If Tokyo is known for its impressive skyscrapers and modern architectural masterpieces, then Kyoto is known for its abundance of stunning temples and shrines. Both cities feature their own distinct characteristics which make them equally great places to visit for those looking to gain a deeper understanding of Japan’s history and culture.
The two cities are often associated with one another due to Tokyo taking the place of Kyoto as the country’s capital city. Nonetheless, Kyoto remains at par with Tokyo and has not faded into the shadows, one bit.
In fact, a lot of members of the Japanese community still remember the glorious days of Kyoto as country capital thanks to the numerous places scattered throughout the city that pay tribute to its past. For those interested in getting a glimpse of Kyoto’s former role as capital city, a trip to the Heian Shrine is highly recommended.
Brief History of Heian Jingu (Shinto Shrine) in Kyoto, Japan
The Heian Shrine, or Heian Jingu, is quite young compared to the other Shinto shrines of Japan. It was only established during the year 1895 as part of the 1100th anniversary of Kyoto’s foundation as country capital; Kyoto was formerly known as Heian.
To further commemorate the event, the spirits of Emperor Kanmu and Emperor Komei, the first and last emperors of Japan who ruled the country from Kyoto, respectively, are worshipped at this shrine.
Things to Expect at Heian Jingu – Torii Gate, Garden, Festivals, Etc.
The property where the Heian Shrine stands features a lot of spacious lawns, an open court, and some museums, among other interesting structures. Tourists will know that they have reached the Heian Shrine upon coming across a massive torii gate.
Once inside the actual shrine grounds, visitors are welcomed with various buildings, all of which are designed to resemble different parts of the Heian Period’s Imperial Palace. These are, of course, built on a much smaller scale than the original but offer visitors with an easy way to imagine how Kyoto looked like back then.
A few meters behind these partial replicas, a beautiful garden that houses traditional Japanese buildings, some ponds, and a wide array of plants can be located.
Plenty of weeping cherry trees can also be seen in this area, making it one of the best spots in Kyoto for hanami (cherry blossom viewing). These cherry trees typically start to bloom by the second week of April.
On some days, the Heian Shrine’s open court is also used for various events such as the Jidai Festival every 22nd day of October, Kyoto’s foundation anniversary, and an annual parade where members of the community put on traditional Japanese costumes from different eras and march from the Kyoto Imperial Palace to the Heian Shrine.
More Information on Heian Jingu – Map & Access, Hours, Etc.
Tourists who want to pay the Heian Shrine a visit can choose from several transportation routes.
The most common way to access the shrine from the Kyoto Station is to get on either the Kyoto City Bus No. 5 or Kyoto City Bus No. 100 and head on directly to the Heian Shrine. This bus ride usually takes about thirty minutes of travel time and costs 230 yen per person, one-way.
For those who want to try using the subway system of Japan, the Heian Shrine may also be accessed by taking a subway train of the Karasume Oike Station to the Higashiyama Station, which is just a 10-minute walk away from the Heian Shrine. The train ride usually only takes twenty minutes of travel time from one point to the other and costs about 260 yen per person, one-way.
The Heian Shrine is open to the public as early as 6:00 AM, while the Heian Shrine Garden only starts allowing visitors in at 8:30 AM. Both areas close at around 5:00 PM.
Visitors do not need to pay any fees to explore the shrine grounds, but those interested in exploring the Heian Shrine Garden need to pay an admission fee of 600 yen per person.
Other Attractions near Heian Jingu – Shinnyodo Temple, Maruyama Park, Etc.
As previously mentioned, the city of Kyoto is home to a lot of temples and shrines, some of which date back thousands of years ago. Taking into account the other tourist attractions that do not fall under the category of temples and shrines, exploring the entirety of Kyoto City is virtually impossible in just one trip.
For those visiting Kyoto for the first time, the following places should be kept in mind and should absolutely not be missed out on:
The Shinnyodo Temple, or simply referred to as Shinnyodo, dates back to the year 984 when it was built by a priest from the Enryakuji Temple. It is under the jurisdiction of the Tendai Sect of Japanese Buddhism and can be located a few meters off Kyoto’s beaten tracks.
During the autumn season, the temple grounds can get slightly crowded with locals and tourists appreciating its lovely koyo (autumn colors). The leaves of the Shinnyodo Temple’s countless trees usually start changing colors by the end of November and last until mid-December.
According to records, the Shinnyodo Temple had been relocated a few times before finally finding its home in Kyoto, Japan during the year 1693. At present, the Shinnyodo Temple is among Kyoto’s most popular tourist attractions for the many buildings, beautiful gardens, and 3-story pagoda it houses.
Hours: 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, daily; Only accepts visitors until 3:45 PM
Admission Fee: No admission fee to enter the temple grounds; 500 yen per person (Access to the temple’s gardens and inner chamber)
Address: 82 Jodoji Shinnyocho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan 606-8414
The Shorenin Temple is another one of Kyoto’s temples that belongs to the Japanese Buddhism’s Tendai Sect. It can be found at the base of the Higashiyama mountains and is among the several monzeki temples housed by Kyoto; monzeki temples refer to those that feature head priests who come from the Imperial Family.
Since the 12th century, the Shorenin Temple has always maintained close relations with the Imperial Family of Japan. Emperor Toba, the then ruler of Japan, was a devout follower of Japanese Buddhism’s Tendai Sect. As such, he required the head priest of the Enryakuji Temple, the head temple of the Tendai Sect, to guide his son in the teachings of Buddha.
He had the Shorenin built to serve as a place for them to call home, while in the city. Through the years, this place slowly evolved into a sacred place and was eventually converted into a genuine Buddhist temple.
Some notable points of interest within the temple grounds include the Shijokodo Hall, a drawing room known as the Kachoden, various Japanese gardens, and several walking paths for visitors to easily explore the different areas of the Shorenin Temple.
Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, daily; 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM, during the evening illuminations of the autumn and spring season; Only accepts visitors until 4:30 PM and 9:30 PM
Admission Fee: 500 yen per person; 800 yen per person (For the evening illuminations of the autumn and spring season)
Address: 69-1 Awataguchi Sanjobocho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan 605-0035
The Chionin Temple covers a relatively large land area and houses various structures, some of which date back to the 1600s. It serves as the head temple of Japanese Buddhism’s Jodo Sect, one of the most popular sects of the religion which is supported by millions of devout followers.
Among the many attractions housed within the temple grounds, the 24-meter tall Sanmon Gate, Yuzen Garden, the Hojo Garden, the Amidado Hall, and the Miedo Hall should absolutely not be missed out on by foreign visitors.
Hours: The temple grounds do not have closing hours; 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM, daily (Temple buildings)
Admission Fee: No admission fee to enter the temple grounds; 500 yen per person (Access to the Hojo Garden and the Yuzen Garden); 400 yen per person (Access to the Hojo Garden); 300 yen per person (Access to the Yuzen Garden)
Address: 400 Rinkacho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan 605-8686
The Kodaiji Temple is one of the most impressive temples of the Higashiyama District. It dates back to the year 1606 when it was built as a tribute to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, an important figure in Japanese history.
Japanese Zen Buddhism’s Rinzai Sect manages the temple grounds and all the structures and artifacts it houses. Given that the temple was constructed during the unification era of Japan, a distinctly lavish architectural style is carried by the Kodaiji Temple. Even the interiors of the temple’s buildings feature ornate decorations.
Tourists may explore the temple’s Hojo (main hall), Zen gardens, tea houses, and the Kodaiji Sho Museum for corresponding admission fees.
Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM, daily (Kodaiji Temple); 9:30 AM – 6:00 PM, daily (Kodaiji Sho Museum); 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM, daily (Entokuin Temple)
Admission Fee: 600 yen per person (Access to the Kodaiji Temple and the Kodaiji Sho Museum); 900 yen per person (Access to the Kodaiji Temple, the Kodaiji Sho Museum, and the Entokuin Temple); 500 yen per person (Access to the Entokuin Temple)
Address: 526 Kodaiji Shimo-Kawaramachi, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
The Kiyomizudera Temple, which roughly translates to mean “the temple of pure water” in English, is among the most important temples of Japan. It dates back to the year 780 when it was established on the eastern wooded hills of Kyoto, on the same area where the Otowa Waterfall can be found.
During ancient times, the temple originally belonged to the Japanese Buddhism’s Hosso Sect. Eventually, the Kiyomizudera established its own sect, the Kita Hosso Sect, during the year 1965. By 1994, the Kiyomizudera was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Some of the interesting things tourists can look forward to at the Kiyomizudera Temple grounds include a 13-meter tall wooden stage, the Jushu Shrine, the Otowa Waterfall, the Okunoin Hall, and the Koyasu Pagoda.
Every March, the Kiyomizudera, along with the Yasaka Shrine and other pious structures within the area, hold stunning evening illuminations in lieu of the Higashiyama District’s annual Hanatoro event.
Hours: 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM, daily; 6:00 AM – 6:30 PM, on weekends and on holidays (mid-April – July); 6:00 AM – 6:30 PM, daily (August – September); 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM, daily (March – April & November – December)
Admission Fee: 400 yen per person
Address: 1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan 605-0862
The Maruyama Park, referred to as Maruyama Koen by members of the Japanese community, can be found in the district of Higashiyama. It is a public park that serves as Kyoto’s most popular spot for hanami (cherry blossom viewing).
A massive weeping cherry tree, or shidarezakura, can be seen at the heart of the Maruyama Park and serves as its main attraction. The tree is particularly stunning to look at during the night when it is pleasantly illuminated by various lights.
Hours: Not applicable
Admission Fee: Not applicable
Address: 473 Maruyamacho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Hotels near Heian Jingu, Kyoto, Japan
The tourist attractions listed above are just some of the many, many places housed by Kyoto, Japan. It is not advisable that tourists go through all of these destinations in one run, as doing so can result in an incredibly hectic schedule that might ruin the overall experience.
Instead, tourists may want to consider renting out a room for the night, at least, to avoid rushing from one place to the other. Fortunately, Kyoto houses a lot of different lodging options including budget hotel rooms, traditional Japanese inns, and cozy apartments.
Some of the best places worth checking out according to various online reviews include the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto, the Kyoto Granvell Hotel, the Solaria Nishitetsu Hotel Kyoto Premier, the Japaning Hotel Toji, the Hana-Touro Hotel Gion, the APA Hotel Kyoto Gion Excellent, the Nishiyama Ryokan, the Daiwan Roynet Hotel Kyoto Ekimae, the Hosta Toji San, the Tsukiakari, and the Aoi Kyoto Stay.