Things to Do in Kyoto - page 3
In 1339 the Buddhist monk Muso Soseki accepted an opportunity to restore a dilapidated temple into a deeply religious one surrounded by a zen garden. Using rocks, sand, and 120 types of moss, he designed a tranquil garden that resembles a lush, green carpet where pilgrims and visitors can meditate and contemplate life. The temple and its spectacular garden, designated a special place of scenic beauty in Japan, is one of Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
A visit to Saiho-ji Temple is a uniquely Buddhist experience. Every visitor is asked to chant and write Buddhist scriptures – or sutra. A monk leads the chanting, and non-Japanese speakers and writers are offered a sheet on which to trace the characters. After, a stroll through the moss and rock gardens complete the experience.
Saiho-ji Temple is more commonly known as “Kokedera,” which translates to “Moss Temple.”
The Kinshi Masamune Horino Memorial Museum is about more than tasting sake. This traditional sake-brewing house in Kyoto honors the legacy of Machiya culture, a style of wooden townhouse best exemplified in Kyoto. The house formerly belonged to the Horino family, founders of the craft beer company Kinshi Masamune, but has since been converted into a museum that is open to visitors interested in learning about the history of Japanese architecture and sake brewing.
Visiting the Horino Memorial Museum provides a unique look into the art of brewing sake. The museum has an exhibit on sake brewing tools, and travelers are invited to taste three different kinds of Japanese sake, all made with water from a well on the premises. The well-water is still used today to make beer. and visitors get the chance to make their own label for a bottle of sake to take as a souvenir.
For handmade goods by local craftsmen in Kyoto, nothing beats the Kyoto Handicraft Center. This three-floor building is jam-packed with handicrafts, as the name implies, and souvenirs. The local cooperative showcases the best work from local artisans and encourages visitors to try their own hand at making a souvenir to take home. Visitors are also invited to step into observation studios where they can watch local artisans at work.
The Kyoto Handicraft Center focuses on traditional Japanese goods. These include pottery, kimonos, jewelry, dolls, carvings, decorative fans, and more. It may be the best place in all of Kyoto to find handicraft goods of all varieties in one place.
The ancient pilgrimage to the Three Grand Shrines of Kumano spans as far back as 1,000 years ago and still continues today. The pilgrimage routes that crisscross Kii, Japan’s largest peninsula have become known as the Kumano KodoPilgrimage Trail. Pilgrims and tourists, alike, take on the route to reach Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Nachi Taisha, and Kumano Hayatama Taisha. Throughout history, retired emperors, high-ranking officials, and other determined pilgrims have completed the pilgrimage.
Today, the Kumano Kodo Pilgrimage Trail is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The route spans through the Kii mountain range, making for an arduous journey. Though challenging, the paths wind through verdant forests and pass by and over cascading waterfalls and streams. In addition to providing a path between the shrines, the Kumano Kodo links Kyoto to the mountainous Kii region.
The crystal-clear waters of the Kiyotaki River make its banks one of the most scenic walking trails in the Kyoto area. Alighting from the bus at the Takao stop that heads west out of Kyoto and then on to Ninnaji Temple, it’s just a short walk down to the banks of the Kiyotaki River.
The river’s waters are impossibly clear, and within them lives the giant Japanese salamander. Measuring up to 1.5 meters long, the world's largest amphibian is sometimes referred to as the “living fossil” on account of the spices not altering much in 30 million years. The gentle walking trail along the river continues on to the village of Kiyotaki. From there, you can catch a bus to Arashiyama or else turn back and retrace your steps along the river.
In the sleepy and still-functioning Chionji Temple (Hyakumanben Chionji Temple), in north-central Kyoto, it’s possible to see monks praying with incense at an interior alter and long strings of giant juzu beads hanging in the rafters. Also called Hyakumanben Chionji and not to be confused with the Chion-in Temple north of the city and on the sea, the wing-roofed temple has a small garden, wooden statues and bells that clang during important ceremonies.
Chionji is accessed by a long cement walkway surrounded by dusty grounds that come alive, jam-packed with vendors, for an all-day flea market on the 15th of each month. It’s one of the largest gatherings of local artisans in Kyoto and has colorful stalls selling locally-crafted hand-painted items, children’s toys, leatherwork, furniture, ceramics and clothing; there are also several fortune-telling booths, food stalls and coffee tents.
The sprawling Kyoto National Museum campus, an homage to Japanese art and history, includes outdoor gardens featuring The Thinker sculpture by Auguste Rodin, a wing (new in 2014) housing permanent collection pieces, an older building showing a rotating slate of special exhibits and its own traditional Japanese tea house.
Similar in its permanent collections to the Tokyo National Museum, the Kyoto National Museum houses ceramics, calligraphy, paintings, archeological relics, intricate kimonos and more, but the special exhibitions and rotating showcases are where the museum really shines. Past displays have featured the art of Zen; photos, swords and artwork illustrating life and times of Sakamoto Ryoma (who helped usher in the modern Meiji government in the 1800s); vivid scrolls of humans and animals from the Kosan-ji temple; Buddhist art; and a feature exhibition on the work of Edo-period painter and poet Yosa Buson. Most items feature full signage in both Japanese and English.
Teramachi Street, a covered pedestrian shopping arcade in Kyoto, brims with shops and boutiques – a favorite shopping destination for Kyoto’s university students in particular. The name of the street translates to Temple Town, reflecting the many temples and shrines that occupied the area during the sixteenth century.
Today, it’s dominated by casual clothing shops and stores selling green tea, accessories, books and souvenirs. Hungry shoppers will find a few traditional Japanese confectioneries, as well as a variety of restaurants and cafes specializing in Japanese and international flavors.
Step back in time to the Edo period in Japan at Toei Kyoto Studio Park (Toei Uzumasa Eigamura), the only theme park in Japan that’s also an open-air film set for period drama (jidaigeki) films. Visitors can watch exciting performances, dress up in period costume, learn fun skills, and enjoy a number of other entertaining attractions.
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