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Top 3 Temples/Shrines

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Top 3 Temples/Shrines

I'll be in Kyoto for 4 nights so will only have 2 full days in Kyoto as I'm planning a day trip to Nara/Uji. There are so many world heritage temples to visit that it's overwhelming. Please tell me what your top 3 temple/shrines are in Kyoto. I'm sure I'll see plenty more as I just walk around Kyoto but would like to know which are the best to make an effort to go see. Thanks

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1. Re: Top 3 Temples/Shrines

It is a very difficult question because there are a lot of temples and shrines in Kyoto.

In Tokyo, If you walk around for 5 minutes, you can find the metro station.

In Kyoto, If you walk around for 5 minutes, you can find a historical temple or shrine. (It is a joke.)

My favorite are

1)Kinkaku-ji temple(golden pavilion)

2)Kiyomizu-dera temple(Kiyomizu's stage in the air)

3)Nanzen-ji temple - Philosopher's path - Ginkaku-ji temple(best for the stroll)

Coolum Beach...
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2. Re: Top 3 Temples/Shrines

Agree with Hiroshinma-Jin.

Kinkakuji has impact and is great to visit first. Kyomizu-dera is good to visit around lunchtime, as there are plenty of places to eat as well as to browse for souvenirs.

Nara, Japan
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3. Re: Top 3 Temples/Shrines

If Big3 (among Japanese tourists coming to Kyoto) are arranged in the order of popularity, they go like this:


2)Golden Pavilion(or Kinkakuji)

3)Silver Pavilion(or Ginkakuji).

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4. Re: Top 3 Temples/Shrines

For me, after many trips to Kyoto stretching over almost 20 years, Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji remain just one-stop pretty postcard views. I easily understand why, Shot, Japanese tourists put them on their "must-see" lists. Been there, done that, and have the photo to prove it.

But I have returned many times to temples where there is almost always something of interest going on, especially Kiyomizo-dera, Chion-in, Toji, etc.

Tel Aviv, Israel
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5. Re: Top 3 Temples/Shrines

Kyoto is temple town Japan and there are 1600 buddhist temples and 400 shinto shrines so plenty of choice. Concur with above suggestions - defintely the goldent pavillion and just down the street from there is the Ryoanji temple which has a famous rock garden. In the same area are a few more temples which you could then check out. Kiyumizu Dera is on the other side of town but another must do. If you have time then take a stroll around the Gion area of Kyoto. there are plenty of temples in this area. One other suggestion is to go the Fushimi Inari shrine. Its amazing and easy to reach. You would have to allow a couple of hours for it though. If you are already in Kyoto go to Nijo castle as well. Suggest if you are going to see a lot in one day you buy the all day kyoto bus pass for 500 yen. It pays for itself as soon as you take your third bus. I have loads of pics and more info on Kyoto on my travel site at www.angietravels.com

Have a great trip

New York, NY
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6. Re: Top 3 Temples/Shrines

i would say kiyomizudera, ginkakuji, and probably fushimi inari. i agree with other posters that kinkakuji and ginkakuji are only photo ops, but i absolutely love the moss gardens at ginkakuji and want one for myself. fushimi inari is a trip visually with thousands of torii one after another. be sure to spend some time on the philosopher's way.

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7. Re: Top 3 Temples/Shrines

Get on the Nara Line out of Kyoto station. First stop walk to Tofukuji, research the history first, it's fascinating and the grounds are quite unique. Then back to the train and off to Fushimi-Inari, it's fun and the hike to the top is refreshing, rewarded with a great view. If you have time, back to the train and off to Nara to see Daibutsu.

For me, Kinkakuji just doesn't merit the time spent to get there when you have so little time to see Kyoto. It's usually very crowded with people jammed up to take the "group photo" in front of the gold covered building. The rest of the grounds are nice, but nothing unique.

I think the Philosopher's Walk and thus seeing Kinkakuji and Kiyomizudera is a much more rewarding choice. But also take the time to just walk. Take the subway to a distant stop, get off and start walking. You can see so much of Kyoto, thousands of small neighborhood shrines, and beautiful old buildings, just by walking around.

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8. Re: Top 3 Temples/Shrines

My favorites are Ginkakuji, Nanzenji, Kiyomizu, and Daisen-in at Daitokuji.

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9. Re: Top 3 Temples/Shrines

I like Ryoanji (beautiful zen garden; rather close to Kinkaku-ji), Sanjūsangen-dō (really special ) and Fushimi Inari. Nanzen-ji is also very beautiful.

Kinkaku-ji is not in my top 3, but it is nice to visit, just because it would be so strange not to have visited it while you were in Kyoto.

I was in Kiyomizu-dera but didn't think it was that special. It was very crowded, maybe I have to re-visit it.

Edited: 23 January 2011, 21:04
Kyoto, Japan
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10. Re: Top 3 Temples/Shrines

I agree with most of the above suggestions except Ryoan-ji. I have been guiding people around Kyoto for more than 13 years and most of them haven't liked Ryoan-ji. Of course, to each his own can apply here but this is a collective opinion gathered over time and it would be a gamble for such a short stay. With two full days in Kyoto, you will be able to see quite a few.

You could spend one day in Higashiyama working your way from Ginkaku-ji to Kiyomizudera and stopping at a few places along the way. Or reverse your course and go from south to north. Chion-in Temple is very nice and you can access most of the buildings for free within the temple complex. And as someone said above, it is an active temple so you will see something going on, most likely.

You could stop by the Heian Shrine which is not a long walk from Chion-in. Again, if you don't want to pay to enter several temples or shrines on one day then you can see part of this place for free as well. The garden is beautiful though and worth paying to see. Especially, during certain seasons when flowers are blooming or leaves are changing.

After that, you can do the Philosopher's Path or stop by Nanzen-ji along the way. It is another temple that you can cut through and see parts of without an entry fee. The main gate is interesting to pay to enter on a clear day. You can climb up and get a good view.

I also think that Arashiyama is worth a day if you have 2 full days there. It is different than the other side of Kyoto. You could go to Otagi Nenbutsu-ji Temple, the bamboo forest path, Tenryu-ji Temple, have lunch on the Hozu River, take a train to Kinkaku-ji and maybe squeeze in Nijo Castle. I do all of the above on a day tour and it is not rushed.

Lots of good / different advice to sift through on this thread!!! You can't go wrong except for Ryoan-ji. Sorry to the people who liked it!