Northern Kyoto

  • Sanzen-in Temple

    Located in remote Yamazato to the north of the central city part of Kyoto, Sanzen-in Temple is a well-known temple of the Ohara area. And surrounded by a thick green carpet of moss and a stand of tall, straight Japanese cedars, the rustic temple Ojo Gokuraku-in Amidado has stood here since the year 1148. In 1965, the vocal group Duke Aces, made up of four Japanese men, released the hit song "Onna Hitori" (Single Woman), in which they sing about a woman weary of love at Sanzen-in Temple.
    Even today, you will hear many Japanese people who come to Ohara humming the tune. The picture that the song paints is an excellent description of the atmosphere of the garden at Sanzen-in Temple, one of the landscapes considered most Kyoto-like by the Japanese. Ojo Gokuraku-in Amidado enshrines a statue of an Amida Sanzon Triad designated as a National Treasure. The gardens include a ruriko garden with its characteristic cedar moss and, on the east side, a yusei garden with a rippling waterfall.
    The gardens are especially beautiful when there is new growth in spring and changing colors in fall. Because the temperature in Yamazato is cooler than urban Kyoto, the leaves begin turning somewhat earlier. Throughout the yusei garden you will find statues of the child Jizo (Ksitigarbha) sitting on the moss. If you look closely, you will see Jizo holding his cheek in his hand and his feet waving in the air. Make sure to look for some of these cute statues of Jizo!

    Sanzen-in Temple
    Open hours:
    March to October: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    November to December 7: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    December 8 to February: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
    Admission:
    Adults: 700 yen
    Junior high and high school students: 400 yen
    Elementary school students: 150 yen
    Address:
    540 Ohara Raiko-in-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture > Map
    URL:
    Phone:
    +81-(0)75-744-2531
    Access:
    Take Kyoto Bus 16/17/18/19/95 to the Ohara bus stop. It is a 10-minute walk.
  • Kibune Shrine

    This shrine is dedicated to the god of water. It is also the birthplace of writing wishes and of votive horse tablets. Long ago, people would go to Kibune Shrine and offer a white horse if they desired sunny weather and a black horse for rain. As the horse was a very valuable possession, the custom changed so that wooden tablets with a picture of a horse were given in place of an actual horse. This became the ema, or votive horse tables, that are offered at shrines throughout Japan today.
    The lanterns and arching autumn trees along the stone stairway leading to the shrine create a mystical air in the evening when everything is lit up. The fortunes drawn at Kibune Shrine are called "mizu uranai mikuji." When you place the white strip of paper in the water, the letters become visible, telling your fortune.

    Kibune Shrine
    Open hours:
    6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
    (until 6:00 p.m. from December through April. Good luck charms, fortunes and stamps: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
    Admission:
    There is no admission charge to the grounds.
    Address:
    180 Kurama Kibune-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture > Map
    URL:
    Phone:
    +81-(0)75-741-2016
    Access:
    • • Take Eizan Electric Railway to Kibuneguchi Station. It is a 30-minute walk.
    • • Take Eizan Electric Railway to Kibuneguchi Station, then Kyoto city bus 33 to the Kibune bus stop. It is a five-minute walk.
  • Manshu-in Temple

    The finest temple in Rakuhoku. As Ryosho Shinno was involved in construction of the temple, the elegant ornamentation all around Manshu-in Temple resembles the Katsura Imperial Villa, which was founded by his father Hachijo Toshihito. The tiger painted on a sliding door by Kano Eitoku and the rare ghost hanging scroll are treasures that should not be missed. The rock garden, viewable from the refined Main Hall and the Small Study (Oshoin and Koshoin), is a representation of deep mountains and the sea. The contrast between the white sand, the haircap moss and changing flowers of the seasons is beautiful, and the fall leaves are a particularly popular attraction.

    Manshu-in Temple
    Open hours:
    9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    Admission:
    600 yen
    High school students: 500 yen
    Elementary and junior high school students: 400 yen
    Address:
    42 Ichijo-ji Takenouchi-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto > Map
    URL:
    Phone:
    +81-(0)75-781-5010
    Access:
    20-minute walk from Shugakuin Station on Eizan Electric Railway.
  • Kamigamo Shrine

    A World Heritage Site. Along with Shimogamo Shrine, one of the most ancient shrines of Kyoto. Known for providing protection from evil, Kamigamo Shrine has been visited by such great historical people as Oda Nobunaga and Tokukgawa Ieyasu. Every May 15, Aoi Matsuri is held here, one of the three great festivals of Japan. Beyond the temple approach between the first and second torii gates are the Hosodono outer shrine and a court music pavilion, creating a solemn atmosphere. Two mounds of sand, known as tatezuna, arranged before the Hosodono are landmarks for gods to descend from the heavens. They are said to be replications of Koyama, a mountain behind the shrine. Among other gods, Kamigamo Shrine is the home to a god of travel, and the shrine has air flight safety charms, a rarity, to pray for airplane safety.

    Kamigamo Shrine
    Open hours:
    5:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    (Opening and closing times may vary when events are taking place.)
    Admission:
    No admission fee
    Address:
    339 Kamigamo Motoyama, Kita-ku, Kyoto > Map
    URL:
    Phone:
    +81-(0)75-781-0011
    Access:
    Take Kyoto city bus 4/46 to Kamigamo Jinja-mae, Kyoto city bus 9 to Kamigamo Misonobashi, or Kyoto bus 30/32/34/35/36 to Kamigamo Jinja-mae.
  • Shimogamo Shrine

    A World Heritage Site. One of the oldest shrines in Kyoto, Shimogamo Shrine is said to be where people would come to pray for success when Kyoto was being built as Japan's capital in ancient times. One of the three great festivals of Kyoto, Aoi Matsuri is held every year on May 15 at Shimogamo and Kamigamo Shrines. The festival is like a reproduction of a magnificent ancient scroll. Located in an ancient forest named Tadasu no Mori, Shimogamo Shrine has an awe-inspiring air about its grounds. Next to the tower gate is Aioi Shrine, famed for its god of marriage. Among the many other sites steeped in legend and mystery are the shrines protecting the zodiac next to the main hall and the pond of purifying water, the bubbles of which are said to be the inspiration for mitarashi dango, a popular Japanese treat.

    Shimogamo Shrine
    Open hours:
    6:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
    Admission:
    No admission fee
    Address:
    59 Shimogamo Izumigawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto > Map
    URL:
    Phone:
    +81-(0)75-781-0010
    Access:
    It is a 10-minute walk from Demachiyanagi Station on Keihan Electric Railway.
  • Kinkaku-ji Temple – Temple of the Golden Pavilion

    A World Heritage Site. Properly known as Rokuon-ji Temple, Kinkaku-ji was built in 1397 as a retreat by the third shogun of the Muromachi government, Yoshimitsu Ashikaga, as an expression of the Pure Land (paradise) on this world. Ashikaga carried out his affairs of state here. After his death, it was converted to a Zen temple in 1419 and named Rokuon-ji Temple. The more popular name Kinkaku-ji or Temple of the Golden Pavilion comes from the gorgeous three-story reliquary hall, the outside of which is lacquered and covered with gold leaf.
    In 1950, it was burned to the ground and then rebuilt five years later. Each of the three floors of the reliquary hall is constructed in a different architectural style. The first floor is known as the Chamber of Dharma Waters and is built in the shinden-zukuri style used for houses of the aristocrats in the Heian Period. The second is known as the Tower of Sound Waves, built in the shoin-zukuri style for warrior aristocrats, and the third is Kukkyocho, a Buddhist term meaning "the absolute highest," built in the Chinese zenshu-butsuden-zukuri style.
    To the south lies Kyoko-chi (Mirror Pond). The three islands rising from the pond are said to represent the ideal home to Ashikaga, who prayed for the prosperity of Japan. With deep mountains in the background, the reflection of the Golden Pavilion in the pond sparkles with beauty.

    Open hours:
    9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    Admission:
    Adults: 400 yen
    Elementary and junior high school students: 300 yen
    Address:
    1 Kinkaku-ji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture > Map
    URL:
    Phone:
    +81-(0)75-461-0013
    Access:
    Take Kyoto city bus 12/59/101/102/204/205 to the Kinkaku-ji-michi bus stop.
  • Ryoan-ji Temple

    A World Heritage Site. Ryoan-ji Temple was constructed by Katsumoto Hosokawa, a top-level shogun deputy in the Muromachi government, in 1450 when the Zen sect prospered. Although its rock garden has become synonymous with the temple, it is not known who created the garden or when it was built.
    When Queen Elizabeth visited Japan and praised the rock garden, it became known worldwide. Designed in the dry landscape style, it features not a single plant. Instead, 15 stones of various sizes are arranged, surrounded by white sand. No matter from where they are viewed, only 14 of the stones can be seen. This has given rise to various interpretations of meaning, including that the rock garden is an expression of imperfection because there is always one stone that cannot be seen. How would you interpret the garden's meaning? When seated next to the garden and appreciating the tranquility, the extensive Kyoyo Pond to the south of the temple helps you enjoy wonderful views throughout the four seasons, including cherry blossom trees, people swimming, fall colors and more. Another well-known feature is Chisoku no Sokubai, a stone washbasin at the garden next to the teahouse Zorokuan.
    Made of stone, the washbasin provides water for people to purify their hands and mouth before entering the teahouse. Inscribed in the stone are four characters meaning "I know only plenty," an admonition for people to be satisfied with not being able to see all of the 15 stones at once.

    Ryoan-ji Temple
    Open hours:
    8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from December through February)
    Admission:
    Adults: 500 yen
    Elementary and junior high school students: 300 yen
    Address:
    Ryoan-ji Goryo no Shita-cho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture > Map
    URL:
    Phone:
    +81-(0)75-463-2216
    Access:
    Take the Keifuku Electric Railroad (Arashiyama Electric Tram Railway) Kitano Line to Ryoan-ji Station. It is a seven-minute walk.
  • Ninna-ji Temple

    A World Heritage Site. Until the Meiji Restoration in the mid-nineteenth century, members of the imperial family served here, giving this temple the nickname "Omuro Gosho," meaning imperial residence. The Golden Hall is the structural remnants of the oldest extant Hall for Ancient Ceremonies, which was built at the Imperial Palace during the Moyomaya period in the sixteenth century and then moved to Ninna-ij Temple. The Hall for Ancient Ceremonies is where official functions such as the imperial coronation are held. The principal object of worship in the temple is the Amida Triad. A wide range of cherry blossom trees have been planted at Ninna-ji Temple, but the forest of cherry blossom trees known as omuro zakura are particularly renowned and the object of many poems since long ago. The best time for seeing the omuro zakura blossoms is just as the cherry blossoms in the city of Kyoto have begun to fall. The height of the some 200 trees is just taller than a person, very unusual for cherry blossom trees. The contrast between the five-story pagoda and omuro zakura forms one of the scenic views typical of Ninna-ji Temple. For a gift, consider the good luck charms with omuro zakura cherry blossoms as a motif.

    Ninna-ji Temple
    Open hours:
    March to November: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
    December to February: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
    Admission ends 30 minutes before closing time.
    Admission:
    Admission for cherry blossom viewing (during the season only):
    Adults: 500 yen
    Elementary and junior high school students: 200 yen
    Separate temple admission:
    Adults: 500 yen
    Elementary and junior high school students: 300 yen
    Address:
    33 Omuro Ouchi, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto > Map
    URL:
    Phone:
    +81-(0)75-461-1155
    Access:
    Take the Keifuku Electric Railroad (Arashiyama Electric Tram Railway) Kitano Line to Omuro Ninnaji Station.