9 best sites around Kyoto in Japan

1、Nijo Castle

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Nijo Castle in Kyoto was built in 1603 as the official Kyoto residence of the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu. It is not your typical Japanese castle, but more of a palace style castle. Nijo Castle was constructed as a demonstration of the shogun’s power and prestige and to signal the demise of the emperor. The castle has some amazing architecture and one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. Nijo Castle was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

You can explore Nijo-jo at your own pace, and handy audio guides give great explanations of what you’re seeing. Entry is through the impressive Kara-mon gate, whose sharp angles are intended to slow an attack. The path from the Kara-mon leads to the Ni-no-maru Palace, whose five buildings are divided into various smaller chambers. Inside the central hall, costumed mannequins are frozen in the Tokugawa shogunate’s dying moment, returning the government to the Emperor. The impressive garden was created by landscape designer Enshu Kobori shortly before Emperor Gomizuno-o’s visit in 1626. Crane- and tortoise-shape islands symbolize strength and longevity.



Kiyomizudera (“Temple of the Pure Water”), is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Kyoto, Japan. Located dramatically on the side of a cliff in the eastern “Higashiyama” district of the city, right next to the famous geisha district of Gion, Kiyomizudera is the headquarters of the “northern branch” of the Hosso sect of Japanese Buddhism, and receives more visitors annually than any other temple in Kyoto.

Kiyomizudera is usually approached from Gion via the famous winding “Sannenzaka” street. Visitors then head up a long street lined with souvenir shops and shops selling tasty Kyoto meibutsu such as yatsuhashi. Finally arriving at the top of the hill, visitors pass the massive orange saimon (“Western Gate”) and the iconic sanju-no-to (“Three-story pagoda”, the tallest three-story pagoda in Japan), before entering the main temple.

The main hall of Kiyomizudera, dedicated to Kannon, the bodhisattva of mercy, juts out over the edge of a 13-meter precipice, on a platform supported by 139 massive pillars hewn from the trunks of Japanese cypress trees. This platform, called the “Kiyomizu stage” in Japanese, is famous throughout Japan, and was the origin of a Japanese proverb “to leap from the Kyomizu stage”, which is the equivalent of the English proverb “to take the plunge”.

3、Kinkakuji(Golden Pavilion)

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Kinkakuji (金閣寺, Golden Pavilion) is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Formally known as Rokuonji, the temple was the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and according to his will it became a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect after his death in 1408. Kinkakuji was the inspiration for the similarly named Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion), built by Yoshimitsu’s grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, on the other side of the city a few decades later.

Kinkakuji is an impressive structure built overlooking a large pond, and is the only building left of Yoshimitsu’s former retirement complex. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history including twice during the Onin War, a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto; and once again more recently in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955.

After viewing Kinkakuji from across the pond, visitors pass by the head priest’s former living quarters (hojo) which are known for their painted sliding doors (fusuma), but are not open to the public. The path once again passes by Kinkakuji from behind then leads through the temple’s gardens which have retained their original design from Yoshimitsu’s days. The gardens hold a few other spots of interest including Anmintaku Pond that is said to never dry up, and statues that people throw coins at for luck.

Continuing through the garden takes you to the Sekkatei Teahouse, added to Kinkakuji during the Edo Period, before you exit the paid temple area. Outside the exit are souvenir shops, a small tea garden where you can have matcha tea and sweets (500 yen) and Fudo Hall, a small temple hall which houses a statue of Fudo Myoo, one of the Five Wisdom Kings and protector of Buddhism. The statue is said to be carved by Kobo Daishi, one of the most important figures in Japanese religious history.


Ginkakuji(銀閣寺,Silver Pavilion) Temple, is perhaps the epitome of understated elegance, of wabi sabi.

Ginkakuji is a Zen temple in eastern Kyoto, at the northern end of Philosophers Walk. It represents the pinnacle of the Higashiyama Culture of the Muromachi period. Ashikaga Yoshimasa first began plans for this temple in 1460 C.E.

It is today affiliated with the Shokoku-ji branch of Rinzai Zen and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.The main temple structure is the Kannon Hall. Construction began on February 21, 1482, and was based on the Golden Pavilion.The original plans called for the exterior of the main building to be covered in silver foil – hence the “Silver Pavilion” moniker. Though this never came to be, the nickname stuck.

The temple grounds abut the eastern hills of Kyoto and are wooded. In addition, there is a Japanese garden, in the middle of which is a lovely sand garden whose neatly tended pile is said to symbolize Mount Fuji.

The temple was renovated in 2008.
5、Fushimi Inari Shrine

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Fushimi Inari-taisha, located on the mountain of Inari-san, in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, is known as the headquarters of all the Inari shrines nationwide, said to total 40,000. The shrine is believed to have been built in 711 by one Hata-no- Irogu, who came over to Japan from the continent, and the Hata family administered the shrine over many generations. The shrine is sacred to Uka- no-mitama-no-kami who presides over the five cereal crops and was originally worshipped as the god of foods and agriculture, but later as the god of commerce and fisheries as well. Even now, people praying for prosperity in business worship Uka-no-mitama-no-kami. At the beginning of the year, the shrine bustles with crowds of visitors praying for happiness throughout the year.


Sanjusangendo (Rengeo-in) was originally built by Taira no Kiyamori for retired emperor Go-Shirakawa in 1164 and dedicated to Kannon. The temple features a huge hall containing 1,001 figures of Kannon carved in the 12th and 13th centuries.

“Sanjusangendo” means a hall with 33 bays. The number 33 is sacred in Buddhism, for it is believed that Buddha saves mankind by disguising himself in 33 different forms. The 33 bays hold 1,001 statues of Kannon-Bosatsu! Each small image is 5 1/2 feet tall, carved out of wood and leafed in gold. In the center, the principal image of Kannon is 11 feet tall.

The whole building covers 1001 Buddhist statues, making it one of the most impressive display of the kind in Japan (or even worldwide). The largest statue in the middle represents the Thousand-Armed Kannon (the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy), although she actually has only 40 arms, each said to save 25 worlds.

Kannon is flanked by 500 smaller statues on each side. The statues are quite similar in size and appearance, but the facial traits of each of them is unique, and visitors like to compare them with family members or acquaintances.

28 very fierce-looking statues of Hindu gods (Buddhism being closely related to its parent Hinduism) are lined up in front of the 1000 buddhas and Kannon statues. They all have their name written in Kanji and romanized Sanskrit.

7、Kokedera (Moss Garden Temple)


Kokedera (Moss Garden) in Kyoto is home to 22 different kinds of moss. Basically it is a garden where moss is covering most of the ground. It is believed to be the first designed garden with moss in Japan. I went during the fall and the autumn leaves were especially beautiful situated against the mostly green moss garden. I have been told that summer, during the rainy season, is a nice time to visit as the sunlight does wonders to the beads of water on the moss…that is of course, assuming it is not raining while you visit.

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Arashiyama is located western Kyoto city. Around the area of Togetsu Bridge including the mountains are commonly considered as Arashiyama. The actual name is Saikyo Ward. It is very popular for Sakura and Koyo, the autumn leaves. The entire sites are registered as national historic site and scenery.

Because of its beautiful nature and scenery, Arashiyama had been used to be 2nd house resort for Nobles and the imperial families since Heian period. Therefore, there are many beautiful temples, and traditional houses. It is one of the best spot to walk around Kyoto.

Also, around the stations (Arashiyama has three stations.), there are many gift shops, food stands and restaurants for tourist.



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Gion district of Kyoto is home to many geisha houses and traditional tea houses. In the evenings you can see geisha walking in Gion.
Gion originally developed in the middle ages, in front of Yasaka Shrine. Gion is the best place in Kyoto to see geisha and maiko in the streets, but they don’t normally come out until it is dark or almost dark on their way to entertain people during their dinner at one of the tea houses or restaurants in Gion.

This part of Kyoto has two hanamachi (geisha districts): Gion Kobu and Gion Higashi. Despite the considerable decline in the number of geisha in Gion in the last one hundred years, it is still famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment. Part of this district has been declared a national historical preservation district.