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Kyoto

The Philosopher’s Walk

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This beautifully scenic walk got its name from the famous Kyoto University scholar Ikutaro Nishida who used to take his daily walk through the area to keep fit, to contemplate and to ponder. The walk follows a cherry tree lined canal leading from Ginkaku-ji along the base of the Higashiyama Mountains south to Nanzen-ji. Quaint coffee and craft shops as well as restaurants now line the Philosopher’s Walk and during the cherry blossom season it is a busy promenade as couples from across the country converge.

  • Location: Tetsugaku-no-michi, Sakyo-ku
  • How to get there: Begin the walk north at Ginkaku-ji or south at Nanzen-ji
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Ginkaku-ji (The Silver Pavillion)

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Modelled after the resplendent Golden Pavillion Ginkaku-ji or the Silver Pavillion was originally constructed as a retreat for shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa in 1849. Had the shogun’s plans not been thwarted by the Onin War, the temple would have been coated with silver to reflect the moonlight. As it is Ginkaku-ji is somewhat somber compared to its golden counterpart yet still a place of great natural and man-made beauty, for within its walls the traditional arts of Noh theatre, flower arrangement and the tea ceremony are taken to their heights.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 08:00 - 17:00
  • Location: Ginkaku-ji-cho, Sakyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 711 5725
  • How to get there: Ginkaku-ji bus stop by Kyoto-bus, Ginkaku-ji-michi bus stop by City-bus No.2
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Nanzen-ji

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Built during the mid 13th century, Nanzen-ji is today one of the most important Buddhist temples in the world. Originally Emperor Kameyama decreed Nanzen-ji a retirement villa and later converted it to a Zen temple which then prospered until it was destroyed during 200 years of civil war. Nestled at the foot of the Higashiyama mountains and with a number of equally beautiful sub temples all rebuilt over time Nanzen-ji is the quintessential tranquil Zen temple despite is enormous area.

  • Opening Hours: 08:40 - 17:00 (until 16:30 from Dec to Feb)
  • Location: 86 Nanzenji Fukuchicho, Sakyo-ku
  • How to get there: Tozai Subway Line, Keage Station or Kyoto City Bus number 5 from Kyoto Station to Nanzenji-Eikando-michi bus stop.
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Honen-in

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A short detour from the canal path of the Philosopher’s Walk will bring you to Honen-In a small stunningly scenic little temple of the Jodo-sect. With a rustic thatched gate and raked-stone gardens that the monks regularly redesign, it is a lovely place to visit and take respite along the historic promenade. Through the rear of the temple, a classic Japanese bridge leads to a peaceful carp pond and further to a remarkable statue of Kannon the Bodhisattva of mercy.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 05:00 - 16:00
  • Location: 30 Shishigatani, Goshonodan-cho Sakyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 771 2420
  • How to get there: Kyoto City bus to Jodo-ji bus stop
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Kamigamo Jinja

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Kamo Shrine comprises two important Shinto shrines lying on opposite sides of the Kamo River. Built to prevent demons from entering the city, Kamo-wakeikazuchi Shrine in Kyoto's Kita Ward and the Kamo-mioya Shrine in Sakyo Ward, are two of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. The oldest of Kyoto’s three famous festivals, the Kamo no Matsuir or Aoi Matsuri, is staged here annually.

  • Opening Hours: Daily 06:00 – 17:00
  • Location: 59 Izumikawa-cho, Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 781 0010
  • How to get there: Kitayama subway station
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Heian-jingu

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Japan’s largest torii temple gates stand to welcome you to the Heian Shrine, an amazing ¾ scale model of the Kyoto Imperial Palace. Built in 1895 in celebration of the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Heiankyo, now named Kyoto, Heian Shrine annually hosts one of the city’s most important cultural events, the Jidai Matsuri festival.

  • Opening Hours: Mar 1 - 14 & Sep 1 - 10: 06:00 - 17:30; Mar 15 - Aug 31: 06:00 - 17:00; Nov, Dec, Jan & Feb: 06:00 - 17:00.
    Garden Viewing Hours Mar 1 - 14 & Sep 1 - Oct 31: 08:30 – 17:00; Mar 15 - Aug 31: 08:30 - 17:30. Nov 1 - end of Feb:0 8:30 – 16:30.
  • Location: Nishi Ten-o-cho, Okazaki, Sakyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 761 0221
  • How to get there: City Bus 5 from JR Kyoto Station to Kyoto Kaikan Bijitusu-kan Mae
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Sanzen-in

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If you are lucky enough to be in Kyoto in autumn don’t miss seeing the maples ablaze in red, orange and yellow at this graceful temple on the outskirts of the city. Dating back to 784 Sanzen-in is a Tendai temple that is famous for its inspirational mossy gardens, in particular the vivid blue hydrangeas and cherry blossoms.

  • Opening Hours: Mar – Nov: 8:30 – 17:00, Dec – Feb: 8:30 – 16:30
  • Location: 540 Ohara Raigoin-cho, Sakyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 744 2531
  • How to get there: Keihan Railway to "Demachiyanagi" or Kyoto City Bus to Ohara
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Shugakuin Imperial Villa

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This splendid summer retreat was built for the Imperial family in 1659. The villa gardens are spectacular, comprised of upper, middle and lower gardens laid out before the majestic backdrop of Mount Hiei. The villa complex also houses a number of tea-houses and summer cottages that were used by the Kyoto upper class during summer breaks.

  • Opening Hours: Free tours of Shugakuin Imperial Villa are conducted (in Japanese only) 5 times daily at 09:00, 10:00, 11:00, 13:30 and 15:00.
  • Location: Yabuzoe Shugakuin Sakyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 211 1215
  • How to get there: Eizan Railway Shugakuin Station or Kyoto Bus to Shugakuin-rikyu-michi bus stop
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Myomanji Temple

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Enjoy superb views of Mount Hiei from this temple originally constructed in the 14th century and moved to this location after World War Two. In honour of the Buddha’s enlightenment the temple holds a copy of the Bohd Gaya stupa within serene gardens of conscientiously raked sand and gravel.

  • Opening Hours: Daily
  • Location: 91 Hataedacho Iwakura Sakyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 791 7171
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Yoshida Shrine

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Built in 859 and recognized as one of Japan’s 22 elite shrines in 1081, this protector of Kyoto was founded by the powerful Fujiwara family. Here, during the 15th century, scholar and priest Kanetomo Yoshida launched the arm of the Shinto religion known as Yoshida Shinto. The shrine remains an important Shinto site today. Annually on the 3rd of January the shrine hosts the setsubun (Chinese New Year) bonfire and celebrations. Encircled by lush forest the shrine sits peacefully within an air of tranquility.

  • Opening Hours: Daily
  • Location: 30 Kaguraoka-cho, Yoshida Higashioji higashi iru Sakyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 771 3788
  • How to get there: Kyoto City Bus 202 to Kumano Jinjya Mae stop.
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Kyoto Botanical Garden

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Created in 1924 this garden, located next to the Kamo River, was abandoned in 1946 and revived again in 1961 to become a major botanical garden with conservatory. The garden now contains in excess of 120,000 plants spanning 12,000 species organized into specific gardens for bamboo, cherry trees, hydrangeas, bonsai, camellias, Japanese irises and native plants, lotus and an immaculate European style garden. The conservatory is built with cast iron frames and plate glass to resemble Kinkaku-ji and houses more than 25,000 varieties from 4,500 species.

  • Opening Hours: 09:00 - 16:00
  • Location: Hangi-Cho, Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 701 0141
  • How to get there: Kyoto City Bus to Shokubutsuen-mae
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Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

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Out of town visitors will definitely appreciate a visit to Kyoto Museum of Traditional crafts. The permanent exhibition (with explanation in English too) features traditional handicrafts such as kimonos, Japanese dolls, paper fans, umbrellas, boxwood combs, lacquer ware, Buddhist warship set and porcelain. This excellent museum also has good information about the country’s traditional industries. Before leaving don’t forget to check out the crafts shop where you can get many interesting and beautifully designed souvenirs.

  • Opening Hours: Tue – Sun 10:00 – 18:00
  • Location: 1F Basement, Kyoto International Exhibition Hall "Miyako Messe," 9-1 Seishoji-cho, Okazaki, Sakyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 762 2670
  • How to get there: Subway Tozai Line to Higashiyama Station or Kyoto City Bus to Kyoto Kaikan/Bijutsukan-mae
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