The temples of Kyoto are spectacular particularly in the Fall. Make sure to see:
Kinkaku-Ji Temple: Seeing the famous Golden Pavilion is a must as it is one of Japan’s best known sights. The three-story pavilion is covered in bright gold leaf and features a bronze phoenix on the top of the roof. It is situated along the Kyo-ko pond and is wonderful particularly when the maples are turning in the Fall.
Hills, Temples and Lanes of Southern Higashiyama and Kiyomizu-dera Temple: This is a great area to explore on foot since it is one of the city’s most charming and unspoiled districts. You end up at Kiyomizu-dera Temple which is at the top of a hill that has a wonderful pagoda and main hall with its great views.
Tenryu-ji Temple: This is the top of the Five Great Zen Temples of Kyoto established in 1339. It means Heavenly Dragon Temple. It is known for its garden. You should walk past the temple through Arashiyam’s famous bamboo forest, then through other temples and small villages.
Ryoan-ji Temple: This Zen temple was built in 1450 and is famous for its rock garden.
Saiho-ji Temple (Koke-dera Temple): This Temple has an incredible moss garden that is spectacular in the Fall.
Ginkaku-ji Temple: This is one of the most breathtaking temples and is known as the Silver Pavilion. After visiting the Temple, walk south along the Philosopher’s Walk which follows a tree-lined canal. Coffee and craft shops, restaurants and boutiques are scattered along the route.
Other sights to see include the 12th century Sanjusangendo Temple, famous for it 1001 gold statues of Kannon, the goddess of compassion, the former home and studio of renowned potter, Kawai Kanjiro, one of the founders of the Japan folk-art movement in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the Heian Shrine, the Imperial Palace and the Nijo Castle which was built in 1603 for the warrior Tokugawa, the first shogun of the Edo Period. The paintings were wonderful.
Daitoku-ji Temple and Tea Ceremony: The Daisen-in Zen Garden was really lovely. At the Zuiho-in, I was introduced to the famous Japanese tea ceremony by one of the monks in a private ceremony. It was great to experience. You can then have a lunch of shojin ryori, vegetarian Zen style cuisine, within the temple grounds at Izusen.