Travel To See The Beautiful Sights Of Kyoto

Beautiful Sights Of Kyoto.jpg

See The Beautiful Sights Of Kyoto From The Port In Osaka

There were two days in Osaka on our cruise in Japan. We had a very long tour day planned from Osaka to see the beautiful sights of Kyoto. We got to see three very distinctive places. Lunch was a traditional Japanese meal. But we were delighted to find a historical temple when we walked the grounds outside the restaurant.

The bus drove us from Osaka to Kyoto. Kyoto used to be the capital. It was chosen because it had the proper feng shui – mountains surrounding the city and water on south side. It was also selected because it was less impacted by natural disasters. As we approached Kyoto we saw the mountains with the tops shrouded in clouds.

Golden Statues At Sanjusangen-do

Our first stop was at Sanjusangen-do. The long temple hall is about 120 metres (394 feet) long and was built in the Japanese Wayo style. There are 33 spaces between the building columns. So the name of the temple means “33 spaces”. The building was originally built in 1164. A fire destroyed it but it was re-constructed in 1266.

We took our shoes off when we entered the temple. We would do that again 2 more times on this tour day. It would have even helpful if we have brought a pair of dark socks to wear as we walked around! There were no pictures allowed inside. But this meant we could give the inside all of our attention.

As we entered the hall we got our first glimpse of the very long building and the rows of 1,001 golden statues of the Buddhist deity Kannon. There were 124 original statues from the 12th century that had been saved from the fire. The other 876 were re-created. In the centre of the temple we saw a large seated statue of Kannon. This statue has 11 faces and 1000 arms.

While the statues look like metal, they are really made from wood (Japanese cypress). They were then lacquered and finally a layer of gold leaf was applied. We understood why so many would be destroyed in a major fire. The eyes in all the statues were crystal. The temple faced east. So it is said that the eyes shine in the morning. I am sure it would be amazing to visit for sunrise.

The long row of golden statues were definitely one of the beautiful sights of Kyoto.

The Golden Statues Were Fronted By A Series Of Large Wooden Statues

In front of the golden statues we found 28 larger wooden statues on raised pedestals. The first one we saw was the Wind God. On the far end was the Thunder God. In front of the Thunder God, there was a sign showing how to pray to him. And many did. If you kneeled you would see the flashing of lightening in the eyes and feel the god’s power. These were important deities to worship since they brought good harvest. The other statues represented other guardian deities. We were fascinated to see many that had originated in India.

We could see some remnants of colour on the walls and ceilings. But much of this has faded over time. The long corridor on the back side provided history and explanations for the temple and its contents.

The fascinating row of deities added another element to the beautiful sights of Kyoto.

We Wandered Around The Outside Of Sanjusangen-do

After we exited, we had a chance to walk around the property. It was easy to see the long length of the temple building as we walked outside.

Sanjusangen-do Temple - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

At the end we saw a bright vermillion structure we had come to recognize on our visit to Japan. Inside was a bell. It reminded us of the big bell at the Zojoji Temple in Tokyo.

Sanjusangen-do Temple - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Sanjusangen-do Temple.jpg

As we wandered the site, we found other areas of worship at Sanjusangen-do. The stone statues with the bibs reminded us of the ones we first found in the Zojoji Temple in Tokyo. And found again at Miyajima Island. There was a small garden at the side. It provided a quiet moment for reflection before we headed back to the bus for our next stop. Off in the distance we saw the mountains around Kyoto.

Sanjusangen-do Temple.jpg

Sanjusangen-do Temple Gardens - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Our visit to Sanjusangen-do was a great way to start our visit to Kyoto. And certainly one of the beautiful sights of Kyoto!

Nijo-Jo Castle – The Castle In Kyoto

Many people who stayed in Osaka on this port visit went to Osaka Castle. The Nijo-Jo Castle was completed in 1603 by one of most powerful shoguns. He ushered in a 260 year rein of peace and prosperity after a long period of civil unrest. The castle was not lived in. But only used as a temporary residence when the shogun visited Kyoto (in the days when this was the Imperial capital). This site was designated as a UNESCO site.

The bus dropped us by the moat. We saw the high walls of the castle. On the corner we saw one of the tall watchtowers that guarded the four corners of the moat. This reminded us very much of the similar watchtowers we saw in Tokyo when we toured the Edo Castle.

Nijo-Jo Castle - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Nijo-Jo Castle - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Nijo-Jo Castle Moat - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Nijo-Jo Castle Moat - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Once we were on the palace grounds we entered through the Karamon Gate. Gate architecture used to indicate status. This one represented the highest status. We saw the cusped gable and the use of cypress for the roof (rather than copper or tile). When we looked up we saw the brightly coloured carvings.

Karamon Gate Nijo-Jo Castle - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Karamon Gate Nijo-Jo Castle - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Karamon Gate Nijo-Jo Castle.jpg

Through the gate we got our visit view of the Ninomaru-goten Palace. We again marvelled at the intricate decoration on the doorway and along the roof lines. This was the next stop on our visit to see the beautiful sights of Kyoto.

Palace Nijo-Jo Castle - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Palace Nijo-Jo Castle - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

A Walk Through Ninomaru-goten Palace

We again removed our shoes for our walk through the palace. And again, all photography was forbidden inside. We joined the other large groups that toured the inside and followed our guide.

The first thing we noticed as we walked along was a slight squeaking sound. This sound was romantically called the sound of the Nightingale and the halls were called the “Nightingale Corridor”. A special construction was used to create this effect. It was said that it was to make sure that nobody could sneak up. Even ninjas could not approach unannounced.

The Palace included six different buildings connected by walkways. We went in a large circle that took us around the outside of all of the buildings. Most of the rooms were either waiting rooms or reception rooms. Many of the rooms were decorated with golden paintings of tigers and leopards in bamboo forests. Since there were no tigers and leopards in Japan at the time, the paintings were done as imagined. Pine trees were used in the decoration extensively to represent everlasting prosperity.

In one room we saw beautiful murals and carvings in Japanese Cypress on the walls. The peacocks depicted power. In another room there was a raised floor ( the Great Hall of Audience Chamber). A series of monks were depicted praying in this room.

It was fascinating to walk from room to room and see the beautifully decorated walls. Since nobody lived here, there was really no furniture in the Palace. But there was so much to see. Another great addition to the beautiful sights of Kyoto.

Finish With A Walk In The Ninomaru Garden

We had a short walk through the Ninomaru Garden. We were warned not to cross the moat that took us to the Honomaru Palace and gardens. That would take us another 2 hours and we did not have that time on this tour. The Ninomaru Garden is much smaller and sat right beside the Ninomaru-goten Palace.

The garden was a classical Shoin-zukuri with a large Horai-jima island in the middle. This island symbolizes Paradise. There were very small islands on both sides of this main island. These crane and turtle islands both represented longevity.

Ninomaru Garden Nijo-Jo Castle - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Ninomaru Garden Nijo-Jo Castle.jpg

It would have been great to have time to relax in the garden. Or to go further into the other gardens. But not on this visit. This garden tease added to the beautiful sights of Kyoto.

A Traditional Japanese Lunch

Our stop for lunch was at a restaurant right outside the castle walls. We took off our shoes and sat at low tables. The lunch plate held a wide variety of different things to try. It was similar to the local lunch we had when we toured from Shimizu.

Japanese Lunch Nijo-Jo Castle.jpg

Japanese Lunch Nijo-Jo Castle.jpg

There was a beautiful copper relief piece of art on the walls. It showed life from long ago beside the Nijo-jo Castle.

Copper Art Nijo-Jo Castle - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Our guide gave us a long lunch break so we went out to explore when we finished eating. A small building with an outdoor patio sat by the restaurant. From the side it looked a bit like a boat. Complete with a dragon’s head at the front.

Shinsenen Temple Dragon.jpg

A Walk Around The Historic Shinsenen Temple

As we walked around the small pond we found one of oldest shrines. Shinsenen was the place where people prayed for water. A bright orange arched bridge led to the shrine. On one side we found the now familiar place where people hung their prayer cards. We first saw the use of colourful prayer cards when we visited the Fujisan Hongu Sengen Shrine under Mt Fuji.

Shinsenen Temple Bridge - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Shinsenen Temple - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Shinsenen Temple Prayer Cards.jpg

Shinsenen Temple Prayer Cards - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Shinsenen Temple Prayer Cards.jpg

When we kept walking around the lake we came to a dark wooden altar. And then another bright orange shrine. It was fascinating to find these beautiful sights tucked in behind the restaurant. And very strange that our guide did not mention it at all.

Shinsenen Temple Shrine.jpg

Shinsenen Temple Shrine - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

As we walked around the lake we could just see the very beginnings of the fall change of colours in the trees. It got me excited. And a bit nostalgic about missing the colourful fall season at home. We were very glad we wandered after lunch. It would have been sad to miss the shrine. Yet another of the beautiful sights of Kyoto.

Our Final Stop At The Kinkaku Golden Pavilion

We were excited as we headed to the final of the beautiful sights of Kyoto. And another UNESCO site. The Kinkaku Golden Pavillion is one of the most popular tourist spots. It was built in 1307 and survived the bombing in WWII. However, it was burned down by a monk with some mental problems and re-built in 1955. At that time there was no money to restore the gold foil to the building. It was not until the 1980’s when Japan’s economy was doing well that the gold foil was added to the lacquer on the Golden Pavillion.

The Golden Pavillion (Kinkaku) is a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha (a shariden). The garden and buildings were said to represent the Pure Land of Buddha in this world. The building is not open for tourist. Only VIPs have been invited inside. So we did not need to go inside to see the stunning beauty.

We entered through the gate and found the large building that was the priest’s living quarters. This was an interesting building. But we quickly walked past.

Kinkaku-Ji Golden Pavilion - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

We were all excited to move on to find even more beautiful sights of Kyoto.

Reflections On The Golden Pavilion

We walked through a smaller gate and could just see the pond of Kyoto-Chi. But it was the sight of the Golden Pavillion shining in the sunlight and blue skies that drew us in. We moved from spot to spot and captured one after another beautiful sights of Kyoto.

Kinkaku-Ji Golden Pavilion - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

The sight of a group of people dressed in traditional kimonos captivated us. We saw this first when we visited the Asakusa area in Tokyo. They were really good sports about posing for pictures for all the tourists when they stopped to get their own group pictures.

Kinkaku-Ji Golden Pavilion - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

We walked in a large circle around the property. Gardens and waterfalls made the gentle walk refreshing. Several times we stopped to capture small shrines or areas of worship. There were more of the prayer cards for sale. It was clear that these cards were customized for each site. Some were even comical.

Kinkaku-Ji Golden Pavilion - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Kinkaku-Ji Golden Pavilion - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Kinkaku-Ji Golden Pavilion Prayer Card - Beautiful sights of Kyoto.jpg

Before we headed back down the steep steps to the main gate, we passed a large number of vendors selling a little bit of everything.

Kinkaku-Ji Golden Pavilion Shops.jpg

Kinkaku-Ji Golden Pavilion Exit Stairs.jpg

We had certainly saved the best of the beautiful sights of Kyoto for the last. It was a captivating image that I would never forget.

So Saw So Many Beautiful sights of Kyoto

We saw so many of the beautiful sights of Kyoto on our visit from Osaka. We started with great long halls of statues at the Sanjusangen-do. And then saw room after room of beautiful decorated walls at the Nijo-jo Castle. Lunch held a great surprise shrine. But the best was certainly left for last. The Golden Palace was truly one of the most beautiful sights of Kyoto.

It was about 90 minutes each way from Osaka to Kyoto. Even with a full day planned, we were really squeezed for time to see all the beautiful sights of Kyoto. I felt rushed at ever stop we made. Kyoto is definitely worth a return visit. And maybe that will be me in the kimono that everyone takes a picture of!

What was your favourite of the beautiful sights of Kyoto that we saw? Did we miss something on our visit to Kyoto?

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  1. We absolutely loved our time in Kyoto! The architecture is simply mesmerizing and you’ve captured it beautifully here. I’m so glad you included the story about the Nightingale Corridor, it’s such a great one!

    • Lynn, We too are so glad we chose to visit Kyoto. It meant spending less time in Osaka. But there was so much to draw us to Kyoto. So glad this brought back good memories. Linda

  2. Wow. The garden which symbolizes paradise looks fantastic. Love Japanese gardens in general. Hopefully one day I will be able to make it to Japan

    • We were so happy we got to see several Japanese gardens on this trip. We agree that they are lovely spots to relax. Hope you make it to Japan one day. Linda

  3. Ninomaru Garden and the Golden Pavilion look beautiful! The architecture is so cool and fun. I really have to get to Koyoto! Thanks for sharing.

  4. This post is absolutely beautiful. I traveled to Tokyo last May with my boyfriend and we wanted to go to Kyoto but did not have enough time. After reading your article and seeing all your amazing photos, I think we need to go back to Japan soon and make time for Kyoto. What a beautiful place! Thank you for sharing this!

  5. Looks like I’ll have to add Nijo Castle to my never-ending list of places when I revisit Kyoto. The Karamon Gate is incredibly beautiful! The copper relief is so intricate, what a treasure that would be to see in person. I also love the story behind Nightingale Corridor. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  6. What a beautiful place! I can’t wait to visit Japan one day! Kyoto will definitely be on the list! The temples look stunning! They are one of my favourite cultural and religious places to visit!

  7. The tour looks amazing, you guys covered some serious ground! I like that the statue to the thunder god included a how-to on how to pray to them, it’s always nice to know the way around a temple so as not to offend anyone. The panels are so colorful and intricate! I would love to visit the Nightingale Corridor, both for the experience and the chance to practice my ninja skills 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Stevo, We had an amazing but busy day. The Japanese tour guides at all of our stops kept a brisk pace. But we saw a lot. The Nightingale Corridor seems to be a favourite with everyone. I was just sorry we could not share pictures of some of the insides. But makes you need to go yourself to see 🙂 Linda

  8. I would love to visit Kyoto and explore the Ninomaru-goten Palace. I just love all the arched bridges in Japan. The reflection of the Golden Pavilion on the pond is incredible

  9. Kyoto, another beautiful city in Japan! How and when I will visit them all! Kinkaku Golden Pavilion looks impressive, how sad they don’t allow all to go in. I am glad it survived the war. Love the pictures of the architectural details.

  10. I actually secretly like it when you get inside a place and there’s no pictures allowed. It makes me enjoy the experience all the more! But I’m glad you were able to show us the intricate ninomaru- goten palace, though. So beautiful!

    • Nell, I too have mixed feelings about not being able to take pictures. I have such a bad memory that the pictures help the memories to stay. However, you do have to focus more on taking it all in and not just snapping pics. Hope you get to visit. Linda

  11. Japan has been eluding me. And almost all the cities have floored me! When I’m going to visit? No idea. Kyoto looks impressive with Golden pavilion and architecture around the city.

  12. Kyoto is such a beautiful city. I love all the hidden gems that are so prevalent your guide just neglects to mention them. I would have to wear a kimono in Kyoto. I would be beside myself playing with the plethora of tongue twisters.

  13. I used to live in Japan and Kyoto was my favourite place to visit especially the castle. Such a beautiful place and I’m glad you were able to wash down your meal with an Asahi!

  14. Your photos are absolutely beautiful, especially the ones that depict the temples’ reflections in the water — so peaceful and almost like a painting.

  15. Agree with what you said. Kyoto needs no introduction nor explanation. It’s one of the world’s most famous destinations. Really looking forward to see this place sometime November. Hotel has been booked. Next is flight 🙂

    • Christopher, I am sure you are looking forward to your visit to Kyoto. You will probably get great autumn views as you are visiting just a bit later than we did. Hope you have a great time. Linda

  16. Your blogpost brought back wonderful memories of my visit to Japan. Kyoto was definitely a highlight. I loved touring the Nino Castle, walking on its nightingale floors and learning a bit of history about the shogun. I would love to go back!

    • Donna, I am so glad that this blog post brought back memories. I know that writing them always does for me. Love the little details you learn like the Nightingale floors. Hope you get to go back to Japan. Linda

  17. Hi, nice different itinerary for Kyoto. I also stayed in Kyoto for 2 days but i guess i missed many spots. Also Arashiyama area – bamboo grove is missing in the blog. This place in Kyoto is heaven. Also beautiful website and story line. So nice to connect. Thanks to twitter.

    • Priyanka, I am glad you found us through Twitter. We loved what we saw in Kyoto but definitely want to return. Will definitely plan to check out the Arashiyama bamboo grove! Linda

  18. There are so many places to see around Kyoto for sure that we would want to add to our Osaka Bucket List. Personally I think I liked the Sanjusangen-do and then Shinsenen Temple Next if I had to rank them. It is weird because they seem kind of polar opposite in that the Sanjusangen-do seems quite formal while Shinsenen seemed a bit more rustic but I like the simplicity of it. The Karmamon Gate was absolutely beautiful as well. I can only imagine spending time not getting a crooked neck while admiring its beauty

    • We were amazed at how many beautiful spots we found when we visited Kyoto. And I am sure there is more to see if you stay in the city. Hope you get to visit one day.

  19. The number of temples and shrines in Kyoto is simply overwhelming – I found it almost surreal. I also took a trip to Nara to see those poor creatures – I had very mixed feelings. But Kyoto was absolutely amazing.

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