Some of the most picturesque parts of Kyoto, and the older areas of the city, are located in the eastern region of the city, across the Kamo River. Visiting the main tourist attractions of eastern Kyoto will fill a full day - a suggested itinerary is to work north from Kiyomizu Temple to Ginkakuji Temple, passing through Gion, and visiting Yasaka Shrine and Nanzenji Temple before following the Philosopher's Walk to Ginkakuji.
- Kiyomizu Temple (清水寺 Kiyomizudera).
This temple complex, with a spectacular location overlooking the
city is a deservedly popular attraction in the city, approached by
either of two tourist-filled souvenir-shop-lined streets,
Kiyomizu-zaka or Chawan-zaka. Admission ¥300. Open daily, 6am-6pm.
Nearest bus stop: Kiyomizu-michi or Gojo-zaka. Highlights
of the temple complex include;
- The main hall's wooden veranda, supported by hundreds of pillars and offering incredible views over the city,
- Jishu-jinja, the love-themed shrine selling countless charms to help you snag the one you love, and featuring two "love stones" positioned around 18m apart which the lovelorn must walk between with eyes closed to confirm their loved one's affection, and
- Otowa-no-taki the temple's waterfall, which gives it its name (Kiyomizu literally means 'pure water'). Visitors stand beneath the waterfall, and collect water to drink by holding out little tin cups.
- mountain hike If you're up for a mountain walk, steer to the right-hand pathway instead of taking the left toward the Jishu-jinja. The path leads through a gate and winds up onto the mountain. You can walk up for a good hour and not reach the end of the path. Has lovely forest and great scenery, and makes for a nice short excursion out of the city traffic.
- Gion district (祇園). The flagstone-paved streets and traditional buildings of the Gion district, located to the north-west of Kiyomizu Temple, are where you're most likely to see geisha in Kyoto, scurrying between buildings. The area just to the north of Shijo-dori, to the west of Yasaka Shrine, is particularly photogenic - particularly around Shinbashi-dori and Hanami-koji. Sannen-zaka ("three-year-slope") and Ninen-zaka ("two-year-slope"), two stepped streets leading off from Kiyomizu-zaka, are also very picturesque - but watch your step, slipping over on these streets brings three or two years' bad luck respectively. At the northern end of Ninen-zaka is Ryozen Kannon, a memorial to the unknown Japanese soldiers who died in World War II, with a 24-meter-tall statue of Kannon. Admission is ¥200, including a lit incense stick to place in front of the shrine.
- Yasaka Shrine at the eastern end of Shijo-dori, at the edge of Gion, is the shrine responsible for Kyoto's main festival - the Gion Matsuri, which takes place in July. The shrine is small, in comparison with many in Kyoto, but it boasts an impressive display of lanterns. Admission is free. Nearest bus stop: Gion.
- Maruyama Park is the main center for cherry blossom viewing in Kyoto, and can get extremely crowded at that time of year. The park's star attraction is a weeping cherry tree (shidarezakura). Main entrance to the park is through Yasaka Shrine. Admission is free.
- Nanzenji Temple, with its distinctive
two-storey entrance gate (sanmon) and aqueduct, is
another popular temple in Kyoto, but its larger size means that it
doesn't seem as crowded as many of the others. Nearest bus
stop: Nanzenji, Eikando-michi. Nearest subway station: Keage.
Open daily, 8.30am-5pm. Walking around the temple complex and
along the aqueduct is free, but there are three regions of
Nanzenji that you can pay to enter;
- Sanmon - the two-storey main gate to Nanzenji Temple charges ¥500 for admission, and offers pleasant views over the surrounding area of the city.
- Nanzen-in Zen Temple - a small, but relaxing temple and moss garden behind the aqueduct, dating back to the 13th century, charges ¥300 for admission, and is probably only worth it if you have a particular interest in Zen buddhism.
- Hojo - the abbot's quarters, is a more interesting building, with a small raked gravel garden and some impressive paintings on the sliding doors of the buildings. Admission is ¥500.
- The Philosopher's Walk is the name given to a 2km-long path through north-eastern Kyoto, along which a philosophy professor, Kitaro Nishida, used to frequently walk. It is a surprisingly pleasant and relaxing walk even today, though you will undoubtedly share it with more tourists than Kitaro did. The walk runs south from Ginkakuji Temple beside a river to Nyakuoji Shrine, many guidebooks suggest that the walk continues further south from there to Nanzenji Temple, but this southerly section of the walk is less insistently signposted. The route passes several temples en route, notably Honen-in, a beautiful secluded temple with a thatched gate.
- Ginkakuji Temple (銀閣寺, the Silver Pavilion). At the northern end of the Philosopher's Walk, approached along a street lined with shops selling tacky souvenirs. Much like its golden counterpart, the Silver Pavilion is often choked with tourists, shuffling past a scrupulously-maintained dry landscape Zen garden and the surrounding moss garden, before viewing the Pavilion across a pond. Be sure not to miss the display of Very Important Mosses! Admission ¥500. Nearest bus stop: Ginkakuji-michi.