Temple Hopping in Kyoto: The Ancient Capital of Japan

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Fushimi-Inari Taisha

On your first stop, pay tribute to the god of rice and sake. Inari, the Japanese Shinto Fox God, is also the patron of merchants and business. With dozens of stone foxes and thousands of red torii lining the 4km pathway, Fushimi-Inari Shrine has become instantly recognizable and is regarded as the head shrine for some 30,000 Inari shrines all across the Japanese archipelago.

Temples of Kyoto, Japan: Fushimi Inari Taisha
Kyoto, Japan: Fushimi Inari Taisha Temple

Fushimi-Inari Taisha also has one of Japan’s grandest gardens. Its northern garden is composed of neatly arranged mossy stones that form a checker-board pattern. Step onto the viewing platform and witness a breathtaking view of the “Tsūten-kyō (Bridge to Heaven), as it spans over valleys of maples.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera Temple sits on the site of the Otowa Waterfall (literally “Pure Water”) and houses a shrine to Jishu, the deity of love and matchmaking. Successfully make your way between the two stones behind the temple with closed eyes for good luck.

Temples of Kyoto, Japan: Kiyomizu-dera
Kyoto, Japan: Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Afterwards, go down to the base of the temple’s main hall. There are three streams from the waterfalls which visitors can drink from: one for long life, one for career success, and one for love.

Kinakaku-ji Temple

Kinakaku-ji Temple’s presence is somewhat of a miracle; it was burned down numerous times throughout its history—twice during the Onin War, and once again in the 1950s by a fanatic monk.

Kyoto, Japan: Kinkakuji Temple
Kyoto, Japan: Kinkakuji Temple

Now, sometimes called ‘Golden Pavilion.’ Kinkaku-ji’s sits gracefully in the middle of a tranquil pond. After temple floors (where each one is built in a distinct architectural style), saunter through the gardens and toss a few coins in the Anmintaku Pond for luck. Legend has it, the pond will never dry.

Todai-ji Temple

Last but not least, visit the great Buddha. Admittedly we’re cheating here: Todai-ji Temple (known as, “The Great Eastern Temple”) is in Nara and not Kyoto but it’s so easy to get there that it hardly makes a difference. Here, the Todaiji Temple sits as a significant Nara landmark that served as the head temple of all provincial Buddhist temples. In the main hall sits Japan’s largest bronze statue of Buddha.

Kyoto, Japan: Todai-ji Temple
Kyoto, Japan: Todai-ji Temple

Another Japan National Treasure roams the temple gardens. According to legend, the Sika Deer are the gods’ sacred messengers. Now over 1200 deer freely roam Nara Park. Greet the much-revered animal by bowing, and watch him return the gesture before feeding him shika senbei, or special deer crackers.

Kyoto, Japan: Todaiji Temple
Kyoto, Japan: Sika Deer

For other cultural tours and trips, be sure to check out the Kyoto Feast and Maiko Performance, the Arashiyama Rickshaw Experience, and a Traditional Tea Ceremony.

And check out our other Japan travel guides, where we tell you 10 World Heritage Sites in Japan, your guide to budget accommodations, and Top 10 Tokyo Shopping Spots.

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