It was raining hard the day we arrived in Kyoto, but that didn’t stop my travel companion and I from going on a citywide temple tour of Kyoto; this was, after all, why we’d come.
Known for its wide array of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, Kyoto is the place to acquire a sense of what the Japanese call satorimasu (a peaceful state). Here are a few of the most notable temples in Kyoto.
Toji Temple: This Buddhist temple and UNESCO World Heritage Site features the tallest wooden tower in Japan.
Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji): The unforgettable Golden Pavillion (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is covered in gold leaf. After having your breath taken away by this impressive structure, stroll the beautiful surrounding gardens.
Kozanji Temple: This Buddhist temple and UNESCO World Heritage Site features Japan’s oldest tea garden and a variety of national treasures, including historic paintings.
Ninnaji Temple: This Buddhist temple itself features intricately painted screen walls as well as countless cultural artifacts in its “treasure house.” You’ll also be enchanted by the lovely gardens. The Ninnaji Temple is recognized as a UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Tofukuji Temple: Tofukuji Temple’s main gate is the oldest Zen main gate in Japan. Visitors flock to Tofukuji in the fall to see the striking red foliage on the temple grounds.
Enryaku Temple: This Buddhist temple is located on Mount Hiei, Shiga overlooking the city of nearby Kyoto. Over the years, the Enryaku Temple complex has been expanded to include a variety of smaller temples.
In addition to touring the temples yourself (this can be done quite easily with a map acquired at any hotel or train station), there are also many local companies that offer temple tours (some include a tea ceremony). Some hotels offer deals on tours, so enquire at with at the concierge desk.