Kyoto’s Temples and Shrines

There are over 1600 Temples and 400 Shrines in and around Kyoto!

Choosing which to visit may not be that easy and it is always a suggestive thing.

Here are a few pointers we hope will help you in your decision.

For your information, the Temples are Buddhist Temples, often Zen Temples of various sects.

Shrines are for Shintoism, the Japanese religion.

Magical evening at the Byodoin Temple

The Byodoin Temple in Uji is only illuminated and open to the public a few evenings a year. We were quite lucky to find out about it and see the amazing Phoenix Hall under such conditions.   
Byodoin Temple is a striking example of Buddhist Pure Land (Jodo) architecture.

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Honen-In Temple

This is definitely one of our favorite temples in Kyoto. Honen-in, is small, only fully opens twice a year for a short one-week period, but it is a very special place for its atmosphere and its calm beauty. Its entrance gate is quite spectacular especially...

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Daigo-Ji Temple

Daigo-Ji (醍醐寺) is an important temple of the Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism and a designated Unesco world heritage site. The large temple complex stands southeast of central Kyoto and includes an entire mountainside.

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Fushimi Inari Taisha (Winter)

After a rather warm Autumn, we’re now in Winter and snow has fallen over the city. If you happen to be in Kyoto, know that this is a rare treat! Nothing is more beautiful than some of the city temples or shrines covered with a white carpet.

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Kodai-Ji Temple Light-Up

Kodai-ji Temple, located between Kiyomizu Temple and the Maruyama Park, hosts one of the beautiful and fun nighttime illuminations held at the temple in the spring and fall. It is not a mere light-up, but a real Sound and Light show! Usually very crowded, but well worth it!

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Kodai-ji Temple

Kodai-ji Temple is located between the Yasaka no To Pagoda, and the Maruyama Park. It is one of the finest temples in the Southern Higashiyama Area. its beautiful garden is a designated national historic and famous scenic place. Specially nice during light-ups!

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Toji Temple

Toji Temple is not just this beautiful five stories Pagoda, the largest in Japan, that has become a symbol of Kyoto. There is much more to this temple than that. It houses a beautiful collection of statues and paintings, gorgeous garden, one of the oldest and largest market in Kyoto…

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Nishi Hongan-Ji Temple

Located just North of the Kyoto Station, Nishi-Hongan-ji Temple is a Pure Land Buddhist Temple. This temple serves as the headquarters of the Hongan-ji Branch of the Jodo (Pure Land) School of Buddhism. Unesco World Heritage Site.

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Shimogamo Jinja Shrine

The Shimogamo Jinja Shrine, also known as Kamomioya-jinja Shrine, is together with its sister shrine Kamigamo Jinja, the family shrine of the Kamo clan, who inhabited this area before the transfer of the capital to Kyoto.

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Kamigamo Jinja Shrine

The Kamigamo Jinja shrine, also known as “Kamo Wake-ikazuchi-jinja”, is said to be the oldest shrine in Kyoto, dating back to the 7th century and predating the establishment of Heian-kyo (Kyoto).

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Tenryu-Ji Zen Temple

Tenryu-ji (天龍寺) is located in Arashiyama, a scenic area at the foot of the mountains on the western outskirts of Kyoto. It is the main Temple of the area and features one of the finest garden and pond in Kyoto.

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Sanjūsangen-dō Temple

Our main local Buddhist temple, a mere three minutes away from the house, Sanjūsangen-dō ( (三十三間堂) is for me one of the most awesome of all the temples in Kyoto, with its one thousand life-size statues of Kannon…

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Ninna-ji Temple

Ninna-ji (仁和寺) is the head temple of the Omuro school of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism. It is located in western Kyoto, near Ryoanji and Kinkakuji. We usually visit all three temples on the same day.

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Ryōan-ji, the Zen Rock Garden

The Ryōan-ji (龍安寺) garden is considered one of the (if not the) finest surviving examples of kare-sansui (“dry landscape”), a refined type of Japanese Zen temple garden design generally featuring distinctive larger rock formations . . .

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Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion

Ginkakuji (銀閣寺) aka the Silver Pavilion, is a Zen temple located at the Northern part of Kyoto’s eastern mountains (Higashiyama). I found the place is particularly beautiful in Autumn, but it is also a delight at other seasons.

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Nijo Castle, Shogun Residence

Nijo Castle was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of theEdo Period (1603-1867). After the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867, Nijo Castle was used as an imperial palace for a while

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Byōdō-in, the Phoenix Hall, Uji

Uji (宇治) is a small city situated between Kyoto and Nara, two of Japan’s most famous historical and cultural centers. Its proximity to these two former capitals resulted in Uji’s early development as a cultural center in its own right.

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Tofuku-Ji Temple, Kyoto

Tofukuji (東福寺) is a large Zen temple located around 10-15 minutes away from the house. It is particularly famous for its spectacular autumn colors and people come from all over Japan to visit Tofukuji in Autumn.

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Kiyomizu-Dera under snow

At the end of the year 2010, we had the chance to wake up in the morning and discover the city under snow. We rushed to various temples as it was a unique opportunity to see them covered with a fresh white carpet of snow.

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Kinkaku-Ji, the Golden Pavilion

Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺, lit. “Temple of the Golden Pavilion”), is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto. The garden complex is an excellent example of Muromachi period garden which is considered to be the classical age of Japanese garden design.

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Kiyomizu Dera in Autumn

Kiyomizu-dera (清水寺), officially Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera (音羽山清水寺) is an independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. The temple is a Must-See UNESCO World Heritage site.

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A long pagoda rising overlooking the floating world of Gion below, Yasaka-no-To Pagoda is a lovely sight by day or night.

While most pagodas come complete with temples, Yasaka-no-to Pagoda stands

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Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社) is the head shrine of Inari, located in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Japan. The shrine sits at the base of a mountain also named Inari which is 233 metres above sea level, and

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