In Kyoto, Japan you will definitely see many temples and shrines which is worth seeing for sure. Although, if you have only a couple of days to visit Kyoto then it is better to choose several shrines and temples because to visit all of them will take you way longer. Firstly, let’s make it clear, what is the difference between temple and shrine?
For start, A shrine is a sacred place, which is dedicated to a specific god, ancestor, hero, saint, or similar figure of respect, at which they are worshipped. Uniquely, shrines often have relics, idols, or other such objects associated with the figure being worshipped. In Japan you can find Shinto shrines. As a result, Shinto is the ethnic religion of Japan that main focus is on ritual practices to establish a connection between present-day Japan and its ancient past.
Consequently, a temple is a building reserved for religious or spiritual rituals such as prayer and sacrifice. Also, in Japan, you can find Buddhism temples. Moreover, most Buddhism traditions have the goal of defeating suffering and the cycle of death and rebirth.
By the way, in Kyoto, it is normal to pay for admission to temples so make sure to have cash, shrines you can visit for free.
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Temples in Kyoto
Kinkaku-ji, Golden pavilion, 金閣寺
First, we have Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) is a temple in northern Kyoto whose two floors are completely covered in gold. The temple was the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and it became a temple after his death in 1408.
Worth visiting? Yes, it’s a nice temple which you can’t enter, but you can walk around a big park around it. It can be crowdy during busy times.
Price: 400 JPY
Address: Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto
Higashi Honganji temple, 東本願寺
Second, we have The Eastern Temple of the Original Vow is one of two dominant sub-sects of Shin Buddhism in Japan. In the temple, you can see an interesting exhibition of rope made of people’s hair.
Worth visiting? Yes, it’s a big temple in which you can meditate or relax and it looks quite astonishing.
Price: If you want you can donate some money
Address: Tokiwacho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto
Komyō-in Temple, 光明院
Komyo-in temple was built in 1391 as a sub-temple of the Tofuku-Ji temple. Mirei Shigemori, a gardener in the Showa era created the traditional Chinese dry landscape garden here, named Hashin-no-Niwa.
Worth visiting? Yes, this was one of my favourite temples, because it is not so well known as others and you truly can relax here and meditate. Also, in temples, I am searching for peace, but during the busier time in many temples, you can really relax.
Price: 300 JPY
Giouji Temple, 祇王寺
Gio-ji Temple is a quiet temple surrounded by nature and a moss garden. The trees grow quite densely, and the area is often covered in deep shade. Inside the temple, is a statue of Dainichi Nyorai, the Buddha of Light. The temple was named after Gio, a young dancer from long ago who fell in love with the Heike Clan’s powerful leader Taira-no-Kiyomori. He ended their relationship and Gio left to this temple to spend the rest of her life as a Buddhist priestess (she was about 21 years old), along with her mother, sister, and another of Kiyomori’s spurned lovers. This temple is popular among people with broken hearts.
Worth visiting? Yes, this temple is small, but it has quite a pretty garden around it. It is a nice, quiet place to relax.
Koetsuji Temple, 光悦寺
The whole area of Takagamine was given by the shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa to the artist Honami Koetsu, who constructed an artist’s colony. Additionally, here he invited many of his friends and family to come and live and create. Koetsu was a master of many arts like sword polishing, lacquer, calligraphy, ceramics and the Japanese tea ceremony. Koetsuji Temple, which rather than containing religious halls consists of a number of tea houses set in a strolling tea garden.
Worth visiting? Not really, when we visited this temple, everything was closed, we could visit only gardens and they were quite ordinary. I don’t think it’s worth going there.
Price: 400 JPY
Shrines in Kyoto
Kifune shrine, 貴船神社
The shrine is associated with the Ushi no toki mairi, the ceremony of wearing candles on one’s head and laying a curse at a shrine during the “hour of the Ox”. Also, this shrine is popular among anime lovers.
Worth visiting? Depends, near this temple is a nice activity Kawadoko. If you are planning to visit it then yes, but if you just want to see this shrine then no. Because the road is quite narrow and it’s hard to get here. However, to not only visit this shrine but also try Kawadoko.
Heian shrine, 平安神宮
This shrine has a short history, dating back just over a hundred years to 1895. Furthermore, the Heian shrine was built on the occasion of the 1100th jubilee of the capital’s foundation in Kyoto and is dedicated to the spirits of the first and last rulers who reigned from the city, Emperor Kammu (737-806) and Emperor Komei (1831-1867). By the way, Heian is the ancient name of Kyoto.
Worth visiting? Yes, it’s a spacious and nice shrine worth visiting.
Kiyomizu-dera shrine, 清水寺
Kiyomizu-dera is a Kannon temple where the goddess Kannon is admired. Moreover, among Kyoto’s temples, Kiyomizu-dera has a long history and is registered as a World Heritage site. Additionally, the shrine is on a hill so you can see the whole city’s panorama.
Worth visiting? Yes, this was one of my favourite shrines, because of the city view which you see while visiting this temple.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
Fushimi Inari Shrine is 1,300 years old for the God of bountiful crops and prosperous business. Also, this shrine has the tunnel consisting of more than 1,000 torii gates is something worth seeing.
By the way, red torii gates and white foxes are the symbols of Fushimi Inari Shrine. Also, it is said that the red colour of the torii gates has power against supernatural powers and that the colour also indicates the bountifulness of the Inari God.
Worth visiting? Yes, this shrine is one of the most popular visited places in Kyoto so be prepared for many a crowd. Although, yes it is worth seeing for sure.
Kitano Tenmangū Shrine
Finally, this shrine is one of the most important across Japan that are dedicated to Sugawara Michizane, a scholar and politician who was unfairly banished by his political rivals. Additionally, a number of disasters were assigned to Michizane’s vengeful spirit after his death in exile, and these shrines were built to satisfy him. By the way, Sugawara Michizane is associated with Tenjin, the kami (“Shinto god”) of education. Consequently, countless students visit this shrine to pray for success in their studies. As a result, the shrine can become crowded with students during exam times and school trip seasons.
Worth visiting? Yes
Address: Bakurocho, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto