Kyoto – Shrines and Temples

Kyoto is a beautiful city, but it does its level best to hide it.  It has dozens of world-class monuments, mostly shrines and temples, that are stunning, but they are all hidden away in ugly city blocks so you don’t see them unless you are almost on top of them.  There are 20+ UNESCO world heritage sites in Kyoto, and we didn’t have time to see everything, but here are some of the shrines and temples we did visit.

Sanjusangen-do Temple

This was the first temple we visited, it’s nice enough on the outside, the interior is amazing and unfortunately you aren’t allowed to take photos, but it contains 1001 statues of a Buddhist deity.

Kiyomizudera Temple

This temple complex is set up in the hills on the edge of Kyoto so it gives good views across the city, and is set amongst beautiful woodland.

Yasaka Shrine

We visited this shrine at night when it was all lit up, and you can see the Gion district beyond the shrine gate.

Tenryuji Temple

This temple is in the bamboo groves just outside the city.

Toji Temple

Famous for its pagoda (not many still standing due to earthquakes, fires and wars – in fact, most of the monuments in Japan seem to be replicas for buildings that have been destroyed half a dozen times since their first creation.)

Kinkakuji Temple

The famous Golden Pavilion is Kyoto’s most famous landmark.  You get hurried past it as there is a mass of tourists there.

Ryoanji Temple

These are apparently very famous rocks and the epitome of Zen art.  At the temple, you are invited to sit an contemplate their meaning.  I didn’t get very far, but if you have any insights, then do let me know.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

These shrine gates (torii) are found at every shrine and are the main way you tell a Shinto shrine from a Buddhist temple.  At this shrine, they have really gone to town with thousands of torii, each one sponsored by a local business to ensure its prosperity.  You can hike up in the hills for miles through all the torii.

A common feature of many shrines and temples is a cat or two asleep somewhere.

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