Kyoto, Japan: A Short Guide

Kyoto, Japan 京都

Kyoto, Japan is one of my absolute favorite cities! Full of history and culture, Kyoto is the former capital city of Imperial Japan, and is located three hours away from Tokyo by bullet train, in the Kansai region of the big island of Honshu.

 
philosopher's walk in Kyoto lined with blossoming sakura trees
Beautiful Kyoto
Besides being absolutely beautiful, Kyoto is full of amazing things to see and do. If you only have a short time in Kansai, here are the top sites in Kyoto that you should not miss!

Temple-hopping

If for nothing else, Kyoto is world-famous for its temples, some of the most stunning and atmospheric in the whole country. Here are the top three temples in the city; three of the top sites that you absolutely should not miss.
Pick up a temple stamp book, and visit these three top sites!

Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺

One of the first temples you should visit in Kyoto is Kiyomizu-dera, one of the city's most popular places.
The entire temple complex is full of beautiful shrines, and there's a lot to do. Get there early, because it can get very crowded!

sunny day at a Japanese temple
Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Visit the "Love Rock" to receive help from the spirits in finding true love.
Pick up a temple prayer tag for an extra blessing.
Drink from the natural spring shrine out front to make a special prayer.
Go deep inside the pitch black of an underground tunnel to find a holy rock inscribed with a symbol said to grant a wish.
Kiyomizu-dera is said to be especially beautiful in the autumn when the trees surrounding the temple turn beautiful shades of red.

Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺

Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion Temple, is one of Kyoto's UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
It can get crowded, but as one of Japan's most atmospheric and beautiful temples, it's well worth it.

golden pavillion temple in Kyoto, japan
The Golden Pavilion

Besides the pagoda itself, there's a little tea house where you can participate in a Japanese tea ceremony, and a small market area where you can buy all sorts of gold stuff, including ice cream with gold leaf, and sake with tiny flakes of gold floating in it.

Ginkaku-ji 銀閣寺

Unfairly overlooked in favor of its golden brother, the Silver Pagoda is a quieter, more reverential zen temple. Surrounded by beautiful gardens, this UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to 1460 and was restored in 2008.

silver pavilion temple in Kyoto, Japan
The Silver Pavilion

Take time to explore the beautiful temple grounds, which have incredibly manicured gardens and a traditional Japanese zen rock garden.

Other Amazing Sites

There's more to do in Kyoto than just visiting temples though! Take a half day and visit one of these awesome sites.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove 嵐山

If you want to explore nature in a quintessentially Japanese setting, look no further than Arashiyama, a suburb area of Kyoto, and home to one of Japan's most famous and beautiful bamboo groves.
It's not uncommon to see women and men dressed in their traditional kimonos enjoying an afternoon in the beautiful grove. 
tall shoots of green bamboo in Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan
Arashiyama

Fushimi Inari 伏見稲荷大社

Get up early and take the fifteen-minute commuter train from Kyoto Station to Fushimi Inari, a mountain shrine dedicated to the Shinto god of rice, money, and sake.

red gates at Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto, Japan
Fushimi Inari
Take a hike up the mountain path, walking beneath hundreds of vermilion tori gates. There are plenty of shrines along the way to stop and visit, and several tea houses selling drinks and light snacks as well. Take a rest, order a cup of tea, and enjoy the beautiful, serene nature trail.
The trail is not too difficult; plenty of elderly Japanese walkers enjoy climbing Mt. Inari as exercise.

fox messenger of the god inari, Kyoto, Japan
foxes of Inari
Along the way, you'll pass many statues of foxes, the vehicle of the god Inari.

Eating

Nishiki Market 錦市場

Head to Nishiki Market for delicious fresh food and awesome Japanese snacks! From fresh sushi to matcha tea, to baby octopus on a stick, Nishiki Market has it all!
Japanese red octopus grilled on a stick, Kyoto, japan

Learn More

Video: Beer and Ice Cream (Japan)

Video: "Oishi" Means "Delicious" (Tokyo+Kyoto)

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