Eastern Kyoto

Eastern Kyoto encompasses an area northeast of Kyoto Station between the Kamagawa River and the eastern hills of Kyoto. This area is filled with old neighbourhoods, shops and famous temples. The heart and soul of Kyoto, the eastern part of the city are also home to several of Kyoto’s surviving kagai, or geisha districts.

Group Attractions

  • Attractions
  • Dining
  • Experience
  • Omiyage

Kiyomizudera (Kiyomizu Temple)

One of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this iconic temple offers a commanding view of the city. The temple's huge, lattice-supported deck is one of the most famous images of Japan. The ascent to Kiyomizu Temple is filled with shops featuring souvenirs, snacks, Kiyomizu-yaki pottery and yuba, a soy-based food that is similar to tofu. Others feature speciality items, such as wooden hairpieces used when wearing kimono and even traditional Japanese fireworks. Kiyomizudera is the temple for all seasons with hillsides blanketed with cherry blossoms in spring, the verdant green of summer, stark trees in winter, coloured foliage in the fall.

Activities: Shopping, Temple visit Fee: JPY 400 Time required: Minimum 1 hour

Higashiyama

Along the lower slopes of Kyoto’s eastern mountains is Higashiyama District, one of the city’s best-preserved historic districts. It is a great place to experience traditional old Kyoto, especially between Kiyomizudera and Yasaka Shrine. The streets in Higashiyama are lined by small shops, cafes and restaurants which have been catering to tourists and pilgrims for centuries. These businesses retain their traditional design, although many have been renovated through the years, and they continue to serve customers today, selling local specialties such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets, pickles, crafts and other souvenirs.

Activities: Photo stop, Walking, Shopping Fee: None Time required: Minimum 1 hour

Gion

Gion is Kyoto’s most famous geisha district located around Shijo Avenue between Yasaka Shrine in the east and the Kamo River in the west. It is filled with shops, restaurants and ochaya (teahouses), where geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko (geiko apprentices) entertain. Drop in to purchase local specialities such as Kyoto sweets and craft items. You might even glimpse a real geisha or maiko. If you're looking for a more intimate experience, drop by Gion Corner at Yasaka Hal to watch daily dances by maiko.

Activities: Photo stop, Walking, Shopping Fee: None Time required: Minimum 1 hour

Yasaka Shrine

Yasaka Shrine or Gion Shrine is one of the most revered religious spots in Kyoto and home to the Gion Matsuri (summer festival). 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. Always buzzing with energy, Yasaka-jinja Shrine is popular with those praying for beauty and wealth.

Activities: Temple visit Fee: None Time required: 15-20 minutes

Maruyama Park

Marutama Park is a public park next to Yasaka Shrine in the Higashiyama District. In the first half of April, when the cherry trees are in full bloom, the park becomes Kyoto's most popular and most crowded spot for cherry blossom viewing parties. The centrepiece of the park is a tall shidarezakura (weeping cherry tree), which gets lit up in the night. Each year in March, the Higashiyama Hanatoro Festival transforms Maruyama Park and its surroundings into an illuminated wonderland. Dotted with thousands of lanterns, the festival makes for a stunning walk and an ideal way to explore the park and the surrounding area.

Activities: Park visit, Photo stop Fee: None Time required: Minimum 1 hour

Kyoto National Museum

Kyoto National Museum is one of Japan’s oldest and most distinguished museums. The museum’s permanent collection consists of a wide variety of cultural properties, including archaeological relics, sculptures, ceramics, calligraphy, costumes and paintings. In addition to the permanent exhibitions, temporary special exhibitions are held at the museum. The Kyoto National Museum has a shop and the pleasant, glass Karafuneya Cafe situated at the South Gate.

Activities: Museum visit Fee: JPY 700 (permanent exhibition); JPY 1500 (special exhibition) Time required: Minimum 1 hour

Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)

Despite its name, the Silver Pavilion was never covered in silver, although that was indeed the original intention of its designer. Widely considered to be one of the best temples to visit in Japan, it is also regarded as a prime example of the architecture of the Higashiyama Culture that flourished during the country’s Muromachi period. It was when Japanese traditions such as the tea ceremony, flower arranging, poetry, garden design, and Noh theatre emerged. Although not covered in silver, the moonlight reflecting on the building's dark exterior (which used to be covered in black lacquer in the past) gave it a silvery appearance.

Activities: Photo stop, Temple visit Fee: JPY 500 Time required: Minimum 1 hour

Philosopher’s Path

Stretching between Ginkakuji and Nyakuouji Temple, the 1.5km path was named after Kyoto University philosophy professor Nishida Kitaro who used to walk this route as a daily meditation. A meandering path in a rural neighbourhood overlooking a canal, it's the perfect place for a contemplative afternoon stroll. It will take about 30 minutes to complete the walk, but most people make it a contemplative stroll. The path is lined with quaint cafés and restaurants if you need a break. It is extremely beautiful during spring when the cherry blossoms open up.

Activities: Photo stop, Walking Fee: None Time required: Minimum 30 minutes

Enryakuji

Located on Mount Hiei in Otsu overlooking Kyoto are Enryakuji, one of the most important monasteries in Japanese history and the headquarters of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism. Enryakuji's attractions are concentrated in three areas: Todo (east area), Saito (west area) and Yokawa. Todo is where the monastery was originally founded, Saito includes the mausoleum of the temple's founder Saicho and the Shaka Hall, the oldest building on the mountain. Yokawa is visited by fewer people. Enryakuji is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities).” (Image via Kyoto Travel)

Activities: Temple visit Fee: JPY 1000 (to all three areas) Time required: Minimum 1 hour

Nanzenji

On the south end of the Philosopher’s Path is Nanzenji Temple. It is the head temple of one of the schools within the Rinzai sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism and includes multiple sub-temples, that make the already large complex of temple buildings even larger. There are many beautiful spots in Nanzenji Temple for snapping photos, such as the Sanmon mentioned in the Kabuki play of the same name, the brick aqueduct, and the garden representing a Zen interpretation of the world.

Activities: Photo stop, Temple visit Fee: JPY 400-JPY 600 Time required: Minimum 1 hour

Heian Shrine

Heian Shrine is a scaled-down reproduction of the original Imperial Palace. Unlike most ancient shrines in Kyoto, Heian Shrine was built relatively recently in 1895 to commemorate the 1100th anniversary of Kyoto as the (former) capital city of Japan. A massive torii (gateway) marks the road leading to the shrine. The torii is one of the largest and tallest gates in Japan at 24 meters high. Gracing the shrine is a 33,000-square-meters garden located around the main buildings and contains plum, cherry, iris, azalea, and lilies. This garden offers overwhelming scenery, especially in spring, as it is famous for its trail of 300 cherry trees. 

Activities: Photo stop, Temple visit Fee: JPY 600 (garden) Time required: Minimum 1 hour

Nearby Areas

More than a major transport hub, Kyoto Station is also a destination.  Besides the station facilities, the building’s 15 floors offer several other attractions and conveniences including the Granvia Hotel, an art museum, a theater, and a vast array of shopping and dining options.

The center of Kyoto is now home to the country’s most popular attractions such as 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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