Places to visit in Kyoto

Rich in history, and once the imperial capital of Japan for more than a thousand years, Kyoto is a truly beautiful city to visit and explore. The city has a rich cultural heritage and one can find some of the most beautiful temples, shrines and gardens in Japan, as well as old districts such as Gion famed as being a Geisha centre.

Getting to Kyoto from Tokyo will take about 2 hrs 20 mins by Shinkansen Bullet Train, The journey is pleasant and comfortable and meals can be purchased on the train. Usually we will buy food and drinks at one of the food stores on the platform or drinks from the vending machines as the selection is so vast. One of the great things about the journey is that you will have fantastic views of Mount Fuji out of the right side windows as long as the weather is clear, so if at all possible, try to choose a seat on the right side of the train.

These are some of the places that I have visited in Kyoto, but I am planning another visit soon as there is so much more to see.

Kinkaku-ji Temple (the Golden Pavilion)

Also known as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji is a Zen Buddhist Temple that has the top two stories completely covered in pure gold leaf. It is one of Japan's most famous World Heritage sites with a history that stretches back more than 700 years.

View at the entrance to the grounds

Moss-covered grounds and trees

A gate within the temple compound

Outer buildings in the temple compound

Outer buildings in the temple compound

The Golden Temple with reflections in the pond

Golden Temple or Golden Shrine

Kinkaku-ji Temple

Raking the leaves

Trees growing on tiny rock islands

Hakuja-no-Tzuka, White Snake Mound Stone Pagoda

Walking through the wooded gardens

Small buildings near the exit

Vending Machines near the exit

Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine

The Fushimi Inari shrine is perhaps the most famous of all the shrines in Kyoto due to it's thousands of vermilion coloured Torii Gates that wind their way across the slopes of Mount Inari. Just the walk alone through the torii gates can take two hours.  Scattered on the mountainside are many more smaller shrines and at the base of the Shrine can be seen thousands of small bamboo prayers.

It takes just 5 minutes by train from Kyoto Station to arrive at Inari Station and it is only a short walk to the entrance gate of the Shrine.

Main Entrance Gate

Sakura begins to bud

Prayers on Bamboo Tiles

Local products for sale outside the shrine

A store outside the shrine selling local products


Gion is an ancient district in the city of Kyoto dating back to the Middle Ages. Originally established to accommodate travelers who came to visit the Yasaka Shrine, Gion developed into the most famous Geisha district in the whole of Japan.

Today Gion is a truly charming area with old style tea houses, restaurants, cafes and all kinds of shops selling high quality and traditional goods as well as souvenir shops. People can be seen walking the streets dressed in kimonos and traditional clothes, both locals and tourists. Tourists themselves can pay for the pleasure of being made up like a Geisha and wear kimonos and walk around the district. Along one of the backstreets runs the small Shirakawa river where one can find so many interesting places to eat and explore.

These are some of the photos that I took in Gion.

The Shirakawa River with sakura and a Japanese stork in the river

A bridge leads to a restaurant on the banks of the Shirakawa River

A Japanese Stork

A Japanese Stork flies over the Shirakawa River

Rickshaw rides are available

Tourists with full Geisha make up and outfit in Gion

Willow tree on Minami-Shirakawa Street in Gion

Old houses on the Shirakawa River, with the stork from my earlier photos

The Shirakawa River in Gion

The Shirakawa River

House front on Minami-Shirakawa Street in Gion

More views of Gion


Kiyomizu-dera is one of the most spectacular temples in Kyoto. Founded in 778 AD, its present buildings were constructed in 1633. The amazing thing about it is that not a single nail was used in its construction. The main hall of the temple has a large veranda, which is supported by wooden pillars and provides visitors with a wonderful view over the city of Kyoto.

I visited Kiyomizu-dera in early April just as the cherry blossom or sakura was beginning to bud. Another two or three weeks would have seen wonderful sakura throughout the area.

Disembarking from the bus which we had taken from Kyoto Station, there are several Buddhist Temples scattered around the side of the hill. The most accessible was a temple across a stone bridge at the end of a small road. We didn't visit the temple as we were pushed for time, but did take some photos of the bridge.

We walked along Gojo-Zaka road which is actually quite a long walk before arriving at the foot of the Kiyomizu-dera Complex.

Finally we arrived at the foot of the complex, and could see the vermillion coloured entrance gate of the temple.

On entering a temple in Japan it is customary to carry out a ritual purification by washing the hands and face before entering the temple proper. The temizuya is the water basin usually located just inside the temple gates, or on the main pathway up to the temple. Ladles are provided to wash the hands and face.

Some more photos of Kiyomizu-dera:

A few more photos of Kiyomizu-dera.

Once leaving the temple complex there is there is a street full of interesting shops selling food, souvenirs and traditional goods.

Ponyo at a Studio Ghibli store...

My Neighbour Totoro.

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