one day Kyoto tour example:
JR Kyoto station start = Bamboo forest (from 9:50am / 30min）＝Tenryuji temple (from 10:20am / 50min) ＝Moon crossing bridge（from 11:20pm / 20min）＝Lunch in Arashiyama town（from 11:50am/ 60min）= Ryoanji temple(from 1:00pm / 50min) = Golden pavilion (from 2:10pm / 60min) = Gion street (from3:40pm / 50min) = Return to JR Kyoto station
JR Kyoto station start = Kodaiji temple (from 9:40am / 50min）＝Maruyama park & Yasaka shrine (from 10:40am / 50min) ＝Heian shrine（from 11:50pm / 40min）＝Lunch near Heian shrine（from 12:50am/ 60min）= Nijyo castle(from 2:20pm / 60min) = Nishiki market(from 3:40pm / 50min) = Return to JR Kyoto station
The big difference between the tour spots in Kyoto and that of other city is that Kyoto had been the capital of Japan for around 680 years such as from 794 to 1185 as Heian era, from 1300 to 1590 as Muromchi era comparing with Nara as 84 years (710 – 794), with Kamakura as 136 years (1185 – 1321), with Osaka as 10 years (1590 – 1600) and with Edo as 264 years (1603 – 1867). Also, the period emperors had lived in Kyoto as around 1400 years (794 – 1867), comparing with Nara as 84 years and with modernized era as around 151 years (1868 – 2019).
Therefore, there are so many important sites of Temples and Shrines that are related with lots of great emperors, top Samurai worriers , Temples monks and so-on.
I would like to introduce the various tour spots in Kyoto for each direction area so that you can select the best for your Kyoto tour. Kyoto tour spots area can be roughly divided by areas that are located in East, West, North, South and Center of Kyoto down-town.
In each area above, you can find lots of historical architecture , beautiful scenery of nature and time honored atmosphere of downtown with mostly consumed local foods of Kyoto, culture such as Maiko & Kimono and various type of souvenir.
Following are the representative of Kyoto tour spots for each direction in Kyoto.
East area: Kiyomizudera-temple, Ginkakuji-temple, Heianjingu-shrine, Sanjyusangendo-temple, Philosophers’ walk, Ninenzaka,
West area: Arashiyama, Togetsukyo, Tenryuji, Bamboo forest (Chikurin), Mt.Iwata Monkey park, Kinkakuji-temple, Ryoanji-temple,
Central area: Gion, Nijyojo-castle. Kyoto Imperial Pakace, Kodaiji temple, Nishiki market, Higashihonganji-temple, Yasaka shrine, Maruyama park, South area:Toji-temple, Fushimiinaritaisha-shrine, Byodoinhouodo-shrine, Tofukuji-temple、
Arashiyama, also known as Sagano, is one of the time-honored travel destinations located on the western outskirs of Kyoto. Offering a breathtaking panorama of serene Mt.Arashiyama, Togetsukyo, or “Moon Crossing Bridge”, is the major landmark of this scenic spot featuring various tourist spots such as Tenryu-ji Temple and spectacular bamboo groves.
Tenryu-ji temple is a top-ranked among the Five Great Zen Temples of Kyoto which is one of the 17 World Cultual Heritage-listed monuments in Kyoto and famous for strolling-style garden. This temple was originally constructed in 1339 by Ashikaga Takauji who is one of the Shogunate of Muromachi era (1336~1573). Hatto Hall below is the hall where important ceremonies are held.
You can see the big picture welcoming you. This is Bodhidharma. Zen Buddhism was founded by Bodhidharma. It is said that he did “Zazen” for 9 years to reach enlightenment with sitting and meditating facing a stone wall.
You can look at Tenryuji Sogenchi Teien (Landscape garden) while sitting on the veranda. This garden shown in below photo is a borrowed landscape garden which show you the elegant natural Japanese paintings combining with both aristocratic culture and Zen culture with incorporating Mt.Arashiyama, Mt.Kameyama and Mt.Ogurasan into the scenery. The main important view of this pond is the third-tiered dry waterfall with no water consist of large rocks. You can see a rock between the first and the second dry waterfalls rock. According to Chines verb, a carp ascends a waterfall to become a dragon. Therefore, you can imagine the rock above might be a carp.
Houjou hall below used to be the living quarters of the chief priests. You are allowed to walk around the tatami mats rooms. The rooms are separated by Japanese walls, paper screens called “Shoji” and sliding doors called “Fusuma”. As shown in below photos, Japanese style houses luck privacy with no key locked, however, this style can enlarge the room space available by opening and removing the sliding doors. You can also see Japanese style room element such as alcove called “Tokonoma”as shown below. This alcove place is a characteristic place where hanging scrolls and flower arrangement are placed. You can see Suiboku-ga called Indian paintings depicted on “Fusuma”as shown below. The subjects painted on these “Fusuma” are nature, animals, birds and flowers.
This bamboo forest is one of the most impressive spots for many tourists coming to Japan.Bamboo is the symbol of vitality because it grow up very quickly. Bamboo crafts is used in the tea ceremony and flower arrangement. After leaving Tenryuji out from one of the gate, the bamboo forest called “Chikurin” come into your eyes immediately. This bamboo forest continue to the end of the road by aound 400 meters. This area used to be the villa of the aristocracy in Heian era (end of 8th centyry ~ end of 12th century) and you can feel subtle and profound world even after 1000 years passed.
This bridge is named “Togetsu-kyo Bridge”. It literally means “Crossing the moon”. This bridge was at first constructed by an ancient priest in around 840. By seeing this bridge, you can see various beautiful sceneries according to the change of each seasons. Mt.Arashiyama of west side of the bridge is registered as the place of scenic beauty and natural monument in Japan.You can enjoy cherry blossoms in April, fresh green in summer, graceful autumn leaves in fall and clean white snow landscape in winter. Current bridge was completed in 1934 with 155meter length and 11meter width. There are so many sceneries of this bridge found in the past many movies and TV dramas. By going through the side of Katsura-river to east, you will see the bridge from the distance to be closer as shown below.
Iwata Monkey park:
Mt.Iwata Monkey park is located near in the west side of Togetsu-kyo Bridge. There are around 120 number of Japanese macaques living in the wild. After you enter the entrance of the monkey park with paying admission fee, you can enjoy light trekking onto the Mt.Arashiyama mountain road for about 20 minutes with enjoying the mountain scenery and reach the top of the mountain. The Japanese macaques are characteristic of red face and behind and the height is around 50cm ~ 60cm. They are well accustomed with us and receive special foods from us with very humorous faces. From the top of the mountain, you can see overview of Kyoto city.
Kinkakuji Temple :
Kinkakuji-temple is the Golden Pavilion built on the compound of the Rokuon-ji, a Zen Buddhist temple, which is designated as one of the 17 World Cultual Heritage-listed monuments in Kyoto. It is a three-story building in the garden complex unique to the Muromachi period (1399 – 1573), with its top two stories covered with pure gold leaf. – First story as the palace style – Second story as the samurai house style – Third story as sacred relic of the Buddha. Originally the villa of an aristocrat, it was purchased and renovated in 1397 as political center by the third Shogun of the Muromachi period.
The Golden Pavilion was built by Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in 1397, at the height of the Ashikaga Shogun’s power. You can see an upside-down Golden Pavilion in this pond of called the “Mirror pond”. It looks as if there are several small islands of rocks in the pond. The island in the center symbolizes Japan.
Ryoanji trmple :
This temple was constructed on the year of 1450 and re-constructed after burned out by Ounin-war during 1467 – 1477. The traditional dry landscape garden inside Ryoanji-temple is the most famous stone garden in the world which are introduced to the world by Queen Elizabeth 2 who visited the garden in 1975. The number of 15 stones are arranged on the white sand of the garden.
Yasaka shrine :
This shrine is the symbol of Gion festival which is one of the biggest festival of Kyoto. It is said that this shrine had started in 656. This shrine had been worshipped by many people in ancient period including Samurai top worriers and common people. People had prayed to ward off evil spirits in this shrine.
Maruyama park :
Maruyama park is the oldest park in Kyoto city opened in 1886 which is located just east side of Yasaka shrine. It is a stroll garden with a central pond and the best Cherry blossoms sightseeing spots in Kyoto.
Kyoto Imperial palace:
Kyoto Imperial palace is located with 250 meters from east to west and 450 meters from north to south. Current palace was re-built in 1855 around the end of Edo era. Inside the palace, there are six gates of four directions and several court palaces where previous emperors had been ascended. Also, there is an elegant garden with large pond.
Kyoto Imperial Palace where you can feel the architectural styles of aristocratic residence in the Heian period had been the royal residence before the Meiji Restoration. The main feature of this elegant palace is the Shishinden, where solemn enthronement ceremonies have been held for more than 1,000 years. The other important landmarks include the Seiryoden and Otsunegoten where the earlier and last emperor had lived, respectively, along with a strolling style Oikeniwa Garden.
Heian Jingu shrine:
This shrine was built in 1895 to commemorate 1100th anniversary of the transfer of nation capital to Heia-Kyo (Kyoto). The deity of this shrine is 50th emperor Kanmu.and the last emperor of Heian era Koumei.
During this Edo era (1600 – 1867), another center of culture in Edo had started in parallel with that of Kyoto as capital of culture. Nijyujo-castle was built in Kyoto in 1603 for the use of Edo government interim staying place in Kyoto where the capital had lasted more than 1000 years history. In the ground chamber of this historical castle, the last shogun Yoshinobu announced the return of government power to the emperor just before the Meiji restoration in 1868. The Ninomaru palace in the castle is famous for its floor that give a squeaky sound just like a nightingale’s song while people walking through the floor. This palace is also well known for a strolling-style garden with pond containing three small island.
Higashi Honganji :
This temple is head temple of the Jodo shin sect of Otani sect of Shinshu. In Goei-do Hall, the portrait of the holly priest Shinran is installed and in temple Hall containing an enshrined image of Amitabha, the principal image of Amithaba is installed. Goei-do Hall was built by many people who adore the priest in the area of his tomb land after his death. This is the beginning of Higashi Honganji.
Kodai-ji Temple is located north east of Yasaka Hokanji Temple at the foot of Higashiyama Ryozen Mountains in Kyoto. This temple was built by the wife of Hideyoshi Toyotomi who was the top worrier in Japan and unified Japan at the first time. The temple was established in 1606 by Kita-no-Mandokoro (1548-1624) in memory of her husband Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598) who established to unify Japan for the first time in Japanese history. Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) (the first Tokugawa shogun in Edo period) supported Kita-no-Mandpkoro to finance the construction of the temple. As the result, we can see magnificent appearance of temple buildings and gardens as follows. Currently Kaisando (Founder’s Hall), Otama-ya (Sanctuary), Kasatei (Teahouse), Shiguretei (Teahouse), Omotetmon (Gate to Sanctuary) and Kangetsudai (Moon Viewing Pavilion) are designated as important cultural properties of Japan. Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Kita-no-Mandokoro are enshrined in “Otama-ya” and their graves lie under the state of Kita-no-Mandokoro.
Kyoto Gion Town :
Gion is the area of entertainment, where there are many bars and taverns. Some important business and political talks have been conducted. You may run across Maiko and Geiko, Japanese entertainers in kimono.
This market arcade length is around 400 meters and 130 stores are lined on the arcade. Various stores are selling foods and serving restaurants.
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