Hidden Gems In Kyoto

hidden gems

Kyoto was Japan’s former capital and is a city located on Honshu Island. The beautiful city has many wondrous places to visit and a huge draw for tourists. The Imperial Place, verdant gardens, Shinto shrines, and Buddhist temples dot the Kyoto skyline. Kyoto is also famous for various formal Japanese traditions, including the kaiseki dining which sees several courses of precise dishes being served, as well as for geishas, the female entertainers often to be seen in the Gion district. Arashiyama is an interesting attraction with its bamboo forest, water features, and many monkeys. While visiting the city, make sure you make time to head to the following hidden gems in Kyoto. Scroll below to see our top picks.

1. Nanzen-ji Oku-no-in

Nanzen-ji (2636737208)
Source: Photo by user KimonBerlin used under CC BY-SA 2.0

This part of Nanzen-ji tends to be overlooked by visitors, as it is a small shrine, hidden in a hollow and surrounded by a forest. Pilgrims pray at the Buddhist shrine, while standing under waterfalls, even in winter. To get there, walk past Kōtoku-an and head up the steps into the forest until you come to the waterfall, set in a pretty mountain glen.

Nanzen-ji Oku-no-in

Address: Nanzenji Fukuchicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

Website: Nanzen-ji Oku-no-in

2. Shisen-do Temple

Posted by 詩仙堂丈山寺 on Friday, 1 June 2018

Shisen-dō is a beautiful and peaceful Buddhist temple located in Sōtō Zen, Sakyō-ku, Kyoto, Japan. The temple was founded by Ishikawa Jōzan in 1641 and it stands on the founder’s grounds. One of the rooms in the temple exhibits portraits of 36 Chinese poets. The name of the temple translates to “hermit’s retreat,” which is an ideal name for this quiet place. There is a Zen garden at the temple, lined with azaleas that bloom in spring.

Shisen-do Temple

Address: 2 7 Ichijoji Monguchicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

Website: Shisen-do Temple

Opening hours: 9 AM-5 PM

3. Daigo-ji Temple and gardens

Daigo-ji in autumn, Kyoto
Source: Photo by user User: ChubbyWimb... used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

This Shingon Buddhist temple is surrounded by beautiful, expansive Japanese gardens and is located in Fushimi-ku in Kyoto. The main devotion of the temple is Yakushi. Daigo translates in English to “ghee,” which figuratively means “crème de la crème”, a metaphor which forms part of Buddhist ideals. There are several buildings in the complex, including one of the oldest buildings in Kyoto – a five-story pagoda.

Daigo-ji Temple and gardens

Address: 22 Daigohigashiojicho, Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

Website: Daigo-ji Temple and gardens

Opening hours: 9 AM-5 PM

4. Saimyo-ji Temple

Saiho-ji, Kyoto, by Jmhullot
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Jean-Marie Hullot used under CC BY 3.0

Saimyo-ji is located up the river from the Jingo-ji Temple. It is a tiny, charming temple with a hidden waterfall grotto behind it. The main temple is one of three Koto Sanzan temples in the Tendai Sect. The temple was built between 1192 and 1333 and is a beautiful, well-preserved temple in the Kamakura style.

Saimyo-ji Temple

Address: 1 Umegahata Makinoocho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

Website: Saimyo-ji Temple

Opening hours: 9 AM-5 PM

5. Koto-in Subtemple

Japan Kyoto Daitoku-ji Koto-in 2
Source: Photo by user Markus Leupold-Lö... used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Koto-in is a popular and interesting Subtemple, normally open all year around. It was constructed in 1601 by the successful commander Hosokawa Tadaoki, who was involved in several famous battles. Tadaoki and his wife are buried at the temple. The Subtemple is particularly well known for the maple trees that line the pathway to the building and there is also a tranquil and pretty moss garden.

Koto-in Subtemple

Address: 73 Murasakino-Daitokuji-cho, Kita-ku, Kyoto, Japan

Website: Koto-in Subtemple

Opening hours: 9 AM-4:30 PM

6. Gio-ji Temple and moss garden

Source: Photo by user Andreas Tack used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Many people miss this spot when visiting the Takiguchi-dera Temple. This tiny temple is one of the most scenic spots in the area. Gio-ji Temple has a thatched roof and overlooks a beautiful, lush moss garden. The moss garden with its surrounding trees is beautiful, but bear in mind that you are not allowed to walk on it.

Gio-ji Temple and moss garden

Address: 32 Sagatoriimoto Kozakacho, Ukyō-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

Website: Gio-ji Temple and moss garden

Opening hours: 9 AM-5 PM

7. Murin-an Villa

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Oilstreet used under CC BY 2.5

Murin-an is a beautiful Japanese garden surrounding the villa of Yamagata Aritomo, a military and political leader, and was made between 1894 and 1898. The garden has been designated as a place of scenic beauty and is a classic example of a Japanese promenade garden from the Meiji period. Aritomo had an interest in Western culture and the villa was built as a rare example of that type of architecture, with dark rooms, paneled ceilings and painted walls.

Murin-an Villa

Address: 31 Nanzenji Kusagawacho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

Website: Murin-an Villa

Opening hours: 8:30 AM-5 PM

8. Nonomiya Shrine

野宮神社, 嵐山, 嵯峨野, 京都, 日本, ののみやじんじゃ, あらしやま, さがの, きょうと, みやこ, きょうのみやこ, にっぽん, にほん, Nonomiya Shrine, Nonomiya-jinja, Arashiyama, Sagano, Storm Mountain, Kyoto, Japan, Nippon, Nihon
Source: Photo by user bryan... used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Nonomiya Shrine is a Shinto shrine, which was built for an Ise Shrine princess. The site is in Sagano and is a serene spot on the west side of Kyoto, near a bamboo forest. The shrine is also next to the Black Torii Gate. It is considered to be the starting point for visitors heading out on the Sagano walk.

Nonomiya Shrine

Address: Sagano Miyamachi 1, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto City, Japan

Website: Nonomiya Shrine

Opening hours: 6 AM-5 PM

9. Honen-in Temple

Hōnen-in (法然院)
Source: Photo by user David Baron used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The temple is open to the public from April 1st to 7th and November 1st to 7th and is an independent Jodo-shu temple. In the garden, there is a small spring named “Zenki-sui” and it is among the most famous Kyoto springs. Honen-in was constructed by the priest Nincho in 1680. On entering the complex, two small mounds of sand can be seen on either side of the path. The sand is said to purify a person’s body and soul.

Honen-in Temple

Address: 30 Shishigatani Goshonodancho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan

Website: Honen-in Temple

Opening hours: 6 AM-4 PM

10. Eikando Temple

hidden gems | eikando temple
Source: Shoot My Travel

Eikando Temple is a quiet and secluded building set at the bottom of the Higashiyama mountains. The temple is renowned for its fall foliage and the Tahoto pagoda offers a beautiful, restful view. The temple was built in 853 by Shinsho Sozu. There is a statue of Mikaeri Amida Nyorai on the property, which is unique, as it looks back to the left.

Eikando Temple

Address: 4 8 Eikandocho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture

Website: Eikando Temple

Opening hours: 9 AM-5 PM

Book a tour: Fushimi Inari hidden hiking tour (65 USD)

hidden gems | book a tour: fushimi inari hidden hiking tour
Source: Magical Trip

Hike up an off the beaten track through Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari’s secret hiking trails. Fushimi Inari Shrine is already famous to visitors in Japan. Why not spice up your travel experience with this lesser-known path, away from the usual crowd and off paved grounds? You will journey through a quiet neighborhood and make stops on shrines as your knowledgeable guide will provide you with relevant information. Make your way up to the summit of the mountain, take a quick rest and venture through a secluded bamboo forest and hidden trails that very few people knows about. Then off you go through the photogenic 10,000 tori gates of the main shrine, taking gram-worthy shots and group photos. After successfully going down to the base, you can then savor local street foods (at your own expense) before going back to your hotels to rest or perhaps explore more of downtown Kyoto. This small-group excursion lasts for about three hours and is inclusive of bottled drinking water.

Fushimi Inari hidden hiking tour

Duration: 3 hours

Price: 65 USD

Experience the beauty and peace of Kyoto

Explore the city visiting pretty, secluded temples and gardens and other hidden gems in Kyoto, Japan.

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Anne Sewell was born in England, but has spent most of her life in Africa - Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa - and now resides on the beautiful Costa del Sol in southern Spain. She loves writing...Read more

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