What temples should I visit in Kyoto, Japan?
September 3, 2004 9:42 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are heading back to Japan for a few weeks this October. I lived for many years in Japan, but have not been to Kyoto. We are planning only a day and a half there, so I was wondering which temples/castles are on your "Do Not Miss Under Any Circumstances" List (I'm guessing Ryoanji, Kinkakuji, and Kiyomizudera for starters)? Any advice? Im planning a full day and need to make sure I make this worthwhile.
posted by Dantien to Travel & Transportation around Kyoto, Japan (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Kiyomizudera is the one thing that I think you absolutely cannot afford to miss, along with a nightime walk along the river/canals & through the Gion district--absolutely like entering another age. And while I'm sure that it makes everyone's top ten, I will specially endorse Sajusangendo, which I have found to be very affecting each of the three times I have visited. If the weather is alright, you can take a nice (steep) walk from there up through an old graveyard to the base of the Kiyomizudera complex.
posted by armchairsocialist at 10:07 PM on September 3, 2004

Armchairsocialist is right, Higashiyama and Kiyomizu is where it's at. I suggest you get off the subway at Karasuma Oike, walk east on Sanjo to get a feel for the modern cosmopolitan cafe scene, then go south through the Ponto-cho corridor, cut across the Kamo River to Gion, north and south of Shijo, (unless you can do it at twilight or after dark, as armchairsocialist suggests) and wander for a few hours (a few hours can turn into 10 years in the twinkling of an eye, so watch out), then the must see part is Yasaka Jinja to Kiyomizu through the ancient winding stone paved Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka. To make this route more temple-y, just exchange the part up to Yasaka for a route from Heian Jingu past Nanzenji, Chion-in (The Last Samurai) and Kodaiji. The Gion and Miyagawacho districts are the places where you can catch a glimpse and a photo of authentic maiko/geisha (if you are interested in that) rather than the more plentiful tourists dressed up as maiko. I have a link on my site to the only gaijin who get get you behind the scenes into this exclusive world. Ryoanji and Kinkakuji are in the opposite corner, and thus are more suitable for the extra half-day. October is high season, so you may want to look for something less famous, but if it's your only chance...
posted by planetkyoto at 12:13 AM on September 4, 2004 [1 favorite]

another personal endorsement for Sanjusangendo and Kiyomizu, for what it's worth. And although I've not been there myself, a colleague went to Kinkakuji and came back proclaiming that he'd happily go back there every day for the rest of his life.

I wouldn't bother going to the Imperial Palace though.
posted by nylon at 4:07 AM on September 4, 2004

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