5 Can’t-Miss World Heritage Site Spots in the Ancient Capital of Kyoto

5 Can’t-Miss World Heritage Site Spots in the Ancient Capital of Kyoto

16 Jun 2021

The KANSAI Guide

Kyoto is an ancient capital city boasting a history spanning over a thousand years as well as numerous Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples that form the registered World Heritage Site of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. In this article, we’ll introduce five such spots that you simply cannot miss during your next visit to the city!

What Are the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto?

The Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto were registered as Japan's fifth UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. They consist of 17 Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and a castle in Kyoto City, as well as other sites in neighboring Uji City and even Shiga Prefecture, home to Enryaku-ji Temple. These structures and gardens were selected because they best represent the unique spirit of Japan and the culture of Kyoto, which served as the country’s capital for over 1,000 years. Here are five Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto that no visitor to the city should miss out on!

1. Kamigamo Shrine

Kamigamo Shrine is said to be one of the oldest Shinto places of worship in Kyoto. Two of its buildings, including the central Honden (main hall), are designated as National Treasures, with an additional 41 buildings being designated as Important Cultural Properties. The spacious grounds are filled with greenery, and the area between the first and second torii gate of the shrine has a beautiful lawn where a traditional Shinto ritual called the "Kurabe Uma", a kind of horse race, is held as a part of Kyoto's most famous traditional festival, Aoi Matsuri.

【Facility Name】 Kamigamo Shrine
【Opening Hours】 5:30 am - 5:00 pm
【Days Closed】 Open every day
【Price】 Free
【URL】
Official Homepage
KANSAI Tourism Bureau Homepage
【Address】 339 Kamigamo Motoyama, Kita-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

2. Kamomioya Shrine

Together with Kamigamo Shrine, Kamomioya Shrine is one of the oldest Shinto places of worship in Kyoto. Also known as Shimogamo Shrine, it’s the site of the famous Aoi Matsuri festival. The vast and sacred Tadasu no Mori, a primeval forest located on its grounds, is a lovely place to enjoy a walk away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Be sure to take a commemorative photo at the shrine’s 30m-tall vermilion gate that stands out beautifully against the blue sky! The shrine is located a 12-minute walk from Demachiyanagi Station on the Keihan Main Line and the Eizan Electric Railway.

【Facility Name】 Kamomioya Shrine
【Opening Hours】 6:30 am - 5:00 pm
【Days Closed】 Open every day
【Price】 Free
【URL】
Official Homepage
KANSAI Tourism Bureau Homepage
【Address】 59 Shimogamo Izumikawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

3. Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-dera is one of Kyoto's most famous Buddhist temples and is said to have been built more than 1,200 years ago. The main hall that juts out over a cliff is affectionately referred to as the "Kiyomizu Stage" by Japanese people. The view of the city from the main hall is fantastic, especially during the cherry blossom and fall foliage seasons. The sloped street leading up to the temple is filled with souvenir shops where you can purchase items such as traditional Kiyomizu ware pottery. To get to Kiyomizu-dera, take a bus from JR Kyoto Station for about 15 minutes and get off at the Gojozaka bus stop. It’s a 10-minute walk from there.

【Facility Name】 Kiyomizu-dera Temple
【Opening Hours】 6:00 am - 6:00 pm (varies by season)
【Days Closed】 Open every day
【Price】 Adults: 400 JPY, Elementary and Junior High School Students: 200 JPY
【URL】
Official Homepage
KANSAI Tourism Bureau Homepage
【Address】 1-294 Kiyomizu, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

4. Ninna-ji Temple

The grounds of the historic Ninna-ji Temple cover about 90,000 sq.m. and house such structures as the Kondo main hall, which is a National Treasure, and the Five-Storied Pagoda, a designated Important Cultural Property. The temple was founded more than 1,100 years ago and is particularly popular in the spring as a cherry blossom viewing site. Besides the cherry blossoms around the Five-Storied Pagoda and in the garden, the temple also boasts lots of Omuro-zakura cherry trees that cover the western area inside the Chumon Gate, and which are the latest blossoms in Kyoto. Be sure not to miss them! Ninna-ji is located a 3-minute walk from Omuro-Ninnaji Station on the Randen (Keifuku Electric Railroad) Line.

【Facility Name】 Ninna-ji Temple
【Opening Hours】 9:00 am - 4:30 pm (Closes at 4:00 pm from December to February)
【Days Closed】 Open every day
【Price】 Adults: 500 JPY, Elementary and Junior High School Students: 300 JPY
【URL】
Official Homepage
KANSAI Tourism Bureau Homepage
【Address】 33 Omuroo-uchi, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

5. Byodo-in Temple

Byodo-in was originally built about 1,000 years ago as a villa for aristocrats and later became a Buddhist temple. The central building, the Phoenix Hall, stands on an island in the middle of a pond and its beautiful facade is actually depicted on the Japanese 10-yen coin. Be sure to join the tour to see the interior of the Phoenix Hall (register at the garden). The magnificent seated figure of the Amida Nyorai Buddha, a National Treasure, is also a must-see! Byodo-in is located a 10-minute walk from Uji Station on the JR Line or the Keihan Electric Railway Line.

【Facility Name】 Byodo-in Temple
【Opening Hours】 8:30 am - 5:30 pm (last entry 5:15 pm)
Byodo-in Temple Museum Hoshokan: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm (last entry 4:45 pm)
Interior of Phoenix Hall: 9:30 am - 4:10 pm up to 40 people every 20 minutes)
【Days Closed】 Open every day
【Price】 Adults: 600 JPY, Junior High School Students: 600 JPY, Elementary School Students: 300 JPY (Garden and Byodo-in Temple Museum Hoshokan)
【URL】
Official Homepage
KANSAI Tourism Bureau Homepage
【Address】 116 Uji Renge, Uji-shi, Kyoto
【Google Map URL】 GoogleMap

These were Kyoto’s five can’t-miss World Heritage Site spots. However, there are many more amazing Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto than the ones we talked about here. Try to visit as many of them as possible to experience the real Kyoto!

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