The ancient capital of Japan, Kyoto, has a stunning number of sites to visit. There are 2,000 temples and shrines alone. Sadly most visitors miss these 6 great sites. It is also an educational hub of different western Japan universities. This is one of the few major cities in Japan that managed to escape the devastation that came with the Second World War, and its legacy when it comes to the preservation of tradition and history cannot be rivaled. Basically, you might have been all along missing great opportunities to see and learn about amazing things in the city.
Here are five spots you need to make time for to enjoy the amazing sightseeing opportunities.
The Kyomizu-dera Temple
The Kyomizu-dera Temple, which is located in eastern Kyoto, is a UNESCO heritage site that overlooks the city from the Otowa Mountain. As a visitor, you are able to enjoy a graceful stroll within the temple through the quaint Tea-pot Lane, which hosts small shops and craft stores. This is a good site for someone who loves keeping souvenirs and you will find awesome pieces crafted with a focus on the ancient tradition of the region.
At the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, which was founded in 790 AD, you will see existing buildings that have stood since 1633 during the times of the third Tokugawa Shogun. Some of the highlights you might want to learn about include the huge terrace of the Main Hall, which stands on 30-meter-tall pillars that are reinforced with five rows of beams. The venue is used to host temple dances and you will be amazed to be among the audience during such an event.
Katsura Imperial Villa
Constructed in 1624, the Katsura Imperial Villa was made for Prince Hachijo Toshihito, the brother of Goyozei, the emperor of the region. The design was crafted by Kobori Enshu and it was to offer a beautiful and well-secured home, with the exterior and interior trims getting detailed touch that you will notice at the first arrival. It is a complete manifestation of creativity and the connection between man and architecture making it feel more like a wonder than an architectural masterpiece.
There are different gardens around the villa that present a picture of the way the ancient home was decorated. It makes a perfect spot for lovers of photography and while there you will also get a chance to learn about the history of the region. This is one of the places in Kyoto that you need to consider visiting even if it does not feature among the most popular destinations in the city.
The Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art
Apart from its various temples that are littered with imperial artworks, the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art boasts of many awesome collections that many seldom visit. It contains some of the largest galleries and since it was established in 1928, it has helped keep some of the most important historical artifacts in the country. Its renovation in 2014 came as a rejuvenation measure that helps reflect in the past to show the historic elements that have helped shape the history of Japan as a whole.
If you would like to query history, this would be an ideal location to feed with knowledge from the past, and there are experts to guide you through the various pieces of information. This is an experience that many miss but upon keen review, it is one that should never be omitted in one’s travel itinerary to Kyoto.
Gion’s Geishas and Temples
Gion is famously known as an entertainment district and is one of the areas in Kyoto that is suited perfectly for foot exploration. Across the eastern banks of the Kamogawa River is an interesting mix of historical purity and modern architecture. You are fed both popular Japanese traditions and modern cultural pursuits that you could as well borrow if you love exploration and learning.
Some of these traditions have been preserved and date as far back as the 17th century, so visiting the area marks an important stage in your life where you will get to understand the rich diversity that makes the world. That’s not all as there are also many temples each with a unique representation of culture, and these are temples drawn from different eras, which again gives you an opportunity to explore in depth the rich history the Japanese people have enjoyed for centuries.
Kyoto Imperial Palace
Originally Kyoto-gosho, which was built in AD 794, the Kyoto Imperial Palace is among sites in Kyoto that you want to see. Although the temple has undergone several rounds of renovation following destruction, the work was done carefully to ensure it retains its initial glory and beauty.
While at the temple, you are given an opportunity to see some of the most important rooms within and you can ask for assistance from tour guides who help you learn about the different rooms and their significance in history and ancient Japanese governance. This is also a site that few have considered giving a try and once you make your first trip you are triggered to explore deeper into the country to understand more about its people and cultural practices, both from the past and today.
If you visit the Fox Shrine in Kyoto, leave yourself some time to wander the paths around the shrine. The shrine is known for its many torii gates which you can only experience by doing some climbing up the hill.
By Shinkansen (high-speed train) Kyoto is only 2 hours 15 mins from Tokyo and it is a must-see on any trip to Japan that includes time exploring the county with a Japan Rail Pass.
Editor: Our thanks to D. Scott Carruthers for this article. While you are visiting Kyoto, contact him for onsite guiding services.