Steeped in history and culture, Nanzenji Temple 南禅寺 is one of the 5 great Zen temples in Kyoto and occupies a huge piece of land. It offers many attractions that will enchant travelers: a rare Roman-style aqueduct, the largest temple gate in Japan, Zen rock gardens, and stunning autumn colors.
Nestled in the quieter part of the renowned Arashiyama district is Jojakko-ji 常寂光寺. A charming temple hidden away at the base of Mount Ogura, its unassuming rustic beauty is often underrated. During autumn, it’s a place where Japanese maple leaves, ginkgo trees, and moss meet in an explosion of colors.
Planted on the mountainside of Mount Rokko in Kobe, Nunobiki Herb Gardens 神戸布引ハーブ園 is Japan’s largest herb garden and home to 75,000 herbs and flowers. It is a must-visit if you love flowers, herbs, and nature. There are lots of see, do, and learn at this beautiful botanical garden.
Fujiwara Palace Ruins 藤原宮跡 in Kashihara City, Nara Prefecture is a must-see during spring when both cherry blossoms and rapeseed flowers are in bloom, creating a gorgeous flower field set against a background of mountains.
Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺), Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion, glimmers in gold and casts a perfect reflection across a tranquil pond. This iconic gold temple attracts photographers and travelers all over to capture that perfect reflection photo in all seasons. Get travel tips on Kinkakuji – a must-see during autumn in Kyoto!
Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺 is Kyoto’s most famous temple. Almost every traveler who passes through Kyoto would have made a trip to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site, built on the hillside of Higashiyama, with its nailless main hall and especially during its autumn peak.
Saihoji 西芳寺 or Kokedera 苔寺 is THE moss garden temple to see in Kyoto. This UNESCO World Heritage Site houses innumerable moss varieties and you feel like you are wandering through a mesmeric garden of the softest greens. However, visiting this moss temple requires early planning and reservation.
Tofukuji 東福寺 is one of Kyoto’s 5 greatest zen temples with a famed landscape garden designed by Mirei Shigemori. The temple garden is one of the best places to admire those gorgeous autumn colors and Japanese maple leaves — on trees or scattered to create a vibrant carpet of reds, oranges, and yellows.
If you are a traveler from overseas on a tour group, tour guides might skip this part of Kyoto and head straight to the busy hub of Gion (祇園) for shopping and . Dubbed by locals as Kyoto’s most beautiful street, Shirakawa (白川) is a few minutes’ walk from central Gion and the Hanamichi (花道小路) area. It is off the beaten path, and there seemed to be no sight of other tourists when we visited it. The street runs into a Y-shape, with a little shrine situated at the intersection. This little red shrine, like the Yasaka Shrine, was frequented by geishas living in that area. And by our lucky stars, we caught a happy couple taking their wedding photos at this picturesque place just when we reached it. A babbling stream runs through this street with shops, restaurants and tea houses lining one side of it. On the other side, you see willow trees, cherry blossom trees, and Japanese maple trees. The majestic willow trees were indeed a sight. Their long strings of leaves …
One place that no tourist would miss in Kyoto is spending an evening in Gion (祇園) – a place best known as the district where geishas reside, entertain, wait to be ‘rescued’ by their patrons, and where maikos learn their art while serving the needs of their bigger sisters. And if you have read or watched ‘Memoirs of the Geisha’, a visit to Gion must be in the cards. There is much to do here – shopping for scarves and superbly made canvas totes, having kaiseki dinner (懐石料理) in the famous geisha quarters at Hanamichi (花道小路), exploring the most beautiful street in Kyoto near the babbling brook of Shirakawa (白川), and watching the sunset over Gion Shrine (八坂神社 / 祇園神社). To leisurely enjoy the sights and experiences that Gion has to offer, I would suggest heading to Gion in late afternoon to get some shopping done, and then enjoy a stroll to catch the sun setting over Shirakawa and Gion Shrine, before dinner at one of those nostalgic restaurants along Hanamichi which will bring you …