The eastern section of Kyoto, especially the Higashiyama or Eastern Mountain district, usually receives top priority for its fine temples, serene walks, and traditional night entertainment, such as in Gion.
Located across the Kano River, Gion is one of the most famous traditional geisha quarters of Kyoto. It comprises of well-preserved old houses that reflect old Japan. The Gion Corner offers traditional Japanese arts and theatres, ancient court music, Kyoto dances by geiko dancers, Bunraku puppet drama, tea ceremonies, and flower arrangements.
The original temple, built in 1164, had burnt down in 1249. Nonetheless, a faithful copy was constructed in 1266. The temple's name refers to the 33 bays (sanjusan) between the pillars of this long, narrow building. The temple is well-known for its wooden image of the Thousand-Armed Kannon (Goddess of Mercy), which was a masterpiece of the Kamakura Period and designed as a National Treasure. It sits amongst 28 faithful followers and 1,001 smaller images of the same goddess. The temple is a 15 minute walk east of the Kyoto station, or visitors can take the No. 206 or 208 bus and alight at the Sanjusangen-do-mae stop.
Kyoto National Museum
Built in 1895, the Kyoto National Museum was used to safeguard art objects and treasures possessed by temples and shrines, as well as individuals in Kyoto. Hence, visitors will be able to see displays of excellent handicrafts, along with art and historical artifacts. The arts collection is highly rated, with its 230 items that have been classified as National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties.
Kawai Kanjiro's House
Visitors should come to this attraction if they are interested in pottery for the house was once the home and workshop of one of Japan's most famous potters, Kawai Kanjiro. The house is built in traditional style and comprises examples of his works, and collections of folk art and ceramics, along with his kiln and the beautiful objects used in his daily life. The house is a 10 minute walk north of the Kyoto National Museum. Visitors can also take bus No. 206 or 207 from Kyoto station and alight at Umamachi stop.
The present building, which dates back to 1633, occupies the rise of Higashiyama Hill. It is an affiliate of the Hosso School of Buddhism, which originated in Nara. It had also successfully survived the intrigues of other Kyoto schools of Buddhism through the centuries, and is now one of the most well-known landmarks of the city. The main hall was built by the Tokugawa Shogunate and is designated as a National Treasure. Protruding from the hill, its wooden veranda, popularly known as "the stage of Kiyomize", is supported by 139 pillars at a height of 15m and commands a nice view of the city. Take bus No. 206 and alight at either Kiyomizu-machi or Gojo-zaka to reach the temple.
A favourite among locals and visitors, this park is the place to go to unwind from the hustle and bustle of city life. There are tranquil gardens and ponds to walk around. Souvenir shops and restaurants are also available. The park really comes alive in April when the cherry trees bloom and hordes of people come by to celebrate. One of the most beautiful sights in Kyoto is the huge shidarezakura cherry tree, especially when it is lit up at night.
The Yasaka Shrine faces the Gion district with Maruyama Park at the back. This shrine is very popular among locals and usually draws in a rather large crowd. It is considered to be the guardian shrine of Gion and is sometimes referred to as "Gionsan". Most of its buildings are modelled after the first Imperial Palace, which was built in 794. The back garden of the shrine is noted for its beautiful cherry blossoms and iris flowers when in season.
Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts (Fureai-kan)
The latest attraction in Kyoto, the Museum of Traditional Crafts exhibits various handicrafts made of silk, bamboo, lacquerware, paper, and ceramic. It also introduces the delicate workmanship of traditional crafts through videotapes, and the chance to experience Yuzen dying firsthand. The museum is located in the basement of the Kyoto International Exhibition Hall.
One of the most pleasant temples in Kyoto, the Nanzen-ji Temple began as a retirement villa for Emperor Kameyama, and was later dedicated as a Zen temple upon his death in 1291. However, the Civil War in the 15th Century had destroyed most of the temple. The current site dates back to the 17th Century. The temple is noted for its Sanmon Gate, paintings on the sliding screens of the Main Hall, which were drawn in the 16th Century by artisans of the Kano school, and its Karesansui or dry-landscaped-type garden, which is laid out with rocks and white sand. There are also several smaller temples located within the vicinity of the Nanzen-ji Temple. To reach the temple, take bus No. 5 from Kyoto or Sanjo station, and alight at the Eikan-do-mae stop.
Also known as Zenrin-ji Temple, the Eikan-do Temple is interesting because of its varied architecture, gardens, and works of art. Priest Shinsho had originally founded the temple in 855. However, the name was changed in the 11th Century to honour the benevolent priest, Eikan. The famous statue of Mikaeri Amida (Buddha Glancing Backwards) is housed in the Amida-do Hall at the southern end of the temple.
Otherwise known as "The Path of Philosophy", the Philosopher's Walk is found along the old canal from Nanzen-ji Temple to Ginkaku-ji Temple. It is known as the Philosopher's Walk because a well-known Japanese philosopher used to stroll along the route for meditation. The walk has long been a favourite among contemplative strollers. It is a peaceful place to walk, especially when the cherry trees that line the path come into full bloom in April.
Ginkaku-ji Temple (Silver Pavilion)
The Ginkaku-ji Temple or Silver Pavilion is definitely worth a visit. It was originally constructed in 1482 as a villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa, and it was his desire to cover the outer walls with silver foil. Although his wish was not fulfilled due to his death, the name, Silver Pavilion, has remained. The villa was converted to a temple only after Yoshimasa's death. To reach the temple, take bus No. 5 from Kyoto or Sanjo station and alight at Ginkaku-ji-mae stop.