Kyoto and Nara - Japan

Kyoto in the Gion district

A full day in Kyoto was needed, well really one day here in Kyoto is by far not enough, I would have preferred to stay here for a few nights minimum to really embrace and learn about the history and culture that is so rich in this city. but as I only had a day I went about visiting some popular locations in the busy Autumn period.

Kyoto was Japan's capital and the resident to the emperor from 794 until c1868. It is one of the country's tenth largest cities with a population of 1.5 million, and has a mixgq of all things modern but in Kyoto it really feels like the cultural heart beat of Japan.

the countless temples and shrines that make up this city have survived being a target of the atomic bomb and world war 2 maybe due to the cities historical value.

It's famous for its classical Buddhist temples, gardens, imperial palaces, Shinto shrines and traditional houses. It’s also known for formal traditions such as kaiseki dining and geisha, female entertainers often found in the Gion district.

I would recommend having a local bus and train pass for accessing highlights or your places of interest. You can obtain this once you arrive at Kyoto station.

Here are a few of my highlights of this amazing city

Higashi Honganji - is known as Shinshu Honbyo which is Shin Buddhism and is one of the largest Buddhist denominations in Japan. It comprises of the Founders Hall, Amida Hall, Founders Hall Gate and the Shosei Garden. This temple is easily located on the east side of Kyoto Station via a short walk up Karasuma Dori

Higashi Honganji

Higashi Honganji

Nishi Hongwanji - is the headquarters of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji, the offical name is Ryukoku Zan which is known as Nishi Hongwanji. Jodo Shinshu is the most common practice of buddhism in Japan. It houses the Goeido (Founders Hall) Amidado (Hall of Amida Budda) once you walk through the Goeido gate you can experience all this historical value as its listed by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage site. this temple is easily located on the west side of Kyoto station via a short walk up Horikawa Dori.

Nishi Hongwanji

Both the above temples are free to visit -

The walk up around the Gion district and up the hills towards Kiyomizu- Dera was was quite unique as the streets felt like traditional Japanese architecture with food stalls, Albert a little bit touristy with the odd souvenirs shop.

Kiyomizu- dera

This is a iconic Buddhist temple on Mount Otowa which presents scenic views of the maple landscape and out to the city.

Kiyomizudera, means "Pure Water Temple" is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. It was founded in 780 near the Otowa Waterfall in the hills east of Kyoto. The temple was originally linked with the Hosso sect, one of the oldest schools within Japanese Buddhism, but eventually formed its own which is noted as the Kita Hosso sect in 1965. In 1994, the temple was finally added to the UNESCO world heritage sites.

Kiyomizu- dera is best known for its wooden verandah that sits out from the main hall, 13 meters above the hillside below. The verandah offers visitors a nice view of the numerous cherry and maple trees below that display enormous colour in spring and Autumn, as well as of the city of Kyoto in the distance. The main hall and along with the verandah was built without the use of nails, houses the temple's primary object of worship and a small statue of the eleven faced, thousand armed Kannon.

Kiyomizu- Dera

Yasaka Shrine

Yasaka Shrine, also known as Gion Shrine, is one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto. Founded over 1350 years ago, the shrine is located between the popular Gion District and Higashiyama District, and is often visited by tourists walking between the two districts.

The shrine's main hall combines the honden (inner sanctuary) and haiden (offering hall) into a single building. In front of it stands a dance stage with hundreds of lanterns that get lit in the evenings. Each lantern bears the name of a local business in return for a donation.

Yasaka Shrine is well known for its summer festival, the Gion Matsuri, which is celebrated every July. Arguably the most famous festival in the whole country, the Gion Matsuri dates back over a thousand years and involves a procession with massive floats and hundreds of participants. The shrine also becomes busy during the cherry blossom season around early April, as the adjacent Maruyama Park is one of the most famous cherry blossom spots in Kyoto.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Well what can I say as this is a highlight and a must see for anyone that visits Kyoto, its been marketed on multiple social media posts and travel stories. So I had to see what all the fuss was about. if the over crowed platform at Kyoto station waiting for the Jr Nara Line was anything to go by then this was going to be a busy day maxed with a lot of people.

Fushimi Inari Shrine, Fushimi Inari Taisha) is located just outside JR Inari Station, the second station from Kyoto Station along the JR Nara Line (5 minutes, 140 yen one way from Kyoto Station, which is not served by rapid trains) and yes it was busy with people mingling all through the entrance and right up to a Y intersection where hundreds of Tori gate sit - this is the point where everyone seeks their photo or selfie photos for that matter. Thankfully the track continues up Mount Inari to its peak of 233 meters and as you walk through many more tori gates the crowds get less and less.

Three quarters up the mountain you come to a stop which poses a lookout of Kyoto and also there is the opportunity for a japanese meal or refreshment break. Of course I could not refuse a can of ASAHI which was

The final ascent to the top was quite steep with fewer Tori gate and there was no view but what seemed like thousands of wooded miniature tori gates.

I almost spent 6 hrs here and much more time than I ever thought I was amazed by its ancient history - witnessed a interesting ceremony of some sorts and at the completion all these mandarins were placed into this purpose built fire for a very short amount of time, I was then offered some from a Japanese man that requested I take them and so I did.

Fushimi Inari Shrine is an important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto. It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates, which sit through a network of trails behind its main buildings. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters.

Fushimi Inari is the most important of several thousands of shrines dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. Foxes are thought to be Inari’s messengers, resulting in many fox statues across the shrine grounds. Fushimi Inari Shrine has ancient origins, predating the capital’s move to Kyoto in 794.

Fushimi Inari Shrine


Japan's first permanent capital was established in the year 710at Heijo, the city now known as Nara. As the influence and political ambitions of the city's powerful Buddhist monasteries grew to become a serious threat to the government, the capital was moved to Nagaoka in 784 and a few years later to Kyoto.

Nara is located less than one hour from Kyoto and Osaka. Due to its past as the capital, it remains full of historic treasures, including some of Japan's oldest and largest temples.

Kohfukuji Pogada

I was lucky to meet up with Fran (a trekking buddy for the up coming Kumano Kodo) and for both of us to have a Japanese local English speaking guide for 4 hours which was exceptional. Toshiro Uchiyama is his name and he his part of the Nara Guide Club, it was fantastic getting a insight from a local.

We started near Naramachi which is a noted shopping street as we headed up to the lake of Sarusawa Ike and then up the stairs of Kohfukuji temple - Kohfukuji Temple standing at 50m the five tier pagoda means "ground water, fire, wind, and sky" which represent the 5 dimensions of earth.

We then went through a stroll in part of NARA Park where many Deer call this area home, in fact you can expect to see deer on your way to Todaji Temple or at the foot hills of Mt Wakakusa, where Iam sure they spend their night hours and come back down the mountain for social interaction with the locals and tourist.

this was en route to Todaiji Temple, I very popular and busy temple -

Nandaimon Gate is what stands out on approach to Todaiji Temple which is the world's largest wooden building and houses the world's oldest gilded bronze Buddha -

Founded in the year 745 by the Emperor Shomu, the temple at Todaiji was as a symbol of imperial power, and took over 15 years to complete at great expense.

We then made our way to traditional Japanese tea house nestled in the forrest of Autumn trees, a fantastic lunch of Miso, Soba and mochi. After lunch we headed up the forrest path to Kasuga Taisha shrine and Shinyakushiji temple, here I was to leave Fran and Tosh and I was to explore this precent and further on towards Nigatsudo, both Nigatsudo & Sangatsudo Temples are both sub-temples of Todaiji Nara.

I enjoyed the late afternoon around here while being amazed by the rich buddhist culture as the sun set over the hills.

resident deer of Nara

Todaiji Temple

Todaiji Temple





Norman Herfurth

Indigo Photography

Yours In Adventure

"This Blog is of the Opinion of my own Personal Experiences and are not necessarily Fact.. and is written to the best of my knowledge, but there may be omissions, errors or mistakes. This blog is for entertainment and/or informational purposes only and shouldn’t be seen as any kind of advice."

#temples #traditional #VisitJapan #shrines #japan #Nara #kyoto #Asia #culture #TravelBlog #TravelPhotography #Travel #japaneseculture #History #worldhistory #worldcities

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