Kyoto known as the thousand-year capital, served as Japan’s capital and the emperor’s residence from 794 until 1868. Kyoto is now Japan’s 7th largest city, and is home to numerous temples and shrines. Read below for my recommended places and things to do while in Kyoto. If you have time, consider taking a day tip and read my post about the famous sights and deer park in Nara.
Day 1: Fushimi Inari – Kiyomizu-dera
Fushimi Inari is famous for thousands torii gates lining the network of trails leading to the top of the wooded Mount Inari, standing 765 feet tall. The shrine is the most important in Japan dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Fushimi Inari Shrine has origins predating the capital’s move to Kyoto in 794. The hike to the top of Mount Inari will take the average person about 2-3 hours roundtrip; hikers are free to turn around at any time upon the trail. The trail is open 24 hours; though to avoid crowds it is best to go in the early morning. Cost: Free
Kiyomizu temple, originally built-in 798, is probably the most popular and well-known temple in Kyoto. Kiyomizu, meaning pure water, was constructed without the use of a single nail, and in 1994 was added to the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. Other structures on the temple grounds include a three-storied Koyasu Pagoda. The pagoda is located in the southern end of the temple grounds around the trees. It is worth the 20 minute easy trek to view the pagoda up close. Cost: 300 yen (3 USD)
Day 2: Kinkakuji Temple – Tenryu-ji Temple
Kinkakuji, also known as the Golden Pavilion, is most famous for the top 2 floors are covered with pure gold leaf. Surrounding the temple is a pond full of Koi carp. Kinkakuji is recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage, and is one of the historical buildings most representative of Japan. As such, it is almost always packed with visitors. Avoid the crowds by arriving just after it opens at 9am. Cost: 400 yen (4 USD)
Tenryū-ji the most important temple of the Tenryū branch of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. The temple is listed as a World Heritage Site, and has been ranked first among the Kyoto’s five great Zen temples. Tenryuji’s garden was created by the famous designer Muso Soseki in 1339.The garden incorporates a central pond surrounded by pine trees, rocks, and the Arashiyama mountains. Cost 800 yen (8 USD)
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of Kyoto’s top attractions. Roaming around the grove makes one feel like you have entered into a different planet. When there is a light breeze, the tall bamboo stalks will gently sway in the wind. This offers an eerie and magical sight. You will be sure to have plenty of photo opportunities. Cost Free