You could see sweat forming on their forehead, neck, and upper lip. Women walked in small awkwards steps, their hair gathered up in a bun, donned in floral kimono of pastel or bold colors. Men adjusted the sleeves of their kimono, their footwear (geta) echoed on the wooden floor. It’s the last month of summer; the greens are still vibrant but a slight of auburns are slowly appearing. Notwithstanding the humidity, they walked amidst the sea of modern-clad tourists who were also visiting the shrines and temples that day.
You’d think with all the modern technologies they’ve invented, they’d embrace the progressive transition in full abandon; they don’t. The Japanese people, despite living in one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, go to temples in traditional clothing. A mark of strong cultural identity they strongly uphold and extend to preserve their temples and shrines, for which they have in abundance in Kyoto.
Kyoto is the capital city of Kyoto Prefecture, one of the 7 in the Kansai Region. Kyoto is known for its places of worship; of thousands of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, many of which have drawn locals and tourists alike. Two of the most frequented are the Fushimi Inari-taisha and Kiyomizu-dera.
Fushimi Inari-taisha is the main shrine out of all shrines that are dedicated to the Shinto rice god, Inari. It can be found in Fukakusa Fushimi-ku in the southern part of Kyoto. Fushimi Inari is famous for its thousands of orange torii gates, often printed on postcards and widely used as a background on social media images. Torii, which means bird house, is a traditional Japanese gate used as an entrance to a Shinto shrine. These orange structures symbolize the passage from the profane to the sacred.
By the entrance stands the giant torii gate called Romon. Pass Romon is the main building, Honden, and other outbuildings that visitors are free to explore. There are hiking trails, roofed by thousands of torii gates that lead to Inari mountain. The trek to the summit takes 2 to 3 hours.
Other points of interest in Fushimi Inari grounds include the Kagura Hall, Senbon Torii, Temizuya, the inner shrine, and the Shin Ike pond.
How to get there: Take the train from the Kyoto Station; travel time is only 5 minutes. It only takes a 3-minute walk from the JR Inari Station. Entrance is free and the shrine is always open.
Founded in 780, Kiyomizu-dera (pure water temple) is an independent Buddhist temple situated on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the eastern part of Kyoto. In 1994, it was hailed as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto in UNESCO world heritage sites.
The most prominent part of Kiyomizu-dera is the wooden stage that protrudes 13 meters over the hill. Unfortunately, it’s this feature of the temple that gave birth to the expression, “to jump off the stage at Kiyomizu,” due to the fact that over 200 people jumped off the stage out of belief that their wish would be granted. 34 of these jumpers perished from the attempt.
Taking out the grim part of the temple, the main hall offers the view of the mountain and lush maple trees. The view is especially beautiful in the changing of season. In the midst of the greens is the Koyasu Pagoda, which when reached by a pregnant woman is said to bring a safe childbirth.
Apart from Koyasu, the people line up to drink from the Otowa Waterfall. There are three different streams in which the tourists can drink from, each one is said to bring luck; one for longevity, the second for success in school, and the third for love. Drinking from all streams is discouraged as it is regarded as greedy.
How to get there: Take bus number 100 or 206 at the Kyoto Station; travel time is 15 minutes. From Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi bus stop, it’s a 10-minute walk uphill along Higashiyama District.
Japan Rail Pass
For convenience, avail of Japan Rail Pass, a discounted ticket that can be used for travels on all JR national trains in Japan, including Shinkansen bullet trains and Narita Express. Validity days to choose from are 7, 14, or 21 consecutive days.
Disclaimer: This trip was complimentary (arranged by Cebu Pacific Air) but opinions are from the author.
Have you visited these temples and shrines in Kyoto? Which one is your favourite? I would love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts on the comment box below. Xx