What to Do in Kita

Kita - Kyoto Attractions

Kita Ward is home to the most iconic of Kyoto attractions, the Golden Pavillion, Kinkaku-ji which draws hundreds of thousands of tourists every years to view its most serene setting. There’s more history to be told at the Daitoku-ji an enormous compound of Zen Buddhist temples and sub-temples, enough to fill an entire day’s sight-seeing.

The ward also has a number of historic houses and villas which have been converted into museums and restaurants. For a taste of traditional Japan head to the Funaoka onsen and enjoy the relaxing water-therapy.

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Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion)

Kinkakuji Temple is one of the most visited attractions of Kyoto. Literally meaning ‘Temple of the Golden Pavilion,’ this Zen Buddhist shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s a breathtaking piece of architecture and is surrounded by a Japanese style garden. Known by many as Rokuonji or the Deer Garden Temple, Kinkakuji was built in 1397 as a retirement pavilion for Shogun Yoshimitsu Ashikaga (1358-1409).

The Golden Pavilion has 3 floors and stands 12.8 metres high. Both the second and third floors are gilded with gold-leaf on Japanese lacquer, giving it such a unique appearance. Don’t miss the traditional tea room within the temple grounds. Located in northern Kyoto, Kinkakuji can be accessed from Kyoto Station by direct Kyoto City Bus number 101 or 205 in about 40 minutes.

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 9am to 5pm
  • Location: 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita, Kyoto, 603-8361, Japan
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 461 0133
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With 4 exquisitely maintained Japanese gardens, meditative rock gardens and some of the oldest and grandest temples in Japan, Daitokuji is the archetypical Zen Buddhist temple on a magnificent scale. Within its high walls Daitokuji contains many large temples and sub-temples dating back to the 14th century. To reach Daitokuji, take the Karasuma subway line to Kitaoji station.

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 9am to 5pm
  • Location: 53 Murasakino Daitokujicho, Kita, Kyoto, 603-8231, Japan
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 491 0019
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Koto-in (Daitokuji)

Hidden away on the western side of Daitokuji, this small, reclusive sub-temple deserves special mention for its priceless collection of national treasures from Japan and China. The mossy gardens enveloping the temple are stunning in autumn with the vivid colours and dappled sunlight through the maple leaves. A beautiful spot for contemplation, respite or a picnic. The temple grounds are a short walk west from Kitaoji subway station in northern Kyoto. 

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 9am to 4pm
  • Location: 73-1 Murasakino Daitokujicho, Kita, Kyoto, 603-8231, Japan
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 492 0068
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Daisen-in rock garden (Daitokuji Temple)

Located within the sprawling compound of Daitokuji, Daisen-in rock garden is an excellent example of the uniquely Japanese artistic and philosophical practice. See if you can identify the sea, the mountains and a boat represented in the rock formations, as many people claim. There are also animal faces and a waterfall depicted in the rock façade. Built in 1513 during the Muromachi era, the garden is a depiction of a dry landscape and well worth a visit early before the tour buses arrive. There is an entrance fee of around 400

  • Opening Hours: March – November from 9am to 5pm, December – February from 9am to 4.30pm
  • Location: Murasakino Daitokujicho, Kita, Kyoto, 603-8231, Japan
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 491 8346
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Kyoto Prefectural Insho-Domoto Museum of Fine Arts

Avant-garde painter Insho Domoto designed the contemporary architecture of this interesting museum and was awarded the Order of Cultural Merits for his work in 1961. The Kyoto Prefectural Insho-Domoto Museum of Fine Arts exhibits wonderful modern art, paintings and sculpture. Within walking distance from Kinkaku-ji, it's an interesting stop when in the Kita Ward of northern Kyoto. 

  • Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 9am to 5pm (open until 7.30pm on Fridays)
  • Location: 26-3 Hirano Kamiyanagicho, Kita, Kyoto, 603-8355, Japan
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 463 0007
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Hirano Jinja Shrine

If you happen to be in Kyoto in spring, Hirano Jinja Shrine is a notable spot to witness the stunning cherry blossoms and experience hanami (flower-watching) Kyoto-style. Every year on 10th April, the Cherry Blossom Festival is held here. Food and drink stalls are set up and there are free performances of traditional koto and shamisen musical reviews.

  • Location: 1 Hirano Miyamotocho, Kita, Kyoto, 603-8322, Japan
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 461 4450
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Shodenji Temple

Drama is literally built into Shodenji Temple, tucked away at the foot of a hill. After suffering a shocking defeat in the Battle of Sekigahara, a group of soldiers committed mass suicide in Fushimi Castle. The bloodstained floorboards from the castle are used in the ceiling of this temple, however the tranquillity of the temple compound defies the tragedy of its history. Annually it is part of the Gozan Fire Festivals when 5 of Kyoto’s mountainsides are set ablaze to spell out the phrase ‘Wonderful Buddhist Law’.

  • Opening Hours: Daily from 9am to 5pm
  • Location: 72 Kitachinjuan-cho Nishigamo Kita, Kyoto, 603-8847, Japan
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 371 5649
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Waratenjin Shrine

If you happen to be pregnant or know someone who is, then a trip to Waratenjin Shrine may just ensure a healthy bundle of joy! This old Shinto shrine is dedicated to protecting babies and mothers during childbirth. It is also believed that by procuring a special charm from the shrine you will be able to predict the sex of your baby. This ancient shrine is close to Ritsumeikan University in the north of Kyoto and is popular with students praying before exams. 

  • Location: 10 Kinugasa Tenjinmoricho, Kita, Kyoto, 603-8375, Japan
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 461 7676
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Ota-jinja Shrine

Ota-jinja, also known as the Purple Iris Shrine, is notable for the bright flowers that over the grounds. In May and June, this peaceful site explodes with colour when the iris flowers are in bloom. The shrine is devoted to the god of plentiful harvests and fittingly has been an important shrine for farmers since its beginning.

  • Location: 340 Kamigamo Motoyama, Kita, Kyoto, 603-8047, Japan
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 781 0907
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Kyoto Museum for World Peace

The Kyoto Museum for World Peace is located in Ritsumeikan University. Using simulations, films, photographs and replicas, this museum’s purpose is to spread world peace. The museum has 3 areas devoted to the 15-year Japan War, World War II, and War and Peace since 1945. A centerpiece of the museum is a sculpture created by Hongo Shin in honour of the students whose studies were cut short by the WWII mobilization in 1943. Most of the descriptions and display materials are in Japanese, but English language guidebooks are available at reception.

  • Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday from 9.30am to 4pm
  • Location: 56-1 Kitamachi, Toji-in Kita, Kyoto, 603-8577, Japan
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 465 8151
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