Honganji Temple
Kyoto Station is the main long-distance train station is Kyoto. It is a new massive, modern building with stunning architecture that opened in 1997. In addition to trains it has a hotel, theaters, a museum, a department store, tourist information centers, restaurants and shops. It is also where you catch shinkansen (bullet trains) to Osaka, Hiroshima and Kyushu in the south and Nagoya, Tokyo, Nagano, Yamagata, Niigata and Akita prefectures in the north. Websites: Kyoto Station Site kyoto-station-building.co ; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Kyoto Station Map : JR West westjr.co

Kyoto Tower (across from Kyoto Station) is a white 131-meter-high tower shaped like a giant Japanese candle. It is the tallest construction Kyoto and features the Observation Deck located 100 meters above the ground.The tower symbolizes a lighthouse illuminating the landlocked city of Kyoto. It is open from 9:00am to 9:20pm Last admission 21:00 Completed in 1964, it offers nice views for an admission fee of ¥800. for adults.

Toji Temple (southwest of Kyoto Station) is in the family temple of successive Ashikaga Shogun generals. It contains the highest pagoda and wooden building in Japan. Founded in 796 and rebuilt many times after fires, this five-level pagoda, rebuilt in 1644, is 56 meters (184 feet high). The repeated fires failed to claim a variety of treasured art objects. The temple buildings house many art objects including the Healing Buddha trinity in Main Hall and 21 images of Esoteric Buddhism in the Lecture Hall. The current structure was built in 1641 and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the 21st of every month a large temple market is held here. The markets in the winter are particularly fun.

Tojiin Temple Garden with its Fuyochi Pond is of a multifarious composition, with its trimmed hedges and dried-up waterfall work set against Kinugasa-yama and Ishibashi Bridge. Stroll garden constructed in the 14th century, and Fuyochi Pond was built in the 18th century. Address: 63 Kitamachi, Tojiin, Kita-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm (–15:00 December :30am-January 3) Admission: ¥500. Getting There: Near Tojiin-minami Bus Stop.

Kyoto Railway Museum (one kilometers west of Kyoto Station) opened in April 2016 and is a refurbished version of the Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum. There are the 53 trains and carriages preserved and displayed in the main building and the fan-shaped (roundhouse) steam locomotive shed. Among them are Japan’s iconic D51 steam loco, the D52 steam loco that could pull the biggest amount of freight and the 1800 steam loco imported from the UK for incline work as well as other modern trains like the 500 series shinkansen that achieved a speed of 300km/h, a world record at the time. The museum also contains operational systems, rides on a carriage pulled by a steam loco and driving simulators. Location: Kankijicho, Shimogyo-ku; Tel: +81-570-080-462; Hours Open: 10:00am to 5:30pm (entry by 5:00pm )Closed Wednesday,New Year Holidays(12/30 to 1/1); Admission: Adults: 1,200 yen; University and High school students: 1,000 yen; Junior high and Elementary school students: 500 yen; Age 3 and over 200 yen; Getting There: 2-minute walk from JR Umekoji Kyoto-nishi Station 20-minute walk to the west from the central gate of JR Kyoto Station, 3-minute walk from Umekoji Koen-mae Stop of City Bus; Website: kyotorailwaymuseum.jp

Kyoto Aquarium (one kilometer west of Kyoto Station, inside Umekoji Park) has tanks with creatures from the sea and river along with dolphin and penguin shows. Location: 35-1 Kankijicho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City, 600-8835 (inside Umekoji Park); Tel: +81-75-354-3130; Fax: +81-75-354-3152; Admission: Adults 2,050 yen; University and High School Student 1,550yen; Junior High School and Elementary School Student 1,000 yen; Child (3 and over): 600yen Hours Open: April to October 9:00am-6:00pm (Admission until 5:00pm ) November to March 9:00am-5:00pm (Admission until 4:00pm ). Open 365 days a year. Getting There: 7-minute walk from Umekoji-Kyotonishi Station on the JR San-in Line; 15-minute walk from Kyoto Station; 3-minute walk from City Bus Stop “Nanajo Omiya/KYOTO AQUARIUM”; Website: kyoto-aquarium.com

Nishi-Honganji Temple

Nishi-Honganji Temple (near Kyoto Station) is said to be the best example of Buddhist architecture in Kyoto. Founded in 1272 but moved to its present site in 1951 from Higashiyama, it houses Japan's oldest Noh stage, a famous garden, several national treasures and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Daisho-in Hall and Kara-mon Gate are famous for their paintings, carvings and metal decoration. Both Nishi- and Higashi-Honganji Temples are revered by followers of the Jodo-Shinshu sect, one of the largest Buddhist denominations in Japan. Websites: Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Hongwanji hongwanji.or.jp ; UNESCO World Heritage site: UNESCO website

Higashi-Honganji Temple (near the Kyoto Station) is the largest wooden building in Kyoto. The temple was established in 1602 under the sponsorship of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The present building dates from 1895. Higashi-Honganji Temple is less impressive than Nishi-Honganji Temple but it has one thing its sister temple doesn't have: a rope made from the hair of female believers used to haul timber.

To commemorate the 500th memorial of its priest Rennyo (1415–1499), the unifier of the Jodo Shinshu school, Higashi Honganji built a new visitor center. Designed by Shin Takamatsu, the structure is rare for its modern design, and was made three-stories deep in order to preserve the temple's historic scenery. The circular ceiling symbolizes the sun and the moon, and after dark the light pouring from the underground construction creates a crescent. Location: Shichijyo-agaru, Karasuma-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 600-8505, Tel: +81-75-371-9181

Sumiya (near Nishi-Honganji Temple) is two-story traditional house in a defunct entertainment area. A venue for dinner parties and banquets, it contains several lovely rooms where Kyoto's top-ranked geisha entertained the rich and powerful. On the ceiling of Folded Fan Room are 58 flattened fans. The walls in the Chinese-style Blue Shell Rim is inlaid with mother-of-pearl.

Kyoto National Museum

Buddhas in Sanjusangendo Temple
Kyoto National Museum (20 minute walk, east of Kyoto Station) has over 12,000 art objects and other treasures on display. It was erected in 1868 as a safe repository for art and objects of temples and shrines as well as individuals. There are good displays of ancient artifacts. The fine arts collection contains 230 objects that have been declared Nation Treasures of Important Cultural Properties. Thee days the permanent collections does not draw that many visitor. Most people who visit the museum come to see the first rate exhibitions held there.

The Kyoto National Museum exists to house, display, preserve, and research the art treasures privately owned by temples, shrines and the Imperial Household. The collection is divided into three broad categories: Fine Arts (sculptures, paintings, calligraphy); Handicrafts (pottery, fabrics, lacquer wares, metal works); and Archaeology (items of archaeological and historical interest). It provides an excellent overview of the different modes of artistic expression which flourished throughout the ages in Kyoto. The museum's main focus is on pre-modern Japanese works, and it has the largest collection anywhere of Heian Period (794-1185) artifacts and a special collection of rare and ancient Chinese and Japanese sutras. [Source: City of Kyoto and Kyoto City Tourism Association]

There are Exhibitions for Sculpture, Calligraphy, Textiles and Costumes, Metalwork, Lacquerware, Illustrated Handscrolls, Buddhist Paintings, Medieval Paintings, Momoyama-Edo Paintings, Chinese Paintings, Ceramics and Archaeological Relics. Some of them may be closed. The Outdoor Exhibit contains the East Garden, West Garden, Tea House, Water Fountain Garden, Meiji Kotokan Hall/Main Gate and Heisei Chishinkan Wing. Yoshio Taniguchi designed Heisei Chishinkan wing which opened in 2014. The new structure was built to house and exhibit its collection of over 12,500 artworks and treasures from over 12,000 years, many of which are National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties.

Location: 527 Chaya-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto 605-0931, Tel: +81-75-525-2473; : +81-75-541-1151; Fax: +81-75-531-0263; Hours Open: 9:30am–5:00pm (last entrance 4:30pm). Closed Monday. Admission: Adult: 300 yen; University Student (ID required): 150 yen. Often extra for exhibitions. Getting There: 7-minute walk from Shichijo Station on the Keihan Raliway, 1-minute walk from City Bus Stop "Hakubutsukan-sanjusangendomae"; To get there: 1) Via JR or Subway: Get off at Kyoto Station. From bus platform D2 in front of the station, take City Bus No. 206 or No. 208 to "Hakubutsukan Sanjusangendo-mae" bus stop. 2) Via Keihan Railway. Get off at Shichijo Station. Walk toward the East along Shichijo Street about seven minutes. 3) Via Hankyu Railway. Get off at Kyoto-Kawaramachi Station. Walk toward the East over the bridge to the Keihan Railway Gionshijo Station. Take Osaka-bound Keihan train to Shichijo Station. Walk toward the East along Shichijo Street about seven minutes. Website: Kyoto Nation Museum official site kyohaku.go.jp

Website: kyohaku.go.jp

Sanjusangendo Temple

Sanjusangendo Temple (across the street from Kyoto National Museum) was reconstructed in 1266 and today it is well known for its 1,001 images of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. The largest statue is flanked by 500 smaller statues in each side, all arranged in neat rows. The 1,000 arm figure is arrived at by multiplying 40 arms by the 25 worlds each one saves.

Designated as a national treasure, the image is a masterpiece of the Kamakura Period. Around it are the images of 28 faithful followers and 1001 gilded wooden statues of Kannon. A special archery event is held here on January 15th to commemorate an archer who once shot arrows from the south end of the temple to north end in a 24 hour period.

The official name of the temple is Rengeo-in. It was established in 1192 by Emperor Goshirakawa (1127-1192), a Kannon devotee. The building was reconstructed in 1266 after a fire destroyed all but 156 of the original Kannon statues and 28 deity statues. All the others were remade by the time the temple was reconstructed. The seated principal image was sculpted by Tankeu (1173-1256).

Sanjusangen-do is the name of the 120-meter-long main hall that houses the 3.3-meter-tall seated wooden statue of Juichimen Senju Kannon (literally “11-faced, 1,000-armed Kannon”) and the 1,001 life-size stand statues of Juichimen Senju Kannon, arranged on two sets of 50 columns of 10 ascending rows.

On the heads of 1,001 statues are 11 smaller faces, some expressing anger or mercy. They each have 42 arms, two of which are joined in prayer at the chest. Some hold a lotus flower, a sun disk, a rod or other items. Senju Kannon statues are believed to be capable of 33 different transformations, becoming children, women or public servants to help people in different situations. Each of the 40 hands, excluded the ones clasped in prayer, aid people in 25 ways, equaling a thousand ways in total.

In the center of all the gold-plated Kannon statues is a seated Buddhist statue, a national treasure and the temple’s principal image. In front of the Kannon rows are statues of 28 different deities, including Taishakuten, a heroic Indian god, and fierce-looking statues of Fujin and Raijin, deities of wind and thunder, standing in front of each end. Website: Fast Rider farstrider.net

Kawai Kanjiro's House (north of the Kyoto National Museum) is worth visiting. It has an interesting pottery display and will give you some idea of what a traditional Japanese house is like. Exhibited here are works of the late Kanjiro Kawai, a world famous potter. His workshop and many of the beautiful objects used in daily life are preserved at the house.

Tofukuji Temple and Garden

Tofukuji Temple (about a 30 minute walk from Kyoto Station, or Inari Station on the JR Nara line) is the largest Zen Temple in Kyoto. Founded in 1239, it covers an area of 200,000 square meters and contains a Hojo garden with stones, dwarf azelea and moss arranged in a checkerboard pattern and a Big Dipper constellation laid out in stones. Tokofuji is one of the favorite places in Kyoto to view autumn leaves. There are beautiful maple trees in a small valley along a creek that can be observed from wooden bridges over the creek Tofukuji Temple also includes rare examples of early Zen architecture.

Tofukuji Fundain Temple Garden is a Dry landscape garden laid out in the 15th century by Sesshu (1420–1506), a famous painter. The Kame-ishi or Tortoise Stone placed in the moss-covered garden surrounded by bamboo seems almost as if it were living and about to move. 10-minute walk from JR or Keihan Tofukuji Station (in the Tofukuji Te Address: 15-803 Hommachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-5:00pm (–4:00pm December–March) Admission: ¥300 Tofukuji Hojo: Dry gardens in four different types rebuilt in 1938. The north garden is famous for the moss and square stones creating an Ichimatsu checkered design. The coloring of leaves are exquisitely beautiful viewed from the roofed passage called Tsuutenkyo. Address: 15-778 Hommachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-4:00pm , 8:30am-4:00pm (November), 9:00am-15:30 (December– March) Admission: ¥400 Getting There: 10-minute walk from JR or Keihan Tofukuji Station (in the Tofukuji Temple).

Tofukuji Kaisando Temple Garden is a Pond garden and dry garden, both constructed in the 18th century. The left side of the narrow passage from the entrance is an ichimatsu patterned dry landscape in the Zen Buddhist style. On the right is a pond garden in the Chikuzan fashioned samurai household study style. The two combined create an exquisite taste. 10-minute walk from JR or Keihan Tofukuji Station. Address: 15-778 Hommachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto Hours Open: 9:00am-4:00pm , 8:30am-4:00pm (November), 9:00am-15:30 (December– March) Admission: ¥400

Tofukuji Temple Walk begins at the the vast complex of Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine dedicated to the guardian deity Inari, which is often portrayed in the physical form of a fox. All around you, people stand before the shrines and countless stone foxes praying for success in business or protection from disaster. You continue up the path through the thousands of red Torii gates (Shrine gates) stretching before you like a colorful tunnel against the green, up the winding trail of Mt. Inari. Weary hikers take a rest leaning against one of the red Torii, or more pleasantly at one of the tiny teahouses along the way. Head over to Tofukuji Temple and cross the gentle stream by the Tsutenkyo Bridge (Bridge to Heaven). Especially beautiful in the autumn shade, this famous little area is often filled with maple leaf watchers towards the end of October. Continue along to Hojo Garden and then onto Sennyuji Temple, in front of which the bus leaves to take you back to Kyoto Station.

Costume Museum

The Costume Museum (1.5 kilometers north-northwest of of Kyoto Station) first opened in 1974. Since then the museum has exhibited life-size dolls dressed in the varied and beautiful garments along with the accessories worn throughout Japan's history. In 1998, the museum opened its latest addition to the museum, the Spring Palace of the Rokujyo-in. Using the Tale of Genji as a stage background, the costumes and life of the nobility of the Heian Period are exhibited in one-quarter scale. The juni-hitoe (ceremonial role of court ladies) and furniture of the period are faithfully reproduced in scale and placed in the palace rooms. A portion of one room is reproduced in full scale. [Source: City of Kyoto and Kyoto City Tourism Association]

The environment of the Costume Museum is designed so that its guests can achieve a deep understanding of the world of nobility of the Heian Period. Romantic episodes that you enjoyed through the Tale of Genji and its picture scrolls are now realistically brought to life before your very eyes. Hikaru Genji, Murasaki-no-ue (characters in the Tale of Genji) and their exclusive world are recreated in three-dimensions enabling you to become a silent participant in the lives that the Heian nobility enjoyed more than a thousand years ago.

Location: Izutsu Building 5th Floor, Shinhanayacho-Dori, Horikawa Higashiiru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City, 600-8468; Tel: +81-75-342-5345; Fax: +81-75-351-6947; Admission: Adults: 500yen, Junior High, High School and University Students: 300yen, Elementary School Students: 200yen; Hours Open: 10:00am-5:00pm Closed Sundays and National Holidays, Aug.13 to17, and maintenance period Getting There: 3-minute walk from City Bus Stop Nishi-Honganji-mae; Website: iz2.or.jp

Imperial Palace in Kyoto

Imperial Palace (in the center of Kyoto city, (Near Marutamachi Subway Station) is a huge complex with numerous buildings. Noted for its striking simplicity not its lavish ornamentation, it was once surrounded by the homes of high-ranking noblemen but these were have been torn down to make room for a large park. The present site was chosen in 1790, and the present palace was completed in 1855, after the former one was destroyed by fire. The style reflects the original style as closely as possible.

The Imperial Palace was the official residence of the Japanese Emperor and the Imperial family until 1868. The original palace was built in 794. It like the replacements that followed were destroyed by fires and rebuilt. Most of present buildings, which are smaller than the original, date from 1855. The enthronement of the emperor and other important ceremonies still take place here.

Foreign visitors are given special tours. You need to fill out an application form to obtain permission to visit the Kyoto Imperial Palace, (there is a separate application process and explanation for overseas visitors). Those who want to visit the Imperial Palace and Villas are required to join a free guided tour operated twice a day from Monday to Friday.The tour takes one hour and advanced reservation is necessary. Apply at least 20 min. before 10:00 or 14:00 tour, basically except weekend and national holiday. Visitors under 18 must be accompanied by adults 20 years old or over.

Visitors must show up at the Imperial Household Agency office on the west side of Imperial Palace Gardens (near the Imadegawa subway station) with their passport to get a special pass. This is also where you can make reservations to visit Sento Gosho Palace (near the Imperial Palace), and Katsura-in and Shugaku-in imperial villas. Websites: Imperial Household Agency sankan.kunaicho.go.jp ; Kyoto Travel Guide kyoto.travel


Kyoto Imperial Palace Gardens and Walk

Imperial Palace Garden Park (Near Marutamachi Subway Station) is large park around the Imperial Palace. It embraces expansive lawns, 9,000 trees and ponds filled colorful carp. It is a nice place to relax, have a picnic and escape from the hustle and bustle of Japanese life and sightseeing. Many people come to view the plum blossoms in March and the cherry Blossoms in April.

Located almost in the center of the city, this huge park-like compound includes several palace buildings. It was also the location of many fine residences belonging to the ranking noble court families. These residences were torn down and a massive park, with lawns and over 9,000 trees, was created. Today, this extensive park area is a highly popular recreation and relaxation zone. Address: Kyoto Gyoen-nai, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto (in the Kyoto Old Imperial Palace compound).

Imperial Palace Garden (5-minute walk from Imadegawa Subway Station) contains is a lovely Japanese-style garden, which is open to the public. Covering 200 acres and overlooked by the Emperor's sleeping quarters, this garden was once considered to be too beautiful to enter. The garden was designed by Kobori Enshu (1579–1647). It is especially beautiful in the fall when the mounds of clover that are green in the summer turn to bright yellow. Foreign visitors on the palace tour also visit the Imperial Garden. Guided tours (English Audio Guidance) are available.

Museums Near the Imperial Palace

Museums Near the Imperial Palace include the 1) Museum of Ikebana (Kurama-gushi Station on the Karasuma subway line), in the grounds of Shiunzan Chohoji Temple; 2) Chado Research Center for the Tea Ceremony (Kurama-gushi Station on the Karasuma subway line), 3) Kitamura Museum, 1,000 works including thirty-three Important Cultural Properties and nine Important Art Objects, with a particular focus on tea utensils. and 4) Jotenkaku Museum, with 5 National Treasures, 145 Important Cultural Properties.

Museum of Kyoto (600 meters south of the Imperial Palace) is a great museum for discovering the history and culture of Kyoto. Relatively new, it is housed in large building and contains coherent displays that depict and define the traditions of Kyoto as they were to what they are, and continue to be, today. Incorporating every spectrum of society and as many facets of it as possible. Permanent displays can be found in the History of Kyoto section, the Fine Arts and Crafts Gallery, the Movie Hall, and the Movie Gallery. Special exhibitions are also held throughout the year.The red-brick building housing the museum was once the Kyoto branch of the Bank of Japan. This Important Cultural Property is representative of Western-style architecture around the end of the 19th century. Visitors can also shop and dine at "Roji-tenpo," a reconstructed Edo-Period merchant street. Location: Sanjo-Takakura, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto City, 604-8183; Tel: +81-75-222-0888; Fax: +81-75-222-0889; Hours Open: 10:00am-19:30 (Admission until 7:00pm )Closed Mondays and 12/28-1/3 (If the Monday is a national holiday, the museum is closed the following Tuesday); Admission: Special Exhibitions: Additional fee required; Getting There: 3-minute walk from the 5th exit of Karasuma-Oike Station on the Tozai and Karasuma Subway Line, 7-minute walk from the 16th exit of Karasuma Station on the Hankyu Line; Website: bunpaku.or.jp

Kyoto Imperial Palace Walk: The Kyoto Imperial Palace grounds is a nice park area that can be enjoyed freely. Especially beautiful are the plum and peach trees in bloom in early spring, and their gentle scent carries on the breeze as you walk around the still waters of the clear pond on your way to the nearby shrines of Nashinoki-jinja Shrine and Go-o-jinja Shrine. North of the gardens is Shokokuji Temple–another area to enjoy a relaxing stroll. Shokokuji Temple of the Gozan (Five Great Zen temples of Kyoto) was founded in 1392, and was once a famous painting academy. Jotenkaku Museum is located within its precincts.Heading southwest you come to Nijo-jo Castle.

Image Sources: 1) Honganji Temple 2) Fastrider.com 3) Imperial Household Agency 4) Twin Isles 5) Wikpedia 6) 7)

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

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