Northern Kyoto

Northwest Kyoto contains several of Kyoto’s most important sights such as Kinkakuji Temple (the Golden Pavilion), Ryoanji Temple (with its famous rock garden), and Myoshinji Temple. The northeast part includes Kita and Sakyo wards and home to hidden gems such as Kurama and Kibune.

Group Attractions

  • Attractions
  • Dining
  • Experience
  • Omiyage

Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)

The famed Golden Pavilion is a Zen temple whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Rising above its reflecting pond like an apparition, and surrounded by a traditional Japanese garden, the golden hall of Kinkakuji is Kyoto’s most impressive sight. The complex is one of the most photographed spots in the country. The pavilion consists of 3 floors (12.5 meters in height), and each of the three floors is built following a different architectural style, respectively the Shinden style, the Bukke style (the style of the old residences of the samurai), and Zen style. The interior of the building is not open.

Activities: Photo stop Fee: JPY 400 Time required: 45 minutes

Ryoanji Temple

Ryoanji Temple is the site of Japan’s most famous rock garden which attracts hundreds of visitors every day. Originally an aristocrat’s villa, in 1450 the site was converted into a Zen temple. The rock garden inside which consists of 15 carefully placed rocks that float mesmerizingly on the sea of gravel, is considered the greatest example of Karesansui (Japanese dry gravel harden). An interesting feature of the garden's design is that from any vantage point at least one of the rocks is always hidden from the viewer. As for its history and designer, the facts are less certain.

Activities: Photo stop Fee: JPY 500 Time required: 45 minutes

Ninnaji Temple

One of the many great temples in Kyoto which are listed as World Heritage Sites. The highlight of Ninnaji is the Goten, the former residence of the head priest in the southwestern corner of the temple complex. Built-in the style of an imperial palace, the graceful buildings are connected by covered corridors, feature elegantly painted sliding doors (fusuma), and are surrounded by beautiful rock and pond gardens. Ninnaji is also famous for a grove of locally cultivated, late-blooming cherry trees called Omuro Cherries. Because the trees are late-blooming, Ninnaji is a good place to visit towards the end of Kyoto's cherry blossom season, which is usually around mid-April. Activities: Photo stop Fee: JPY 500 (Goten palace buildings) Time required: 45 minutes

Kamigamo Jinja (Upper Kamo Shrine)

One of Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Kamigamo Jinja is traditionally linked to Shimogamo Jinja. The two are referred to collectively as the Kamo Shrines, and the most important and oldest shrines in Kyoto. The Kamo Shrines even predate the city's establishment as the national capital in 794. Kamigamo Jinja stands about three and a half kilometers upriver from Shimogamo. It is well known for two sand cones on its grounds that serve a purification function for the shrine and have been made ritually since ancient times.

Activities: Shrine visit Fee: None Time required: 45 minutes

Shimogamo Jinja (Lower Kamo Shrine)

Shimogamo is the older of the pair, is believed to be 100 years older than Kamigamo. Located at the junction of the Takano and Kamo rivers, Shimogamo is surrounded by the Tadasu no Mori, a forest that was preserved during the modernization of the city and contains trees that are up to 600 years old. The Kamo Shrines jointly hold one of Kyoto's three biggest festivals, the Aoi Matsuri, where a large procession dressed in the style of the Heian court leaves from the Imperial Palace, continues to Shimogamo and ends the day at Kamigamo.

Activities: Shrine visit Fee: None Time required: 45 minutes

Kozanji Temple

Kozanji is an ancient temple set in a lovely forest to the northwest of Kyoto. Said to have been established in the 8th century, the temple was restored in the 12th century by the high priest Myoe. It is recognized by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage site. Its four painted scrolls are considered to be the first manga in Japan. The grounds also hold the oldest tea field in Japan, which was planted by Myoe with seeds he received from the priest Eisai, who had brought them back from China. Tea was used to help monks stay awake during late-night meditation.

Activities: Shrine visit Fee: JPY 800 Time required: 45 minutes

Nearby Areas

Comprising the Kyoto Station Building and the surrounding blocks, the Kyoto Station area has a lot to offer from shops, restaurants, clothing stores, and many more. Inside the Kyoto Station itself, you will find Isetan Department Store, the Cube, Asty Squares, and Porta Underground Shopping Mall.

Central Kyoto contains two of the most important tourist sites in the city: the Kyoto Gosho (Imperial Palace) and Nijo Castle. Central Kyoto is a mix of museums, religious heritage sites, contemporary shopping, and office buildings.

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