SIGHTS IN SOUTH KYOTO
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine Sights in southern Kyoto or south of Kyoto include Sennyuji Temple, Sampo-in Temple, Hoju-in Treasure House, Mampuki-ji Temple, Kanshuji Temple, Zuishin-in Temple, and the Sake Warehouses in Fushimi.
Jonangu Shrine Garden has five different types of gardens representing the respective styles of the Spring, Heian, Muromachi, Momoyama and Jonan Rikyu. Address: 7 Toba Rikyucho, Nakajima, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-4:30pm Admission: ¥600. Getting There: Near Jonangu Bus Stop. 15-minute walk from Takeda Station on Subway Karasuma Line or Kintetsu Line.
Kajuji Temple Garden (seven kilometers southeast of Kyoto) is a Strolling garden and also a dry landscape garden in front of the study hall. The stroll-type garden was originally built in the 10th century. Address: Niodocho, Kanshuji, Yamashina-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-4:00pm Admission: ¥400. Getting There: 20 minutes by bus to Kajuji Bus Stop from Yamashina Station (next to Kyoto Station) on Subway Ono Station and 6-minute walk.
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine (close to both Keihan’s Fushimi-Inari Station and JR Inari Station on the JR Nara line) is the main shrine of more than 30,000 Inari Shinto shrines scattered throughout Japan. Located on the slopes of Mt. Inari, it consist of five shrines dedicated to five Shinto deities, including the gods of rice and sake and founded by the Hata family in 711.
The most impressive thing about Fushimi Inari are the 10,000 red painted Torii gates and hundreds of shrine statues of foxes (messengers of the shrine) that line the four-kilometer (2½ mile) path up the hill behind the shrine. The red painted Torii gates and foxes were donated by the faithful. messengers of the Inari Taisha Shrine. The gates were featured in the film “Memoirs of a Geisha”. Some of the restaurants on the approach to the shrine sell barbecued sparrow. Websites: Fast Rider farstrider.net
Gekkeikan Sake Museum and Tours
Gekkeikan Sake Brewery Tour (Fushimi) is sponsored by the world's leading producer of sake at an old traditional warehouse. The tours are in Japanese. There are 37 sake breweries in the Fushimi area. Most Gekkeikan sake is made at a large modern facility in Osaka.
Though Japanese rice wine is often referred to as sake in English, sake in Japanese refers to alcohol in general. In Japan, the preferred word for rice wine is "Nihonshu." Nihonshu has a very distinctive aroma and fruity sweet taste. It has an alcohol content of from 14 to 19%. Drinking chilled nihonshu in summer helps you feel refreshed after working and increases your appetite. In winter, hot nihonshu makes you feel warm and relaxed. There are approximately 2,000 nihonshu breweries in Japan producing more than 10,000 products. Every brand of nihonshu has a unique aroma and taste of its own. If you would like to find out more about nihonshu and brewing, the museum below may interest you. [Source: City of Kyoto and Kyoto City Tourism Association]
Location: 247 Minamihama-cho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto City, 612-8660; Tel: +81-75-623-2056; Admission: Adults: 400yen, Children aged 12-17: 100yen, Children aged 0-1: Free; Hours Open: 9:30am-4:30pm Closed New Year holidays (from December 28 to January 4) and O-Bon Festival (from August 13 to August 16); Getting There: 5-minute walk from Chushojima Station on the Keihan Line 10-minute walk from Momoyama Goryo-mae Station on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line; Website: gekkeikan.co.jp
Daigoji (on Mt. Daigo) has been designated a World Heritage Site. Original built in A.D. 874, it was the 11th stop on a pilgrimages route of 33 temples in western Japan dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon. The temple grounds cover 6.6 million square meters. Yakishido hall, Sanbio hall and Kondo hall have been designated national treasures. The pagoda is the oldest-surviving wooden structure Toyotomi Hideyoshi hosted a cherry-viewing party here at Sanbion garden, which has been designated by the government as a place of scenic beauty. In August 2008 the temple’s Junteo Kannondo hall was destroyed by a fire.
Daigoji Samboin Temple Garden is a Landscape garden for viewing from within a building, laid out in the 16th century. It is one of the finest examples showing the legendary fortuitous crane, tortoise and isle of eternal youth using stones and spring ponds of the type in the Momoyama Period. Address: 22 Higashi-ojicho, Daigo, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm (–16:00 1st Sunday of December–February) Admission: ¥600. Getting There: 10-minute walk from Subway Daigo Station on Tozai Line.
Uji (between Osaka, Kyoto and Nara) is riverside town that lies in the heart of a major green tea growing district. The setting for the last 10 chapters of the “Tale of Genji”, it contains one famous temple, one famous shrine, some charming tea houses and many inns and restaurants along the Uji River. Uji Bridge is the oldest stone bridge of its kind in Japan.Websitess: English-language Uji site Kansai Digital Archives Wikitravel Wikitravel
Uji is famous for green tea. Shops sell green tea flavored ice cream, green tea noodles and shaved ice with green tea syrup along with other green tea goodies. Outside the town you can do some pleasant walks through tea plantations and forests. A map given out at the tourist office near the train station shows where some of the ea fields are.
Cormorant fishing is done on Uji River from mid June to the end of August. There are good cherry blossoms on an island in the river in late March and early April. In the autumn there are good maple leaves around some of the temples. Sights in Uji include Uji Shrine, Uji Municipal Botanical Garden, Hakusan Shrine, Eshin-in Temple, Agata Shrine, Hasjidera Hojoin Temple, Hashihime Shrine, Koshoji Temple and Mimurotoji Temple. Obakusan-Manpukuji Temple house is the largest teak building in Japan. Embracing many Chinese elements, it was founded by the Chinese monk Yinyuan Longqi (1592-1673), who found the last of three Japanese Zen sects and introduced Chinese styles of cooking to Japan.
Ujigama Shrine (in Uji) was constructed in the 10th century and is said to be oldest extant shrine building in Japan. Dedicated to a prince, who tragically committed suicide after a quarrel with his brother, it was designated a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994. UNESCO World Heritage site: UNESCO website
Uji: UNESCO World Heritage Site
Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. According to UNESCO: “ Built in A.D. 794 on the model of the capitals of ancient China, Kyoto was the imperial capital of Japan from its foundation until the middle of the 19th century. As the centre of Japanese culture for more than 1,000 years, Kyoto illustrates the development of Japanese wooden architecture, particularly religious architecture, and the art of Japanese gardens, which has influenced landscape gardening the world over. [Source: UNESCO]
“The Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) consist of seventeen component parts that are situated in Kyoto and Uji Cities in Kyoto Prefecture and Otsu City in Shiga Prefecture. Most of the one hundred ninety-eight buildings and twelve gardens that make up the seventeen component parts of the property were built or designed from the 10th to the 17th centuries. All of the seventeen components of the inscribed property are religious establishments except for the castle of Nijo-jo. Together they cover a total of 1,056 hectares and are surrounded by a buffer zone of 3,579 hectares.
“Kyoto was the main centre for the evolution of religious and secular architecture and of garden design between the 8th and 17th centuries, and as such it played a decisive role in the creation of Japanese cultural traditions which, in the case of gardens in particular, had a profound effect on the rest of the world from the 19th century onwards. The assemblage of architecture and garden design in the surviving monuments of Kyoto is the highest expression of this aspect of Japanese material culture in the pre-modern period.
“Although each of the individual buildings, building complexes and gardens that make up the inscribed property represent various unique periods of history, seen together they illustrate the general historical development of Japanese architecture and gardens. Together the seventeen component parts provide a clear understanding of the ancient capital’s history and culture. In addition, the property gives a very comprehensive picture of Japanese culture over the long period of time. Thus, the integrity of the property is ensured in both its wholeness and intactness. Moreover, each of the seventeen individual parts of the property exhibits a high degree of individual integrity. Because the scattered component parts exist within an urban context, uncontrolled development poses a threat to the inscribed property’s overall visual integrity.”
Byodoin Temple (in Uji) is one the last surviving structures from Heian period (704-1185). Built in 1052 as a villa for Kyoto nobleman, who may been the inspiration for the hero Genji, it contains the famous Phoenix Hall, with its gracefully upswept eaves and two bronze phoenixes on the gables of the main roof. Built in the early 11th century as a pavilion for a Fujiwara noble, it was converted into a temple by his son.
Inspired by the Chinese version of the mythological bird, a protector Buddha, the Phoenix Hall of Byodion temple is pictured on the ¥10 coin and was inspiration for the some buildings by the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It is beautifully situated in front of a pond and contains a famous 11th century statue of Amida and the 52 Bodhisattvas.
Byodoin Temple Byodoin Temple contains perhaps the best remaining example if a pleasure boat style garden. The temple was designated a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994. The nearby Homotsukan Treasure House contains the original temple bell, phoenix roof adornments and door paintings.
Christal Whelan wrote in Daily Yomiuri: Byodoin temple's graceful Phoenix Hall (depicted on the back of the 10 yen coin) in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, is located in one of the few gardens remaining in a style that dates back to the A.D. 6th century. It is on the artificial island of Nakajima, which was built up and broadened with stones from a "seed" islet in the midst of a mirror-like pond. The Hall is meant to represent Amitabha Buddha's palace in the Western Paradise as described in the Infinite Life Sutra. Symbolic islands such as this one are visual aids for a living faith and serve to draw the remote near and allow the viewer to become more intimate with the transcendent.
Byodoin Temple Garden was originally a pond garden for boating laid out in the 11th century. The construction of the temple and its garden was intended to recreate the Buddhist paradise in this world. Address: 116, Uji Renge, Uji-city, Kyoto Hours Open: 8:30am-6:30pm Admission: ¥600 (¥300 during the Phoenix Hall repair until March 31 2014) Getting There: 30 min. by train from Keihan-Sanjo to Uji on Keihan-Uji Line, or 20 min. by train from Kyoto Station to Uji Station on JR Nara Line.
Full-Scale Model of the Byodoin’s Phoenix Hall
A full-scale model replica of the Byodoin Temple’s Phoenix Hall was unveiled at the Byodoin Museum Hoshokan, Uji in 2012.The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Byodoin temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture, has unveiled a full-scale reproduction of the interior of its Phoenix Hall. The vividly colored model is a replica of the original hall, constructed in 1053 and a designated national treasure. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, April 21, 2012]
To recreate the interior, pillars and beams in the hall were studied with fluorescent X-rays and other devices. Designs were then copied and printed on vinyl chloride sheets. Finally, the sheets were affixed to the plain structures at the reproduction site. Among the colorful pictures on the model are bosatsu (Bodhisattva) singing while playing instruments with green or purple phoenixes surrounding them.
The model, which measures 11 meters wide by five meters tall, recreates the front door of the eastern part of Phoenix Hall as well as the pillars and beams around the door. Through this artistic endeavor, Byodoin temple has recreated an image of heaven expressed in the Heian period (794-1192) “Visitors can experience the vision of heaven people held in the Heian period,” said Monsho Kamii, Byodoin temple’s chief priest.
Uji’s Genji Country Walk
Start at the gates of the Kambayashi Memorial Museum. Old pine trees shade the small wooden building, towering over the low, dimly lit entrance in this little corner tucked away from the busy shopping street. From here, you walk along old streets lined with teashops, and only teashops, where the smells of the many kinds of tea roasting in the open air mingle together on the gentle breeze. Stop at one of the small restaurants for some tea-flavored noodles and ice cream, before entering the magnificent Byodo-in, a designated World Heritage Site. The main hall, featured on the 10-yen coin, is the focus of the crowds, each person trying to get the perfect shot in front of the pond. [Source: JNTO]
Continue down along the tree-lined river bank to Taiho-an, the Municipal Tea House, then cross the elegant red wooden bridge to the largest stone pagoda in Japan. Built in 1286, this 13-stage pagoda stands tall on the small sandy island surrounded by the rapids of the Uji River which you cross again, over to Koshoji Temple, where photographers and artists gather in the midst of autumn to capture the red maples around the temple. Continue to the beautiful temple grounds of Eshin-in Temple, then to Asahiyaki Pottery to admire the local crafts. From here you stop by Uji-jinja Shrine, then cross the road to the Uji Chapters Monument, celebrating the ten chapters of The Tale of the Genji set here in Uji.
Next, head up the paved path to Ujikami-jinja Shrine where the old man selling shrine charms by the entrance explains in a hushed voice that the shrine is a perfect example of traditional shrine architecture, and hands you pamphlets containing its colorful history. From here, walk down the shady tree-lined road to the Tale of Genji Museum, dedicated to the famous epic novel written by Murasaki Shikibu. Stop for a brief rest at Hashidera Temple before crossing Uji Bridge and strolling back to the station.
Suntory Whiskey Distillery
Suntory Yamazaki Distillery (in Shimamoto, Osaka Prefecture, JR Yamazaki Station or Hankyu Oyamazaki Station) provides free guided tours to almost 7000 visitors each year. In 2009, fewer than 1,000 foreign tourists took the distillery tour. That figure rose to about 2,000 visitors in 2012 and nearly 4,000 in 2013. In 2014, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Australian Phern Rossel and his partner viewed the factory’s casks and distillation stills, and later enjoyed a complimentary glass of whiskey and water. Rossel, 34, called himself a big fan of Japanese whiskey. He said he researched the distillery and made reservations before leaving home. He talked excitedly about feeling the heat coming off the stills. Ten percent of visitors to the site are from overseas, and the company has prepared audio guides in English, French and Chinese, which have proved quite popular. The reason for this popularity is thought to be the recent success of Japanese whiskies at European competitions, as well as positive reviews about the tour posted on discussion forums. Multiple comments in English on the distillery page of the world’s largest travel forum, TripAdvisor of the United States, recommended the tour. It was listed among the site’s top 10 factory and social study tours in Japan for both 2012 and 2013. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, July 22, 2014]
There are two ways to visit Suntory Yamazaki Distillery: 1) Yamazaki Whisky Museum and 2) the factory tour. There is also a museum shop and a tasting counter (for a fee). At the whisky making exhibit you can learn the basics of the long manufacturing process needed to make whisky via the exhibits and miniature models installed along the corridors. The Whisky Library features a wall of several thousand bottles of variety of whiskies, A large exhibit area with a double height features the pot still and the washback that were used at the distillery for many years.
At the Whiskey Museum "The story of the early days in business" exhibit introduced you to the early history of the creation of Suntory Whisky. In "The story of craftsmen, heritage & innovation" exhibit you are introduced to dedication to whisky-making of Yamazaki Distillery, the oldest malt whisky distillery in Japan, and the little-known story of how the single malt whisky "Yamazaki" came to be. At the tasting counter you can try whiskies from around the world and rare whiskies and limited editions. You can sample a range of whiskies, savoring the differences in their flavors, and buy the ones you like and have them shipped home. The gift shop features an array of original Yamazaki Distillery products, including some you'll find nowhere else.
Tours are conducted by factory guides. With their guidance, you can visit the whisky production area and enjoy tasting of the Yamazaki component whiskies. The tour starts with the explanation of the whisky production process. Using the miniature model set up at the start of the tour, guide staff will explain the process of making malt whisky. At the whisky production area you can observe the production process. Guides explain the process. In the warehouse, the distilled malt whisky is divided among various casks for maturation (aging).
Location: Suntory Yamazaki Distillery, 5-2-1 Yamazaki, Shimamoto-cho, Mishima-gun, Osaka, Tel: +81-75-962-142; Hours Open: 9:30am-5:00pm (Last entry at 4:30pm). Closed:Over the New Year's holiday and during distillery shutdowns (some of which are not scheduled in advance) Getting There: Roughly 10 minutes' walk from: 1) JR Yamazaki Station on the JR Tokaido Line about 15 minutes from Kyoto Station and 26 minutes from Umeda, Osaka Station; or 2) Hankyu Oyamazaki Station on the Hankyu Kyoto Line, about 30 minutes from Umeda Osaka Station. Website: suntory.com/factory/yamazaki/
Oyamazaki and Mt. Tenno Walk
Oyamazaki and Mt. Tenno (between Kyoto and Osaka) is in an area rich in history and folklore. This course starts at the Oyamazaki Museum of History, which is in walking distance from both JR Yamazaki Station and Hankyu Oyamazaki Station. The museum is the perfect introduction of the history and culture of Oyamazaki before you head over to Myoki-an and its famous tea house Tai-an. Designated as a National Treasure, simple structure and peaceful grounds of the tea house invokes a feeling of tranquil stillness. Just next door is the Rikyu Hachimangu Shrine, from where you can head north up to Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum. This beautiful villa houses owns works by famous artists and craftsmen including Monet.
From here, take a short rest at Hoshakuji Temple before start climbing up Mt. Tenno. Halfway up Mt. Tenno is one of Yamazaki's most famous temples – Hoshakuji Temple. It is famous for housing the 'Uchide no Kozuchi' (The Lucky Mallet) which, according to legend, the Emperor Shomu received from the Dragon King, and from this the temple earned its name meaning 'Temple of Treasure.' In the grounds is one of Japan's many Important Cultural Assets, a 3-story Pagoda characteristic in style of the Azuchi-Momoyama Period. Before reaching the summit, stop at Hata Tate Matsu pine trees from where you can take a breathtaking view of the surrounding area. As you reach the summit, you will see the unusual sight of three rivers, Katsuragawa, Kamogawa and Ujigawa merging into one and becoming the Yodogawa River that runs all the way to Osaka.
On the way down of the mountain stop at Kannonji Temple before you start the long walk through the old, yet busy streets up to the beautifully kept Shoryuji Castle Park and ruins. Take a short break inside one of the welcoming restaurants on your way to Nagaokakyo Station, the main link between Kyoto and Osaka. As an option, you can also visit Suntory Yamazaki Distillery just north of Yamazaki Station.
Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum is a traditional English-style villa built in the Showa Period that has been converted into a beautiful art museum. The museum holds many Impressionist works, including Monet's famous 'Water Lily', and also many elegant ceramics, originally in the possession of Asahi Beer's founding president Tamesaburo Yamamoto. On the second floor is a coffee shop where you can enjoy coffee, tea or juice, inside or out in the fresh air on the balcony.
Image Sources: 1) 2) 7) Ray Kinnane 3) Wikipedia 4) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education 5) Kyoto Prefecture site 6) 8) 10) 11) Kyoto Visitors site 9) Aomolife
Text Sources: JNTO (Japan National Tourist Organization), Japan.org, Japan News, Japan Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan Ministry of the Environment, UNESCO, Japan Guide website, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in July 2020