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Things to Do in Kyoto - page 3

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Himeji Castle (Himeji-Jo)
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21 Tours and Activities

If you take a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka, make it Himeji. The famous many-tiered white castle at Himeji is acclaimed as Japan’s most beautiful and complete historic citadel. Known as the White Egret, the hilltop castle was built in 1580. The main features are its five-story central tower and surrounding moats, walls and pagodas. From its mountain-top eerie, the castle appears to float on a sea of Japanese pine trees.

Take an organized tour to discover the castle’s history and many nuances, such as the many openings in the defensive walls that were used for pouring boiling oil onto intruders. The castle grounds are flanked by the ponds and tea rooms of Koko-en Gardens, a welcome retreat for a stroll or lunchtime stop.

Himeji Castle recently underwent a full renovation and reopened to the public in March 2015.

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Byodo-in Temple
14 Tours and Activities

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.

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Nakasendo Way
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11 Tours and Activities

Have tea with locals. Spend time in nature. Walk between villages. These are the highlights of the Nakasendo trail, a historic walking path through the Kiso Valley that links the villages of Tsumago and Magome. In feudal times, the Nakasendo Trail linked Kyoto to Tokyo. Samurais and feudal lords frequented the trail. Along the path were 69 villages, where the travelers could stop and rest. Today, walking the Nakasendo Trail between Tsumago and Magome provides visitors an opportunity to experience a small part of that history.

The five-mile (8-km) Nakasendo Trail meanders through a wooded forest. The trail crosses over two main waterfalls, the Odaki en Medaki waterfalls – male and female. Along the path there are several old-fashioned wooden buildings, many converted into shops where local handicrafts are sold. Many people stop in at a teahouse along the way, where a guestbook tracks those who have come through.

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Amanohashidate
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One of Japan's Three Scenic Views, Amanohashidate is a sandbar that connects the two sides of Miyazu Bay. Amanohashidate, translated as "bridge in heaven," got its name for its beauty, poetically described as a pathway between heaven and earth. The sandbar spans 3.3 kilometers (about 2 miles), and nearly 7,000 pine trees decorate the strip The panoramic view includes the bay on either side of the famous sandbar, as well as snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Nestled between the pine trees on the sandbar, Isoshimizu fresh water well is an attraction on its own, having been held in high regard since the Heian Period. Japan's Environmental Agency designated the well as one of the country's 100 best springs and rivers in 1985. Weather walking across the Amanohashidate sandbar or viewing it from above, this view is one of the most celebrated in Japan.

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Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail
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The ancient pilgrimage to the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano spans as far back as 1,000 years ago and still continues today. The pilgrimage routes that crisscross Kii, Japan’s largest peninsula have become known as the Kumano Kodo. Pilgrims and tourists, alike, take on the route to reach Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha, and Kumano Hayatama Taisha. Throughout history, retired emperors, high-ranking officials, and other determined pilgrims have completed the pilgrimage.

Today, the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The route spans through the Kii mountain range, making for an arduous journey. Though challenging, the paths wind through verdant forests and pass by and over cascading waterfalls and streams. In addition to providing a path between the shrines, the Kumano Kodo links Kyoto to the mountainous Kii region.

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