Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Matthew's Sight Seeing Guide to Kyoto Temples

Ginkaku-ji Temple ☆☆☆☆☆
¥500 WH
Ginkakuji, the silver pavilion, was by far my favorite temple. It has a nice mix of rock gardens, moss gardens, and architecture. I particularly liked one building that has a mixed Chinese and Japanese style.

Ninna-ji Temple ☆☆☆☆☆
¥500 WH
I really liked Ninna-ji. The main attraction is an old palace that was relocated here. The palace has some great screen paintings and an elevated walkway through a beautiful garden. But the palace is just one of several buildings in the temple complex. There are meditational halls, giant gates, a pagoda, and many other smaller buildings, a great survey or Japanese temple architecture.

Chion-in Temple ☆☆☆☆
Chion-in is nice to visit because it still has active monks, or monks that are active even while tourists are there anyway! We caught them spinning a big prayer wheel. The fountains and incense burners are particularly nice.

Kiyomizudera ☆☆☆☆
¥300 WH
A lot of buildings here, many of which are painted in bright vermillion and can be seen for free. As you hike up the hill there are some great panoramic views of the city. There are so many tourists, though, this place is very crowded, and has many stairs and hills. I got off the beaten track a bit and found this beautiful run down pagoda. There is also a bigger freshly painted pagoda on the premise. If you don't have a lot of time in Kyoto it may be worth going here as there are so many different types of buildings and many bronze statues, too.

Sanjusangen-do ☆☆☆☆
While there is sonly one building here it holds over 1000 human sized wooden Buddha and guardian statues. There are also detailed descriptions of each guardian in English and Japanese. It is a spectacular sight; 1000 is a big number.
No Photography Allowed.

Tanukidaniyama Fudo-in ☆☆☆☆
Aside from having a great osake festival, this place is quietly pulled back from Kyoto's busy streets and high in the mountains. Nice for walking, thinking... and drinking.

Honen-in Temple ☆☆☆
This little temple resides along the Path of Philosophy. It has a quaint peaceful atmosphere, and you can see a few locals coming to pray.

Kinkaku-ji Temple ☆☆☆
¥400 WH
Kinkaku-ji, the golden pavilion, is similar to Ginkakuji in layout, only there are no rock gardens and less moss gardens. What it does have is a gold plated building, but it's not as impressive as it sounds.

Ryoanji Temple ☆☆☆
¥400 WH
In terms of zen rock gardens, this temple has THE rock garden. Built in the 1500's, the small zen garden here is the basis for all other rock gardens world-wide. Besides the garden, there is not much else to see.

Nishi Hongan-ji ☆☆
This temple is very near Kyoto station making it a tourist hotspot. Unfortunately it's main building will be under construction through 2010. It boasts a very large wooden building, but if you want to see a truly colossal wooden structure go to Nara.

To-ji Temple ☆☆
¥500 WH Market (☆☆☆☆)
We went for the market on the 21st of each month, and if you like markets this one is great. You can get anything at any price, from antiques, to wood tools, to lacquer ware, to kimonos, to food - you name it, but it is very crowded. The temple itself did not seem that impressive. There is a tall pagoda, but due to the temples downtown location it is hard to get a good view of it.
Too crowded to get my camera out!

Higashi Hongan-ji ☆
This temple is very near Kyoto station making it a tourist hotspot. The temple was built to compete with Nishi Hogan-ji. It doesn't.

Tofuku-ji Temple ☆
I wandered around here for a while trying to find the entrance to the temple but am not sure I ever did. Looked good from the outside, but similar to many other Kyoto temples.

Notes: WH = UNESCO World Heritage Site. Prices may fluctuate with time.