Arashiyama Sacred Grove

Arashiyama Sacred Grove

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Grove (Civ6)

+1 Food and Faith to adjacent unimproved Charming tiles. Yields increased to +2 Food , Faith and Culture for adjacent unimproved Breathtaking tiles.

The Grove is a basic conservation building in Civilization VI. It is built in the Preserve district.

  • Effects:
    • +1 Food and Faith to adjacent unimproved tiles with Charming Appeal
    • Yields increased to +2 Food , Faith and Culture for adjacent unimproved tiles with Breathtaking Appeal

    The Bamboo Groves of Arashiyama

    Easy enough to find after contemplating Soseki’s garden mirroring the surrounding mountainous landscape, the bamboo grove offers another treasure: the former estate of Denjiro Okochi (1898-1962), Japan’s most famous silent film star. Known as Ōkōchi Sansō, the spiral garden and teahouse complex houses a wondrous history worth exploring (entry includes a fine ceramic bowl of whipped green tea). The views from the seat of Ōkōchi Sansō, Mt. Ogura, has been talked about in classical poetry since Heian times.

    Assuming you find, enter and tea party it up at Ōkōchi Sansō (participating in the tea ceremony is integral to the zen experience), following the bamboo forest path back to the diminutive Nonomiya Shrine (you passed it on the way up) should prove another small feat. Listen to the wind rustling through the bamboo leaves and picture Lady Murasaki’s 11th century classic Tale of Genji. The petite size of Nonomiya Shrine–where much like in the novel, generations of imperial princesses once spent a year undergoing purification rites before moving on to the sacred heart of Japanese Shintoism, Ise Grand Shrine–makes one wonder where they all were purified.

    Having completed the western leg of your journey into the zen heart of Kyoto, it’s perfectly acceptable to stop by one of the many riverside restaurants and get meditative with a few draught beer.

    Video: Explore Kyoto

    There are so many temples in Kyoto that it can be overwhelming deciding which ones to visit. My advice is don’t try to do it all and to mix a few popular temples with quieter, less well-known ones that you can enjoy without the crowds.

    I highly recommend visiting the major temples early in the morning (or an hour before closing) to minimise the crowds. This is most important for Fushimi Inari, Kiyomizu-dera, Kinkaku-ji (Golden temple), and Ginkaku-ji (Silver temple).

    I haven’t ranked the sights below in order as choosing the absolute best temples in Kyoto is an impossible task and it depends what’s important to you. Instead I have grouped them by area which makes more sense when planning your itinerary.

    If you are struggling to decide which ones to visit, my number one pick is Fushimi Inari shrine as it’s so unique.

    I also love the quieter Otagi Nenbutsu-ji and Jojakko-ji in Arashiyama and Kodai-ji in Southern Higashiyama.

    To escape the crowds, the Yoshida Hill temples and shrines are very peaceful (and have free entry) and can be combined with the Philosopher’s Path.

    Try to visit some shrines as well as temples for a different experience. Shrines are usually free to enter, but most temples charge a fee ranging from 300 – 600 yen (US $2.80 – 5.60).

    Kyoto Tours

    If you have limited time and would prefer to take a tour, this Kyoto early bird tour escapes the crowds by starting at 6 am and visits Fushimi Inari, Kiyomizu-dera, and the bamboo forest in Arashiyama.

    If starting so early isn’t for you, this 1 Day Historical Sites of Kyoto tour starts at 9 am and covers Fushimi Inari, Kiyomizu-dera, Kodai-ji, Yasaka Shrine, and Kinkaku-ji.

    Alternatively, this Kyoto UNESCO and Historical Sites tour visits Kiyomizu-dera, Sanjusangendo, Fushimi Inari, Tenru-ji (in Arashiyama) and Kinkaku-ji.

    Note that you usually have to remove your shoes inside temples so slip-on shoes (and non-holey socks!) make life easier. I often wear my Tieks ballet flats which are comfortable enough for a long day sightseeing.

    For more tips on escaping the crowds in Kyoto, as well as activities beyond the temples, see my detailed guide to the best things to do in Kyoto.

    Arashiyama Sacred Grove - History

    Few visitors come to Kyoto for the nightlife. With traditional teahouses, countless kōyō (maple trees) and sakura (cherry blossoms) and 17 castles, shrines and temples on the Unesco World Heritage list, the Japanese city is far better known for its daytime splendour.

    But after the sun goes down, geishas recede behind closed doors and teahouses shut down for the night, Kyoto offers spectacular nighttime charms.

    Night lights
    On a recent trip, I took a summer evening stroll through the neighbourhoods of Gion and Higashiyama, nestled in eastern Kyoto between the Kamo River and Higashiyama mountains. The area’s narrow alleys and machiya (traditional wooden buildings) were filled with small shops, cafes and restaurants that catered to visitors. But as the tourists disappeared from the streets and dim light bathed the closed wooden storefronts, I felt as though I had stumbled upon a sleeping 15th-century town.

    Even asleep, though, Kyoto was filled with sights even more beautiful at night. From one overlook in Higashiyama, the wooden, 15th-century Yasaka Pagoda, at 49m high, juxtaposed the modern 131m Kyoto Tower. Finished in 1964, the latter resembled a launching rocket its long base was lit white and its circular observation deck and needle spire glowed in a blaze of orange.

    A short walk from Higashiyama, on the border of the historic Gion district, was the ornate red-and-white gate of the Yasaka Shrine. Open 24 hours a day, the shrine is the most popular place in Kyoto to count down to midnight on New Year’s Eve: traditional worshippers flock here to take home a flame from the shrine’s sacred fire, which they use to cook the first meal of the year. It is also an important site during Kyoto’s annual Gion Matsuri, a religious festival that runs throughout July. But at this time of year, the shrine remained calm and peaceful, glowing from hundreds of paper lanterns hanging in the temple.

    The path from the shrine wound up a steep hill to Kodaji Temple. Kodaji is illuminated at night at three different times each year: in August, to commemorate the death of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the pre-eminent daimyo warrior in the 16th Century from late October to early December for momiji-gari (autumn foliage viewing) and from mid-March to early May for hanami (cherry blossom viewing). I was here in August, and the 17th-century Zen Buddhist temple had been transformed from a peaceful cluster of teahouses and gardens into an eerie space where multi-coloured spotlights shone down on the rock garden, lit the bamboo grove with a neon glow and turned the pond into a spectacular mirror that reflected the maple trees above.

    Kodaji was one of the first sites in Kyoto to light up during momiji-gari and hanami. It was so successful that, now, many others also light up during Japan’s favourite times of year. Kiyomizu Temple in the Higashiyama District, and nearby Maruyama Park in Gion District, home to Kyoto’s famous giant weeping cherry tree, are illuminated during hanami season, giving Japan’s famous pink flowers an otherworldly glow. Many temples and shrines in the area surrounding Nijo Castle and Arashiyama also are lit up throughout hanami, as well as momiji-gari, when the lights seem to ignite the burnt orange and red maples.

    Every year during hanami and momiji-gari, Kyoto illuminates 5km-long walking paths during a 10-day event called Higashiyama Hanatouro, when approximately 2,500 lanterns light the pedestrian- and-rickshaw-only streets leading up to Higashiyama Mountain. Some 1,000 bamboo lanterns also stand along the Yoshimizu Stream, transforming Maruyama Park into an enchanting wonderland. Flower arrangements and art exhibits embellish the rest of the park. (In 2014, the event for hanami takes place 14 to 23 March).

    While tourists flock to Kyoto to experience the change of seasons in the spring and autumn, locals believe that the calm winter is the best time to enjoy the city’s spiritual side. Therefore, Kyoto hosts a similar event in December, usually the second to third weekend of the month, when a 5km section of Kyoto’s Arashiyama ward is illuminated for the Arashiyama Hanatouro. Visitors can delight in specially curated flower arrangements, glimpse a rare night-time view of the Togetsukyo Bridge and surrounding foothills, or stroll through the mystical bamboo forest that glows from Nonomiya-Jinjya Shrine to Okouchi Sanso Villa.

    Tunnel of trees
    At night for one week every April, depending on when the cherry blossoms reach full bloom, visitors also can get a glimpse of glowing cherry blossoms from Kyoto’s Keifuku train (also known as the Randen train), the last of the two-car trollies that were widely used throughout Kyoto from 1895 until 1971, when they were largely replaced by diesel buses. After visiting the temples and shrines in the foothills west of Kyoto, such as the Unesco World Heritage Ninnaji Temple, the train interior goes dark as it passes through floodlit neon pink tunnel of blossoms.

    In the autumn’s momiji-gari, meanwhile, the small hill town of Kibune, about 13.5km north of Kyoto, is lit up and the Kibune shrine hosts a variety of cultural performances, including live music, traditional dancing and calligraphy demonstrations. As an added bonus for Kibune visitors, the Eizan train line, which connects the town with Kyoto, goes through a fall foliage tunnel of illuminated trees in the second half of November.

    So two Saturdays ago was our last full day in Kyoto before heading back to the states. Chris’ parents had gone back to Tokyo the night before to catch their super early flight on Saturday morning, and we had the whole day stretched ahead of us to finish up some final things we really wanted to see and do.

    Then … that all got sidetracked for a couple of hours while we spent some time on the phone with American Airlines trying to figure out what to do about the fact that Chris had left his green card back in Denver. This is such an important topic for those of you with green cards, that Chris has said he’ll write his own little post on it and share here, which means I won’t go into a ton of detail on this post, other than to say … don’t do it!

    Anyway, after (sort of) sorting that out, we headed out into beautiful Kyoto for our first stop — the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. I had been dying to do this ever since I started researching Kyoto about a month before our trip, and I’m so, so glad we made it there, because the experience really is incredible. Luckily for us we happened upon a bike shop on our way from the subway to the grove, though, because without the bike rental, I think it would have been pretty difficult for my preggers legs to do all the walking we would have done that day. So — that’s just something to keep in mind for anyone who maybe isn’t so into walking miles and miles. Even if you don’t mind the walking, though, renting a bike is a great (and super fun) way to take in the grove! It does get pretty busy, though, so there were times when maneuvering a bike through the crowds was tough. Still, overall, I’d say we were super happy to have had the bikes. Plus, riding bikes or taking bike tours on our trips (or even where we live) has become something of a traditional with us. We’ve done it in New York and Denver, Munich, Iceland, Berlin, New Orleans, London and now in Japan. It’s high on our list of recommendations for things to do when traveling.

    Anyway, here’s a bit of what you’ll see at the Bamboo Groves. We spent a good two or three hours here, with a trip into the beautiful garden and temple area that’s right around the grove and a quick stop for a picnic lunch (meaning pastries!) that we had brought, as well.

    After the bamboo, we got back on the subway and headed back to the Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) that we had missed the day before with Chris’ parents. This place is gorgeous and serene, with its manicured rock gardens, temples, streams and foliage. There’s also a tiny hill you can walk up and get a pretty nice view of the city skyline.

    It doesn’t take very long to see the whole park (if you don’t want it to, or you could spend an hour or so meandering around, it’s perfect like that), and afterwards there is a gorgeous little 1.7 mile walk called the Philosopher’s Walk nearby that I would suggest doing as well. The end of the walk will bring you pretty much right out to a bus stop that can bring you right back to the center of town.

    ^^^ The Silver Pavilion inside Ginkaku-ji

    ^^^ An artist making the most of Philosopher’s Walk

    And that was pretty much our Saturday, friends. Dinner was out at a noodle restaurant, and then it was back to the hotel to attempt to pack up for our bullet train back to Tokyo to catch our flight back to the U.S. the next day.

    Japan, you were everything I imagined you would be, and also so much more. Thanks for showing us such an amazing time. We hope to make it back here again to do even more!

    Welcomed by our local guide and driver on your arrival at Kyoto port, head west to Arashiyama Area to see the famed Arashiyama Bamboo Grove . Being one of Kyoto’s most photographed sights with soaring stalks of bamboo, the bamboo grove seems to let you get lost in another world. Stand in the midst of this sprawling bamboo forest and feel the palpable sense of otherness that is quite unlike that of any normal forest you know about.

    Take a scenic drive through Togetsu-Kyo Bridge to visit Kinkakuji Temple (the Golden Pavillion) whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. This was the former retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, then it was the inspiration for many temples built in a few decades later. Overlooking a large pond, Kinkakuji Temple boasts an impressive architectural style that echoes the extravagant Kitayama culture that developed in the wealthy aristocratic circles of Kyoto during Yoshimitsu’s times. It was set on fire numerous times throughout its history, and the present structure was reconstructed in 1955. Walk to the temple’s garden holding a few other spots of interest such as the Anmintaku Pond that said to never dry up, and statues people throw coins at for luck. Outside the exit are souvenir shops and a small tea garden in which you can enjoy matcha tea and sweets.

    Our tour guide then leads you to Nijo-jo Castle built as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo period. Enter through a large gate to the castle grounds and venture further into the castle will bring you to the Chinese style Karamon Gate, the entrance to the Ninomaru (secondary circle of defense) where Ninomaru Palace, the castle’s main attraction is located. Nijo Castle is surrounded by green space and tree line walking paths. Cherry blossom trees of numerous varieties planted throughout the grounds make the blooming season lasts from late March till the end of April. Further, plum orchard, maple, and Ginkgo offer brilliant autumn colors during the second half of November.

    After lunch, winding streets lined with traditional shophouses at Higashiyama District – one of Kyoto’s best-preserved historic districts. Narrow lanes, wooden building, and traditional merchant shops invoke a feeling of the old capital city. Streets lined by small shops, cafes, and restaurants have been catering to tourists and pilgrims to centuries. Shop for local specialties such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets, pickles, crafts, and other souvenirs.

    Leave Higashiyama District for Kiyomizu-Dera Temple – one of Japan’s most celebrated temples. Kiyomizu-Dera literally means Pure Water Temple derived from the pure water from the Otowa Waterfall in wooded hills east of Kyoto. From the famous wooden stage jutting out from the main hall, enjoy a great view of the countless cherry and maple trees below that erupt in a sea of color in spring and fall, as well as the view of the city in the distance. Step into the main hall housing the temple’s primary object of worship, a small statue of the eleven-faced, thousand-armed Kannon.

    Complete the trip to Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine , the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari – the Shinto god of rice. The shrine is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates which straddle a network of trails leading into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari. Admire the giant torii gate in front of the Romon Gate donate by the famous leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Make a small offering at the shrine’s main hall to show respect to the resident deity. Trip ends as our driver takes you back to the cruise port.

    – English speaking tour guide (all licensed)
    – Charted car consisting of high-way and parking fee
    – Entrance fees
    – Lunch

    Discover the hidden waterfall of Nanzen-ji

    Most lists of the essential things to do in Kyoto likely wouldn’t include Nanzen-ji above other temples in the city, but we think it’s one of the great hidden treasures of a Japanese vacation to Kyoto. Nanzen-ji has large temple grounds with a fascinating Sanmon gate and a massive Zen garden. You can climb the Sanmon gate to get some good views of the surrounding area and visit the main hojo to admire the screen paintings on the wood panels. However, what makes Nanzen-ji so special is its location next to a hill with a small waterfall. If you pass by the medieval aqueduct, you can climb into the hills, walking by a series of graves and shrines dedicated to various spirits, as well as a small waterfall that trickles down into the garden below. Nanzen-ji and its surrounding grounds offer you the chance to escape into nature and enjoy a genuinely calm (even “Zen”) experience in a large, bustling city.

    Ancient aqueduct at Nanzen-ji Temple

    35 Beautiful Japan Landmarks

    1. Mount Fuji

    Mount Fuji, with its snow-capped peak, is Japan&rsquos most recognisable landmark. It&rsquos the highest mountain in Japan and reaches over 12 000 feet. You can even see it from Tokyo &ndash but it&rsquos definitely worth getting up close.

    The mountain is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. You can only hike the mountain during the summer months when over a million people make a pilgrimage to Mount Fuji.

    Mount Fuji

    There are multiple trails you can enjoy but most people start their journey at the 5th station. From there, the climb will take you around six hours.

    If you want to hike from the mountain&rsquos base, it&rsquos best to start in the afternoon and spend the night before finishing off the next morning.

    Alternatively, a day trip to Mount Fuji is ideal if you just want to appreciate a close-up view of Japan&rsquos most iconic attraction.

    Meet, Greet and Wifi at the Airport
    Japan Rail
    has a brilliant Meet and Greet service where they will meet you at the airport after arrivals and get you going with your rail ticket, Pocket Wifi for Japan and take you to your next mode of transport &ndash so good after a long journey.

    Mount Fuji

    &rArr Beautiful Japan is one of my favourite countries to visit. Check out my posts on One Day in Tokyo, 2 Day Itinerary Kyoto, 10 Day Japan Itinerary, the best things to do in Kanazawa and what to expect on the Nakasendo Trail.

    2. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

    From cultural activities to natural beauty, Kyoto&rsquos many attractions make it one of the loveliest Japanese cities. The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is a stunning place that should be top of every visitor&rsquos to-do list.

    The grove is within walking distance of the Kyoto city centre. Once you&rsquore standing surrounded by the green stalks, you feel like you&rsquove been transported to another, very magical world.

    Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

    There&rsquos a wooden walkway that twists through the bamboo. The site offers many great photo opportunities.

    Admission is free. The grove is open 24/7 so it&rsquos best to get there ahead of the crowds. Visiting around sunrise and sunset is always a breathtaking experience.

    Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

    3. Itsukushima Shrine

    The island of Miyajima is famous throughout the world as &ldquoThe Shrine Island.&rdquo The island is off the coast of Hiroshima and is home to the splendid Itsukushima Shrine. This is another destination in Japan that you must visit.

    The shrine&rsquos main drawcard is that it is visually striking. The O-Torii gate rises out of the sea and appears to float on the water. This effect is enhanced around sunrise and sunset.

    Itsukushima shrine

    The Itsukushima Shrine is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was first built in the 6th century as a Shinto Temple to the daughters of the wind god Susanoo.

    To visit the O-Torii gate on foot and admire the engineering involved, go at low tide. Otherwise, you can take a boat to the shrine and pass through the gate. You can get a ferry from either Miyajimaguchi Pier or Hiroshima Port.

    Remember, the tradition is to bow twice, clap twice and bow one more time as you sail under the structure.

    &rArrBook a Hiroshima tour that visits Itsukushima Shrine

    Itsukushima Shrine

    4. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

    Around the world, Hiroshima is eponymous with World War II and atomic destruction. Today, the city strives to promote a message of peace. This is best seen in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

    The park is situated at the epicentre of the atomic bomb which was the world&rsquos first nuclear attack. The area was once the heart of the city. You can learn more about what happened on that day in 1945 at the Peace Memorial Museum.

    Hiroshima Peace Park

    The skeletal remains of the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall serve as a Hiroshima Peace Memorial. It&rsquos a poignant sight listed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

    The park is a 15-minute tram drive from Hiroshima Station. It&rsquos open year-round, except for the last two days of December, and has a small admission fee.

    Hiroshima peace park at night

    &rArr Interested in Nepal? Check out my posts on the Nepal tea house, a full Everest Base Camp packing list, an Everest Base Camp trek itinerary and a day by day Everest base camp trek blog And for post-trek the fantastic boutique hotel Dwarika Hotel Kathmandu, the Dhulikhel Resort and the best places to visit in Kathmandu.

    5. Nara Park

    Nara Park is a sprawling area that is home to a number of eye-catching buildings. Despite its urban location, you can enjoy some stunning greenery.

    The legend goes that one of the gods of Kasugataisha Shrine travelled from near Tokyo to present-day Nara Park on a white deer. Since then, the deer became sacred.

    Deer in Nara park in autumn

    There are over 1400 deer in Nara Park which run wild. However, they are happy to accept bits of &ldquodeer cracker&rdquo from tourists.

    On the approach to Todaiji Temple, you&rsquoll find rickshaws queued up. Taking one of these around the park is a good idea to see the park&rsquos attractions.

    These include temples and Nara Museum. Nara Park is also a perfect spot to break for lunch, whether that&rsquos under a shady tree or in one of the cafes.

    Deers in Nara Park

    &rArr Planning a trip to Asia? Don&rsquot miss my posts on the Best Asia Landmarks, Top China Landmarks, Hong Kong Travel Guide, Hoi An Travel Blog, Kamalaya Spa in Thailand, One Day in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in One Day.

    6. Fushimi Inari Taisha

    Fushimi Inari Taisha is the most important of the thousands of shrines which are dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice.

    The temple complex originated in the 8th century. The buildings themselves are stunning and you&rsquore welcome to make an offering to the god. The main attractions, though, are the torii gates which criss-cross the woods behind the temple, forming a network of shaded walking paths along the mountain.

    Fushimi Inari Taisha

    There are thousands of these torii gates which were donated by individuals and companies. It&rsquos not too strenuous to climb to the top. There are a few restaurants where you can rest along the way.

    It will take you around 2 to 3 hours to summit Mount Inarithe mountain and return. However, you can turn around at any point.

    Most people stop at the Yotsutsuji intersection, roughly the halfway mark, where you can get some lovely Kyoto views.

    The Kyoto-based shrine is open at all hours and has no admission fee. It&rsquos a top attraction in the city and can be viewed while on a day trip of the city.

    Fushimi Inari Taisha

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    7. Himeji Castle

    Himeji Castle is called the &ldquoWhite Egret&rdquo or &ldquoWhite Heron&rdquo Castle because of its white colour and graceful resemblance to these species of birds. It&rsquos the most famous of Japan&rsquos castles and was a filming location for The Last Samurai.

    Himeji Castle

    This UNESCO World Heritage Site is in the city of Himeji in Hyogo, a four-hour train ride from Tokyo. The castle is the best surviving example of Edo feudal architecture and is admired for its superior woodwork. Building started in the 15th century and was completed in 1609.

    With over 80 buildings, there is a lot to explore at this massive heritage site. It&rsquos a good idea to take a guided tour.

    Himeji Castle

    8. The Imperial Palace

    This immense palace complex is the official residence of Japan&rsquos imperial family and a must-see on your Tokyo itinerary. Although most of the buildings are off-limits, some of the gardens are open to the public where you can enjoy the splendid architecture.

    The Imperial Palace in summer

    Highlights of the palace grounds include the Fushimi-yagura watchtower, the Megane-Bashi stone bridge and the iron Nijū-Bashi bridge.

    The Imperial Household Agency runs free 75-minute tours Tuesday to Saturday most weeks of the year at 10 am and 1:30 pm. You can reserve your spot online up to a month in advance but no later than four days before the time. Although the tours are in Japanese, there is an app for English explanations.

    Pink petals in the moat around the Imperial Palace

    &rArr I love ticking off seeing a landmark. See how many famous landmarks you&rsquove seen in my series of posts: 60 Most Famous Landmarks in the World, 27 Top Australian Landmarks, 25 Asia Landmarks, 61 Magnificent Landmarks of the UK, 13 China Landmarks, 35 Japan Famous Landmarks, 60 Most Famous Landmarks in Europe, 25 North America Landmarks, 25 Canada Landmarks and 15 Famous Landmarks in the US.

    9. Shibuya Crossing

    Shibuya Crossing is another famous Japan landmark not to be missed. Images of the road crossing have come to typify modern Japan.

    Shibuya Crossing

    The Tokyo intersection is one of the busiest in the world with over 250 000 people crossing it daily. Give it a try: you have only two minutes before the light changes to make it across!

    The crossing is surrounded by skyscrapers and advertising screens, giving it a Times Square kind of atmosphere. To get a good view of the crossing, head up to the Starbucks on the second floor of Shibuya Tsutaya.

    &rArr Capture the sight on camera with a photography tour of Tokyo at night

    Shibuya Crossing

    10. Dotonbori, Osaka

    Dotonbori is the brightly coloured downtown area of Osaka. It is famous for its bright advertising billboards and some fantastic Japanese food. The name Donbonbori refers to both the Dotonbori canal and Dotonbori street which runs parallel to the canal.

    dotonbori osaka

    11. Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto

    This temple is noted for having one of the most famous rock gardens in Japan, with 15 rocks laid out in small groups.

    Ryoanji Zen Garden

    The beautiful garden has an interesting design around a large pond and is lovely to walk around and sightsee. There is a restaurant at the park that specialises in Yudofu (boiled tofu) and is a must-try.

    12. Ginkakuji, The Silver Pavilion in Kyoto

    Known as Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion is a Zen temple that dates back to 1490 and is celebrated for its beautiful gardens and incredible views.

    Despite its name, Ginkauji is not covered in silver, though these were the original plans. But due to delays and the death of the patron Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the plan was abandoned.

    The Silver Pavilion provides beautiful gardens and half a dozen other temple buildings to see. Though the main hall (Hondo) is not open to the public, visitors can enjoy walking along a circular path through the terraces savouring the peaceful scenery.

    13. Yukizuri at Kenrokuen Gardens

    Kenrokuen Gardens are said to be the 3rd most beautiful gardens in Japan which makes them one of the key tourist sights in Japan. If this survey was taken in the autumn I think this Kanazawa garden would have taken first place for two reasons.

    Firstly, the autumnal leaves in Kenrokuen Gardens Kanazawa were absolutely stunning.

    The second reason is the application of Yukizuri to the Karasakinomatsu pine trees of the gardens. This involves assembling ropes on the trees that create a triangular effect so that the winter snow will fall off the pines rather than weighing on them and causing damage.

    Yukizuri on the pine trees of Kenrokuen gardens is one of the most iconic images of the Ishikawa region and for good reason. November is the perfect time to visit Kenrokuen as the Yukizuri is applied at the beginning of November and the autumnal leaves are still on the trees &ndash photography heaven.

    The lake at Kenrouken Gardens

    Begin your tour at the Hisagoike pond. This stunning pond has small temples, little wooden bridges and autumn leaves on steroids &ndash all of which make for fantastic reflection photos. Nearby is Japan&rsquos oldest fountain which reaches heights of 3.5 metres.

    Then head to the Karasakinomatsu pine trees and photograph them from every angle. Start with some up-close shots of the pine trees with Yukizuri and then move around the nearby fountain to get some reflections and water in the foreground shots. I took a lot of photos here.

    14. Naoshima

    You may well have seen a rather striking pumpkin all over social media in the last 12 months. This pumpkin was created by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and is located on Naoshima. This Japanese island is dedicated to contemporary art.

    Naoshima island japan

    15. Shirakawa-Go

    This lovely village is one of the Japan&rsquos key winter destinations and it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a mountain settlement that was quite cut off to the rest of the world due to its location. This isolation led the locals to develop their own unique culture and practices as well as their unique architecture.

    Shirakawa-Go Japan

    16. Amanohashidate, Kyoto

    A unique pine covered sandbar in Miyazu Bay in northern part of the Kyoto region. It is said that when Amanohashidate is viewed from the mountains at either end of the bay it looks like the path between heaven and earth. It is ranked one of Japan&rsquos top three scenice views.

    Amanohashidate japan

    17. The Great Buddha (Daibutsu) Kamakura

    The second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan at just over 13 metres, the Kamakura Daibutsu was erected in 1252. Japan has many Daibutsu or Great Buddha statues but this is one of the most famous. This daibatsu was originally inside a temple. The temple was swept away in 1498 but the statue has continued to brave the weather since.

    Great Buddha Kamakura japan

    18. Osaka Castle

    This five storey castle was built in 1538 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to demonstrate the strength of Japan. The castle was destroyed during the 17th century but has been rebuilt since. Today it is home to a museum and located in a beautiful 106 hectare park.

    Osaka Castle japan

    19. The Hells of Beppu

    This definitely wins for the best name for Japanese landmarks! These waters are actually too hot for humans to dip but they are absolutely stunning. There are seven hot pools in total. Five are in the Kannawa region and two are in the Shibaseki district. The pools in Kannawa include one that homes and breeds crocodiles whilst Shibaseki has a pool that contains red water.

    The Hells of Beppu japan

    20. Sensoji Temple

    Sensoji Temple PC Flickr Dick Thomas Johnson

    Sensoji is the oldest temple in Tokyo and home to the statue of the holy Buddha. This is one of Tokyo&rsquos most popular and most colourful temples and one of the most popular places to visit in Tokyo.

    Enter Sensoji Temple through the Kaminarimon Gate. There is then a 200 metre historic shopping area before the second gate and the five-storey temple.

    Sensoji Temple PC Flickr Chee.Hong

    21. Natadera Temple, Kanazawa

    Natadera is a monastery/temple which was founded in 717 in the middle of a stunning rocky landscape. The temple and its gardens are famous for their autumn leaves.

    The wonderfully named Enchanted Rock Outcropping was just stunning. The rocks look like they have smiles carved into them. The temple itself is very nice &ndash apparently, when you walk through it you are reborn &ndash but nature is the highlight of this temple.

    Amazing autumn colours

    After you have visited the temple itself don&rsquot miss the Chinjudo observation platform. This provides a view over the entire area and particularly the Enchanted Rock Outcropping and makes for some stunning photos.

    I think this stunning temple and its gardens are one of the must go places in Japan

    22. Meiji Jingu, Tokyo

    This Shinto shrine was built in 1920 to honour Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. The shrine is particularly popular during the first days of the Japanese New Year. This is where visitors come for the year&rsquos first prayers known as the hatsumode. The temple also has a beautiful forest with over 100,000 trees.

    Meiji Jingu tokyo japan

    23. Matsushima, Miyagi

    This group of dazzling islands in the Miyagi prefecture is also one of Japan&rsquos most scenic views. The bay is dotted with 260 pine clad islands. There are four particularly scenic spots from which to view Matsushima: the Magnificent View, the Beautiful View, the Enchanting View and the Grand View.

    24. Tokyo Tower

    Since its opening in 1958, the Tokyo Tower has been the landmark of Tokyo. However, in 2012 a new tower opened in Tokyo, the Tokyo Skytree. Tokyo Skytree is now the tallest tower in Tokyo at 634 metres tall vs the 333 metres of Tokyo Tower.

    The highest point for observation is on Tokyo Skytree at 450 metres. Visiting one of these towers and taking in the view is a must see in Tokyo.

    Tokyo Skytree

    25. Ashikaga Flower Park

    This beautiful flower park is best known for its purple wisteria or fuji flower which is in full bloom from late April to early May. The park displays the fuji flowers in a rainbow of colours including blue, pink and white. Ashikaga is also home to a 100 year old fuji tree which has its own umbrella of fujis as well as a walk through tunnel made up of white wisteria.

    Ashikaga Flower Park japan

    26. Traditional Wooden Houses in Kyoto (Machiya) and Geisha&rsquos

    These traditional wooden houses are a large part of Kyoto&rsquos unique charms.

    Gion is situated in the Higashiyama district and is one of the few remaining Geisha neighbourhoods in Japan.

    The best time to spot these beautifully trained artists is around sunset as they make their way into wooden teahouses, known as okiya, for an evening of work. I suggest booking a guided tour to see the traditional geisha women and learn about the picturesque neighbourhood.

    After your sighting of the elegant geishas, take a walk through Nishiki Market and the Teramachi Shopping Arcade.

    27. Jigokudani Monkey Park, Nagano

    Have you seen the photos of the snow monkeys bathing with their red faces? These monkeys are actually macaques and are located in the hot springs of Jigokudani Monkey Park. Whilst the monkeys can enjoy the hot springs, I am afraid that the humans are only able to admire them from afar.

    Jigokudani Monkey Park japan

    28. Kiyomizu Dera Temple, Kyoto

    The Kiyomizu Dera Temple stands next to the Otowa Waterfall. In 1994, the temple was added to UNESCO&rsquos list of World Heritage sites.

    Autumn Color at Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto, Japan

    The main appeal of the temple is the wooden balcony on the first floor. It provides sweeping views of the cherry blossom and maple trees in the temple&rsquos gardens, and Kyoto&rsquos city skyline in the distance.

    29. Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto

    Also, known as Kinkakuji Temple, the Golden Pavilion is considered one of Japan&rsquos most iconic landmarks and is a UNESCO world heritage site.

    You&rsquoll want to get here at the opening time (9h00 &ndash 17h00), as there are fewer crowds, and it&rsquos more photogenic.

    There are plenty of places to see on the temple grounds. As you walk through the terraces, you will find an abundance of statues, the beautiful Anmintaku Pond and the Sekkatei Teahouse. Towards the exit, there is a small tea garden and some souvenir shops for you to explore.

    30. Kabuki-Za Theatre, Tokyo

    Kabuki-Za theatre is the main venue for Kabuki shows in Tokyo and is in the Ginza district. Kabuki is a performance art that involves kimonos, maks and drums. It is guaranteed that you won&rsquot have experienced a show like this before.

    Kabuki-Za japan

    31. Nikko Temples and Shrines

    This small mountain city is located north of Tokyo. It is home to the Toshugo which are some of the most over-the-top shrines in Japan. Nikko also has a beautiful national park with hot pools, monkeys, waterfalls, and mountains.

    Nikko Temples japan

    32. Kyoto Imperial Palace

    This palace in Kyoto Imperial Park was the residence of the Japanese imperial family until Tokyo became Japan&rsquos capital in 1868. The park is home to both the Kyoto Imperial Palace and the Sento Imperial Palace. Guided tours are available.

    Kyoto Imperial Palace japan

    33. Onbashi Bridge, Shobara

    Onbashi Bridge crosses the beautiful Taishaku Gorge in Shobara. The bridge is made from limestone and has been formed over thousands of years. Today it is no longer possible to cross the bridge but there are paths that allow visitors to get a nice photo.

    onbashi bridge japan

    34. Hagoromo Falls, Hokkaido

    These 270 metre high falls drop down over multiple steps. This apparently gives the illusion of an angel&rsquos robe &ndash the english translation of Hagoromo. The best views of the falls are from the observation deck in the nearby town which is also home to Tenninkyo Hot Springs.

    Hagoromo Falls japan

    35. Mozu-Furuichi Kofun, Osaka

    Mozu-Furuichi are several dozen tombs which are the largest tombs in Japan and some of the largest tombs in the world. This UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to the 4th and 5th century when the Japanese elite prepared elaborate tombs to show off their power and wealth. Do check before you go as the tombs are often close to the public.

    Mozu-Furuichi Kofun japan

    Best Things To Do in Kyoto

    1.) Explore the Fushimi Inari Shrine

    You can’t swing a cat without hitting a Shinto Shrine in Kyoto, but this is by far one of the best to visit.

    Nestled on a wooded hill in the middle of the countryside with pristinely preserved gates leading to the shrine itself, this tucked away gem of a shrine is well worth a visit.

    Make sure you leave a good few hours to visit the many trails and shrines that climb Inari Mountain. It’s roughly around 4 km long and over 1,000 years old. Also, keep your eyes peeled for the many foxes that decorate this sacred space. It really is one of the best things to do in Kyoto.

    2.) Go to the Ryoan-ji Temple

    Perched in north-west Kyoto, Ryoan-ji is one of the most famous temples and the best things to do in Kyoto. Plus, it has a vast dry garden complex that’s a must-see whilst exploring.

    The temple itself acts as a prestigious mausoleum for many past emperors, which can now be seen at the Seven Imperial Tombs.

    Make sure to spend some time enjoying the gardens, too. Interestingly, the garden has been built to be viewed from a seated position… so sit back, relax and enjoy this stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site. Oh, and make sure to spot one of the most famous Zen rock gardens of its kind, it’s stunning.

    3.) Gorge at Nishiki Market

    This is your one-stop crash course in Japanese cuisine.

    Everything from instant noodles to fresh ingredients is sold here, and it’s a great few hours to spend enjoying the traditional food markets of the city.

    The market has a totally huge with a massive variety of raw fish to try. Oh, and make sure to grab some grilled squid too.

    Though, do make sure to take some physical cash with you as many stalls don’t take cards. That being said, it’s still easily one of the best things to do in Kyoto if you want to see an older part of city life.

    Oh, and for a great hotel, check into the Suiran Hotel which is near Saihoji Temple and is totally luxurious.

    4.) Get lost in Gion

    Originally a resting spot for the many thousands of visitors that visited the Yasaka Shrine, Gion has now become one of the prettiest areas of the city to explore.

    Plus, Gion is one of the most historic districts in the whole of Kyoto. With willow-lined streets and traditional style tea houses, you might even spot the occasional geisha strolling across the way.

    Gion is definitely worth a half day to immerse yourself in the history of Japan which is still alive and well there now. Make sure to visit Wadachi, one Kyoto’s best Sake Bars to wet your whistle, too. It’s easily up there as one of the best things to do in Kyoto for sure.

    5.) Explore Kinkaku-ji

    This is, at least on the top two floors, covered in gold leaf, which glistens so beautifully in this sunny city.

    It’s a little north of the city and right on the banks of tranquil Mirror Lake (which is gorgeous in itself). Make sure you visit the White Snake Pagoda, too – it’s well worth seeing.

    It really is one of the best things to do in Kyoto and a firm favourite if you love temples.

    6.) Enjoy the beauty of Ginkaku-ji

    Perched in the Sakyo area of the city, this Zen temple is often referred to as the ‘Silver Temple’, even though it’s not made out of any silver (though that had been the intention).

    Even without the silver leaf livery, it’s in a pristine surrounding and the architecture itself is just too gorgeous to miss. Spend an hour, or so, relaxing and chilling out in the grounds – it really is so peaceful.

    7.) Stroll through the International Manga Museum

    If you’re a fan of anime and manga, you can’t miss this place. It’s considered one of the best museums in Japan that are solely dedicated to this unique style of cartooning.

    Now, if you’re into Manga, you’ll easily find this to be one of the best things to do in Kyoto. Though, you’ll probably wanna give it a miss if you’re not into this art form and storytelling.

    8.) Devour a feast of kyo-ryori

    Kyo-ryori is a popular dish to try in Kyoto and perfect to try on a first-time visit. This tea food often consists of a variety of different dishes sushi and raw fish and even some sweet treats.

    You’ll find that many restaurants offer some form of kyo-ryori dining options. Just make sure to ask when you arrive. It’s totally delicious and one of the best things to do in Kyoto on your next trip.

    9.) Experience a traditional Tea Ceremony

    Original tea customs and cultures have been around for centuries in the city and is still one of the best things to do in Kyoto.

    Nowadays, we visitors can experience one of these original tea customs from times gone by. One great place to go is the En Tearoom, which offers a whole tea experience for a first-time visit to the city.

    10.) Shop til you drop on Shijo-Dori

    Though so much of Kyoto seems to stay in the veil of the past, rooted in tradition, some places like Shijo train station and shopping centre, is a sleek, glass front, and all modern.

    It’s the perfect place for you to get your fill of yummy local food, Manga comics, unique Japanese fashion, and quirky gadgets!

    11.) Discover Kiyomizu-dera

    This UNESCO World Heritage Site is perched on the east of the Kyoto and a beautiful Buddhist temple to explore.

    Make sure to enjoy the view from the overlooking veranda and visit the stunning pagoda, too. It really is a very special place.

    12.) Visit the yummy Omen Restaurant

    The Omen Resturant is one of the cities more prized noodle shops and eateries.

    The shop and restaurant are gorgeous and they have some of those yummy thick noodles they’ve become famed for. Once here, make sure to try their yummy tempura, too. It’s totally moreish.

    13.) Go wild at the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

    On the outskirts of the city, strolling through Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is one of the best things to do in Kyoto that most people have heard of.

    These dense paths weave through this landscape and it’s a veritable forest of bamboo, green and ethereal, that goes on endlessly around you. It’s well worth an afternoon wander in this gorgeous area.

    Although the area is outside the city centre itself, it’s really easy to get to. The JR Saga Arashiyama Station is a pretty close spot to this wonderful place.

    14.) Fine dining at Kikunoi

    If you’re a food lover, Kyoto is a must-see for you in general, but the culinary star of the city is this restaurant, headed by Mutara, a Michelin-starred chef. The place has a great atmosphere, mind-blowing food and you can even dine in a private room.

    Just make sure to reserve your spot way before your visit, it does get busy.

    Watch the video: Kyoto 2020 Arashiyama (August 2022).