Traveling the Old Capital Like a Repeat Visitor
Having preserved the elegant and glamorous Japanese spirit of wa (peace) from olden times, the ancient capital Kyoto holds countless places of interest, presenting tourists with a hard time deciding which ones to visit.Making a plan on a specific theme is the key to a successful trip to experience the graceful culture that has been fostered distinctively in Kyoto. For example, enhance an ordinary tour of historic temples and shrines by visiting their gardens, sampling authentic green tea or participating in shakyo (sutra copying) or zazen (seated Zen meditation).Look for seasonal scenes, such as cherry blossoms in the spring, kawadoko(open-air, streamside) decks in the summer, and beautiful red leaves in the fall.Satisfy your culinary curiosity with authentic local cuisine that features seasonal ingredients and elaborate presentation. By adding even one more extra event to explore Kyoto's
Many temples in Kyoto are blessed with a beautiful garden to appreciate. Take your time, relax to the sound of shishiodoshi (traditional bamboo noise-maker that fills with running water and see-saws up and down), and find Japanese aesthetic view of wabi-sabi (the beauty found in simplicity and frugality) in a karesansui (dry-style) garden. One of the great gardens worth visiting is found at Shuon-an Ikkyu-ji Temple, the last home of Ikkyu, a Buddhist monk best known in picture books and cartoons for his childhood adventures as a witty apprentice. Registered as a scenic beauty, the temple's Hojo Garden can be appreciated from Hojo (a Zen temple reception hall) in three different directions.
Shuon-an Ikkyu-ji Temple
At Kodai-ji Temple, visitors may enjoy the beauty of the garden over a cup of o-usu, green tea freshly prepared in the traditional manner. At Nanzen-ji Temple, tourists are invited to join a zazen (seated Zen meditation) session. For zazen, you do not need to have any previous knowledge; just be there, sit quietly, and feel an extraordinary air different than that of daily life as you aim to reach the state of "no-self."
Toji Temple is known for its Goju-no-to (the Five-story Pagoda; World Heritage), which is the tallest wooden pagoda in Japan and has been a major landmark of central Kyoto. On the 21st day of each month, the temple holds a popular monthly fair called Kobo-ichi. The fair features a variety of vendors selling antiques, pottery, crafts, and plants, and is popular with both tourists and locals.
Gokono Miya Shrine
- Gokono Miya Shrine (for safe childbirth and childrearing)
- The shrine is dedicated to the guardian deity for the safe delivery of babies. "Gokosui" is spring water from the site, offered to visitors at the shrine. It is recognized as one of the Japan's 100 best waters, and is an important ingredient for sake (rice wine) brewing in the local Fushimi area. (174 Gokogu-Monzencho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto-city)
- Jishu Jinja Shrine (for love, relationships, and marriage)
- The shrine is dedicated to Ōkuninushi-no-Mikoto, the deity of marriage. The shrine is located within the precincts of Kiyomizu-dera Temple and is registered as a World Heritage. Many visitors come to try Koi-uranai-no-ishi, a pair of stones that are believed to tell the future of a current romance. Omamori, or good-luck charms, are popular souvenirs among visitors looking for success in romance. (1 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-city)
- Ninna-ji Temple (for better luck)
- This temple is the headquarters of Omuro School of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism. Registered as a World Heritage in 1994, the temple is also known as a scenic spot for sakura (cherry blossoms). The temple offers an omamori in a motif of sakura blossoms, as they symbolize better luck and accomplishments. (33 Omuro-ochi, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-city)
- Kamigamo Jinja Shrine (for safe air travel)
- The shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Kyoto and is dedicated to the god of thunder. Its omamori are believed to protect air travelers. (339 Motoyama, Kamigamo, Kita-ku, Kyoto-city)
- In Kyoto, the season of cherry blossoms starts in mid-March. There are a number of great spots throughout the city where you can appreciate the beauty of cherry blossoms, including Heian Jingu Shrine, Tetsugaku-no-Michi (the Path of Philosophy), Nijo Castle, Maruyama Park, and Kyoto Gyoen National Garden. A famous weeping cherry at Marumaya Park usually reaches its blooming peak around early April. This symbolic tree is illuminated in the evening to enhance its elegant beauty.
- Summer in Kyoto is best illustrated by the scene of kawadoko, open-air decks built over a flowing river to enjoy dining in a cool breeze from the water. Kawadoko dining is available from June to late September along the Kamo River in central Kyoto, or in the Kibune and Takao areas outside the city.
- The mountains in Kyoto start changing their colors in late October. The best time to enjoy the beauty of the fall leaves is around mid- to late November. Most temples that are registered as World Heritage sites under the title of "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto" are scenic points for autumn color. Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Rokuon-ji Temple (Kinkaku), Jisho-ji Temple (Ginkaku), and Nijo Castle are among such sites.
- Strolling around the city is the best way to enjoy winter in Kyoto. Discover the real face of the ancient capital as you walk past various shops at Nishiki Ichiba, a market dubbed "Kyoto's kitchen," or old houses in the Nishijin district, the town famous for its textile industry. As the winter cold reaches its peak in February, the city is often covered in snow, adding more grace and serenity to the city's scenic landscape.
For many travelers, experiencing the local food often becomes the highlight of their trip. The sophisticated style of local cuisine in Kyoto is generally referred to as kyo-ryori, and it emphasizes the delicacy of seasonal ingredients and an elaborate presentation. Obanzai, on the other hand, is a variety of common dishes eaten daily by locals, many of which are stews and marinated dishes that use locally grown vegetables called kyo-yasai. Although obanzai dishes are simple and plain compared to colorful kyo-ryori, they still inherit the traditional flavors that the people of Kyoto have long cherished. You can try the taste of obanzai at local Japanese restaurants.
Sake warehouse of Fushimi
Fushimi is known for its long history of sake (rice wine) brewing, which relies on local quality groundwater and its cold climate. Many sake breweries have established their facilities along the Hori River, which was originally an outer moat of the former Fushimi Castle. Enjoy visiting various breweries or take a factory tour to learn the process of sake-making, while enjoying the distinctive streetscape of the community.
Your trip to Kyoto will not be complete without souvenir shopping. Nishijin silk, kyo-zome dyed kinchaku purses, kumihimo braided phone straps, and washi (Japanese paper) stationery are just a few examples of popular souvenir items. If you are looking for something edible, kyo-gashi are a perfect choice, as they are decorative and stay fresh for a long period of time.
- Makeup brushes
- Cosmetic items that have been traditionally used by maiko (apprentice geisha) are very popular souvenir items. A variety of locally-made makeup brushes, including those for the face and the cheeks, are known for their proven quality and are trusted by professionals.Where to buy makeup brushes: Yojiya (Northeastern corner of Hanamikoji Street,Gion Shijo, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-city), Kazurasei Roho (North side, Gion-cho, Shijodori Street, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-city)
- Aburatorigami (facial paper)
- The paper used for making gold leaf is prized for absorbing excess oil from the skin and reducing shine from makeup.Stores offering oil-blotting paper: Yojiya in Gion (Hanamikoji-dori Hokuto-kado, Gion Shijo, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi); Hori Metal Leaf & Powder Co., Ltd. in front of the KYŌTO-SHIYAKUSHOMAE Sta. (Goko-machi Higashi-iru, Oike-dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi); Izawaya (211-2 Nakano-cho, Yamatooji Nishi-iru, Shijo-dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi), etc.
- Kimono dress-up
- You may pose for a photo in a traditional kimono of a maiko, an apprentice of geiko, or in juni-hitoe (a 12-layered kimono), formalwear for aristocratic women during the Heian Period. <Reservation required> For more information: Nishijin Textile Center (Horikawa- Imadegawa Minami-iru Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto-city), Maiko Kitsuke Studio "Ka-Fu" (452-3 Rinkacho, Shinbashidori Yamatooji-Higashiiru 3-chome, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-city)
Zazen is a form of seated meditation and is one of the basic methods of Zen Buddhism training. Participants are required to be seated in the proper posture and focus their concentration.
Where to try zazen: Nanzen-ji Temple(Nanzenji-Fukuchi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-city), Tenryu-ji Temple (68 Saga Tenryuji Susukinobaba-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-city), Daitoku-ji Daisen-in Temple (54-1 Murasakino Daitokuji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto-city)