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Kyoto, Japan City Info
Destination Guide


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Kinkakuji (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion)

Kinkakuji-cho, Northern Kyoto

Take Bus: 101, 102, 204, or 205 to Kinkakuji-michi

075/461-0013

Open Daily 9-5.

One of Kyoto's best-known attractions, and the inspiration for the Temple of the Silver Pavilion, Kinkakuji was constructed in the 1390s as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and features a three-story pavilion covered in gold leaf with a roof topped by a bronze phoenix. Apparently, the retired shogun lived in shameless luxury while the rest of the nation suffered from famine, earthquakes, and plague. On a clear day, the Golden Pavilion shimmers against a blue sky, its reflection captured in the waters of the pond.

However, this pavilion is not the original. In his novel, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion), author Mishima Yukio tells the story of the destruction in 1950, by fire, of the original Golden Pavilion. According to this account, the fire was set by a disturbed student monk. The temple was rebuilt in 1955, and in 1987 was re-covered in gold leaf, five times thicker than the original coating. The surrounding park with its moss-covered grounds and teahouses provides a lovely setting.

 

Nijo Castle (Nijojo)

075/841-0096

On the corner of Horikawa Dori and Nijo Dori, Central Kyoto

Take the Subway: Nijojo-mae Station on the Tozai Subway Line. From Kyoto Station, take the Karasuma Subway Line to Karasuma Oike Station and transfer to the Tozai Line. The whole trip from Kyoto Station takes about 15-20 minutes.

Or connect to Bus: 9, 12, 50, or 101 to Nijojo-mae. Nijo Castle is most easily accessed from Nijojo-mae Station.

Open Daily 8:45am-5pm (you must enter by 4pm)

Note: Shoes must be removed before entering. There is a wall of numbered “cubbies” in which to deposit your footwear while inside the castle. It is suggested that you bring slipper socks to wear on the tour (especially on a cool, rainy day).

No photography is permitted. It is possible to rent an audio guide in English which describes the significance of what is being seen.

The Tokugawa shogun's Kyoto home was designed for residential use, unlike most of Japan's other remaining castles, which were constructed for the purpose of defense. Built by the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, in 1603, Nijo Castle is of Momoyama architecture, built almost entirely of Japanese cypress and boasting delicate transom wood carvings and paintings by the Kano School on its sliding doors.

 

The main building, Ninomaru Palace, has 33 rooms, some 800 tatami mats, and an understated elegance, especially compared with castles being built in Europe at the same time. All the sliding doors on the outside walls of the castle can be removed in summer, permitting breezes to sweep through the building. Typical for Japan at the time, rooms were unfurnished, and the mattresses were stored in closets.

One of the castle's most notable features is its “nightingale” floors. To protect the shogun from intruders, the castle was protected by a moat and stone walls. In addition, the nails in these special floorboards were placed in such a way that the floors “chirped” when trod upon in the castle corridors. The nightingale floors were supplemented by hidden alcoves for bodyguards. Only female attendants were allowed in the shogun's private living quarters.

Outside the castle is an extensive garden, designed by the renowned gardener Kobori Enshu. The original grounds of the castle, however, were without trees.

Ironically, it was from Nijo Castle that Emperor Meiji issued his 1868 decree abolishing the shogunate form of government.

 

Costume Museum

Izutsu Building, 5th floor, Shinhanayacho Dori, Horikawa Higashiiru (on the corner of Horikawa and Shinhanayacho sts. just northeast of Nishi-Honganji Temple), Around Kyoto Station

Phone 075/342-5345

Open Mon-Sat 9am-5pm

Transportation Bus: 9 or 28 to Nishi-Honganji-mae (2 min.), or a 15-min. walk north from Kyoto Station

This one-room museum is filled with a detailed replica of the Spring Palace as immortalized by Murasaki Shikibu in The Tale of Genji, complete with scenes of ceremonies, rituals, and everyday court life depicted by dolls wearing kimono and by miniature furniture and other objects of the Heian period. The exhibit, including costumes, changes twice a year. In an adjoining room, life-size kimono and costumes can be tried on, so be sure to bring your camera.

 

Ginkakuji (The Temple of the Silver Pavilion)

Ginkakuji-cho, Eastern Kyoto

Phone 075/771-5725

Transportation Bus: 5, 17, 102, 203, or 204 to Ginkakuji-michi; or 32 or 100 to Ginkakuji- Open Apr-Nov daily 8:30am-5pm; Dec-March daily 9am-4:30pm

Ginkakuji, considered one of the more beautiful structures in Kyoto, was built in 1482 as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, who intended to coat the structure with silver in imitation of the Golden Pavilion built by his grandfather. He died before this could be accomplished, however, so the Silver Pavilion is not silver but remains a simple, two-story, wood structure enshrining the goddess of mercy and Jizo, the guardian god of children. Note the sand mound in the garden, shaped to resemble Mount Fuji, and the sand raked in the shape of waves, created to enhance the views during a full moon.

 

Heian Shrine

Nishi Tennocho, Okazaki, Eastern Kyoto

Transportation Subway: Higashiyama (10 min). Bus: 5, 32, 46, or 100 to Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae

Phone 075/761-0221

Open 8:30am-6pm (to 5pm Nov-February)

Free admission to grounds; Admission charged to Shinen Garden

Kyoto's most famous shrine was built in commemoration of the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Kyoto and is a replica of the main administration building of the Heian capital. It also deifies two of Japan's emperors: Emperor Kanmu, 50th emperor of Japan, who founded Heian-kyo in 794; and Emperor Komei, the 121st ruler of Japan, who ruled from 1831 to 1866. Shinen Garden, constructed during the Meiji Era, displays weeping cherry trees in spring, irises and water lilies in summer, changing maple leaves in the fall. The effect is exceptional.

 

Hosomi Art Museum

Address 6-3 Okazaki

Saishoji-cho. Diagonally across from the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts (Fureaikan), Eastern Kyoto

Phone 075/752-5555

Take the Subway: Higashiyama (exit 2) Bus: 31, 201, 202, or 206 to Higashiyama-Nijo

Open Tues-Sun 10am-6pm

This highly acclaimed private museum houses changing exhibits of Buddhist and Shinto art, primarily from temples and shrines in Kyoto and Nara, including Heian bronze mirrors, Buddhist paintings, lacquerware, tea-ceremony objects, scrolls, folding screens, and pottery.

The building is starkly modern and utilitarian. There is a gift shop displaying finely crafted goods.

 

 

Kiyomizu Temple (Kiyomizudera)

Eastern Kyoto

Phone 075/551-1234

Take Bus: 80, 100, 202, 206, or 207 to Gojo-zaka

Open Daily 6am-6pm (Jishu Shrine closes at 5pm)

This is Higashiyama-ku's most famous temple, known throughout Japan for the views from its main hall. Founded in 798 and rebuilt in 1633 by the third Tokugawa shogun, the temple occupies a spot on Mount Otowa, with its main hall constructed over a cliff and featuring a large wooden veranda supported by 139 pillars, each 49 feet high. The main hall is dedicated to the goddess of mercy and compassion, but most visitors come for the magnificence of its height and view, which are so well known to the Japanese that the idiom "jumping from the veranda of Kiyomizu Temple" means that they're about to undertake some particularly bold or daring adventure. Kiyomizu's grounds are spectacular (and crowded) in spring during cherry-blossom season and in fall during the turning of the maple leaves.

 

The Shinto shrine behind Kiyomizu's main hall has long been considered the dwelling place of the god of love and matchmaking. Ask for the English pamphlet and receive instructions for the ultimate test: On the shrine's grounds are two "love-fortune-telling" stones placed 30 feet apart. If you can walk from one to the other with your eyes closed, your desires for love will be granted.

 

Kyoto Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho)

Kyotogyoen-nai, Karasuma-Imadegawa, Central Kyoto

Phone 075/211-1215

Take the Subway: Karasuma Line to Imadegawa; then turn left and walk south on Karasuma Dori.

Tours in English Mon-Fri at 10am and 2pm, also 3rd Sat of every month and every Sat in Apr, May, Oct, and Nov.

Note: Permission to tour must be obtained in person from the Imperial Household Agency Office (075/211-1215), on the palace grounds near the northeast corner (open Mon-Fri 8:45-noon and 1-4). Foreign visitors can apply in person in advance or on the day of the tour (before 9:40am for the 10am tour, before 1:40pm for the 2pm tour), but tours can fill up (especially in spring and fall); 1-day advance application required for Sat tours. You must be 18 or older (or accompanied by an adult) and you must present your passport. Parties of no more than 8 may apply.

The residence of the imperial family from 1331 until 1868, when they moved to Tokyo. The palace was destroyed several times by fire but was rebuilt in its original style. The present buildings date from 1855. The palace is constructed in the design of the peaceful Heian Period. The emperor's private garden is available for viewing.

The palace may be visited only on a free, 1-hour guided tour. Tours are conducted quickly, and only view buildings from the outside, though they do provide information on court life and palace architecture.

 

Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts (Fureaikan)

9-1 Seishoji-cho

075/762-2670

In the basement of the Miyako Messe (International Exhibition Hall), Okazaki, Eastern Kyoto

Take the Subway: Higashiyama (5 min.). Bus: 5, 32, 46, or 100 to Kyoto Kaikan Bijutsukan-mae (2 min.)

Open Daily 9-5

This excellent museum is near Heian Shrine and is dedicated to the many crafts that flourished during Kyoto's long reign as the imperial capital. Displays and videos demonstrate the step-by-step production of crafts from stone lanterns and fishing rods to textiles, paper fans, umbrellas, boxwood combs, lacquerware, Buddhist altars, and Noh masks. There are explanations in English. Crafts are sold in the museum shop.

 

Kyoto National Museum (Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan

527 Chaya-machi

Across the street from Sanjusangendo Hall, Eastern Kyoto

075/541-1151

Take Bus: 100, 206, or 208 to Hakubutsukan Sanjusangendo-mae (1 min.)

Open Tues-Sun 9:30-5

This museum features changing exhibits of the ancient capital's priceless treasures, many of which once belonged to Kyoto's temples and the imperial court. Japanese and Chinese ceramics, sculpture, Japanese paintings, clothing and kimono, lacquerware, and metal works are on display.

 

Museum of Kyoto (Kyoto Bunka Hakubutsukan)

At Sanjo and Takakura sts, Central Kyoto

075/222-0888

Take the Subway: Karasuma-Oike (exit 5)

Open Tues-Sun 10-7:30

This museum presents Kyoto's 1,200-year history from prehistoric relics to contemporary arts and crafts. Architectural models depict a local market, merchants' homes, and a wholesale store, and even the vermilion-colored Heian Shrine model with its holographic display of construction workers. The third floor features changing exhibitions of Kyoto arts and crafts as well as a Japanese-style room and garden. The annex houses archaeological finds and folk crafts.

Explanations are in Japanese only, but the museum does offer free English guides every day from 10-5. Personal tours last between 30 and 60 minutes. I is wise to make a reservation fro a tour in English. The guides are museum volunteers. Movies from the extensive Japanese film collection are shown twice a day on certain days.

 

Nishijin Textile Center (Nishijin-Ori Kaikan)

On Horikawa Dori just south of Imadegawa Dori, Central Kyoto

075/451-9231

Take the Subway: Imadegawa Bus: 9, 51, 59, or 101 to Horikawa Imadegawa

Open Daily 9-5

About a 10-minute walk west of the Imperial Palace is this museum dedicated to the weavers who for centuries produced elegant textiles for the imperial family and nobility. The history of Nishijin silk weaving began with the history of Kyoto itself back in 794; by the Edo Period, there were an estimated 5,000 weaving factories in the Nishijin District. Today, the district remains home to one of Japan's largest handmade weaving industries. The museum regularly holds weaving demonstrations at its ground-floor hand looms, which use the Jacquard system of perforated cards for weaving.

There is a free Kimono Fashion Show, held six or seven times daily, showcasing kimono that change with the seasons. There is also a shop selling textile products and souvenirs.

 

Ryoanji Temple

Goryoshita-cho, Northern Kyoto

Take Bus: 59 to Ryoanji-mae; or 12, 50, or 51 to Ritsumeikan Daigaku-mae

075/463-2216

Open March-Nov daily 8-5; Dec-February daily 8:30-4:30.

About a 20-minute walk southwest of the Golden Pavilion is Ryoanji, the best known Zen rock garden in Japan. It was designed at the end of the 15th century during the Muromachi Period. Fifteen rocks set in waves of raked white pebbles are surrounded on three sides by a clay wall and on the fourth by a wooden veranda. The interpretation of the rocks is up to the individual.

After visiting the rock garden, take a walk around the temple grounds. They features a 1,000-year-old pond, on the rim of which is a beautiful little restaurant, Ryoanji Yudofuya, with tatami rooms and screens. There is also an attractive landscaped garden.

 

Sanjusangendo Hall

Shichijo Dori

Eastern Kyoto

075/525-0033

Take Bus: 100, 206, or 208 to Hakubutsukan Sanjusangendo-mae

Open April to mid-November daily 8-5; mid-Nov. to March daily 9-4.

No photography is allowed in the building.

Originally founded as Rengeoin Temple in 1164 and rebuilt in 1266, Sanjusangendo Hall has 1,001 wooden statues of the thousand-handed Kannon. Row upon row, these life-size figures, carved from Japanese cypress in the 12th and 13th centuries, make an impressive sight; in the middle is a large seated Kannon carved in 1254 by Tankei, a famous sculptor from the Kamakura Period. The hall stretches almost 400 feet, making it the longest wooden building in Japan. In the corridor behind the statues, archery competitions were held.

 


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