Places of Interest in Kyoto
(Top 15 most visited places in Kyoto by visitors from overseas)
Following list is based on a result of visitor survey done by the City of Kyoto in 2007.
- Kinkaku-ji temple
Kinkaku, or the golden pavilion, stands facing Kyoko-chi pond. The pavilion and its reflection on the water as well as islets and trees weave into a beauty and create a peaceful atmosphere. This Zen temple represents Kitayama-bunka, flamboyant culture that was a blending of traditional aristocratic culture and new samurai culture.
The garden is designated as a national special historic site and a national special landscape.
- Gion district
This is the largest pleasure quarters of Kyoto. Present day Gion still has many Ochaya, where customers drink and dine while Maiko and Geiko (Geisha) entertain them in the traditional architecture. Gion retains atmosphere of old Kyoto.
- Kiyomizu-dera temple
Kiyomizu-dera is the most popular place in Kyoto and attracts more than 4 million visitors annually. The main attraction of the temple is hondo, the main hall built on a steep slope that has a stage in front of it. The supporting structure of the building is assembled with 139 pillars and no nails are used.
Hondo is a national treasure.
- Kyoto Station Building
Kyoto station is the main hub of public transportation in Kyoto. The station building has a shopping mall, a department store, a hotel, a theater, restaurants, etc. The Kyoto Tourist Information Center is on the second floor of the building. You can get a free Kyoto City Map, Kyoto City Bus Travel map, or other information that would be of visitors help.
- Nijo-jo castle
Primary attractions of the castle are Ninomaru-Goten building and one of it's three gardens. Ninomaru-Goten, a national treasure, is a traditional samurai residential architecture. Shoheki-ga paintings in the building were painted by Kano Tanyu and his company. Ninomaru teien (a pond stroll garden) has a magnificent characteristic peculiar to garden design in the early days of Edo era (1603-1867).
Ninomaru Goten mansion is a national treasure. Ninomaru Teien garden is designated as a national special landscape.
- Kyoto Gosho
Kyoto Gosho, an Imperial Palace, maintains the form of the original palace of Kyoto.
- Gion Corner
Gion Corner is a popular theater where tourists will be provided with short performances of 7 kinds of Japanese traditional arts and entertainment in single setting: Kyoto style Dance, Flower Arrangement, Tea Ceremony, Japanese Harp, Comic Play, Court Music and Puppet Play. Visit their website.
- Ginkaku-ji temple
The Rinzai-shu sect Zen temple represents Higashiyama-bunka, a culture of Wabi and Sabi. The austere and simple culture is quite contrary with flamboyant Kitayama-bunka, a culture that is represented by Kinkaku.
Ginkaku (the Silver Pavilion) and Togu-do buildings are national treasures. The garden is designated as a national special landscape.
- Handy Craft Center
This is a duty-free shop complex close to Heian-jingu. Visit their website.
- Heian-jingu shrine
Heian-jingu was founded in 1895 to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of establishing Kyoto as the capital of Japan. The relatively new shrine has colorful halls and beautiful gardens. Its main halls represent 5/8 scale replicas of the first Imperial Palace built in Heian-kyo (Kyoto) in 794 and convey the atmosphere of elegance of the Heian period (794-1185).
- Sanjusangen-do temple
Rengeo-in temple is commonly known as Sanjusangen-do (a hall with thirty-three spaces between columns). The earthquake resistant main hall is a national treasure. In the long main hall (120m long, 22m wide, 16m high) are more than one thousand Buddhist images.
- Ryoan-ji temple
Ryoan-ji is one of the most famous Zen temples in Japan because of its Sekitei (literally rock garden, also, Karesansui, or dry landscape garden). The small and abstract rock garden consists of 15 rocks and white gravel. The temple also has a good pond garden.
The Karesansui rock garden is designated as a national special landscape.
- Arashiyama and Sagano district
This is one of the most popular places in Kyoto. Sagano area has rural beauty and wide range of interesting places such as great temples and a hermitage of a poet. This area is also known for its scenic beauty especially with cherry blossoms in spring and colored leaves in autumn. Tenryu-ji, one of 17 World Cultural Heritage sites of Kyoto, is in this area.
- To-ji temple
To-ji, or the East Temple, was established together with Sai-ji, the West Temple, in 794 when Kyoto was constructed as the capital of Japan. These two temples were intended to protect the city but Sai-ji ruined after fire in 990.
Kondo hall, the five storied pagoda, Daishi-do hall and Renge-mon gate are national treasures.
- Nanzen-ji temple
Nanzen-ji, one of the big Zen temples in Kyoto once was the highest ranked Zen temple in Japan. O-Hojo and Ko-Hojo buildings are national treasures. Fusuma-e (Shoheki-ga) paintings in the two buildings were painted by Kano Tanyu, Kano Eitoku, and Kano Motonobu. The Zen temple is also famous for its Karesansui garden that is said to have been laid out by Kobori Enshu (1579-1647).