18:00-21:00 Special dates
Located up mount Otowain above Kyoto’s Higashiyama Ward, Kyomizu Dera is one of the most impressive structures of ancient Japan (and holds one of the best views in Kyoto!). The walk up to the temple itself is a mesmerizing trek. One eases up into the temple passing the massive structure beneath. By the time you get to the temple itself, you are already filled with awe.
The main hall was built in 778 and reconstructed in 1633. The innermost sanctuary holds the image of eleven-headed Thousand-armed Kannon Bodhisattva. The deity of great mercy and compassion “Kiyomizu Kannon-san.”
The Zuigu-do hall, reconstructed in 1718, holds as it’s principal image the Daizuigu Bodhisattva. Underneath this hall rests the Tainai meguri – regarded as the womb of Zuigu-Botatsu (symbolized by the Sanskrit character हर “Hara”) who is known as the motherly Buddha. The Tainai meguriis a pitch dark passage way, with only an oversized Buddhist bead string along the wall to guide your hand as you maze your way down to the Zuigu stone.
We visited the temple at night, after a lovely walk through the Higashiyama streets. We were quite lucky as the temple was open with a special light presentation!
(81) 75.872-2233 8-3 Sagaogurayama Tabuchiyamacho, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 616-8394, Japan
Located a 15 minute walk from Tenryūji Temple, on the slopes of Mount Ogura, at the end of the famous Arashiyama Tenryū-ji Bamboo Forest , is hidden this most beautiful place; Okochi Sanso. The former home and garden of the actor Denjirō Ōkōchi (1898–1962) the villa became public after his death in 1962.
Ōkōchi -san’s movie career spanned over 5 decades from 1926 – 1962. Escaping from the bustle of set, He retreated to the land and designed (mostly himself) this calming collection of gardens and buildings through the 1930s – 40s.
Narrow pathways, past the vistas and forests, will bring you to a small museum (for Denjirō Ōkōchi and his life in film), as well as the Jibutsudō – an original Meiji Era building. On your short walk, you can experience a most wonderful view of the fall foliage should you be present during the Autumn; and, with assumption, the same must be true for the spring bloom!
Keep your eyes open for a very discrete path. Via this hidden corridor, there is a secret building most visitors miss. Inside one will find, on one side, yet another perfect zen garden and on the back, a view to the mountains. Lovingly, this room has tables prepared paper and ink for any visitor to practice calligraphy.
After all Kyoto’s palaces and temples, one could really feel the personal love that Okochi Sanso put into his own home.
Kenrokuen literally means “Garden of the Six Sublimities”. Looking into Chinese landscape theory, we see the six essential attributes that make up a perfect garden: Spaciousness, Seclusion, Artificiality, Antiquity, Abundant water and Broad views.
Experiencing these six essential qualities, combined in a single sculptured experience, makes something truly magical.
Kenrokuen used to be the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle; a private enclave to the Shogun. It was opened to the public in 1871 and has attracted people the world over since.
Kenrokuen is the type of place that words cannot due justice. Once again, we recommended day and evening visit. During the day there is a very cute tea house constructed in 1725 and at night, the lights are simply … sublime.
Castle: 7:00 – 18:00 Daily
Gardens: Open longer
A leisurely stroll through Kanazawa Castle and the surrounding landscape are a joy shared.
The castle grounds are open until late, we were very lucky on the evening we were there to take in a fantastic light show over the water in the Gyokusen’inmaru garden. This piece of natural landscaping is a multilevel garden, complete with cliff, waterfall, islands and lovey bridges sits close to the gate of it’s own name
Sadly our visit to Kanawaza was too short and we did not have time to fully visit the castle interiors throughout the day. Luckily, there is this interesting link describing the buildings standing technical exhibit.
If you have the time, it is recommended to take both a day and evening visit; as the castle is a much different experience by day – where one can bathe in its lovely lines and inspiring size (and pop into the 21st Century Museum)- and by night – where you can feel the heavy presence of defense and the violence that spawned such a grand structure.
Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-0825, Japan
Kyoto’s Higashiyama is a happening area with souvenir stores, cafes, restaurants galleries and more. Yes, it is very touristic, but try not to apply a regular tourist stop mentality that one dons in other counties. Everything is priced accordingly to quality .
Guidebooks (and the actual guides) fail to give good directions on how find this district (1 of 11 in all Kyoto). They all seemed to claim ‘no definite address‘! After butting heads with taxi drivers and walking and walking and walking … we came to the conclusion the best way to get there is asking directions to The Ryōzen Kannon; a war memorial and giant white concrete statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara. Across the main street entrance to the memorial is an uphill walking street. This is the best place to start your walk. See map at the end of the post. (In our opinon, The Ryōzen Kannon is not worth the time in a city of more interesting temples and shrines.)
Start early before the crowds arrive at Kōdai-ji. Take a taxi to The Ryōzen Kannon – walk up and around the Higashiyama streets, stop for lunch wheverer catches your eye (or just enjoy all the street samples!). Follow this with a short walk to the Hokan-ji (Yasaka Pagoda) and walk back uphill and continue to Kiyomizu-dera for the astounding evening lights.
I you want to do something fun you can rent a Kimono (his & hers) at Kyoto Kimono Rental at the beginning of the Higashiyama walk . Most Japanese woman and a few men rent Kimonos to tour Kyoto and other historical cities. It is super cute, lends to wonderful photos! The rental house will also do your hair and accessorize! Returns are very easy.
Highly recommended is the the ume boshi store. It is one of the best we found in all Japan. We didn’t purchase enough at the cheaper tourist price and found the same brand at the Ginza Mitsokishi department store, but at a higher price.