So you just booked a course in our Kyoto school, bought your plane tickets, maybe even packed your bags. Now what? How about a nice walk around Kyoto?
Since autumn is a fantastic season in Japan, here’s one very seasonal idea to make the best out it: a walk in Kyoto.
Take a walk in Kyoto through the forested mountains, from one beautiful temple to another.
Walking is probably the best way to discover this relatively small, and incredibly serene city. Instead of rushing to see the biggest temples and shrines, why not keep that for the grand finale of your half-day walk? Like many cities in Japan, Kyoto is lodged between low laying mountains. In autumn, the forests turn red-orange and offer a postcard-like landscape almost too beautiful to believe. Here’s a walk you won’t see in tourist books, taking you to some of the simpler, less crowded temples, passing through a picturesque Ghibli-like forested area.
Peaceful residential area and tourist-free temples
Start at Yamashina station, just a few stops from Kyoto`s main station. Head north, and take a glimpse at a typical Japanese neighborhood. Calm, almost completely free of cars, narrow streets, filled with the distant peaceful sound of a nearby school and decorated with a myriad of pot flowers and greenery.
Soon enough, you will be crossing the scenic Lake Biwa canal, bringing mountain freshwater into the city. The canal passes over a small river where local kids often play during summer. You can actually walk along this river on a small footpath, and keep heading north. See the picture on the right. Keep walking north and you’ll find the Bishamon-do, a temple and a very nice power spot.
Through the forest to Nanzen-ji
Take the time to explore the different shrines, then head for the Nanzenji-temple, one of the most famous of the city. There should be signs on your way pointing to it, in Japanese it is “南禅寺“. You will need to walk a little further, but don`t worry the path is relatively easy. The forested part of the walk should take you about 20-30min before you reach the Nanzenji-Temple.
The first thing you will see is an old aqueduct, still partly in the forest. It is called the Suirokaku Water Bridge, and at this point, you should start to see tourists. Keep walking down the mountain, and soon you will reach the massive Nanzen Temple.
The all you can see walk, your spiritual edition!
From Nanzenji, head north and stroll along the Shishigadani street, which links countless temples and shrines. You are welcome to enter temples where there are fewer people, and we highly recommend checking the smaller, less frequented shrines too! The only issue is, there are so many, you will likely not be able to see them all 🙂
Pass the famous Eikando shrine, then turn right and keep walking until the Kumano Nyakuōji Shrine, also worth seeing. From there, you should see a small river, bordered by a footpath. It is quite popular but still a great walk. Follow it, enjoy the many typical small shops and keep making your way to the famous Honen-ji temple. If you feel like climbing some more, midway, you can also turn right and climb a steep street all the way to the tiny Enshige Temple.
Keep following the small river, and if you feel there are gradually more people, it’s because you’re getting nearer to the end! At some point, you will reach an intersection full of small souvenir shops and food stalls. At this point, turn right and head for the Higashiyama Jisho-ji Temple, one of the most famous in Kyoto!
It is also the end of this guide, but if you study with us, feel free to ask us for more!