5 must-see attractions in Kyoto

Kinkaku-Ji, photo by Alan Levine on Flickr

For almost a thousand year, Kyoto has been the capital of Japan, and one of its most beautiful and esteemed cities. A first-time visitor in Kyoto might be surprised to find that Kyoto is actually two cities instead of one. Those who see the center of the city first will be lead to believe that Kyoto is just another ultra-modern metropolis, with high-rise buildings made of glass and steel, huge billboards and neon lights. However, those who wander outside the mordern metropolis will find an outer-ring Kyoto, one rife with lush parks and beautiful historical temples. Any way you look at it, Kyoto is a beautiful city with much to see, and any visitors should check out these 5 must-see attractions in Kyoto.

Kinkaku-Ji Temple

The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-Ji, is probably the single most visited sight in Kyoto, and there’s a good reason for that. This beautiful 14th century structure was built as a villa for Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the famous shogun, but it was turned into a temple after his death. The beautiful pavilion was burned down in the 50’s by a monk, but is has been rebuilt and it doesn’t fail to attract throngs of visitors to this day.

Hirano Shrine

Hirano Shrine, photo by kuribo on Flickr

If you visit Kyoto during the cherry blossom season, a visit to Hirano Shrine is a must. This small shrine becomes an enchanted place when surrounded by the drifting pink clouds of petals, especially in the evening when it is lit with soft lights. The small cherry tree park near the shrine is hung with lanterns and decorations, and there are stalls selling food and trinkets – a real festival atmosphere!

Togetsukyō Bridge

You won’t find Togetsukyō Bridge in many western tourist brochures, which is a huge pity. This picturesque bridge across the Hozu River is really something special. The name of the bridge means Moon Crossing, and on moonlit nights the slopes of Mount Arashiyama are quite spectacular. However, if you cross the bridge either during the cherry blossom viewing season or the autumn leaf season, you’ll be treated to a truly unforgettable sight.

Kiyomizu Temple

Kiyomizu Temple, photo by Paul Mannix

This temple complex is spectacular not only because of the beautiful architecture of the temples and shrines that it contains, but also because of its location overlooking the city.The main temple’s large pillar-supported veranda is beautiful, and it offers a truly impressive view. A curious tale about the pavilion is that if one were to jump off it and survive, their wish would come true. Interestingly enough, hundreds of people took the 13 meter plunge, and although most of them survived, the practice is now outlawed.

Fushimi Inari Taisha

Inari is the ambiguous deity of fertility, foxes and rice, and the shrine of Fushimi is dedicated to it, and moreover, it is the head shrine among all the other 40.000 other shrines in Japan. The hill behind the shrine is crossed by a path of countless bright red  torii (wooden gates). It is a pleasure to pass under the gates and admire the many stone statues of foxes.

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