There are many temples and shrines scattered inside and outside Kyoto City. They are religious buildings, but also contribute to Kyoto’s sightseeing fame. In fact, most of Kyoto’s popular sightseeing spots are temples and shrines, including Kiyomizudera Temple, Kinkakuji Temple, Nanzenji Temple and Heian Jingu Shrine.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to see all these popular spots in a day. Thus, it is a good idea to plan carefully so that transportation will not take too much time. There is one good street for temple/shrine hopping that includes THE Kyoto sightseeing destination, Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion).
First, start the trip by taking a JR train called Sagano Line (Sanin Honsen) from Kyoto Station. Get off at Enmachi Station (third stop). Find a big crossroad (Marutamachi/Nishioji). Go north along Nishioji Street, and turn right at Shimotachiuri Street. Soon enough, after crossing a river, Horinji Temple can be seen to the south. This is the first stop.
Horinji Temple is one of the most unique temples in Kyoto. This temple is also known as Dharma Temple. Dharma is a Buddhist preacher who started one of the Zen sects in India. Dharma’s face, whose eye balls are not drawn, is used as a doll here in Japan. When people are about to try something really important, they draw one eye ball, and when their dreams come true, another eye ball is also drawn. This temple has a tremendous number of the dolls. It is said that more than 8000 Dharma dolls are dedicated to Horinji Temple.
Entry Fee: 300 yen
Open Hours: 9:00-17:00
After visiting Dharma Temple, go back to Nishioji Street and keep walking north. Turn right at another big street, Imadegawa Street (about 1 km from the Horinji Temple). The second stop, Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is there.
Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is dedicated to Michizane Sugawara who was a capable & wise academic and politician. He was unfortunately relegated to the Kyushu region (far west) in 901. After his death, Kyoto saw many disasters. These events were thought to be due to the curse of Michizane Sugawara. This resulted in giving him back his official rank and building a shrine dedicated to him. This was how Kitano Tenmangu started. Now he is regarded as a God of study, which explains why so many students visit. In addition, because Michizane Sugawara loved viewing plum blossoms, vivid and colorful plum flowers can be seen here at the beginning of March.
Entry Fee: Free
Open Hours: 5:00 – 18:00 (April to September) 5:30 – 17:30 (October to March)
The journey is not done. This is the halfway point. Go back to Nishioji Street and walk north again. Why not take a short cut? After praying at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, find the north gate. From this gate, go west and there is the next stop, Hirano Shrine.
Hirano Shrine was moved to this area in 794, when the capital was moved from Nara to Nagaoka (south west of Kyoto), and from Nagaoka to Kyoto. This shrine is very famous for its wide variety of cherry trees. Currently there are about 400 cherry trees consisting of 400 different types. Just imagine these cherry blossoms in full bloom. Because it has many different varieties, the duration where the cherry blossoms can be seen is longer than usual (end of March to end of April). This shrine sells some amulets with a cherry blossoms logo, which could make good souvenirs.
Entry Fee: Free
Open Hours: 6：00 – 17:00
After visiting Hirano Shrine, the next stop is very close. About 200 meters north of Hirano Shrine, Shikichi Shrine, more popularly called Wara Tenjin Shrine can be seen on the left side of Nishioji Street.
Wara Tenjin Shrine
The original shrine was located in a different place, but moved to this place as a guardian God when the General Yoshimitsu Ashikaga built a temple called Rokuonji also known as Kinkakuji. Nowadays, it is believed that praying at this shrine will bring safe delivery for babies and mothers. Wara means straw. So why is it called the “straw shrine”? It is because their amulets include a straw. If that straw has a node, a boy will be born, if not a girl will be born. This story has been believed by people in Kyoto for long time.
Entry Fee: Free
Open Hours: 8:30 – 17:00
The next stop will be the final destination, which is a fitting end to this long journey. It is Kinkakuji Temple. To get to Kinkakuji Temple, walk north along Nishioji Street until it crosses Kuramaguchi Street. Turn left and the entrance to Kinkakuji can be seen.
Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion)
Kinkakuji Temple (official name is Rokuonji Temple) used to be a villa of the General Yoshimitsu Ashikaga. He is one of the most successful generals when it comes to business and cultivating culture. Kinkaku, the Golden Pavilion is surrounded by a pond and represents heaven. It is impossible not to take pictures in front of this gorgeous building. It is one of many things that should be done when visiting Kyoto. After Yoshimitsu died, the villa was turned into a temple according to his will.
Entry Fee: 400 yen/adult, 300 yen/elementary and junior high school student
Open Hours: 9:00 – 17:00
How to Go Back to Kyoto Station
It is possible to just go back to Enmachi Station, but it is easier to take a City Bus Line 101 or 205 from a bus stop called Kinkakujimichi (not Kinkakujimae). It is important to remember that the bus going to the Kyoto Station stops at the bus stop on the far side of Nishioji Street (when coming back from Kinkakuji Temple).
For more fun and useful information, which will make your Kyoto Travel more memorable, special and stress-free, please check our Kyoto e-Guidebook.