Kyoto: Temples & Shrines

Despite having been to Kyoto several times, it has never gotten old. For a foreign traveler, it represents "Japan," as the former capital is full of historic temples and shrines. 

Fall is the ideal season - and my favorite - to travel to Kyoto, especially if the fall leaves are peak in color. Seeing the temples and shrines at that time of year surrounded by the reds, oranges and yellows is one of the most beautiful sights in the country. 

There are so many historic sights to see in Kyoto that you can rule out seeing them all. Not going to happen. But here are some must sees temples and shrines:


 Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji, the famous "Golden Pavilion," sits quietly surrounded by water and the area around it has the same vibe as well (besides the photo area in front of it). Even with the flood of tourists storming here, it sill manages to be a pretty peaceful place.

 Fall leaves in the gardens at Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto


 Fall leaves at Kiyomizudera in Kyoto

Kiyomizu-dera sits on top a hill surrounded by Japanese confectionary shops, restaurants and crafts. The temple's main hall is known for it being only built from wood.

Being one of the more popular attractions in the city, it gets quite crowded. Towards the end of the walk through, there are three waterfalls that you can drink from, each meant to help you in a different area of life: Health, longevity and success in studies.

During the fall, the temple does a light-up at night. The line goes quite a ways down the street but if the leaves are at peak, make sure you suck it up and wait. It's absolutely worth it.

 Fall leaves at Kiyomizudera in Kyoto


 Path at Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto

Fushimi-inari Taisha. This shrine's tunnel of red gates has become one of the iconic views of Japan in recent years.

It's a 15-minute train ride from Kyoto Station, and is right next to Inari Station. The afternoon is the best time to visit since the light shines through the gates to create a beautiful effect.

The tunnel of gates go up a long ways and while it's a good hike, it's not necessary to go all the way up.

 The walk at Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto


 Heian shrine in Kyoto

Heian-jingu [J] stands out due to it's white and orange design. You can see it right when you enter, but make sure you take a walk in the garden as well.

Nearby is the Philosopher's Walk, a path named after a philosopher, Kintaro Nishida, and full of sights that can invoke deep thoughts. Take a walk through the path when you're done with the shrine.

 Landscape at Heian shrine in Kyoto

Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji

 Fall leaves at Eikan-do Zenrin-ji

While there is a temple, Eikan-dō Zenrin-ji is most known for its natural surroundings. It's most beautiful in the fall, and during the peak period, "beautiful" is an understatement. The variety of colors and their vibrance are incredible.

There are a more temples and shrines to see in Kyoto, and some may enjoy different ones from this list. None will disappoint. Be sure to check out other sights to see in Kyoto as well if you're in town. 

 Fall leaves at Eikan-do Zenrin-ji at night

Fall leaves at Eikan-do Zenrin-ji at night

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