Kyoto Travel: 9 Places to Visit in the Higashiyama Area

Higashiyama area is located on the east side of Kyoto City, along the north and south sides of Higashiyama mountain range. There are many ways to enjoy the area, such as a course from Kiyomizu-dera Temple down Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka slopes to Kodai-ji Temple and Yasaka-jinja Shrine before heading to Gion, or a course from Nanzen-ji Temple in the Okazaki direction to Ginkaku-ji Temple via Philosophical Path, while enjoying nature. Another reason for the area’s popularity is that you can enjoy the atmosphere of “this is Kyoto” just by walking along the streets.

This time, we will focus on the Kiyomizu-dera area in the Higashiyama area and introduce nine classic spots that you must visit.


Kiyomizu-dera Temple (清水寺)

The main hall of Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu Temple is one of the most popular sightseeing spots in Kyoto. There is a Japanese proverb that says, “Jump off the stage at Kiyomizu,” and the “stage at Kiyomizu” refers to the stage in front of the main hall of Kiyomizu Temple. The stage is built on a cliff and is supported by 18 pillars made of 400-year-old zelkova trees. Not a single nail is used in the pillars, which is astonishing. The stage commands a panoramic view of the city of Kyoto, and the scenery is enchanting to behold.

Niomon Gate of Kiyomizu Temple

There are a number of other attractions on the Kiyomizu Temple grounds. The Niomon Gate, which also serves as a blindfold to prevent visitors from looking down on the Imperial Palace from the Kiyomizu stage, and the large three-story pagoda, said to be the symbol of Higashiyama, are overwhelming architectural features. In addition, be sure to visit power spots such as Otowa Falls, which is said to be beneficial for “love,” “studies,” and “health,” and Jishu Shrine, which is popular among young women and couples as a place for matchmaking, located on the grounds of the temple.

Kodai-ji Temple (高台寺)

Kaisando-Hall of Kodai-ji Temple

Kodai-ji Temple was built to mourn Toyotomi Hideyoshi (one of the three generals who unified Japan in the late 16th century). There are several buildings on the grounds that have been designated as important cultural properties, as well as a garden and bamboo grove, where visitors can enjoy the changing of the seasons.

Autumn Lighting at Kodaiji Temple

It is especially famous for its autumn foliage, which attracts many visitors in the fall. During the cherry blossom season in spring and the autumn foliage season in fall, special nighttime viewing is held, allowing visitors to enjoy the illuminated scenery.


Kitchen Slope, which leads from Nene-no-michi to the temple grounds, is also a popular photo spot.

Chion-in Temple (知恩院)

San-mon Gate of Chion-in Temple

Chion-in Temple, with its powerful San-mon Gate at the entrance, is the head temple of the Jodo sect of Buddhism. There are several buildings that are national treasures and important cultural properties. The two gardens, Yuzen-en Garden and Hojo Garden, are each planted with a variety of trees, allowing visitors to experience the changing of the seasons. Yuzen-en Garden is especially popular as a hidden spot for cherry blossoms and autumn leaves.

Image of Shakyo

For those who wish to experience Japanese culture, Chion-in Temple is especially recommended, with Shakyo (sutra copying) workshops and a restaurant where visitors can taste Shojin Ryori (vegetarian cuisine). Accommodations are also available on the premises.

Sanneizaka (Sannenzaka) (産寧坂)

Sanneizaka (Sannenzaka) (産寧坂)

One of the pleasures of visiting a large shrine is the bustle of the approach. Sanneizaka is a slope leading to Kiyomizu-dera Temple and is a typical stone-paved street in Kyoto. The name “Sanneizaka” comes from the fact that people used to visit Kiyomizu-dera Temple via Sanneizaka and wish for a “peaceful delivery” of their child.

This street is lined with Kyoto-style machiya (townhouses) cafes and souvenir shops, but recently there has also been an increase in stores selling food that can be eaten and walked around, making it a fun area just to walk around.

Sanneizaka (sannenzaka)
Early morning is recommended if you want to visit when it is quiet.

The cityscape continues to be a typical Kyoto scene, and it is picturesque no matter where you take pictures, but it may be difficult to take pictures slowly during the daytime because there are too many tourists. If you want to take pictures in a calm atmosphere, we recommend that you visit early in the morning.

Nineizaka (Ninenzaka) (二寧坂)

Nineizaka (Ninenzaka) (二寧坂)

Niningsaka is a street in front of Sanneizaka (Sannenzaka). Like Sanneizaka, Ninningzaka is a stone-paved street lined on both sides with cafes and stores with Kyoto-style exteriors. Recently, a Starbucks Coffee shop, housed in a renovated machiya (a traditional Kyoto townhouse), opened on this street, attracting a lot of attention for the long lines of people waiting in line.

Yasaka-no-to (Yasaka Pagoda) (八坂の塔)

Yasaka-no-to (Yasaka pagoda) is located between Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Yasaka-jinja Shrine. Its official name is the five-story pagoda of Hokan-ji Temple. Yasaka-no-to is not a very large building, but because of the surrounding low buildings, it can be seen from everywhere in the Higashiyama area and is a symbol of this area.

Yasaka Koshindo (Kongoji Koshindo)

Yasaka Koshindo, located near Yasaka-no-to, has become a popular photo spot for women in recent years. Although its official name is “Kongoji Koshindo,” it is nicknamed “Yasaka no Koshin-san” by the locals.

The reason this spot has become so popular is the colorful “kukurizaru” that are attached to the vermilion hall in bells. The kukurizaru is said to represent a monkey stuck in a position where its arms and legs are bound together. It is said that it symbolizes a state in which the mind is well controlled, and if you make a wish on the kukuri monkey and hold back one of your desires, your wish will come true.

Among the many spots in Kyoto, this is by far the most popular. The cloth kukurizaru were originally made from old kimono, so they go perfectly with kimonos!

Sanjusangen-do Temple(三十三間堂)

Sanjusangendo” is a very popular temple with its fantastic atmosphere of 1,001 neatly arranged golden statues of the Thousand-Armed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. At 120 meters long from north to south, the main hall is the longest in Japan. The name “Sanjusangendo” comes from the 33 spaces between the pillars.

Sanjusangen-do Temple
Sanjusangen-do Temple

The 1001 life-size standing statues of the Kannon (Goddess of Mercy) neatly lined up on a tiered platform are truly a sight to behold. It is said that among the statues of the Kannon, each with a different expression, there is always a statue that resembles the person you wish to meet.

Kyoto National Museum (京都国立博物館)

Meiji Kotokan Hall at Kyoto National Museum

Located across the street from Sanjusangen-do Temple is the Kyoto National Museum. It is a national museum that promotes the display, preservation, and research of tangible cultural properties, mainly in Kyoto. The museum’s regular exhibits are displayed in galleries organized according to the fields of ceramics, archaeology, painting, calligraphy, crafts, and sculpture, and include a mix of items from the museum’s collection and items that have been entrusted to the museum. Periodically, the museum also holds large-scale special exhibitions, during which time the regular exhibits are closed.

The Kyoto National Museum is a fascinating building in itself. The Meiji Kotokan Hall, with its beautiful red brick walls, is a valuable building that has been designated as an important cultural property. The Heisei Chishinkan Wing, which was recently constructed, has a linear exhibition space and an open lobby. A garden extends across the grounds, and cultural assets are also displayed outdoors.

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