Things to Do in Kyoto - page 2
No wonder this serene destination was once featured in "Lost in Translation" the Heian Shrine is easily one of Kyoto's most beautiful. Built in 1884 to mark the 1,100th anniversary of the city, and was dedicated to its first and last emporer's, it is an astounding two-thirds scale replica of the Imperial Palace of the Heian period, and is just as beautiful.
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.
Jojakko-ji Temple is not an ordinary temple; it was built on the side of a mountain in the thick of a famous bamboo grove. Finding it feels like an adventure, and climbing to the top feels like a workout. The view of Kyoto from the top of Jojakko-ji Temple rewards the effort mightily.
Located in the idyllic Arashiyama district of Kyoto, Jojakko-ji Temple was built in the 1500s, and the journey to it is all uphill from its gate. Its steep staircase leads to multiple buildings, including a main hall and a pagoda that houses a Buddha. The sites along the way offer respites from the climb, and one of the most popular of these resting points is a mossy area with the bamboos directly overhead. The top of the pagoda offers an incredible view over the city, and this hidden gem of a temple is undoubtedly worth the train ride out to Arashiyama.
More than 200 years before Kyoto would be named the capital of Japan in 794, construction on the Shimogamo Shrine began. One of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan and one of the 17 Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Shimogamo Jinja rests at the intersection of the Takano and Kamo rivers in the midst of 600 year old trees in the ancient Tadasu no Mori forest.
Throughout the more than 1,000 years that Kyoto reigned as Japan's capital city, the Imperial Court patronized the Shimogamo Shrine and its neighbor, Kamigamo Shrine, to bring food fortune, protection, and prosperity to the city. Today, the 53 buildings in the shrine complex provide a respite from city life, welcoming visitors into a natural setting where peace and tranquility abound.
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.
The spindly needle atop the 55 meter (180 foot), five-storied pagoda of To-ji temple keeps protective watch over the city of Kyoto, as it has done since its construction in the early 9th century. The tallest pagoda in Japan, it has become a symbol and iconic image of Kyoto. Several Buddha statues reside inside the famous wooden structure, enhancing its religious and historical allure.
The temple itself dates from 796, two years after the capitol moved to Kyoto. At the time, To-ji, along with a no longer existing sister temple, guarded the capitol. The temple’s feature image is that of Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of Medicine, further promoting To-ji’s status as a protector. To-ji was one of only three temples allowed in Kyoto in the early years of its reign as capitol, and it’s the only one that still stands today.
Built at the end of the 9th century in the year 888 and founded by the reigning Emperor of the time, Ninna-ji Temple maintained a centuries long reign as a royal place of worship. Members of the Imperial Family served as the temple’s head priest, bringing prestige that lasts to this day. To further elevate its status, the temple was originally named Monseki-jiin and served as a residence for a member of the Imperial Family who had entered priesthood.
Today, Ninna-ji is the center of the Omuro sect of Shingon Buddhism and houses buildings from the former Imperial Palace in Kyoto. Among the relocated historical treasures is a five-storied pagoda and Reiho-kan, a structure that houses cultural treasures such as sculptures, paintings, and the seated figure of Amida-Nyorai Buddha, the deity of Paradise. Encompassing the temple buildings is an orchard of dwarf cherry trees, making Ninna-ji one of the most popular spots to see the cherry blossoms in Spring.
One of Japan’s heralded philosophers is said to have meditated daily as he walked on a stone route alongside a canal on his commute to Kyoto University. The scenic path, shaded by hundreds of cherry trees, quickly became known as The Philosopher’s Path (or The Path of Philosophy), and today hundreds of people traverse the two-kilometer trail every day searching for peace, insight, and a clear mind. Small temples and shrines peek out from the cherry trees, beckoning to thinkers and walkers in search of religious observance.
Originating near Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion temple, the trail extends to the Kyoto neighborhood of Nanzenji. Near the end of the trail, a large aqueduct greets visitors, a popular spot to stop and take photos. Restaurants and cafes dot the trail. In the Spring, The Philosopher’s Path is one of the best places in all of Kyoto to enjoy the vibrant cherry blossoms in bloom.
More Things to Do in Kyoto
For handmade goods by local craftsmen in Kyoto, nothing beats the Kyoto Handicraft Center. This three-floor building is jam-packed with handicrafts, as the name implies, and souvenirs. The local cooperative showcases the best work from local artisans and encourages visitors to try their own hand at making a souvenir to take home. Visitors are also invited to step into observation studios where they can watch local artisans at work.
The Kyoto Handicraft Center focuses on traditional Japanese goods. These include pottery, kimonos, jewelry, dolls, carvings, decorative fans, and more. It may be the best place in all of Kyoto to find handicraft goods of all varieties in one place.
While many of Kyoto’s temples provide insight into ancient Japanese Buddhist history, few showcase contemporary movements. That’s what makes Nishi Hongan-ji unique. Built in the late 16th-century, the temple remains today an important landmark for modern Japanese Buddhism. Located in the center of Kyoto, the large temple and its sibling-temple, Higashi Hongan-ji, represent two factions of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism.
The three main attractions on the temple grounds include Goeido Hall, Amidado Hall, and the temple gardens. Goeido Hall is dedicated to the sect’s founder, and Amidado Hall to the Amida Buddha – the most important Buddha in Jodo-Shin Buddhism. Cultural treasures, including surviving masterpieces of architecture, are displayed in these main halls. The Temple garden is known as a “dry” garden, utilizing stones, white sand, trees, and plants to symbolize elements of nature such as mountains, rivers, and the ocean.
The Horino Memorial Museum is about more than tasting sake. This traditional sake-brewing house in Kyoto honors the legacy of Machiya culture, a style of wooden townhouse best exemplified in Kyoto. The house formerly belonged to the Horino family, founders of the craft beer company Kinshi Masamune, but has since been converted into a museum that is open to visitors interested in learning about the history of Japanese architecture and sake brewing.
Visiting the Horino Memorial Museum provides a unique look into the art of brewing sake. The museum has an exhibit on sake brewing tools, and travelers are invited to taste three different kinds of Japanese sake, all made with water from a well on the premises. The well-water is still used today to make beer. and visitors get the chance to make their own label for a bottle of sake to take as a souvenir.
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