Kyoto: Northern & Western Kyoto

Kinki Region: Kyoto | Osaka & Kobe | Nara | Northern Kinki | Kii Peninsula

Kyoto: Northern & Western Kyoto | Central, Eastern & Southern Kyoto

Rakuhoku (Northern part of Kyoto)

Taking the Eizan line north to Shugakuin station, you find Shugakuin Detached Palace, an Imperial villa built by the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1659 for ex-emperor Go-mizuno-o. The palace has the biggest of the city's many pond-centered strolling gardens. To visit the palace, you need to get permission in advance from the Kyoto office of the Imperial Household Agency. Further along the line near Kurama station is Kuramadera temple. Founded in 796, the temple is located on the slopes of a hill. The famous Hi Matsuri (Torch Festival) is held here in October. To get to Sanzen-in temple, you take a bus for about 1 hour from Kyoto station to Ohara. Originally built in 860 near Mt. Hiei and moved several times since, this temple is famous for its autumn foliage. It is one of the temples of the Enryakuji branch of the Tendai sect of Buddhism.

Kinkakuji Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Kinkakuji - The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

Rakusei (Western part of Kyoto)

From Kita-Oji station on the north-south Karasuma Line, it's about a 1km walk west to Daitokuji temple, one of Kyoto's most important. Originally built as a monastery in 1315, it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. The extensive grounds include many tea-rooms, rock gardens and smaller temples dedicated to military commanders, including Oda Nobunaga, built over the centuries by various shogun, daimyo (barons) and tea masters. Murasaki Shikibu, author of 'The Tale of Genji' is said to be buried here. Just over 1km west is the famous Kinkakuji temple, or Temple of the Golden Pavillion. Once the home of a shogun, the gold-leaf covered building was destroyed in an arson attack in 1950 and rebuilt in 1955. The incident was the source of Mishima Yukio's 1956 novel 'Kinkakuji'. The temple is set in a beautiful landscaped garden.

The zen rock garden at Ryoanji

The zen rock garden at Ryoanji

To the southwest is Ryoanji temple, famous for its karesansui-style (dry landscape) Zen rock garden. It is made of 15 differently-shaped rocks in a bed of white gravel and is used for meditation. The nearby Ninnaji temple was built in 888 and until 1868 it always had an Imperial prince as its abbot. Neglected for many years, it was restored in 1634 by Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third Tokugawa shogun. Myoshinji temple, founded in 1337, has long been an important center for Zen practice and has over 3,000 affiliated temples. It has superb gardens and houses the oldest temple bell in Japan.

Further south, near Uzumasa station on the Arashiyama Line, is Koryuji temple. First built in 603, this is one of Japan's oldest temples and it contains one of the country's most important Buddha images, the Miroku Bosatsu (Future Buddha), received from Prince Shotoku. South again, across the Katsura River, lies the magnificent Katsura Detached Palace (like the Shugakuin above, permission is needed to visit the palace). Built in the early 17th century as a country villa for the Imperial princes of the Hachijo-no-miya family, the design of the various structures has influenced many modern European and US architects. In its simplicity, interaction of interior and exterior spaces and use of natural materials, it anticipated many aspects of modern architecture. It is set in extensive gardens, which include a boating pond and various halls and teahouses.

Enjoying the hanami cherry blossoms at Arashiyama

Enjoying the hanami cherry blossoms at Arashiyama

The Sagano bamboo groves

The magical Sagano bamboo groves

Arashiyama is a hill 30 minutes by bus west of Kyoto station and on the Keifuku Line, which is famous for its cherry blosoms in spring, bamboo groves, and autumn foliage, particularly around Togetsukyo bridge on the Hozu River. There is a 2-hour trip down the rapids on the river from Kameoka, about 16km upstream. Across the Katsura River lies Sagano, which like Arashiyama was a a popular recreational area for Kyoto nobility. Its temples include Daikakuji (where the tea ceremony was created by Sen no Rikyu), Tenryuji and Seiryoji. Near Tenryuji are the famous Sagano bamboo groves, a beautiful and magical place, especially when a light breeze sets the tall bamboo trees swaying and rustling.

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