Reminiscing about my time in Japan always brings fond memories. Back in 2015, I was fortunate to travel there on my own and visit Kyoto, which was the former Imperial capital of the country. The city is vast, well preserved and extremely culture rich. It’s one of my favourite destinations that I have visited.
With over 1000 Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, palaces and gardens, Kyoto has maintained its ancient sites beautifully and its heritage is felt throughout the city. The destination boasts many UNESCO World Heritage sites in Japan. If you have a chance to travel to this visually stunning location, here are some sites that you should visit.
This Shinto shrine is based at the bottom of Mount Inari. The famous torii path is situated across the mountain, trailing up to the top and leads to smaller shrines along the way.
Founded in 711, the site has the Romon gate at the entrance with the main shrine hall located behind. At the rear of the main grounds of the shrine, the hike path begins with two parallel rows of gates named Senbon Torii, which is translated to thousands of torii gates. These gates were donated by many companies and people, which their names are marked at the back of each torii.
Fushimi Inari is one of Kyoto’s most iconic sites and is very popular for visitors to come and pay their respects, explore the mountain and go through the hike trail through the many torii gates.
Opening hours: 24 hours
Based in Western Kyoto, the Arashiyama district is a hit with locals and tourists who wish to experience a calm and serene setting away from the busy streets in the city centre.
During the cherry blossom season (beginning early April) and the autumn leaves season (beginning early November), this area is particular brimming with global travellers. Tenryuji Temple is one of the beautiful sites based in Arashiyama where many flock to marvel at its serene grounds.
Opt to take a leisurely bike ride around the district. Not to be missed is the walking paths within great bamboo groves, the stunning Togetsukyo Bridge and Iwatayama Monkey Park up in the mountains.
Opening hours: 24 hours
As one of the most celebrated temples in Japan, this site offers amazing views overlooking Kyoto, where the Kyoto Tower can be seen in the distance.
During the autumn leaves season, The Otowa Waterfall is situated at the base of the main hall and is a stunning feature where many visitors drink from the three streams.
Whilst exploring the temple grounds, check out the Okunoin Hall and Koyasu Pagoda. During the autumn season and the annual Hanatoro event in March, special night illuminations are displayed around the temple and other sites in the Higashiyama District.
Opening hours: 6am to 6pm (till 9pm during seasonal periods)
Admission: 400 yen
The Golden Pavilion is situated in northern Kyoto and was once the retirement property of shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. After his death, it was converted to a Zen temple.
With its top two floors covered in gold leaf and overlooking a huge pond, this structure is an iconic site unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Entry isn’t permissible in the pavilion however there is much to admire on the exterior.
Around the grounds, there is Fudo Hall and a Tea Garden for visitors to utilise and a dedicated pathway to go around the gardens. Kinkakuji cannot be missed on a visit to Kyoto.
Opening hours: 9am to 5pm
Admission: 400 yen
Based in the south east of Kyoto, this large Zen temple and its complex is an important representation of Zen Buddhism within the city.
With the vast grounds, there are many features to see when visiting Tofukuji. This includes Sanmon Gate, the Hondo, Kaisando Hall and the Hojo.
During the autumn leaves season, this temple is extremely popular due to having a valley of maple trees that burst into warm autumn colours. The view from Tsutenkyo Bridge is a visual treat.
Opening hours: 9am to 4pm (extended hours during seasonal periods)
Admission: 400 yen for entry to specific buildings
Inspired by Kinkakuji, the Silver Pavilion was built by shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. Like his grandfather Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the building was his retirement villa and also converted to Zen temple after his death.
Situated in the east of Kyoto, this building became an important part of Higashiyama culture. The surroundings are filled with beautiful greenery and calm ponds. There is a conserved sand garden known as Sea of the Sand, the Hondo and the Togudo.
Whilst exploring the grounds, visitors can go up the walking paths, passing through bridges and streams. The pathway will go up the hill where a great aerial view of the entire Ginkakuji grounds can be seen. When heading to the site, opt to walk there through Philosopher’s Path.
Opening hours: 8.30am to 5pm (shorter hours during winter season)
Admission: 500 yen
These sites are just a small selection of places that I highly recommend visiting when roaming the city. However, there are so many temples, ancient spots and gardens to see that you’ll be spoilt for choice whilst going around Kyoto during your stay in Japan.