Temples of Kyoto, Japan

There are so many beautiful temples and gardens in Kyoto, we only had time to visit a few of the most famous of these temples during our October 2017 trip to Japan.

Fushimi Inari Taisha

Red Torii gates at Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari Taisha is one of the most well known and recognized Japanese temples due to the hundreds of red torii gates that climb to the top of Mount Inari. It was also my favourite temple that we visited in Japan. It is a Shinto shrine dedicated to the Shinto god of rice, Inari. You will also notice many fox statues throughout the complex as the fox is viewed as a messenger. You can climb all the way to the top of the 233 metre high Mount Inari but most people only go as far as the lookout point (about halfway). If you have the time, it is worth the extra effort as the crowds thin-out near the top and you can get that picture perfect shot of the red torii gates without any people in the background.

One of the many fox statues at Fushimi Inari

Getting There: Fushimi Inari Taisha is located in Southern Kyoto right outside the JR Inari Station on the JR Nara line. Admission to the temple is free.

Nearby: There were several small restaurants and shops along the trail which offer limited food and beverages. There were also a number of street food stalls at the main entrance to the temple where we had snacks such as yakiudon and takoyaki (octopus balls). We ate lunch at a nearby ramen restaurant where I tried some delicious tsukemen (dipping ramen).

Some of the treats available at the base of Fushimi Inari

Golden Temple (Kinkaku-ji)

Postcard perfect Golden Temple

We arrived at the Kinkaku-ji Buddist temple just before sunset and it was the perfect time to see this spectacular golden temple. The temple is completely covered in gold leaf and it shimmered in the sunlight which made for postcard perfect pictures. The only downside was that we arrived at the same time as a large tour group and everyone was crowded around to get the best photo. The current temple was rebuilt after it was burned down by a novice monk in 1950.

It is not possible to enter the temple but there is a pathway that takes you through the beautiful gardens and around the small lake that surrounds the temple.

Getting There: There isn’t a subway stop too close to the temple so it is best to take the #205 bus or a taxi.

Nearby: There is teahouse on the temple grounds where you can have small snacks and tea.

Silver Pavilion (Higashiyama Jisho-ji)

Silver Pavilion

Higashiyama Jisho-ji is also known as the Silver Pavilion or Ginkakuji, and although modeled after the Golden Temple, the Silver Pavilion is not covered in silver. This temple was not as busy which made wandering through the gardens much more enjoyable. There is a moss garden and dry sand garden with plenty of trees and a path in the hills overlooking the whole grounds.

Walking paths in the gardens of Ginkakuji

Getting There: This temple is best reached by bus. From Kyoto station, you can take bus #5, 17 or 100.

Nearby: The small road leading up to the temple is lined with small shops, food stalls and restaurants which made the journey up to the temple all the more fun. Ginkakuji is also the start (or end) of the 2km long Philosopher’s Path which is a walking path along the canal to Nanzen-ji Temple.

Nanzen-ji Temple

Sanmon Entrance Gate

Nanzen-ji is an important Zen Buddhist temple located in Eastern Kyoto. We didn’t spent much time here as we had just come from Ginkakuji along the Philosopher’s Path and we were heading to Kiyomizu-dera. There is a huge gate at the entrance known as the Sanmon entrance gate which leads to the gardens and other buildings. You can climb the entrance gate to get a view of the city. The temple is most well known for its rock garden.

The canal along the Philosopher’s Path

Getting There: We walked along the Philosopher’s Path from Ginkakuji temple to arrive at Nanzen-ji but it can also be reach by transit. The closest subway station, Keage Station, is about a 12 minute walk away.

Nearby: The Suirokaku Water Bridge is a raised brick aqueduct that transports water from Lake Biwa.


Kiyomizu-dera temple covered in scaffolding

This Buddhist temple is best known for its large wooden platform overlooking the colourful trees below. Unfortunately when we visited the temple was under construction and the platform was covered by scaffolding. It was still pleasant to walk through the temple and the surrounding grounds. The temple is built above the Otowa Waterfall and we watched people drink from the three streams of the waterfall. Each of the streams is said to provide various benefits such as longevity, success at school and success in love.

Getting There: Take the bus #100 or 206 from Kyoto Station or walk up to the temple through the Higashiyama District.

Nearby: Similar to many other Japanese temples, the road all the way up to the temple was lined with souvenir shops, street food stalls, tea shops and restaurants.

Three streams of the Otawa Waterfall


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