Just two hours away from Tokyo, Kyoto is the slower pace of life often missed in Tokyo. Kyoto was the capital of Japan from 794 until 1868 and had major historical and religious significance. There are over 2000 temples, some that are inhabited by monks that you can see going about their daily tasks within the city and temples. Kyoto is the embodiment of Japan you think of in all of the movies, and in this blog, we will be diving into the can’t miss temples while visiting the spectacular city of Kyoto.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple is one of the most famous temples in Kyoto. The main hall sits atop the Otowa Waterfall and received its name from the sacred waters of the falls. At the temple, the waterfall is said to have three rivers that if you drink from them, you will receive love, longevity, or success. Aside from the main hall and waterfall, the Okunoin Hall is the second largest hall and houses a shrine to Shaka Buddha, the historical Buddha. Getting to the temple is often a pilgrimage of a different kind. There are vendors that cater to tourists and locals alike.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
The second temple that is a must-see is Fushimi Inari Shrine. The main hall is beautiful, and you can pay your respects at the temple; however, visitors come to the temple to explore and reflect on the trail system on the temple grounds. The trail to the summit of Mount Inari takes about 3 hours. The first section of the trail is the Senbon Torii, which means thousands of Torri Gates. Along the rest of the hike, you’ll find beautiful views of the city of Kyoto.
Another temple nestled high in the mountains is Rokuonji, known as Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion). It was originally built as the retirement villa of one of the leaders, Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Every floor of the building is designed from a different era and influence. The top two floors are where the nickname Golden Pavillon comes from. The walls are built in the style of a Chinese Zen House and are covered in gold leaf. Prior to his death, Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu donated the grounds to the Rinzai sect as their zen temple. Since then, the area has suffered many fires, and the Kinkakuji is the only building left standing on the grounds. While you can’t explore these rooms, the land itself is a fantastic place to take in and explore the beauty of the temple.
The is a lot of legend behind the Kifune Shrine. It is said that a goddess traveled the journey upriver from Osaka and her boat landed high in the mountains in Kibune, and the temple was built right where her journey ended. The Shrine was dedicated to the god of water, rivers, and the protector of the sea. One of my favorite things about this Shrine is that you can receive a fortune on a piece of paper, and it can only be revealed when dipped in water. You can also visit the spot where the goddess boat is buried, marked by the boat stone. After seeing this Shrine, you can also make the one-hour hike to Kurama-dera, a small mountain Buddhist temple, and hot springs in the town of Kurama.
Located in the eastern mountains of Kyoto, Seiryuden is part of the Shogunzuka Mound. The Sieryuden ground is sacred because it is said to be the land where Emperor Kanmu first saw Kyoto and decided to make Kyoto the ancient capital city. In the temple, a painting depicts the Buddhist deity Fudo Myoo surrounded by flames holding a sword and a rope. Outside the temple is the rest of the mound with observation decks to experience what Emperor Kanmu first viewed when searching for a new capital.
These are just five of the 2000 temples in Kyoto where you can be transported to another time and world. We can work together to plan the best places and temples to visit. Schedule a consultation to begin planning your travel back in time to Kyoto, Japan.