The very first capital of Japan, Kyoto was once the rich and bustling place where the Emperor and imperials resided in until 1868. Today, Kyoto houses Japan’s most number of temples, shrines and traditional houses. The maps divides Kyoto into 4 areas, north south east and west. If you’re popping by Kyoto for a day or 2 in between your trip to Japan, the best mode of transport round Kyoto would be renting a bicycle or just taking the public buses that runs through all of Kyoto.
Here’s our Singapore travel blog‘s top 5 popular attractions not to be missed when in Kyoto!
1) Kiyomizu Dera (Pure Water Temple) –Easten Kyoto
One of a world heritage sites on the UNESCO list, Kiyomizu Dera is one of the most popular temple in Kyoto. It dates back to the year 780, where it was on the Otowa Waterfall, where the temple’s name was derived from, literally. There is a wooden stage on the temple’s grounds, here you can admire a view of the numerous maple and cherry blossom trees during spring/fall. The interesting fact about this miraculous temple that’s located on top of a hill is that not a single nail was used in the building of both the main hall of the temple and the wooden stage.
*Note: When we last visited the temple, there were some major construction works going on, so we weren’t able to fully explore the area. It has since finished it’s renovation and we heard it’s really pretty now!
2) Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) –Northern Kyoto
True to its name, it literally is a Golden Pavilion and is a sight to be behold. It is a Zen temple fully covered in gold leaves that sparkle off the sunlight. You can admire the pavilion sitting in the middle of the pond from afar, and we’d recommend going during the cherry blossom seasons in March/April or during winter when the pond is frozen and the snow caps the roof and the surrounding trees, and you can admire its spectacular scene in its best.
*Note: Operating hours varies during the seasons, so it’s advisable to visit the pavilion earlier.
3) Fushimi-inari Taisha –Southern Kyoto
Lined with a thousand of vermilion torii gates, tourists walk the entire path through the thousand torii gates all the way to the forest of sacred Mount Inari. This shrine is dedicated to the Shinto God of rice, Inari, and when you’re there, you can observe many fox statues around the area, as foxes were believed to be messengers of Inari.
If you’re heading here, be prepared to climb an awfully long way up to the top. We didn’t know what was coming so we kept walking and walking and man were we exhausted! It took us close to 1.5hours to get to the very top and another 1.5 to get down. But other than a sense of accomplishment, there pretty much wasn’t any scenery on the top, so if you’re just here for the the photos with the iconic gates, the photo of yourself at the torii gates at the bottom of the hill would be good enough as it just gets repetitive after awhile.
4) Arashiyama -Western Kyoto
Situated in the outskirts of western Kyoto, well known for the Togetsukyo Bridge, which is its most iconic landmark, and lined bamboo groves, Arashiyama is one place you do not want to miss when you’re in Kyoto, no matter the season.
The lined bamboo groves is a pleasant place for walks and photoshoots!
5) Gion area –Eastern Kyoto
Kyoto has a rich history and its where the first Geishas originate. Gion is the most famous geisha district in all of Japan. Geishas sell their talents in the arts of music and dance to make a living in the olden days. In recent years, Geishas are still seen mostly around the Gion area especially in the evening, rushing from house to house to serve the guests and entertain them. If you’re lucky, you just might be able to get a photo with one or two of them. Ladies who are keen on dressing up in a kimono with full geisha make up, there are a number of shops that offer kimono rental and makeup services along the Gion area.
Other notable and popular items in Kyoto include Ginkaku-ji (Silver pavilion) and Nishiki fish market, however both of which after going, we thought it to be just alright. If you only have limited time in Kyoto, these 5 are our travel blog‘s recommendation of must see/do in Kyoto.
For those who prefer shopping, head to Gion-Shijo station via train and you would find yourself back in modern time where one would be able to find everything from malls such as Takashimaya to local street stores and even the highly raved about Ichiran Ramen!