Kyoto, bounded by mountains to the west, north and east, is the former capital of Japan and famous for its temples, shrines and festivals. Many of the best monuments and gardens are found in Eastern Mountain district. Only by walking side streets with their old shops and townhouses, exploring temples, and wondering through outlying districts will you begin to get a sense of the city's cultural riches.
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) is located at the foot of Kinugasa hill. It is a famous structure of Muromachi period (14 - 16 Century). It was originally designed as the villa of a court noble. The second owner, Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, the 3rd shogun, greatly improved it and spends the latter part of his life there in retirement from the cares of stare. He built the Golden Pavilion and laid out the garden in 1394. His will was followed by his son as successor to change the villa into a Buddhist temple under the name of Rokuonji. It was burned down in 1950 and reconstructed in 1955.
Kiyomizu Temple is noted for its main Hall on the cliff top with a broad wooden veranda and a panoramic view of Kyoto city. The veranda is supported on a scaffold of wood towering on a wooded hillside, so the veranda seems to hang in midair. The valley is so deep that there has been the expression "jumping from the veranda of Kiyomizu temple," which means doing something daring. The present temple building was built in 1633, and its main hall has been designated as a national treasure.
Ryoanji Temple is famous for its rock garden, the best dry Japanese garden and a masterpiece by Soami (1455-1525) who was greatly influence by Zen. The garden is covered with white sand and surrounded by earthen walls. 15 rocks stand in three groups. There is no flowering plant, but you may picture the deep blue sea when viewing the rocks, and meadows, bushes, shrubs or woods when seeing the patches of moss on them. Observing the garden from different angles, you may find delicate changes in the imaginary sea.
Kodaiji Temple is one of the many outstanding temples in Kyoto's Higashiyama district. It was constructed in 1605 in memory of Toyotomi Hideyoshi by the great political leader's wife. Besides fine temple halls, Kodaiji features a small bamboo grove and a landscape garden with tea houses, designed by leading, contemporary masters. Beautiful, Zen style illumination shows are held in Kodaiji's garden during certain times of the year.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Best known of the Kyoto shrines, Fushimi Inari Shrine is visually stunning: thousands of torii gates form an unbroken tunnel of red leading to the crest of Mount Inari.
Oldest and most famous of all the Inari shrines in Japan, Fushimi Inari Taisha is, like the others, dedicated to the Shinto deity thought to protect the harvest and bring prosperity in business. In addition to the red torii gates, the shrine boasts thousands of fox statues - Inari's messengers - and the tea houses and shops around the shrine sell delicacies associated with foxes:inari-zushi and kitsune-udon.
Though popular with tourists and locals alike, Fushimi Inari Shrine maintains a sense of tranquillity, and the torii-lined paths leading up the mountain provide a wonderful way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
Heian Shrine is a famous structure dedicated to Emperor Kammu, the founder of Kyoto, and the Emperor Komei, the last emperor in Kyoto. It was built to commemorate the 1,100th anniversary of the founding Kyoto in 1895. Its building, with the exception of the ferroconcrete torii gate, and are miniature replicas of the first Imperial Palace built in Kyoto, in 794. The garden behind the shrine is well known for its water lilies, roses, azaleas, maples and weeping cherry trees.