Eastern Kyoto

I have already mentioned that Kyoto is vast, full of interesting places and mesmerizing views. It is tough to decide when to see all those places. You want to visit them when they are open during the day, but on the other hand, some of them look magical at the night too. Then the seasons come into play, spring or autumn? In most cases, I couldn’t decide, so I visited the ones I liked the most during both seasons as well as during the day and night.


Ginkakuji also called as a Silver Pavillion is a Zen temple. It used to be the center of contemporary culture. Even though the name would suggest that the building is made of silver, it is not. Don’t get your hopes up 🙂 It is not like a Golden Pavillion.

I loved the sand garden (“Sea of Silver Sand” – poetic, huh? ) with a massive sand cone named “Moon Viewing Platform.” Just thinking about, how much time it took to make the garden look like this, gave me shivers 🙂

Philosopher’s Path

Right next to Ginkakuji starts the path called the Philosopher’s Path. The name comes from one of the most famous Japanese philosophers, who used to take this route to work every day and meditate while walking.
The place is just surreal during sakura season. Imagine you are walking along the canal, surrounded by all the flowers. Suddenly there is a light breeze, which causes thousands of petals to start falling. It is magical!
Along the road, there are many bigger and smaller temples that are nice to see. You know, they all have a Japanese garden. One thing I have learned in Japan is that their gardens are magnificent.


I was curious how the path looks like during autumn, so I went for a walk along the street. It looks nice during fall, but I would say it is extraordinary during cherry petals season. What do you think?


Eikando, formally known as Zenrinji Temple, belongs to the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism. This temple is very famous for its autumn colors and the evening illuminations that take place in fall. I fell in love with an exquisite pond surrounded by red maple trees and the lush green moss that surrounded the garden.

Read more about the history here.


Right, where the Philosopher’s Path ends (or starts), there is a temple called Nanzenji. It is one of the most important Zen temples in the whole of Japan, built around the 13th century.

The central grounds are free to enter, however many of the sub-temples require the admission fee. I have visited some of them but even strolling around was fantastic enough. One of my favorite spots was the old aqueduct going through the temple grounds. For some reason, it was so out of place that it looked great 🙂

If you would like to know more about the history or different sub-temples, check out this link.

Tenju-an Temple

Tenju-an Temple is part of the Nanzen-ji Temple complex. It is a small sub-temple dedicated to the Zen master who served Emperor Kameyama in his religious studies. Even though the spacious gardens offer breathtaking views, there are not that many tourists that venture through the gates. And they have no idea what jewel they are missing.

Konchi-in Temple

Konchiin Temple, located close to Nanzen-ji Temple, is best known for its beautiful crane and turtle garden. The Zen garden in the temple is considered one of the best examples of shakkei (borrowed scenery) in Kyoto.

Daineiken Gardens

Daineiken Gardens used to be another sub-temple of Nanzen-ji Temple. However, during the anti-Buddhist movement that occurred during the late 1860s and early 1870sthe temple was abolished, grounds were confiscated by the government, and turned into private property. This is when the beautiful garden was created, and so far was one of the most beautiful gardens we visited during autumn foliage.


Gion is the most famous geisha district in Kyoto. Walk through the streets, try various tea houses and restaurants. If you are lucky, you might be able to spot a geiko (geisha) or maiko (geisha apprentice). You can try snapping pictures but don’t disturb them. They entertain guests in ochayas (tea houses) but it is costly, and you might need to get invited by a regular customer. I read online though, that some companies can help you with organizing the experience, but it’s expensive.

I loved how the streets looked during the sakura seasons, covered by cherry petals. If you end up going there during that time, you might be able to see many couples taking pictures together. Either by themselves or with a professional photography crew. They looked so cool, that I snapped some photos of them too 😀

Maruyama Park

It is the most popular spot during the hanami season. The park is full of cherry blossoms and people. And by saying full, I mean it 🙂 There are many stalls where you can buy snacks along the way and try some traditional festive food. In the park center, you will find Shidarezakura (weeping cherry tree) illuminated in the night.


It is a temple established in 1606, surrounded by fabulous gardens which are just amazing. During the Sakura festival and autumn leaves the temple is beautifully illuminated.
I was lucky to visit it at night, and it was terrific. There were lights and a music show. The gardens looked amazing. Walking on a small path through a bamboo grove gave you this serene feeling. The only problem was that I was not allowed to use a tripod. It makes it hard to take pictures at night.

Higashiyama District

When you exit Kodaiji, you will encounter many small traditional merchant stores, cafes, and restaurants. It is the Higashiyama District, which is one of the best-preserved historic districts in Kyoto.
It is a lot of fun walking around. During the day there is a lot of tourists. If you wait till evening, most of the shops will be closed as they finish around 17:00.
I went there during the night, thinking about taking pictures of the district. Imagine my surprise when, whenever I wanted to pick a corner to stand with my tripod, I found out that there was a photographer hidden there! It was the first time in my life when I encountered so many photographers during the night with much bigger cameras than mine 😀


Kiyomizudera, also known as  “Pure Water Temple” is one of the most celebrated temples in Japan. It was founded in 780, and right now it is placed on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.
What is impressive about this temple is the construction of the main hall. It is, together with the stage, constructed without using any nails!! It is just amazing how long it managed to last, especially taking into consideration all earthquakes that are common in Japan.

Behind the main hall, there is Jishu Shrine. What is interesting about that place is the superstition surrounding it. There are two stones in front of the shrine, 18 m apart. If you manage to walk from one rock to another with your eyes closed, it means you will have luck in finding love 🙂

Another place surrounded by superstition is the Otowa Waterfall. There are three streams of water and depending on from which you will drink; you will get fortunate in love, have success in school, or live long. But you can’t drink from all of them as it is a sign of you being greedy and nothing will happen. So you have to pick what is essential for you 🙂

A short walk from the main hall there is the three-storied Koyasu Pagoda. A visit is said to bring easy and safe childbirth. It is also an excellent spot for taking a picture of the temple!!

There are many other temple buildings, so take your time and enjoy the walk:)

Unfortunately, Kiyomizudera is under renovation until 2020 so you might have to put up with some reconstruction work going on there. You still will be able to enter the temple though.

During the autumn foliage season, Kiyomizudera was also open for night viewing. We managed to make it there just before the closing time and enjoyed a calm walk with amazing views of illuminated Kyoto in the distance.

Those are the most significant or interesting sights in the Eastern part of Kyoto. Only that many? Nope! There are many more places to see, that I probably would turn grey before I mentioned them all 🙂 But this list is a great start. Once you visit Kyoto, you will definitely come again 🙂 I did, and even though I saw many similar sights, a change of season made me discover them once again.


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