My trip to Japan was a good six months ago, but every once in a while, I still find myself drifting back to my rather large photo file of the trip. As I sit and click through each photo, I inevitably remember something that had slipped my mind, and begin calling out to the husband things like “Honey, do you remember when the deer attacked you in Nara?” or “Honey, remember when we had frozen beer in Tokyo?” or “Remember when we ate sushi at 6 in the morning?”
This can go on for ages or until I silently drift back into more blissful Japanese memories. Kyoto was especially memorable to me and I as went back over my Japan posts right after the trip, I decided that I owed this city at least one more homage. So, here are a few of my favorite sites to visit in Kyoto, although narrowing it down to just five was no easy feat because the whole city is just incredibly magical from top to bottom.
The Silver Temple
Temple of the Silver Pavilion is a Zen temple that goes back to 1482. Set in a beautiful natural landscape, it was built to be a retreat of rest and solitude for the Shogun. The rock garden in the Zen garden has a replica of Mount Fuji made of gravel.
The Golden Pavilion
I think the Golden Pavilion was my favorite of all of the Zen temples we visited. Just look at it! Although all of the sites have their individually distinct features, the Golden Pavilion is just stunning. Construction began on the temple in 1397 and was originally a private villa before being bought by the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and subsequently turned into one of the most beautiful and well-known Zen temples in Japan.
In a searing August heat wave, the Ryoan-ji temple was kind of a bear to get to, but I’m so glad we made the effort. This is a Zen temple that belongs to the Myōshin-ji school of Zen Buddhism. Inside, the rock garden goes back to the late 15th century and is considered to be one of the finest examples of Japanese zen gardens.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Along with the Golden Pavilion, the Inari Shrine was a top favorite of mine. It required a quick train ride from the Kyoto train station to get there, but it was entirely worth the trip. The large shrine sits at the base of the mountain with the same name and ten thousand tori gates form an incredible walking path to the top of the mountain. The tori gates were all donated by Japanese businesses as Inari was thought to be the patron of business, merchants and manufacturers.
Kyoto Imperial Palace
The Kyoto Imperial Palace was home to Japan’s Imperial Family until 1868 when Japan’s capital was moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. Today, the expansive grounds are open to the public and have a number of interesting, ornate buildings.
Although there are thousands of temples, shrines and sites in Kyoto, these five sites certainly have a permanent place in my heart, along with the frozen beer in Tokyo and the attacking deer in Nara, of course.