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Kinkakuji (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
Kinkakuji-cho, Northern Kyoto
101, 102, 204, or 205 to Kinkakuji-michi
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.
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)
corner of Horikawa Dori and Nijo Dori, Central Kyoto
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.
to Bus: 9, 12, 50, or 101 to Nijojo-mae. Nijo Castle is most easily accessed
from Nijojo-mae Station.
8:45am-5pm (you must enter by 4pm)
Shoes must be removed before entering. There is a wall of numbered ‚Äúcubbies‚ÄĚ 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).
photography is permitted. It is possible to rent an audio guide in English
which describes the significance of what is being seen.
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
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
One of the
castle's most notable features is its ‚Äúnightingale‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúchirped‚ÄĚ 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.
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.
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
Transportation Bus: 9 or 28 to Nishi-Honganji-mae (2 min.), or a 15-min. walk
north from Kyoto Station
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
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
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.
Tennocho, Okazaki, Eastern Kyoto
Transportation Subway: Higashiyama (10 min). Bus: 5, 32, 46, or 100 to Kyoto
8:30am-6pm (to 5pm Nov-February)
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.
Saishoji-cho. Diagonally across from the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts
(Fureaikan), Eastern Kyoto
Subway: Higashiyama (exit 2) Bus: 31, 201, 202, or 206 to Higashiyama-Nijo
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.
building is starkly modern and utilitarian. There is a gift shop displaying
finely crafted goods.
80, 100, 202, 206, or 207 to Gojo-zaka
6am-6pm (Jishu Shrine closes at 5pm)
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.
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
Subway: Karasuma Line to Imadegawa; then turn left and walk south on Karasuma
English Mon-Fri at 10am and 2pm, also 3rd Sat of every month and every Sat in
Apr, May, Oct, and Nov.
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
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
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)
basement of the Miyako Messe (International Exhibition Hall), Okazaki, Eastern
Subway: Higashiyama (5 min.). Bus: 5, 32, 46, or 100 to Kyoto Kaikan
Bijutsukan-mae (2 min.)
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.
Museum (Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan
street from Sanjusangendo Hall, Eastern Kyoto
100, 206, or 208 to Hakubutsukan Sanjusangendo-mae (1 min.)
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)
and Takakura sts, Central Kyoto
Subway: Karasuma-Oike (exit 5)
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
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
Textile Center (Nishijin-Ori Kaikan)
Horikawa Dori just south of Imadegawa Dori, Central Kyoto
Subway: Imadegawa Bus: 9, 51, 59, or 101 to Horikawa Imadegawa
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
Goryoshita-cho, Northern Kyoto
59 to Ryoanji-mae; or 12, 50, or 51 to Ritsumeikan Daigaku-mae
March-Nov daily 8-5; Dec-February daily 8:30-4:30.
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.
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.
100, 206, or 208 to Hakubutsukan Sanjusangendo-mae
to mid-November daily 8-5; mid-Nov. to March daily 9-4.
photography is allowed in the building.
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.