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  • 1 Sanjusangen-do Highly Recommended Highly Recommended Highly Recommended

    Religious buildings

    The 13C Sanjusangen-do Temple is an unadorned wooden structure that stretches out over 120m. In contrast to this austere external appearance is the incredible extravaganza inside. In the dim lighting you can make out 1 001 statues of the Goddess of M..

  • 2 Kyoto National Museum Highly Recommended Highly Recommended Highly Recommended

    Museums and art

    Inaugurated in 1897, the Imperial Museum was created to preserve Kyoto's cultural treasures, which were under threat from the Emperor's own modernisation plans for the city. Now the National Museum, the old Baroque-style building is given over to exc..

  • 3 Kiyomizu-dera Highly Recommended Highly Recommended Highly Recommended

    Religious buildings

    Dedicated to merciful Kannon, Kiyomizu-dera dates back to the 8C, although the current buildings date from the 17C. The main building has a vertiginously high terrace with panoramic views. In the olden days believers would throw themselves off it ont..

  • 4 Daitoku-ji Highly Recommended Highly Recommended Highly Recommended

    Religious buildings

    Daitoku-ji is a vast Buddhist complex reminiscent of a miniature village with its layout of one main temple surrounded by 22 sub-temples. Each of the temples is encircled by highly symbolic gardens, only four of which can be visited. The most handsom..

  • 5 Ryoan-ji Highly Recommended Highly Recommended Highly Recommended

    Religious buildings

    So much has been written about this garden that it is easy to overlook the Buddhist temple for which it was created, the Ryoan-ji, temple of the "peaceful dragon", which was founded in 1473. The rectangular garden is surrounded by three cla..

  • 6 Katsura Imperial Villa Highly Recommended Highly Recommended Highly Recommended

    Architecture, castles and historic districts

    Prince Toshihito (1579-1629) and his son dreamed up this holiday resort as a string of pavilions spread along the banks of the Katsura River, "each one set upon a reflection of the moon". Here you will discover the ultimate expression of th..

  • 7 Saiho-ji (Moss Temple) Highly Recommended Highly Recommended Highly Recommended

    Nature and gardens

    56 Kamigayacho - Matsuo - Nishikyo-ku

    Saiho-ji is a good example of how an abandoned building can flourish. Founded in the 7C, restructured in the 14C by the gardener monk Soseki, twice set on fire then flooded with water, the temple finally fell into disuse. A huge variety of mosses pro..

  • 8 Ginkaku-ji Highly Recommended Highly Recommended Highly Recommended

    Religious buildings

    Ginkaku-ji, or "Silver Pavilion", was built upon the wishes of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435-1490), whose grandfather constructed the Golden Pavilion. The Onin War interrupted work and the temple was never clad in precious metal. The ..

  • 9 Kinkaku-ji Highly Recommended Highly Recommended Highly Recommended

    Religious buildings

    The shogun and aristocracy used to come here to admire the moonlight in meditative silence. Noisy crowds of holidaymakers have since taken over, endlessly filing past the Kinkaku-ji, or Golden Pavilion (14C). The building is reflected in the shimmeri..

  • 10 To-ji Recommended Recommended

    Religious buildings

    To-ji Temple is renowned for its five-storey pagoda (remodelled in 1644), which is the tallest in Japan (57m). The birthplace in the 8C of a new Buddhism, that of the Shingon-shu sect, To-ji has more to offer than the popular postcard image of its pa..

  • 11 Raku Museum Recommended Recommended

    Museums and art

    84 Aburahashizume - Nakadachiuri - Kamigyo-ku

    This Museum was opened in 1978 by the 14th generation of the Raku family, a long line of ceramic artists. The space is as sober as the tea bowls it houses, but also presents sumptuous pieces dating from the time of the first Raku, who were executed b..

  • 12 Nijo Castle Recommended Recommended

    Architecture, castles and historic districts

    Two lines of concentric fortified walls form a tight circle around Nijo Castle, which was constructed at the start of the 17C by Emperor Tokugawa Ieyasu. A supreme example of ostentation and refinement. The ceremonial rooms are embellished with paint..

  • 13 Shugaku-in Imperial Villa Recommended Recommended

    Architecture, castles and historic districts

    This imperial residence built in the 16C on the site of the Shugaku temple is made up of numerous villas and teahouses. A paved walkway lined with pine trees separates the upper and lower villas. The upper villa is the more interesting of the two. It..

  • 14 Nanzen-ji Recommended Recommended

    Religious buildings

    Nanzen-ji, a Zen complex dating from the 13C, is made up of a dozen temples, the most spectacular of which, Hojo seiryo-den, has been designated a National Treasure on account of its paintings by two major artists of the Kano school. Inside the enorm..

  • 15 Kodai-ji Recommended Recommended

    Religious buildings

    Kodai-ji, a temple founded in 1605 by the widow of a high-ranking nobleman, has been partially destroyed by fire. The Kaisan-do pavilion and otama-ya mortuary chapel, however, give an impression of the former opulence of the shrine. The pavilion is h..

  • 16 Gion District Recommended Recommended

    Architecture, castles and historic districts


    The romantic district of Gion is somewhat spoilt by the hordes of tourists who flock here to see the fascinating vestiges of the Japan of yesteryear. Old wooden houses, modest but charming, line lopsided stairways and little cobbled streets leading t..

  • 17 Koryu-ji Recommended Recommended

    Religious buildings

    Dating back to 1165, Koryu-ji's kodo (sermon hall) is one of the oldest structures in Kyoto. Inside it is a statue (9C) of the Buddha Amida, the Buddha of the Pure Land. Behind the kodo is the taishido, dedicated to Prince Shotoku Taishi (574-622), w..

  • 18 Tofuku-ji Recommended Recommended

    Religious buildings

    Inspired by Nara's Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji Temples, Tofuku-ji is one of the cradles of Zen Buddhism (Rinzai sect). It dates back to 1236, and has retained its medieval form despite a few setbacks. San-mon, the noble-looking main gate, which is populat..

  • 19 Daigo-ji Recommended Recommended

    Religious buildings

    In the 9C, a Buddhist monk built a rudimentary temple, Daigo-ji, at the summit of the Kamidaigo Mountain, close to a spring with magical properties. The temple continued to grow up until the 13C and went on to enjoy great spiritual influence. The fiv..

  • 20 Fushimi-Inari Taisha Recommended Recommended

    Religious buildings

    Fushimi-Inari Taisha is probably one of the most unusual places of worship in Japan. Over a distance of some 4km, 30 000 torii line the long path winding its way up the side of a hill to the shrine. Inari is the god of rice. This fact explains why - ..

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