One thing you will quickly learn about visiting Kyoto is that there are thousands of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. To me, it is very much like the chateaus in France, particularly in the Loire Valley. After a while, it can be overwhelming and they all blend together.
A few days into our trip to Kyoto I began to be less concerned about documenting every temple I visited and more interested in enfolding myself in their peace, their tranquility, their beauty. It is extraordinary to just sit inside an ancient building, often designed for meditation, and just watch the magnificent leaves changing into exquisite colors and be lulled into a fog of tranquility by the sound of water.
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I would share the same advice that I do for the chateaus in France. Don't try to see them all. Pick a few, no more than two a day (if that), and really absorb yourself into that singular place. You will notice more than the buildings and gardens. Some of the most beautiful photos that Mr. Misadventures took were of subtle things like a few leaves on the ground:
There are lots of little details everywhere you look:
Details that might be missed if you are rushing “to see it all” and check the list.
A few things to note about visiting temples in Kyoto. No shoes are ever allowed inside the temples. You must take them off. Some temples provide slippers, others don't. Two tips: don't wear shoes that are complicated to get on and off and wear nice [warm] socks!
As I mentioned in my post on Kiyomizu-dera temple, going in the morning is generally the best time to avoid crowds. There are many temples that don't allow photography inside, so be prepared for that. For many people this is a place of worship, for prayers and meditation, so be courteous and careful with photos.
There are a few temples that are outside of Kyoto itself and very worth a visit. Two of the most well-known are Nara, famous for its deer. Mr. Misadventures took a train from Kyoto with some colleagues to visit in 2012.
The other is the Sanzen Temple in Ohara which Mr. Misadventures and I visited. [We took very few photos here, we just absorbed ourselves into the temple grounds.] We took the bus from Kyoto which was quite straightforward.
One thing we weren't prepared for (somehow I missed it when preparing for our trip, typical misadventure!) was how to pay. When you get on a bus in Kyoto make sure you look at the panel on top of the driver to see what stop number you get on the bus at. This will determine what you pay when you get off. As you progress through the route the price changes based on the distance you've gone. We didn't pay attention and guessed. The driver probably deals with this all the time, so he just went with it!
Whichever temples you choose, you will not be disappointed. I had a great time with the Context Travel guides at Kennin-ji and Kinkaku-ji and on our own at many others (one last one tomorrow!). But don't feel pressure to see them all, it is never going to happen and you won't enjoy the ones you do see!
Here are more Kyoto temple posts from other bloggers:
- Exploring Kyoto’s 2000 Temples & Shrines from Never Ending Voyage
- There are 2,000 Temples and Shrines in Kyoto from Minty Lemony
How about you? Have you been to any temples in Kyoto? What is your favorite? If not, any idea which ones you'd like to visit?
Author Bio: Andi Fisher
Yes, I am a francophile, but after that, I love Japan, especially the food! I have been to Tokyo many times, and spent 2 weeks in Kyoto and a week in Osaka exploring and eating!