Kyoto Markets – Ultimate guide to the Best 2 not to be missed
Kyoto Markets are a nice addition to an itinerary of temples, shrines and gardens which should not be missed. There are, typically undated information on the best flea markets in Japan, so, here, I have just listed two which are Kyoto’s MUST GO! Must SEE! and A Must BUY! experience. These are Kobo-san flea market at Toji Temple and Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.
1 | Kobo-san flea market at Toji Temple, Kyoto Markets
You will find one of the popular Kyoto Markets on 21st of each month. This popular one is called Kobo-san flea market which is at one of Kyoto’s most historic of temples, the To-ji Temple (East Temple). Toji Temple is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a five-storey pagoda, 57 metres high (187 feet), which was founded in 796 but due to lightning strike, was rebuilt in the Edo period by Tokugawa Iemitsu (1600).
The market is called ‘Kobo-san’ to honour the Buddhist priest, Kukai, who brought Shingon Buddhism to Japan and founded the temple in 796. After his death on 21st March 835, he was honoured with “Kobo-Daishi” title.
1.1 | A bustling Kyoto Market from dawn to dusk
On this one-day each month, the Temple itself becomes a secondary stage. The grounds of the Temple, turns into an enormous and liveliest market area, bustling with tourists and locals in search of antiques and good bargains. There is an incredible variety here and you can find pretty much anything that you might be looking for. The market opens at sunrise and as the sun begins to set, you will note the stalls start to pack-up and prices fall to a dramatic low!
1.2 | Kimonos are a bargain at Kobo-san Market, Kyoto
There are over 1000 stalls where you can find beautiful vintage and cultural products such as second-hand kimonos, shoes, hats, hand-fans, ceramics, chopsticks, books and prints. I bought a few kimonos for 500 Yen each, not just for use but to use the fabric for other creative ideas such as handbags or purses. These kimonos are exquisite vintage fabric and can be used to create modern garments. Modern garments with an exquisite vintage fabric would be lovely, I think. Would you agree?
These kimonos were of top quality fabric and was well worth the money! There were some for even 300 Yen! Just keep looking and you will find the stall 😊.
This is also one of the very few markets where you can negotiate and bargain over the products.
1.3 | Street food at Kobo-san Market, Kyoto Markets
The Kobo-san flea market is not just about bargain-hunting. It is also a great opportunity to experience the variety of Japanese street food on offer here, from yakitori (grilled meat on skewers), takoyaki or the Hiroshima style okonomiyaki.
If you are feel like having something substantial, you could try the okonomiyaki. It is a Japanese-style savoury pancake, topped with layers of cabbage, meat, noodles and a choice of octopus or fish, with lots of okonomiyaki sauce (a combination of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce, sugar or honey).
You can view the post on Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki on a previous blog I wrote:
Takoyaki is a popular Japanese snack. It is ball-shaped, made of wheat flour batter and cooked in special moulded pan.
These dough balls are filled with pieces of octopus, pickled ginger and onions but you can hardly taste the ginger or the onions. It is topped with takoyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce) and Japanese mayonnaise, sprinkled with aonori or green laver (an edible green seaweed) and sometimes, shavings of dried bonito.
I must admit that takoyaki is not one of my favourite of Japanese food. People differ in taste, therefore I suggest that you try it at least once!
1.4 | Travel tips and Useful information on Kobo-san Market, Kyoto Markets
Give yourself plenty of time to explore.
Give yourself plenty of time to explore. You can easily get lost here, amongst the huge crowd. The enormous market area is like a maze and on occasions navigating around the stalls and re-tracing your steps may be a little challenging. So, give yourself plenty of time to get lost here and experience the authentic market atmosphere.
Mornings are best for choices
Mornings are best if you want choices and are looking for specific items such as antiques or silk kimonos. If you are looking for a bargain, after 3 pm would be best as the sellers will reduce the prices to get rid of their stock. I visited the market at about 10:00 and it was already beginning to pick-up the crowd but was still pleasant. However, by midday, it was really crowded and queues were building up around the food stalls.
Tip:If you are looking for a bargain, try after 3 pm where sellers reduce their prices to at least half so they can reduce their stock.
1.5 | Getting to Kobo-san Market
Kobo-san Market is within the grounds of Toji Temple. Toji Temple is situated in Minami-ku, There are couple of ways to get here.
i) Kobo-san Market is easily accessible via the modern Kyoto Station, a 15-minute walk southwest through the Omiya and Kujo Street intersection. Be warned, this walk is not really that interesting as there is not much to see except busy streets amidst heavy traffic. 15-minutes is quite a long walk, if you think about it.
If you don’t fancy the walk, the nearest station, which I used, is the Toji Station.
Toji Station is on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line. It takes about 5-minutes to reach Toji Temple/Kobo-san Market. You can see the pagoda from the street outside the Toji Station.
1.6 | Access
Entry to the market and the grounds are free but there is a small charge if you are planning on visiting the pagoda and the surrounding buildings.
1.7 | Conclusion on Kobo-san Market, Kyoto Market
Despite the crowd, Kobo-san Market is a place for antiques, trinkets and good value kimonos. There are other selections of traditional garments and hand woven pieces of material which you can purchase too. In addition, there are a great selection of street food for you to taste. For an authentic Japanese traditional market, I would recommend that you visit the Kobo-san market.
My second of the two Kyoto Markets which you should not miss is the Tenjin-san Market at the Kitano Tenmangu-Shrine.
2. Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto Markets
The Tenjin-san market at the Kitano Tenmangu-shrine is held on 25th of each month. There are well over 1000 stalls, in and around the shrine. There are rare ornaments, silk kimonos and yukatas for a bargain, plants, pottery and antiques.
There is a huge selection of street food stalls for every taste-bud! The aroma of the yakisoba just draws you…which is mouth-wateringly delicious, cooked right in front of you.
The market is open from the break of dawn till late, 9 pm, but has early closing hours in the winter.
2.1 | Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto
The Kitano Tenmangu Shrine was built in 947 AD in honour of Sugawara no Michizane, who was unfairly exiled by the political rivals of his time. He was a scholar and a politician during 794 AD to 1185 AD which represents the middle Heian period.
Sugawara no Michizane
Sugawara no Michizane was incredibly talented. He read poems at the age of 5 and wrote Chinese poems at the age of 11. Shrines were built to appease him, and he became known as the “god of academics.” He led the popular “Tenjin faith” throughout Japan. The Kitano Tenmangu is the main shrine and the origin of the faith, and there are 12,000 shrines that are dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane.
The Kitano Tenmangu shrine is popular amongst students during exam time and during school trips.
2.2 | Tenjin-San Market, Kyoto Markets
What makes this flea market unique and will be well-worth your visit is the mixture of stalls within the traditional shrine setting. The grounds are large and there are many buildings such as the main shrine which is situated behind the worship hall (this is where the deity is enshrined). The worship hall is connected by the Ishi-no-Ma-Hall which one can visit.
In addition, there are the Sanko-mon Gate and the Ro-mon Gate. So, when you get tired of the bustling crowd and need some space and quiet, you can just wander off to the calmness of the shrine and the gardens, or to enjoy your meal.
Tenjin-san market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine sits within a large beautifully landscaped gardens. It is peaceful, quiet – an area of total zen from the bustling crowds just a few hundred feet away.
2.3 | Travel tips and Useful information on Tenjin-san Market, Kyoto Markets
Getting to The Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
The Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu shrine can be accessed directly by Kyoto City Bus numbers 50 and 101 from Kyoto Station. It is about 30 minutes ride and costs 230 Yen.
There is a quicker route – take the Karasuma Subway Line to Imadegawa Station and then take the bus number 102 or 203.
In either case, get off at the Kitano Tenmangumae bus-stop.
Admission is Free.
2.4 | My Conclusion on Tenjin-san Market, Kyoto Markets
Tenjin-san Market is a popular market visited by both tourists and local, especially by students as they pray for wisdom and academic success in observing the Tenjin faith.
I was pleasantly surprised when I visited here. The architectural design was exceptional and the many lanterns just caught my attention. In addition, I watched a show performed by the students of the Shinto faith who sang and danced depicting an ancient story. Unfortunately, I did not understand the story and photography was not allowed. I enjoyed it and it was Free.
If you are considering a visit to a market with a difference, then visit Tenjin-san market, where you will not only what the market offers but also architectural delight and a closer look at Shinto practices.
3 | Ways to experience the cultural city of Kyoto.
If you are looking for some ideas on places to visit, Get Your Guide has some excellent value for money tours. Please click on the link below and have a browse. These ideas can help you plan your next visit to Japan.
Japanese cuisine and food culture offers an abundance of gastronomical delight with limitless choices in regional and seasonal dishes. Encompassing many traditions passed on from generation to generation and these traditions are also very regional. Developed through political, economic and social changes, the Japanese cuisine is historically much influenced by its neighbour, China. Popularly associated with rice and fish as being the staple dishes, tofu cuisine is also a staple of Japanese diet. Commonly found as little white cubes in miso soups, tofu is a generous ingredient in ‘nabe’, a kind of ‘hotpot’ which is a winter dish. Tofu is often substituted for meat or eaten in addition to meat and vegetables. It is a valuable source of plant based protein and an essential ingredient in the vegetarian cuisine of Buddhist temples, ‘shojin ryori’
Japanese tofu recipes combines simple preparations, exciting flavours and textures. Above all it is super versatile – a tofu paradise to say the least – prepared and eaten in more ways than one . In this article, I share one such experience and a little historical background to Tofu.
What is Tofu?
“Tofu” or bean curd is food made of soy milk. The soy milk is then pressed into solid white blocks. The ‘solid’ white blocks can be of varying softness – silken, soft, firm or extra firm. Originated in China and was introduced to Japan in the late 8th century, during the Nara period (710-794) by Zen Buddhist monks.
Tofu was historically a luxury food
Tofu was the luxury food of the Shoguns in the early Edo period (1603-1868), and farmers were only allowed to eat on special days. Today, you can enjoy an exquisite meal of tofu, from starter to main course and dessert in a traditional Japanese setting at Yodofu Sagano in Kyoto.
Yodofu Sagano | Arashiyama KYOTO
Yodofu Sagano is tucked away in a quiet part of Arashiyama, within a breath-taking traditional Japanese style garden. The dining experience is one of its kind because you get treated to flute music, tatami mats and cooking at the table. It is a unique, relaxing dining experience, where food is leisurely served by servers in Kimonos.
The tofu “paradise” comes as a set meal, where the main course is “Yodofu.” Yodofu is tofu simmered in a light dashi broth, in a clay-pot right in front of you! There are several other small dishes, about nine of them in small bowls including deep fried tempura vegetables, rice and tsukemono pickles. Dessert and unlimited tea are also included.
A set meal is around 40,000 Yen which may seem pricey for a tofu-based vegetarian meal. You can get absolutely stuffed with dish after dish of tofu prepared in various ways! Moreover, it is the dining experience of having a good, clean meal in a tranquil, un-rushed setting which makes it a worthwhile experience.
How to find Yodofu Sagano
Yodofu Sagano is not an easy place to find because it is tucked away in a quaint part of Arashiyama and it what looks like a private estate. It is on the grounds of Tenryu-ji Temple. You need to go around the corner, past the Shinto statues and you will find the gate to the main entrance.
If you take the address down (below) and have it on google maps, you will find it. Choose the traditional setting over the western one. An indoor experience will give you an authentic feel.
The inner garden is absolutely beautiful, with moss covered grounds, bamboos and trees that provide ample shade. So make time to stroll and enjoy the tranquillity of the garden.
I think you know what my final say is going to be…have this restaurant on your list when you visit Arashiyama, Kyoto.
Have this address on google map so you can find Yodofu Sagano
Enjoy an evening of colours and sunset at one of the largest water fountains in the world
Lake Biwa is located in Shiga Prefecture, on the northeast of Kyoto. I visited this Lake on the same day I visited Mt Hiei. It was convenient to do so from Mt Hiei by taking the Sakamoto Cable car.
Cycle route around Lake Biwa – Google maps
How to get to Lake Biwa
Getting to Lake Biwa via Sakamoto Cable Car took us to the Shiga side of the base of Mt Hiei, to Sakamoto Station. The track downhill was two-kilometres and took 11 minutes. The journey proved to be well-worth the money as it offered an awesome view directly over Lake Biwa and an opportunity to stroll through the town of Sakamoto.
My walk from Sakamoto Station through the town of Sakamoto was quiet and pleasant. There were a number of beautiful spots that offered photo opportunities.
Lake Biwa Flower Fountain
The Flower Fountain is one of the world’s largest fountain which is about 400 meters long horizontally and it streams high into the air at 40 metres.
This is by far one of the most beautiful attraction here which you must not miss if you are in this area. With the sun setting in the horizon, the changing colours of the Fountain and the cruise ships sailing in the distance makes this a memorable experience. It certainly was for me because I needed to just relax for a while and take in the atmosphere before heading back home.
As the largest freshwater lake in Japan, it is a breeding ground for freshwater fish such as trout and is home to at least 46 native species and sub-species in the Lake. It serves as a reservoir to Kyoto and Otsu and supplies 15 million residents with drinking water in the Kansai region.
My visit here was very brief but I did fulfil my intention to capture the sunset and relax after my long day of mountain exploring.
Activities at Lake Biwa
Although I spent only a couple of hours here, Lake Biwa is a destination that warrants at least half a day. If you can fit in a longer time, you will be pleasantly surprised at the various ways to enjoy this Lake. As the largest freshwater lake in Japan in the Shiga Prefecture, you can enjoy cruises to the southern end of the Lake. There are many beach activities such as zip line or water sliding. You will also find that the area offer many popular holiday resorts which you can stay at.
There are historic sites such as the Enryaku-ji Temple in Mount Hiei and Hikone Castle.
Travel tips and Useful information
4 ways to travel to Lake Biwa
From Kyoto station take the JR Biwako line (about 10 min), exit at Hama-Otsu station (about 20 minutes from Sanjo-Keihan railway station)
From Otsu Keihanzeze station, take the Keihan line, for Sakamoto. From Sakamoto, take the cable car to the temple.
From Kyoto to Hikone, it is about 50 minutes journey and is the fastest.
If you have the JR Pass, you can take the Shinkansen to Maibara, about 20 minutes journey and then back to Hikone by JR Biwako which is about 5 minutes.
Take the JR Biwako line from Kyoto which is about 35 minutes journey.
This is a destination that warrants more than a couple of hours. If you are in Kyoto and have the time, visit this lake which is the largest freshwater lake in Japan. For a whole day experience, you can also explore the surrounding areas. For ideas and inspiration to experience Lake Biwa and Kyoto, head over to “More than one way to experience Kyoto”
Ask me any questions you may have regarding booking your trip to Japan. You may wish to take a look at the 6-step guidelines to a stress free vacation and a full guide to resources for a memorable experience.
You may like to read more on Japan also
Is this post valuable to you in planning your visits to Lake Biwa? If so please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you.
Mount Hiei | A fascinating Japan experience not to be missed
Explore the mountains where humans become superhumans,
and be amazed with the indescribable natural beauty and serenity that exists
among the towering cedar trees here.
Mount Hiei – The holy mountain in Kyoto
Mount Hiei, regarded as the holy mountain in Kyoto makes a nice little escape from the maddening crowds of other Kyoto’s main attraction. What makes this destination fascinating is the quietness and peacefulness that exists here that transports you to a totally different world of complete zen! All of it within only a stone’s throw away from the chaos of the city below. This is a mountain where history and modernity meets in relation to Japanese culture and religion. A sacred mountain believed to turn ordinary humans in pursuit of enlightenment to super beings for their endurance and perseverance. A truly fascinating Japan experience not to be missed when visiting Kyoto.
As for me, walking in the dense forest of towering cedar trees, somehow made me feel good. I was totally amazed with the unspoiled natural beauty and serenity that exists here which is indescribable. There were moments when I was the only one among the trees. Navigation around the footpaths were convenient and pleasant. The area is well tended and has clear footpaths leading to various buildings in the mountain.
Why is Mt Hiei known as Sacred Mountain
Mount Hiei is popularly known as a sacred mountain because it is home to the “Marathon Monks” often regarded as “super humans”. These super human “Marathon Monks” uphold centuries old traditions – they preserve, observe and practise them today and in many ways as exactly as was practised many centuries ago. This mountain is one of the few places in Japan where tradition and history exists alongside a modern world.
I have uploaded a short video below for you to watch to get an idea of why the monks of Mount Hiei are called “Marathon Monks”
Besides being popularly known as a sacred mountain and the infamous “marathon monks” associated to this mountain, there are many other reasons why you should visit this beautiful part of Kyoto. I have listed a few, about 6 of them here:
1 | Mount Hiei is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site
The whole of Mount Hiei is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the banner of “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”. The mountain is home to Enryakuji Temple where the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism was founded in 788. It was once, home to the “warrior monks” – currently home to the “marathon monks.”
2 | The rich history of Mount Hiei
The temples in Mount Hiei were the guardians of ancient Kyoto. One of the most important monasteries in Japanese history was established here over 1200 years ago.
The Enryakuji Temple, the heart of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism was founded here in 788 by Saicho.
Saicho was a monk from China. He introduced the Tendai sect Buddhism in Japan and established the headquarters in the mountains of Hiei. The mountain became the holy mountain with 3,000 scattered temples and thousands of monks. In Japan’s history, Enryakuji was the home to the “warrior monks” who raided and terrified Kyoto City.
In order to remove all rivals and to unite the country, Shogun Nobunaga defeated these warrior monks and burned the Enryakuji complex down in 1571. The Enryakuji Temple was thereafter rebuilt during the Edo period and became the headquarters of the Tendai sect and remains as such till today.
3 | The “Marathon Monks” of Mount Hiei
Although the warrior monks are long gone, legend has it that Mount Hiei became home to another breed of monks called, the “marathon monks” who continue to remain here till today. “Marathon monks” are called as such because they are regarded as “super humans” to have to undergo a challenge known as “sennichi kaihogyo” – a “one-thousand day go around the peaks training” in search of enlightenment in the here and now.
3.1 | The One-thousand-day Challenge
The monks who set out on these one-thousand-day challenge will occasionally complete it. The one-thousand-day challenge is a seven-year training period.
Initially, the Buddhist spiritual athlete or “gyoja” will begin a 100-day stretch of training period and the “gyoja” must cover 52.5 miles daily. During this 100-day training, the “gyoja” must decide whether he wants to take on the challenge of the remaining 900 days. To complete the challenge will be a test of his endurance, perseverance and both physical and mental strength because of his death-defying fasts, his vegetarian training diet and his handmade straw running shoes.
The “gyoja” dresses in pure white kimono and carries with him a sheathed knife. According to the Tendai Buddhist tradition, if he does not complete his prescribed marathon – the walks, runs and tasks, he must take his own life. In addition, he also carries a small bag which consists of his secret holy book which will guide him on his journey and the 250 prayer-stops he must make. Some will be to honour monks of the past who died by suicide because they failed on their challenge. The bag will also hold some candles, matches, a small bag of food offerings to the deities, and a rosary. The “gyoja” will use handmade straw sandals on his bare feet and carry a straw raincoat and paper lantern.
As you can imagine, to complete this challenge is truly a test of endurance, perseverance and of both physical and mental strengths. It is no surprise that only 46 monks have completed this one-thousand-day challenge since 1885.
3.2 | Find out more on Marathon Monks
If you are interested to find out more on the “Marathon Monks”, you can purchase “The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei” by John Stevens (2013) for only £13.14 or much cheaper for a used copy from Amazon. To purchase your copy, click on the link below.
Watch this video on the monk who started his one-thousand-day journey. It gives an idea of what is expected of them to fulfil their journey with the use of just the straw sandals, paper lantern and a straw raincoat.
Watch Marathon Monksof Mt Hiei
4 | The historical Enryakuji Temple in Mount Hiei
As mentioned above, the Enryakuji Temple in Mount Hiei is the HQ of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism. It is spread over three areas:
Todo > on the East;
Saito > on the West;
Yokawa > a few kilometres north of Todo and Saito
All three sites are linked by hiking trails that will take you through the woods and tall cedar trees.
4.1 | Todo, on the East of Mount Hiei
Todo is the main area and is the heart of Enryakuji with its three-storey pagoda where the monastery was originally built in the 8th century.
The main buildings are also located here which includes the main hall, “Kom pon Chudo” and the Amida Hall which was added to the complex in 1937.
As Todo is the main area with many buildings, there were a number of tourists here. You can generally follow the crowd to get to the major attractions or you can explore on your own. I felt safe to do so, and I found the trails were well-signposted.
Enryakuji Temple and buildings in Mount Hiei, Kyoto
A nice, quiet walk through the forest trail connects the Todo area to Saito.
4.2 | Saito on the West of Mount Hiei
Saito on the West houses many old buildings and amongst it is the mausoleum of the founder of Enryakuji Temple, Saicho. You will also find the Shaka Hall, the oldest building on the mountain.
Not too far off, you will find the Ninai Hall, where two halls are connected together by a central corridor.
4.3 | Yokawa
Yokawa is on the north of Todo and Saito and is a little further. It is connected by a trail through woods. If you are feeling adventurous, I would urge you to make this trail through the woods, where you can admire the Chudo main hall which is built on wooden platform.
5 | A beautiful walk in the forest of Mount Hiei
As I walked along these trails, in the midst of lush greenery, I came come across many small buildings and temples, way-shrines tucked away in the middle of the forest in between the lush greens, bell towers, lecture halls and places for meditation. All these buildings are well-connected with stone-paved steps and trails with stone-lanterns along the way.
One can imagine the beauty of the lighted lanterns in the evening or when in the dark – perhaps it is to light the path the monks once took before they entered the deep forest. It was pretty.
A walk in the forest of Mount Hiei will lead you to discover buildings and temples dotted around – sometimes to pray and sometimes a place to meditate.
I spent some time walking around, lost in the moment of my own thoughts, taking-in the serenity and calmness of the mountain when I heard the bell.
6 | The huge bell at Enryakuji Temple, Mount Hiei
I followed the sound and came to a huge bell where tourists were queuing-up to ring it. Every temple seems to have one of these but the bell at Enryakuji is huge, perhaps to signify its importance.
The bell has a huge wooden rod made from a log. The log is used to ring the bell. The bell is rung by a Buddhist faithful when entering a temple or when answering a call to worship. The bell symbolises wisdom and compassion which Buddhist believers and practitioners recognise as being the path to enlightenment. This particular site was very popular and to take a “tourist-free” photo was difficult!.
7 | My conclusion on Mount Hiei, Kyoto
Like I said, if you want to get away from the maddening crowd of Kyoto, Mount Hiei is the place to be. You could spend the day here and still get back to Kyoto in the evening and experience the nightlife of Gion-shiji.
In retrospect, when I left London for Osaka, I did not know of Mount Hiei. Being here, I found Mount Hiei to be an unforgettable Japan experience. It gave me an insight into Buddhism, the test of perseverance and courage that the infamous “marathon monks” endure in their one-thousand-day challenge. Walking through the peaceful forest was quite an experience for a city girl like me and I think I may have brought some of the serenity back with me.
I sincerely hope that you will visit Mount Hiei in Kyoto. Below are some useful information for you to consider that may help you make that visit.
8 | Travel tips and Useful Information
Mount Hiei is situated on the hills, northeast of Kyoto, on the border between Kyoto and Shiga Prefecture, Kyoto. It is at 850 metres (2500 feet) in elevation and at its summit, offers spectacular views over Old Kyoto and Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. There are three ways to get to Mt Hiei using transportation, but it is more popular amongst hikers who can complete the hike up in a few hours – whichever way you choose to get up here, it will make a nice day trip for solo travellers, couples and families of any age.
8.1 | What route did I opt for to get up to Mount Hiei
I opted for the bus-ride up from Kyoto Station which was an hour, purely because I wanted to experience the ride. The roads were narrow but very skilfully manoeuvred by the driver. As you ascend, you will feel the coolness set in and feel your ears…and of course, you are rewarded with the picturesque views from the mountain and the valley below as you ascend. It was certainly different but good.
8.2 | Route to get back down to ground level from Mount Hiei
For my return journey, I opted to take the Sakamoto Cable car to the Shiga side. This route was to the base of the mountain at Sakamoto Station which was the nearest station to my next destination. A visit to Lake Biwa was next on my itinerary. This two-kilometres, 11-minute journey proved to be well-worth the money as it offered an awesome view directly over Lake Biwa and an opportunity to stroll through the town of Sakamoto.
9 | Other places to visit in Mount Hiei
There are other places which you may wish to visit in Mount Hiei. Below are some that may be of interest to you. I did not visit these places as I wanted to spend more time in the woods and make it to Lake Biwa for the sunset
9.1 | The Garden Museum, Hiei
This garden is about 1.7 hectares and is based on French impressionism and has about 100,000 blooms each year.
Entry: 1030 Yen
Opening times: 10:00 – 17:30 (Open later during summer and at night during summer weekends).
This soba restaurant is opened from 09:30 to 16:00
10 | Useful Information
Take a light jacket with you as the temperature drops very slightly;
Wear proper walking shoes or hiking boots;
Take a bottle of water with you and some light snacks if you wish to have a break while you are exploring.
11 | Getting to Mount Hiei: 3 routes
From Kyoto side – by Eizan Cable car and Ropeway
Take the Keihan Line from Kyoto Station and exit at Demachiyanagi Station, the last station/stop on the route;
From Demachiyanagi, ride to the summit of Mount Hiei on the Eizan Electric Railway, Eizan Cable and Eizan Ropeway;
The Eizan Electric Railway is a sightseeing line dotted with locations known for their harmonious balance of nature and the old capital such as Ohara, Kurama and Kibune. After about 15 minutes ride, you will arrive at Yase-Hieizanguchi Station. This part of your journey offers you with beautiful spring growth and autumn colours. There is a temple here, Ruriko-in Temple which has special openings in spring and autumn.
From Yase, take the Eizan Cable Car, which is another 15 minutes journey, to the top of Mount Hiei. This is one of the steepest ride in Japan. Thereafter, transfer to the ropeway which will take you all the way to the top of the 840-metre summit. The summit is about six degrees Celsius cooler than downtown Kyoto, so it may feel cold at the top. Take a light jacket with you even when you are visiting in the summer.
Demachiyanagi Station to Yase-Hieizanguchi Station (Eizan Electric Railway):
Adults: 260 yen | Children: 130 yen
Eizan Cable Car: Adults: 540 yen | Children: 270 yen
Eizan Ropeway: Adults: 310 yen | Children: 160 yen
From the Shiga side
From Kyoto Station, take the JR Kosei Line to Hiei-Sakamoto Station;
This train journey is approximately 15 minutes. Alternatively, you may want to take the Shinkansen from Kyoto Station to Hiei-Sakamoto Station.
From Hiei-Sakamoto Station, it is a 15-minute walk to the lower station of the Sakamoto Cablecar, or a 5-minute bus ride;
The Cable car ride takes about 11 minutes;
From the upper station, the Todo area is about 5-10 minutes walk.
Kyoto Station to Hiei-Sakamoto Station (JR Kosei Line): Adult: 320 Yen (one-way);
Kyoto Station to Hiei-Sakamoto Station on the Shinkansen is covered by the JR Pass and you would not have to pay the 320 Yen.
Sakamoto Cable car: 860 Yen (one-way) or 1,620 Yen for a round-trip. You can purchase this ticket from a vending machine at the station.
This route is a toll-road and there are direct buses from Kyoto Station and Sanjo Station (Keihan Line) to Hieizan’s Todo area.
From Kyoto Station > take Bus Line 57 that leaves from bus-stop C6. Lin-up for Mount Hiei
Journey time is one hour, one-way;
There are 4-6 buses a day;
Bus services do not operate between December and March.
The one-way trip takes about one-hour and costs about 770 Yen.
12 | Opening hours
12.1 | Todo on the East:
March to November: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. December: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. January and February: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
12.2 | Saito on the West and Yokawa Area
March to November: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. December: 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. January and February: 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
13 | Admission
You can get a combined ticket/pass to all three areas of Enryakuji Temple:
Adults: 700 yen
Was this article valuable to you in planning your visit to Mount Hiei? If so, do let me know in comments below or via the Contact form. I would love to hear from you.
When you travel to Kyoto, and want to experience a little of ruralJapan, then head to the historically romantic city of Uji, a little gem located just twenty-minutes train ride to the south of Kyoto city. This nature filled area is home to beautiful museums, historic buildings and delicious matcha tea. You can spend either half a day or one full day exploring this beautiful ancient city. However, I shall strongly recommend that you make it a one-day visit as Uji is a destination worth visiting and spending time at.
This article gives a little background to the city of Uji and cover details on how to to make the best of one day in Uji, Kyoto. The article suggests a carefully planned itinerary and a walking route. This ideal itinerary include the 7 most popular attractions at this little gem of tourist destination which must be seen for a complete experience of Uji. An early start arriving at about 10:00 a.m should also be in the plan.
Georgina says: My itinerary here involves spending one full day in Uji, returning to Kyoto in time for supper. However, if you don’t have a full day to spare, you may want to make half-a-day trip to Uji.
About Uji, Kyoto
Uji is a historical city in the green valley of South Kyoto. It is popular for its shrines and temples in particular for its two World Heritage sites, the Byodoin Temple and the Ujigami shrine. In addition, Uji is famous for the superior quality of Matcha Green Tea and theTale of Genji, the world’s first novel. The City has a bridge and a river named after it. A walk along this river affords you picturesque views of the mountains surrounding it, with some regarding it as one of the most romantic places in Kyoto because of its prominence in the Tale of Genji.
Uji City is easily accessible (see below: Travel tips and useful information), just a 20-minute train journey from Kyoto Station, either via the JR Line or the Keihan Line. I used the Keihan Line from Kyoto, arriving at Uji for 10:00 a.m.
As you exit the Keihan Uji Station, you will find easy signposting that directs you to the surrounding areas. A landmark to lookout for is the Ujibashi Bridge across the Uji River.
Uji-bashi Bridge and Uji River
Just south of Keihan Uji Station, you will see the Uji-bashi Bridge, which goes across the Uji River. This wood-trimmed concrete and steel was first built in 646 AD. However, it has been rebuilt numerous times since. Walk across it, and along the way, stop and look at the green hills, rushing waters and the red wooden bridges. This ancient town is well-preserved.
The Uji-bashi Bridge is an important point because it is from here that you will access the rest of the 7 top attractions.
7 top attractions in Uji, Kyoto not to be missed | How to make the best of 1 day
The 7 top attractions in Uji which should not be missed are listed below. I have listed them in the order of my walking route so you can have an idea of what to expect when you visit and are considering how to make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto.
Across the Uji-bashi Bridge, you will come to Omotesando Street.
1 | Omotesando Street (平等院表参道), Uji, Kyoto
The Omotesando Street is about 300-meter stretch approach to Byodoin Temple (more on this temple, below). This street is lined with tea shops, eateries and souvenir shops. It is famously known as the Green Tea Street of Uji. Spend some time exploring this quaint street either on your way to Byodoin Temple or on your return.
There are many tea related products which you can try such as “dango” dumplings, soba noodles or ice-cream.
Loose matcha tea stored in airtight wooden boxes
Matcha tea sold in small packaging as samples
Matcha sprinkled on crushed ice.
Georgina suggests: That you explore the Omotesando street on your return walk back from Byodoin Temple. This means you can take a break for a snack or lunch before you are onward to the next stage of your journey.
2 | Byōdōin Temple (平等院), Uji, Kyoto
Byōdōin Temple is one of the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Uji and its garden is regarded as Pure Land Paradise.
Once you have bought your entry ticket, take the path on the left, around the lotus pond and this is what you come to …
This 10th century Buddhist Temple was initially built in 998, at the height of political power of the Fujiwara clan during the Heian period (794 to 1192). It was built as a retreat villa for Fujiwara no Michinaga, a powerful politician. The architecture of this temple is spectacularly beautiful and speaks volume.
However, Michinaga’s son, Yorimichi, turned it into a Temple and ordered the construction of the Phoenix Hall which was built in 1053. The building holds a central hall, two long corridors and is home to a three-meter high statue of Amida Buddha.
Amida Buddha is a wooden statue, covered in gold foil, carved by Jocho Busshi, a Heian period sculptor. His speciality was to join multiple pieces of blocks of wood to carve and join it to form a single piece or figure.
What remains today of this temple is this Phoenix Hall which is home to the soaring shining statue in the midst of heavenly beings playing instruments…it is a treasure well-worth a visit at least once!
The Phoenix Hall is featured on the flip-side of the Japanese Ten yen coin.
When visiting the Byodoin Temple, take the path around the Hall, and you will come to the museum where you can immerse in its history. One part of the museum holds original artefacts from the temple and the other is almost like walking into a heavenly whirl! Here, dancing celestial beings, child musicians and birds bearing flowers are depicted in rich, vibrant colours.
NB: Cameras were not allowed, so I do not have any pictures to show here.
2.1 | Travel tips and Useful information on Byodoin Temple, Uji
Byodoin Temple & the Museum
Tickets are 600 Yen for both
To visit the Phoenix Hall, it is an additional 300 Yen. You purchase this ticket from a ticket booth within the grounds near the temple. Visits are timed every 20 minutes, so your ticket will have a time printed on it.
Return to the queuing point at least 5-minutes before the ticketed time. A guide will lead the group into the hall for a talk about the building. The talk is in Japanese, no audio guides available. It is a narrow hallway and no photographs are allowed.
Even if you do not understand Japanese, it is still worth paying the extra to view the statue and its interior at least once in your lifetime, after-all you are there already 😊
08:30 to 17:30
Museum: 09:00 to 17:00
Last entry is 15-minutes before closing
Open all year round.
Georgina suggests: **Allow yourself at least an hour in your itinerary – to walk around and enjoy the splendid garden. However, if you are visiting the Phoenix Hall, tickets are timed and you need to allow yourself more time in your plans.
Alternatively, you may wish to experience the Byodoin Temple through a good value for money private tour.
In any case, if you are not pressed for time, spend a few extra moments just to relax and take in the serenity of the garden, the lotus pond and the magnificent Temple.
3 | Uji Tea in Uji, Kyoto
Uji is famous for its green tea or its Matcha Green Tea.
From a historical perspective, Uji Tea or Green Tea was a popular drink amongst the nobleman and priests in Japan. However, it is ironic that green tea was virtually unheard of in Japan when it first arrived from China in the 700s. It was during the Kamakura period, between 1192 and 1333, that green tea leaves imported from China was cultivated in Uji. This led to popularity amongst the noblemen and priests.
The benefits of green tea, its cultivation and preparation was introduced in a book written by a Zen priest, Eisei. Eisei brought Zen Buddhism to Japan from China, hence, bestowing Uji the reputation of producing superior quality green tea as it was the first place to cultivate green tea.
To experience an authentic and traditional Japanese tea ceremony, go over to Taihoan.
3.1 | Tea House in Uji, Kyoto
A short walk from Byodoin Temple, at the southern bank of Uji River, you will find Taihoan, a public tea house. It offers visitors a unique opportunity to participate in an authentic tea ceremony. It serves matcha tea (powdered green tea) in a traditional tea-house setting and the correct tea ceremony etiquette.
You may wonder what makes Japanese Green Tea so special? Get all your answers and more whilst exploring Uji’s history in a private tour AND/OR take a rickshaw tour through Uji, to revered traditional tea shops and centuries-old historical sites with a guide.
Learn more and Book your tour by navigating via the links below:
The Ujigami Shrine is believed to be constructed as early as 1060 during the Heian period and is the 2nd of the two UNESCO World Heritage sites in Uji. It is the guardian shrine to Byodoin Temple. Ujigami shrine is a Shinto shrine and it’s architecture is very simple. The Honden or the main hall is built in the nagare-zukuri architectural style, which is a curved assymetrical roof, extending more on the side of the main entrance than on the opposite side. This design is such to provide shelter to the worshippers.
About 100m south of Ujigami shrine is the Uji shrine, also in the simple nagare-zukuri architectural style.
4.1 | Travel tips and Useful information on Ujigami and Uji Shrines in Uji, Kyoto
Opening hours: 09:00 to 16:30
Open all year round
Admission is FREE
Please give yourself anything between 15 to 30 minutes. It is really quiet and peaceful here. On my visit, I observed a painter sketching the beautiful view from the top of the stairs looking ahead. It was rather pretty.
4.2 | Getting to Ujigami Shrine
Ujigami Shrine is on the north of Uji River, close to the Tale of Genji Museum
Takes 15 minutes to walk from JR Uji Station
Takes 10 minutes to walk from Keihan Uji Line
It is about 10 to 15 minutes (depends how distracted you get from the enchanting scenery around you) from Byodoin Temple, across the river via a small island connected by bridges.
5. Uji’s Riverbank attractions, Uji, Kyoto
Uji’s riverbank attractions are within pleasant strolling distance.
5.1 | Asagiri-bashi Bridge – A beautiful bridge that links-up both sides of the riverbank and the park.
5.2 | Ukifune and Prince Niou-no-Miya
This is a statue dedicated to the final ten chapters of the The Tale of Genji, which takes place in Uji. Some scenes depicts the maiden Ukifune (which means “floating boat”) who was caught-up in a bitter love rivalry between Prince Niou-no-Miya and Genji’s son, Kaoru. Ukifune eventually throws herself into the Uji-gawa River.
5.3 | Travel tips and Useful information on Uji’s Riverbank, Uji, Kyoto
Uji Bridge is a 5-10 minute walk north of JR Uji Station
NB: Find all the information on the Tale of Genji Museum, on their official website here.
6 | Hashidera Temple – Ho-join
Hashidera, protector of Uji Bridge was built in 604 by Hata no Kawakatsu on the instructions of Prince Shotoku (574-622 AD)
6.1 | Getting to Hashidera Temple, Uji
Hashidera Temple is on the east bank of the Uji River, just 5 minutes walk from Ujigami Shrine.
7 | Mampuku-ji Temple (萬福寺), Uji, Kyoto
Mampukuji Temple was the head temple of Zen Obaku sect and was founded in 1661 by Ingen, a Chinese monk. Ingen was the founder of Zen Buddhism and was responsible for importing the Zen Obaku sect, the most recent form of Zen Buddhism from China into Japan. The architecture is distinctively Chinese, incorporating contemporary designs of the Ming Dynasty. It is profoundly peaceful and quiet here.
The temple grounds are extensive, set out as a courtyard, connected by stone paved path. It has beautiful Zen gardens surrounded by raked pebbles. There were not many people here when I arrived and gave me an opportunity to get “lost” in the extensive space!
Mampuku-ji is popular for Shojin Ryori, a sophisticated Buddhist cuisine. It is the traditional dining style of Buddhist monks in Japan and became associated with Zen Buddhism in the 13th century. If you want to experience this traditional dining, you need to book in advance.
7.1 | Travel tips and Useful information on Mampukuji Temple, Uji, Kyoto
Opening times: 09:00 to 17:00
Last entry at 16:30
Admission: 500 Yen
Georgina suggests: The grounds of this temple is huge, so getting here just before 16:30 will not really be worth your while. Half-an-hour is too short. You may need at least an hour minimum but anything more will be great.
7.2 | Getting to Mampukuji Temple, Uji
Mampukuji is about five minutes from Obaku Station on the JR Nara Line.
Take the Keihan Line from Kyoto, Gion-Shijo Station to Keihan Obaku Station. The one way trip takes about 20 minutes, costs around 310 Yen. It requires a transfer of trains at Chushojima Station. Trains run every 5 minutes between Keihan Obaku and Uji Stations, and its 150 yen). Mampukuji is 10 minutes walk from Keihan Obaku Station.
You can also take the local trains between Kyoto and Obaku but these trains stops frequently, at every station and takes about half-an hour.
Alternatively, you can walk to Mampukuji in 30-40 minutes from Uji Bridge.
Amongst the seven attractions I visited in Uji in one day, I spent the longest time at the Byodoin Temple and then really enjoyed the walk along Uji’s Riverbank. I hope this itinerary will help you make the best of 1 day in Uji, Kyoto. as well.
Happy exploring Uji, the historic romantic ancient town in Kyoto,
Kyoto was the former capital of Japan until 1869. It was the residence of the Japanese emperor between AD 794 and 1868. Itis a popular destination both for tourists and locals. As a region, it is home to at least 1600 temples and shrines, both small and large, famous and not so much. In addition there are many imperial palaces and gardens that just beckons a visit. Besides temples, shrines, palaces and gardens, Kyoto is strictly rooted in formal traditions such as kaiseki diningwhere multiple courses of precise dishes is served and geisha, who is a female entertainer often found in Gion-shiji.
With Kyoto being home to so much culture, food, vibrancy and history to indulge in, I can confidently say that one cannot have too many days in that cultural city. Strolling through Gion or Pontocho to steal a glimpse of the geisha, visiting the many iconic temples or experiencing a traditional ryokan stay will leave you with lasting memories. No matter how much time you spend in Kyoto, saying ‘goodbye’ will always be hard.
As for me, Kyoto is a place I will return to. Having lived in Japan for almost six months I realise there is so much to see and do here that there will always be new experiences to look forward to. Thus, selecting the best places to top my list for the purposes of this blog was a difficult task. Nevertheless, here is the recommended ultimate guide to the Best 5 places in Kyoto which you simply must not miss.
Best 5 places to Visit in Kyoto, Japan
1 | Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Kyoto
TheFushimi Inari Taisha Shrine is popular for its thousands (about 10,000) of orange torii gates. These torii gates lines up the path on a steep hillside with about 12000 concrete steps.
These bright orange gates are said to date back to 711 AD and built to honour the Shinto God of Rice, Inari. The Inari Shrine is characterised by a pair of fox and vermilion torii gates.
Everyone, both young and old who visits Fushimi Inari climb these steps to the top. It took me a little over an hour to reach the top of the mountain. Sometimes, these steps were steep but it was well worth the hike! One feels a sense of achievement when you reach the top.
I stopped to take in the luscious greenery and the many photos of the beautiful torii gates from all angles plus making new acquaintances along the way. Also, there are many tiny shops where you can stop and have your lunch or drinks.
1.1 | Travel tips for when visiting Fushimi Inari, Kyoto
When planning a trip to Fushimi Inari Taisha, use the map below to plan ahead so you could time your breaks for refreshments and for viewing points.
Fushimi Inari is always open and there are no entrance fee.
This mountain is popular both amongst tourists and locals which means that it will always be busy. Early mornings are best.
Georgina suggests: I was here in May and it was quite hot then. Best to have a bottle of water with you.
1.2 | Getting to Fushimi Inari Taisha:
The Fushimi Inari is situated at Inari Station, a quick 5-minute train journey on the JR line from Kyoto. From Inari Station, it is a short walk uphill a street lined with souvenir shops, food-stalls and restaurants with unique architecture. If you are unsure which way to turn as you get off the train, just follow the crowd and you will get there😊.
1.3 | Enhance your experiences in Kyoto by joining one the following tours:
When visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha, either solo or in a group, you may wish to join a tour group to learn more of its history and traditions. Here are three highly recommended tours which you may find valuable:
Kinkaku-ji is one of the most beautiful Japanese zen gardens in Kyoto which I have been to. It is popular amongst tourist too, so it’s not one to be missed!
This famous spot is home to the Buddhist temple Golden Pavilion, a three-storey building covered in gold leaf situated in a picturesque pond, with tiny little islands dotted all around. It belonged to a Japanese shogun, Yoshimitsu Ashikaga (1358-1408), who had it built as his private garden. The paths are beautifully carved out, so you could enjoy every corner of the garden, with plenty of shades provided by the tall trees which may have been there since the 14th century or before.
Walking through the garden, you will totally feel the zen, the calmness and the serenity, knowing that you are walking the steps once walked by the Shogun himself! If you need a break, there is a tea-house where you can either sit seiza-style on the floor in-doors or on low-rise benches outdoors.
2.1 | Travel tips and Useful information on Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto
Kinkaku-ji is easily accessible from either Kyoto city or Gion-shiji. Take either bus 101 or 205 and its 230 yen. The journey is about 40 minutes and if you can, try to avoid the school rush hour (before 9 a.m. and after 3 p.m.).
Kinkakuji is open from 9 am to 5 pm every day.
Admission to Kinkakuji is 400 yen for adults, and 300 yen for children up to junior high school age.
Bamboo Grove + Owl Café + Stroll along the Katsura River
3.1 | Arashiyama in Kyoto
Arashiyama basically means ‘Storm Mountain’ and is situated on western Kyoto. It is designated as a Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. The Oi River runs through this district and meets Togetsukyo Bridge and changes to become Katsura River. The Togetsukyo Bridge, also referred to as the “bridge under the moon” is a landmark in this district.
This part of Kyoto was popular amongst the nobles during the Heian period (794-1185) and were frequented for its tranquillity and natural beauty, so the name ‘Storm Mountain’ does not really do justice to the serenity of this place.
3.2 | Owl Cafe, Arashiyama, Kyoto
As one can imagine, as is elsewhere in Kyoto, the main streets of any touristic places are always lined with little shops which are unique in their offerings, be it food, gelato or souvenirs. Interestingly, there was an owl café on the main street here, where a drink is included in the price of the entrance fee. You can walk through this cafe where the owls are nicely secured to the branches. You can touch them!
Cute little owls at the Owl Cafe, Arashiyama, Kyoto.
It was not as exciting as I thought it would be, but I guess it is worth a visit if you are thinking of something of interest for your kids.
3.3 | Bamboo Grove, Arashiyama, Kyoto
From the main street, the Bamboo Grove is conveniently accessible from the entrance of Tenryo-ji Temple. As you walk through the gardens and when you arrive at the north gate, take a left as you exit and keep walking, you will soon see and find yourself in the magical midst of the tall, very tall bamboo stalks, swaying in the gentle breeze, with rays of sunlight coming through its canopy high above you. You could feel the gentle breeze against your skin and the serenity of the place. Being here, is one of those “awe” moments and you simply got to experience it! What seems like an endless thick green bamboo grove, continues uphill.
Follow this main path and you will reach Okochi-Sanso, a sublime villa, surrounded by lush gardens. I did not visit the Okochi-Sanso because I wanted to spend more time taking a stroll along the river over a cup of coffee.
3.4 | Stroll along River Katsura, Arashiyama, Kyoto
The stroll along the river was an amazing experience. There are people around, but it is also very quiet. It is almost like everyone is just quiet, taking in the serenity, the beauty, enjoying and waiting for the sun to set.
Exploring the little hills along the river proved to be another rewarding experience as I came to little huts tucked away within the lushes of the greens. It was safe and thankfully there were no snakes! You need to be here to know what I am talking about 😊
3.5 | Other experiences in Arashiyama:
Tenryu-ji Temple is a 14th century temple. It is one of the main attractions in Arashiyama. It is popular for its magnificent Zen garden and its traditional tea house.
Okochi-Sanso has a magnificent garden with breathtaking views over Kyoto. It has been featured in a number of movie sets.
This is a beautiful park where you can enjoy exploring the many trails that lead in and out of this peaceful sanctuary. Some trails lead you directly to the mountains.
3.6 | Travel tips and Useful information on Arashiyama, Kyoto
How to get to Arashiyama, Kyoto
Arashiyama is conveniently accessible from Kyoto Station by train.
Take the JR Train from Kyoto Station on the JR Sagano/San-in Line to Saga-Arashiyama Station. When you exit Arashiyama Station, follow signs to the Bamboo Grove. It takes about 10 minutes.
Tour suggestions for when visiting Arashiyama, Kyoto
Some may think that this is an unusual combination because Philosophers Path is usually combined with a trip to Ginkakuji Temple, which is just a 5-minute walk, up the road from Philosopher’s Path. However, I have chosen this combination as I rather enjoyed the 20-minute walk from Heian Shrine to Philosopher’s Path.
4.1 | Heian Shrine, Kyoto
The entrance to Heian Shrine is marked by a giant torii gate, about 25 metres high which overlooks the Okazaki Koen Park. The main buildings are said to be 5/8th of the original Imperial Palace from the Heian period. The Shrine is surrounded by spacious grounds and there is a large open court at the centre, with spacious courtyard between buildings.
Japan is famous for its lanterns and this Shinto shrine is no exception. These beautiful lanterns surrounds the buildings here at Heian Shrine, Kyoto
Heian Shrine, Kyoto: People write their wishes and tag it to this tree.
The giant torii in the background – View from inside the courtyard of Heian Shrine, Kyoto
The architecture of Heian Shrine is incredible and well maintained.
A giant size torii gate marks the start of your visit to the Heian Jingu in Kyoto.
The wide courtyard in front of Heian Shrine in Kyoto, just as you come through the main entrance.
The most aesthetically impressive part of Heian Shrine is the Shin’en. Shin’en is 33,000 square metres of garden situated at the back of the main building. This garden is divided into East, West, South and Middle. It has lots of flowers, interesting looking trees, ponds and the exact stones that Scarlett Johansson was on in “Lost in Translation” (2003).
4.1.2 | Travel tips and Useful information on Heian Shrine, Kyoto
The entrance to Heian shrine is free but there is a small fee, 600 yen for the garden. I would recommend it if you are looking to spend a leisurely afternoon/evening. There is a sitting area right in the middle of the pond where you can just sit, have a picnic or just relax and take in the view.
4.1.3 | Getting to Heian Shrine, Kyoto
4.1.3 | From Kyoto Station:
Take bus number 5 or 100. It is about half-an-hour journey and cost 230 Yen.
Take the subway to Higashiyama Station and it is ten minutes walk to the Shrine.
4.1.4 | Trek from Heian Shrine to Philosophers Path
From the Heian Jingu, I took the 20-minute walk along the residential area till I came to the small winding canal, lined with sakura (cherry blossoms). I didn’t mind the walk as it was an opportunity to see the quiet residential area, the tiny little shops lined up along the canal and really take-in the scenic view.
4.2 | Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto
Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto is a popular destination during the cherry blossom season which is typically late March to early April.
4.2.1 | Travel tips and Useful information on Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto
If you are planning a trip during Hanami (the tradition of viewing and appreciating the beauty of the sakuras), please dedicate some time to planning your travels. The sakura are in full bloom for only 2 to 3 weeks in Spring, between 20th March and 14th April, so you don’t really see them in full-bloom for a full month. Cherries peak at different times and are very weather dependent but they generally peak on 1st April. If you are planning a trip, then you need to consider the followings:
Where you will be going to for the Hanami?
When will you be going?
Where would you stay?
Ideally, you will need to give yourself longer time, more than just a couple of days in Kyoto. Accommodation during the Hanami is typically expensive.
4.2.2 | Tour Suggestions
You may like some of our bestsellers – click on the link to find out more and book your activities.
No visit to Kyoto is complete without a visit to Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
Kiyomizu-dera Temple which basically means “Pure Water Temple” is situated in the wooded hills of eastern Kyoto. It was founded around AD 780. It is an independent Buddhist Temple and has been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site, part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.
The Kiyomizu-dera is popular for its wooden stage that stands-out about 13 metres above in the hillside below. The main hall and the stage were built without any nails. It is said that the wooden stage offers a magnificent view of the maple and cherry tress below and a spectacular view over Kyoto. However, the hall was closed for renovation during my visit and is expected to reopen in March 2020.
Unlike other temples I had visited, I found the entrance to this temple to be extremely busy with visitors, especially older teenagers who were also rather noisy. I soon understood why.
5.1 | Jishu Shrine, Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto
Beyond the main hall, was the Jishu Shrine, which is dedicated to the deity of love. In front of it are two stone pillars of 18 metres apart. If one could walk from one pillar to the other successfully, with their eyes closed, it is said that the one will be lucky in love. There were many older teenagers who were doing this with great excitement. I understood then, the popularity of the temple amongst the younger generation in Japan.
From here, as I started exploring the grounds, I began to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding hills.
5.2 | Koyasu Pagoda, Kiyomizu-dera
In the far distant of the south of the temple, among the trees, is the three-tiered Koyasu Pagoda. This is a popular place visited by women as a visit here is said to bring about an easy and safe childbirth.
Incredible architecture of Kiyomizu-dera in Kyoto which goes back centuries is maintained well.
Kiyomizu Dera Temple:, Kyoto: Koyasu Pagoda – The place couples or women go to so they are blessed with easy and safe childbirth.
A closer look at the details of the architecture at Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto
5.3 | Travel tips and Useful information on Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Kyoto
From Kyoto Station
Take bus 100 or 206. It is a 15-minute journey and cost 230 Yen. Get off at Kiyomizu-michi stop and then it is about a 10-minute walk uphill to the temple.
5.4 | Tour Suggestions
I am an absolute believer in “mixing-up” my vacation! One of the activities I often do is to sign up for at least one guided tour at the destination of my vacation. You may like some of our bestsellers in Kyoto. Click on the link to find out more and book your activities.
6 | Inspiring destinations for a day trip from Kyoto, Japan
Alongside the best 5 places to visit in Kyoto, there are a number of destinations around the city of Kyoto that easily make for a day-trip . Himeji is a popular destination for its white castle, built in the shape of an eagle taking flight and surrounded by nine gardens. Nara, with many of its UNESCO buildings and the people friendly deer is another popular attraction both for visitors and locals alike. While visiting Kyoto, you may not want to miss the romantic city of Uji and the sacred Mount Hiei, – all making a fascinating experience of Japan. Read the articles in its entirety on the destinations by navigating through the links below:
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6 | My conclusion on the Best 5 in Kyoto
To select the best 5 places to visit in Kyoto was a difficult decision. There are so many more temples here that requires a visit for example Ginkaku-ji also known as Silver Pavilion, the Nanzen-ji and Toji Temple. There is also the Imperial palace which is a popular destination in Kyoto. Last but not least, are the Kyoto flea markets which go back centuries!
Ultimately, my choices rested upon selecting what would give my readers an authentic experience of history, culture and traditions if you were to have just a few days in Kyoto. I sincerely belief that the Best 5 selected here reflect what is quintessentially Kyoto. It will be a rewarding experience if these Best 5 places, Fushimi Inari, Kinkaku-ji, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Heian Shrine + Philosopher’s Path and kiyamizu-dera are on your itinerary when travelling to Japan.
Is this post valuable to you in planning your visits to Kyoto, Japan? If so, please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, Or, have you visited Kyoto? Do share your experiences, I would love to hear from you.