The Temples of Kyoto, Japan

By Alizah Flesher

Kyoto has over 1600 Buddhist temples to choose from, which means that you’ll find it rather hard to check them all out if you only have a few days in the area. That being said, if you’re staying in Kyoto for a short amount of time, there are some temples that are a must-see because of their stunning architecture, traditions and the fact that they are an amazing representation of what Kyoto is all about. Here are five temples that you must see if you only have a few days to spend in this stunning cultural hub of Japan.




Kinkaku-Ju, otherwise known as “The Golden Pavilion” is arguably the most well known of Kyoto temples. However, it is also one that you must see for yourself. Gazing across its lake and seeing the gold leaf painted temple is an enchanting sight. Nevertheless, when visiting Kinkaku-Ji be aware that it does get a bit crowded and so it is best to go during a weekday if possible.



This is a small temple that isn’t too crowded. Its location, nestled in a forest with rolling hills behind it, makes for a beautiful scene. I fell in love with the gorgeous moss garden in front and the quiet peace that surrounds it. Although it won’t take you too long to explore the entire area, the sense of calm that this temple gives its visitors is well worth the journey there.




This is a unique temple known for its thousands of stone statues that scatter the property giving it an almost eerie feel. A 9th-century monk who is prevalent in Buddhist history, Kobo Daishi, established the temple and put one statue on the property for each person’s soul who passed away in the area. This temple also has a path that leads to a lovely bamboo grove.


Tofuki-Ji Temple

Tofuki-Ju Temple is the ideal location to relax and even meditate. It has vast, spacious grounds surrounded by a traditional wall that gives it a peaceful Zen vibe. Additionally, although many temples are crammed with tourists, Tofuki-Ji tends not to draw too large of a crowd. The exception to this is during the fall when this temple has gorgeous foliage that many flock to see.


Shoren-In Temple

This temple is small, and intimate placed right up against the Higashiyama Mountains. It is the former retreat of the abbot of the Tendai School of Buddhism, which gives it a more villa rather than temple-feel. The breathtaking building looks over a magnificent garden that features a carp pond. If you come at the right time, you may also be able to take part in a tea ceremony at their teahouse.

Now get out there and start seeing these beautiful temples!


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