tower. It's said that this is where Sukhavati (Amitabha's Pure Land) is in the material world. On nice days you can see the backwards Kinkaku reflected in the water, and it's a great time for a photo. Kinkakuji in the winter after a snowfall is also particularly gorgeous. The contrast of the white and the gold will catch your eye.
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Ryoanji (World Heritage) was built in 1450. This temple is home to a traditional, white-soil dry garden surrounded by a wall on 3 sides that was designed so that no matter what angle you look at it from, 1 of the 15 rocks placed in it is hidden.
The reason it was designed like that is because in Asia, the number 15 is said to be perfect. Since one of the rocks is hidden, it signifies imperfection. This design is meant for the viewer to discover what they are lacking inside of themselves, and how they can continue living without forgetting the gratitude they should have.
Actually, it's said that if you look at the garden not from the hall but from the abbot's chamber, you can see all of the rocks. Please look for it. Also, the moss garden next to the rock garden is great for experiencing the Japanese philosophy of wabisabi (quiet simplicity and subdued refinement). The space lets you sit and reflect in silence for as long as you'd like, and if you go on a rainy day, you can enjoy a different view.
It isn't much of a stretch to say that Kiyomizudera is Kyoto's most famous temple. The most important sight is the impressive main temple that juts out from a high elevation and is often called the "stage of Kiyomizu". That impressive sight seems to make everyone that sees it a little emotional. You can enjoy the view from different angles, such as looking down from the stage or looking at the stage from the side. In the spring it blooms beautifully with cherry blossoms, in the summer it is filled with powerful greenery, in the fall the trees become painted a fiery red, and in the winter everything becomes blanketed in sparkly white snow, so no matter what season you visit in it will be a lovely sight. If you continue north from Kiyomizudera you'll hit the preserved districts of Sanneizaka or Sannenzaka, a pair of lanes that have beautifully preserved Kyoto's ancient architecture and atmosphere. You can go here to buy souvenirs and eat a delicious meal, so please enjoy both the temple and the town.
Rengeo-in, which is more commonly known as Sanjusangendo, was built by the order of the retired Emperor Goshirakawa in 1164. The main temple building seen today that was completed in 1266 is the longest wooden structure in Japan, measuring approximately 120 meters. Within the Rakuchu (currently the area within central Kyoto), it is the second oldest building next to Daihoonji Temple. The inside and outside of the shrine may be unpainted today, but when it was repaired in 1930, gorgeously colored patterns emerged, so it was concluded that temple was quite colorful at the time that it was built. What are famous about Sanjusangendo are the orderly lined wooden standing statues of Senju Kannon. You'd surely be surprised when you see that all 1,001 images of Kannon have different faces. They say that if you look closely, you will see a Senju Kannon statue with the face of a person you want to meet. So, when you visit the shrine, look at the faces of the Kannon images and find that one person you want to see.
Out of all of the shrines and temples in Kyoto, one that we really recommend you visit is the Fushimiinari Shrine. Fushimiinari Shrine is the head shrine of the apparently 30,000 shrines dedicated to Inari-no-kami, the god of the harvest and of food. When visiting the main shrine, we also recommend taking the sando, or path to the shrine, known as the “Senbon Torii", or thousand gates. These torii gates donated by visitors to the shrine continue all the up to the peak of Mt. Inari behind the shrine. This magical yet photogenic sight feels as though you are traveling to another world. It takes approximately one hour to reach the peak of the mountain.
Kifune Shrine is an old shrine at the source of Kamo River. It is in an area often referred to as the "inner parlor of Kyoto", where the murmur of Kifune River and the rich greenery helps one forget the hot summer. It is not clear when it was established, but legend says that Tamayori-hime (Princess Tamayori, mother of the legendary first emperor of Japan, Jimmu) appeared on a yellow boat that traveled from Osaka Bay up Yodo River and Kamo River, and built a shrine for the water deity at what is now known as Okunomiya. It has been revered by successive emperors as the shrine to pray for rain, and is also famous for its matchmaking benefits. There are three shrines along Kibune River - the Main Shrine, Okunomiya, and Yui no Yashiro - so enjoy the walk while visiting them! Don't forget to get fortune-telling papers that are placed in a small basin of holy water in order to get divine messages from the water deity to appear.
Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
Kitano Tenmangu is the head shrine of Tenmangu and Tenjin-sha, which has about 12,000 shrines throughout Japan. Built in 947, it is a distinguished shrine that has come to be widely worshipped in Japan and lovingly called by the name “Kitano no Tenjin-san”. Its enshrined deity is the god of academics, Sugawara no Michizane, so throngs of students taking tests come here each year to pray for success.
Ginkakuji (World Heritage) was built as a mountain villa for a warrior in 1482. The Togudo building is the oldest remains of a building that was used in everyday life, so it's registered as a national treasure.
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Tenryuji (World Heritage) is famous for the dragon that looks at you from all sides painted on the ceiling of the Hattou, the room where the chief priest gives lectures. You can feel overwhelming power from the dragon. You can't take photos of it, so please burn the image of it into your mind's eyes. Also, the Sougenchi garden is a popular spot in the fall.
Ninnaji is a temple famous for its Omuro cherry blossoms as well as its very long history, having been built in 886. It has deep ties to the imperial family, as shown by its other name Omuro Gosho ("gosho" means the imperial palace), and their head priest was a member of the royal family until the Meiji era. Ninnaji has 2 gardens, both surrounding the shinden (a palace building used for ceremonies and rites). The southern garden has cherry blossoms growing on the left and tachibana (inedible kind of citrus) on the right, and in front there is white sand as well as pine and cedar trees to make a simple garden. On the other hand, in contrast to the southern garden, the northern garden has a lake around which you can walk to enjoy the elegant view.
Kenninji was built in 1202 by Eisai, a priest who spread Zen Buddhism throughout Japan, and it's Kyoto's oldest Buddhist temple. On the grounds there's Daiouen, a karesansui garden made with white sand, moss, and boulders, as well as the square karesansui gardens named Chouontei and ○△□ Garden. It's said that ○△□ represents all things in the universe, as well as symbols of Zen Buddhism's ideology: ○ is water, △ is fire, □ is earth. All of the gardens have their own taste, and it's a bewitching temple that will have you lose track of time.
Toufukuji, a temple famous for its autumn foliage, is a huge temple that took 19 years starting in 1236 to build. The chamber of the chief priest in Toufukuji is surrounded by 4 gardens, one in each cardinal direction. There are many gardens in Kyoto, but Toufukuji's gardens are the only one surrounding the chief priest's room at all sides. The garden created by Shigemori Mirei in 1939 uses the unaffected and sincere garden style from the Kamakura era when the temple was first built to create a modern karesansui garden. All of the gardens have their own style but the particularly recommended gardens are the northern and western checkerboard-style gardens.
Daitokuji was built in 1325, and it's one of Kyoto's largest Zen temples. On the wide grounds, there are 24 sub-temples. Among them, the 4 temples Ryougenin, Zuihouin, Daisenin, and Koutouin, usually allow visitors. They each have gardens worth checking out, but the karesansui garden that's part of Daisenin is particularly famous. This garden, designated a national special place of scenic beauty, uses only rocks to express the waterfall that flows between Tsurushima and Kameshima from Mt. Horai becoming a large river and then a large ocean. On the other hand, the southern garden uses two piles of white sand to simply represent a large ocean.
Experience tours to enjoy the temple of Kyoto deeper
- Fushimi-Inari is famous for its 10,000 red gates, however you can take the chance to look deeper and discover the meaning behind the gates and the wishes of people there.
- The host is a local specialist who brings travelers on more than 100 tours of Kyoto’s most beloved destinations each year.
- Learn about hidden, sacred sites from yourhost’s anecdotes of travels off the beaten path.
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- Bishamondo Shorin-ji
- Rinzai-shu Daihonzan Nanzen-ji
- Zuiganzan Enko-ji
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- Drink Matcha at a Special Seat, and Then Stroll Inside the Temple Grounds
- Recommended! Drop By This Spot
ーOther Recommended Tours in Kyotoー
Experiences List for Kyoto
Catch, Roast, and Enjoy Your Very Own Delicious Eel in Kyoto
- Catch fresh domestic eel yourself, cook it, and enjoy with a special sauce.
- Your host who has over 40 years of experience running an eel restaurant will teach you the secret to cooking delicious eel.
- Enjoy the famous Uji green tea along with your eel. Easy access to the nearby Byodo-in temple.
- Take a new look at Kabuki theatre, by recreating the art through calligraphy.
- Learn Kanteiryu calligraphy at a teahouse in Miyagawa Town, a history district where you can often find geisha as they stroll through town.
- A chance to pick calligraphy for your own name, or learn how to say and write your favorite characters.
Shop Like a Local in Kyoto and Find the Best Souvenirs
- Explore the side streets of Kyoto, away from the touristy areas to find little shops with things you can only buy in Kyoto.
- To those that are on a tight schedule and are busy visiting all the tourist spots, let's find the best Kyoto souvenirs in a short period of time.
- A Kyoto local will show you around the streets of Kyoto and guide you to the recommended spots. We also accept any special requests that you may have.
Kyoto Walking Food Market Tour with Arigato Japan
- Feast on a mouth watering 7 course lunch featuring beautiful and delicious local dishes.
- Meet and hear the stories of the families running the market stalls in Nishiki, Kyoto.
- Taste pickles, tofu, seafood, sweets and more!
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*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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