Kyoto, Japan - Temples, Shrines, Palaces, Castles, & Villas

Kinkakuji Temple Golden Pavilion Reflection Kyoto Japan
Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) 
- Kyoto, Japan
Heian-jingu Shrine Kyoto Japan
Heian-jingu Shrine - Kyoto, Japan
Yasak-jingu Shrine Night Kyoto Japan
Yasak-jingu Shrine at Night - Kyoto, Japan
Cleaning Hands Kiyomizu-dera Temple Kyoto Japan
Wayne Cleaning Hands
at Kiyomizu-dera Temple - Kyoto, Japan
Kiyomizu-dera Temple Kyoto Japan
Kiyomizu-dera Temple - Kyoto, Japan
Raked Garden Ryoan-ji Temple Kyoto Japan
Ryoan-ji Temple - Kyoto, Japan
Prayer Wishes Kyoto Japan
Prayer Wishes - Kyoto, Japan
Love Rock Jishu Shrine Kyoto Japan
Love Rock at Jishu Shrine - Kyoto, Japan
Japanese Gardens Ginkakuji Temple of the Silver Pavilion Kyoto Japan
Ginkakuji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion) 
- Kyoto, Japan
Kyoto, Japan – Temples, Palaces, Villas, & Castles (10/10-16/2009)

Kyoto is Japan’s treasure!

Avoiding the WWII bombings, Kyoto is now home to 20% of Japan’s national treasures and over 2,000 temples and shrines.

Kyoto was Japan’s capital for over 1,000 years (794-1868) and has qualified for an amazing 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites! It is difficult to see them all - we tried. Here are our impressions of the famous ones we did visit…

Kinkakuji Temple: probably our favorite - absolutely beautiful! Covered in gold leaf and rightfully known as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion with beautiful gardens, we visited on a perfect sunny day getting postcard quality photos (see photo). This 14th-century temple was burned by a disgruntled monk in 1950 and then rebuilt.

Kyoto Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho): the palace was nice but the Sento Imperial Palace on the grounds has the most stunningly elegant gardens in Kyoto – don’t miss it (note: you need reservations for both Palaces).

Ryoan-ji Temple: Japan’s famous 500-year-old Zen rock garden of raked white gravel and 15 rocks arranged in three groupings. Now a world famous symbol of Zen wisdom, we did not ‘get it’ - probably too much western ways, but we loved the 1,000 year old pond and gardens around the Ryoan-ji Temple and had a wonderful 7-herb tofu lunch at a traditional Japanese garden teahouse (Ryoanju Yudofuya).

Kiyomizu-dera Temple: this is a beautiful temple with many structures that were started in 798 and rebuilt in 1633 (without a single nail) at a site know for its purity of water. Known as the Pure Water Temple, people come to the Kiyomizu-dera Temple believing in its healing abilities. 

Beautiful views of the city can be seen from the Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Also located here is the Jishu Shrine dedicated to the god of love and matchmaking. There is a belief that if you can walk between the two love rocks at the Jishu Shrine with your eyes close, your desires for love will be granted. We tried it and succeeded - will see what happens, so far so good.

Heian-jingu Shrine: an interesting Shinto shrine of peace and tranquility built in 1895 in the exact architectural style of the original Imperial Palace of 794. It’s fun to see how Kyoto looked over 12 centuries ago.

Nijo Castle Kyoto Japan
Nijo Castle - Kyoto, Japan
Nijo Castle (Nijojo): Completed in 1626, Shoguns ruled from Nijo Castle for over 250 years. Fearful of enemies, there are secret rooms and the floors were designed to make a unique noise when walked on sounding quite a bit like nightingale birds singing. Pretty cool! Worth a visit.

Ninnaji Temple: Built as a retirement villa for an emperor. The gardens are simple but beautiful.

Sanjusangedo Hall Kyoto Japan
Sanjusangedo Hall - Kyoto, Japan
Sanjusangedo Hall: Stunning sight of 1,001 carved wooden statues of the standing Bodhisattva Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, in the longest wooden building in Japan (400 feet). Each statue has 40 arms. Very interesting to visit.

Yasaka-jinia Shrine: in the old Gion District where we wandered at night – magical (Pat says romantic).

Japanese Garden Ginkakuji Temple Silver Pavilion Kyoto Japan
Ginkakuji Temple (Silver Pavilion) - Kyoto, Japan
Ginkakuji Temple: The Temple of the Silver Pavilion built in the 1470's was never covered in silver as planned. It does have a pretty garden worth visiting. The mile-long Philosopher's Path outside its gate follows a narrow canal that is particularly beautiful when the cherry trees are in full bloom (click here to see).

We also visited other famous temples and shrines such as the Kodai-ji Temple and Kennin-ji Temple (the oldest Zen Temple in Kyoto) as well as many other smaller temples and shrines that you cannot help but stubble upon.

For more about wonderful Kyoto, please see our other 4 blog posts: 

Japan Kyoto - Cherry Tree Blossoms (Sakura & Hanami)

Japan Kyoto - Gardens

Japan Kyoto - Japanese Food

Japan Kyoto - Living and Impressions

Please also see our 6 other blog posts for wonderful Japan:

Japan Uji Fushimi-Inari Taisha Torii Gates

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