Skip to main content

Kyoto: Kiyomizu-dera Temple & Higashiyama District

In 2012 I published a terse summary of our three-day visit to Kyoto.

Kyoto receives a lot of good press but except for the magnificent monuments, I found it to be a rather charmless city. Getting between these islands of beauty also required using the city’s slow and overcrowded buses, or a long, dull walk. I am glad to have seen the sights of Kyoto, but I don’t think I would go back.

Fortunately, the beautiful photographs it yielded prompted me to revise my opinion after the holiday, and so this autumn I did not veto a proposed trip with some visitors from the UK. The buses remain too infrequent and overcrowded,1 but starting out with much lower expectations of what could be achieved each day and not trying to squeeze every “highly recommended” sight into a short visit, made for a much more enjoyable experience.

Our first day was comfortably warm and sunny, and with wet weather forecast for the latter half of our trip, we decided to start our holiday with one of the more famous temples, ‎⁨Kiyomizu-dera. This Buddhist temple’s position on the side of a hill surrounded by rich foilage means it has some spectacular views, and great kōyō (Autumn colours) potential. It was busy, as expected, but the space is large enough that it never felt too much. I was also worried that the children would bore quickly but the complex really piqued their curiosity, and they were happy to explore. I am sure being mostly outside, plus some recent school lessons on local religions also helped maintain their interest.

The food in Japan is incredible, but it can be difficult to justify (or find time) to enjoy sweet and fancy snacks on a normal day. Exploring temples and admiring the beautiful scenery is tiring, so during this trip we were pleased to be able to have frequent rest stops to sample the bountiful selection of fine foods and tasty snacks in the narrow streets surrounding temples. While in the UK the expectation of shops and areas serving predominantly tourists is of lower quality, that was not a problem here and everything was the same high quality and delicious flavours we have come to expect as the norm in Japan.

  1. Smartphone navigation also makes them significantly easier to use. ↩︎