Kyoto is the former capital of Japan and is home to 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines. We stayed in Kyoto for seven days and visited a lot of them. As we did so much in Kyoto, we decided to split our itinerary in two posts. Click here to read the second part of our Kyoto itinerary.
The first temple we visited was the To-ji. To-ji means East Temple and there used to be a West Temple as well (Sai-ji) but it was burnt down in 1233 and never rebuilt. To-ji was built in 796 and was one of the three temples that were allowed in Kyoto at that time. It’s the only temple remaining from the three, which makes it the oldest temple in Kyoto. The five-story pagoda is the tallest wooden tower in Japan. For the Pokémon fans among us: To-ji is likely one of the real-life temples on which the Bell Tower in Ecruteak City (Johto) is based (where you caught Ho-Oh in Gold/Silver!).
General admission: JPY 800
Daily: 8:30-16:30/17:30 (winter/summer)
We spent a few hours exploring the building of Kyoto Station. There’s a huge mall in the station but also two viewing platforms. There’s a nice view over the Kyoto Tower from one of the platforms.
The Kyoto Tower is located opposite of Kyoto Station. The tower is not that tall at 131 meters, but it’s the tallest structure in Kyoto. We didn’t go up to the observation deck of the tower, so we unfortunately can’t tell you what the view is like.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
One of the things Mika really wanted to see on our Kyoto trip was the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. The tall bamboo is very impressive. We don’t know exactly why, but we expected the path through the forest to be way longer than it actually was. As the path through the forest is not that long, you should go as early as possible if you want to have the place to yourself. We got there around 9:00 and around 10:00 the place was totally packed. Getting a photo with nobody else in frame after 10:00 was impossible. We went there mid-winter and it was freezing and snowing that morning, so when the weather is better it might even be more crowded at an earlier time.
There’s no admission fee and it’s open 24/7.
After warming-up, we wandered the streets of Gion in the afternoon. Gion is a district of Kyoto full of traditional houses, shrines and temples. You will see many people dressed up in Kimono here. The Gion district feels very ‘Japan-ish’ and it’s absolutely worth a visit.
Hokanji is a temple in the Gion district. We didn’t visit the temple grounds but we wanted a typical Kyoto photo of a street with traditional Japanese houses and the Hokanji pagoda in the background. You will probably stumble upon the temple when you’re wandering around the streets of Gion.
Fushimi Inari Taisha
Another sight Mika was dying to visit was Fushimi Inari Taisha. The shrine is located at the base of the mountain and the 4-kilometer trail to the top of the mountain is lined with thousands of torii. The first part of the mountain trail is very crowded. The longer you walk, the less crowded it gets. You will reach a view point first, which is not yet the top of the mountain. There are a few cafés over there and benches to take a rest. If you continue from there to the top of the mountain, you will only see a handful of people. It does take some time to get up the mountain though, especially when you take lots of photos like us.
There’s no admission fee (in general, the shrines in Kyoto are free to enter and to enter the temples you need to pay an admission fee) and it’s open 24/7.
Kiyomizu-dera is a temple located at the foot of a mountain in the Gion district. It’s one of the most popular temples and therefore the whole area is usually very crowded. It’s a very nice walk from the main shopping street (Shijo Dori) to the temple through the streets of Gion. The street leading to the temple is a tourist paradise filled with souvenir and soft serve ice cream shops. The grounds of Kiyomizu-dera are huge. The main hall is located partly on a lower part of the mountain and partly on pillars and it’s said to offer amazing views over the city. You need to pay an admission fee to enter the main hall, which we didn’t do. Large parts of the temple grounds are freely accessible.
Regular admission: JPY 300
The Pokémon Center in Kyoto is located on the fifth floor in a large mall. It’s a bit hard to find, but if you go to the fifth floor of the Takashiyama Kyoto Store, you will find it eventually. As we had to go home after Kyoto for a week, we decided to buy ourselves some souvenirs!
Have you been to Kyoto? Let us know in the comments below!
Planning your stay in Kyoto? Click here to get a 10% cashback reward on Booking.com!
Be sure to check out more of our visual experiences on Instagram!