Known as the ‘Thousand-year-capital’, Kyoto the former regal capital city of Japan is located in a valley, part of the Yamashiro (or Kyoto) Basin, in the eastern part of the mountainous region known as the Tamba highlands. Having a centuries-old history, this former nation’s capital is a major hub of religious shrines, ancient palaces and hidden temples. But then don’t worry, if you get bored of visiting the religious places and need a break then too you won’t get disheartened, as Kyoto has a plethora of places to visit for fun and recreational activities as well.
So, let’s divide this into 2 main categories:
First, for the religious soul – Let’s be a little spiritual
Discovering Fushimi Inari-Taisha
Spread across a densely wooded mountain with endless arcades of vermilion torii (shrine gates), this massive shrine is undoubtedly one of the most impressive sights in all of Kyoto. As you explore the shrine, you will come across hundreds of stone foxes. The fox is considered to be the messenger of Inari. The Japanese traditionally see the fox as a sacred, somewhat mysterious figure capable of ‘possessing’ humans, the God of cereals. Fushimi Inari was formerly dedicated to the Gods of rice and sake by the Hata family in the 8th century. As time passed by, the role of agriculture diminished and the deities were enrolled to ensure prosperity in business.
Taking its name from two temples in Nara, Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji, the Tofuku-ji temple, located in south eastern Kyoto is famous for its spectacular autumn colors. People from all over Japan and abroad come here during the autumn months to witness its beauty. You can get the most spectacular view from the Tsutenkyo Bridge, which spans a valley of lush maple trees. Lush green gardens cover various precincts of Tofuku-ji. The moss garden in particular has been emblematic of the renewal of Japanese gardening principles in the 20th Century. Large number of Japanese maple trees is one of its main features and people from all over the world flock here to view the bright spectacular colors of autumn foliage.
Considered as one of the so-called Kyoto Gozan or “five most important Zen temples of Kyoto”, the Kennin-ji temple is the oldest temple in Kyoto. Founded by a very influential Buddhist priest Myoan Eisai, this wooden temple got burnt down several times and so the current temple structure dates only 250 years back. Eisai went to China twice in the 12th century and brought the teachings of Zen meditation and tea, which became the integral part of Japanese culture.
Enough of Spirituality, now let’s get some recreation
After a lot of travelling and roaming around, you are bound to feel hungry and if you have a sweet-tooth then here we have Kyoto’s famous Gion Sweets. If you are in Shijo then just take a short walk on the west side of Hanami-koji and there you can easily spot the traditionally built Gion sweets.
Famous for its moss covered gardens, Sahiho-ji is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites in Kyoto. Shaped like the Kanji character for a heart there is a pond at the center of the garden, which feels like a magical oasis. Colloquially the Saudi-ji is known as Koke-Dera, meaning moss temple.
Kyoto International Manga Museum
If you are a die-hard Manga lover then you must visit the Kyoto International Manga Museum. The museum is divided into multiple public zones. The first part is the gallery zone; next is the research zone and the third is the collection zone. There are permanent and special exhibits, a Tatsuike history room, a museum shop, and a kissaten. The 200 m of stacks hold 50,000 volumes in the “manga wall”, which can be taken down and read freely.
So, if you are planning to give Kyoto a visit then grab your passports and book your tickets in the month of autumn.
Visiting Japan and using the bullet trains
Travelling around in Japan is effective and fast via the bullet trains and that means you can be in a different city within hours. If you are planning a trip to Japan, we have recommendations of other cities to visit and places to see. Read our blog posts:
I am an addicted traveler based in Sydney, Australia and I explored Europe, North & South America, East Asia & South-East Asia. I love sharing my travel knowledge, I want to benefit my readers and give valuable travel advice.