Choose from 51 Fun Things to Do in Kyoto
- The castle is a must-see for history buffs and first-time visitors.
- Visit the site on a day trip from either Kyoto or Osaka.
- Slopes and steep, narrow stairs make the castle inaccessible to wheelchairs.
- Drone photography is not permitted.
- Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking over uneven surfaces.
If you think this classic furled-roof temple looks familiar, take a look at a 10-yen coin, and you’ll see why. One of Japan's most famous temples, and a World Heritage Site, the image of its 11th century Phoenix Hall graces the coin and the 10,000-yen note.
The reason why this Buddhist temple is so famous is because it is one of the few remaining examples of Heian-era architecture, a textbook example of Japanese perfection.
Take a tour to see the famous statue of Amida and 42 Bodhisattvas from the 11th century. The surrounding gardens are also justly famous, with tranquil water gardens reflecting the temple's surrounding pines.
The classically curved eaves, ceremonial steps and oversized two-story gateway mark Chion-in Temple as something special, even in temple-filled Kyoto.
The main temple of the Jodo school of Buddhism, Chion-in is a very grand affair, focusing on the huge main hall and its image of the sect’s founder, Hōnen. Another building houses a renowned statue of the Buddha.
The beautiful temple gardens are a sight in their own right, threaded with stone paths, steps and Zen water gardens. The view from the Hojo Garden is particularly worth catching.
Chion-in is north of Maruyama Park in southeast Kyoto. Buses run to Chion-in from the city center, and the closest train station is a 10-minute walk away at Higashiyama.
Originally built in 1910 as the Hiroshima Commercial Exhibition Hall, in 1933 it was renamed the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The five-story building, its exterior faced with stone and plaster, was topped with a steel-framed, copper-clad dome. The bomb blast shattered much of its interior, but the majority of its frame, as well as its garden fountain, remain.
The area around the building was re-landscaped as a park between 1950 and 1964; when complete, it was formally opened to the public as a museum. Since 1952, an annual peace ceremony has been held here on August 6, and in 1996, it was declared a World Heritage site.
- If you plan on hiking to the mountaintop, wear comfortable shoes and bring sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water.
- The shrine is free, but carry cash if you want to leave a donation, make a wish, or have your fortune told.
- Some parts of the shrine are wheelchair accessible, but the climb to the mountaintop is via several flights of steps.
- There is an admission fee to enter the temple grounds.
- Plan between 30 minutes and an hour to admire the temple, take photos, and explore the gardens.
- A traditional Japanese teahouse is in the temple grounds, and souvenir shops, food vendors, and restaurants are just outside the gates.
- The temple grounds and walkways are wheelchair accessible.
On a nice day, a tour through the stunning bridge and onto any one of its four majestic gardens will relax any weary traveler. Whether it is through the iris, filled pond of the Nishi Shin'en, writing a haiku next to one of the radiating weeping cherry trees of the Heian-style Minami Shin'en, or just taking a leisurely stroll through the magnificence of the stone pillars in the Naka Shin'en, your visit to the Shrine's gardens is a sight that will not be soon forgotten.
For classic Kyoto in a nutshell, head to Arashiyama Park. The perennially popular area is rich in temples and a riot of fall colors in November, with pink cherry blossoms in April.
The park area embraces several major sights, including Tenryu-ji Temple, founded in 1339. The main temple of the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism, Tenryu-ji is a UNESCO World Heritage Site surrounded by tranquil Zen gardens and bamboo forest.
There are many other temples in Arashiyama, including the Gio-ji, Jojakko-ji and Daikaku-ji temples. Another highlight is walking across the Moon Crossing Bridge, with views over to Mt Arashiyama.
Arashiyama Park is north-west of central Kyoto, by the Oi River. Buses run to Arashiyama from the city center, and the closest train station is JR Saga Arashiyama.
The circular route around the Silver Pavilion begins in a dry sand garden, named the “Sea of Silver Sand,” where a cone-like representation of Mt. Fuji has been dubbed the “Moon Viewing Platform.” The grounds open up to a moss garden featuring ponds with islands and short bridges, streams, and a variety of foliage. The path snakes up a hill leading to a viewing point of the entire temple grounds and the city beyond. The path comes full circle with up-close views of the Silver Pavilion itself. Unlike some of Kyoto’s famous temples, none of the buildings at the Silver Pavilion can be viewed from the inside.
- Miyajima Island is a must-see for nature and culture lovers.
- A variety of restaurants and convenience stores can be found on Omoto-Sando shopping street.
- At low tide you can actually walk out to Itsukushima Shrine and pass through it.
- The island has public restrooms.
- Admission to the park is free.
- While the gardens can be visited independently, the palace buildings can only be entered by prior arrangement with the palace authorities.
- The palace is very close to Nijo Castle, and the two places can be visited together in a convenient morning or afternoon of sightseeing.
- Performances last 50 minutes.
- Gion Corner offers tourist season discounts to encourage foreign visitors to experience Japan’s traditional arts. Check out the website for current details.
- Gion Corner has its own app for visitors to learn more about traditional arts before their visit. It can be downloaded from the Gion Corner website.