A Short Visit to Kyoto Japan / Kyoto / Travel

About an hour northeast of Osaka Japan lies Kyoto, a former capital of the country, and still a cultural treasure housing more temples, shrines, and gardens than any visitor could hope to see (almost 2,000 by some estimates). As we would only be there for two days (three nights) this trip, we decided to hit some of the highlights, including some favorites that Jen and I had seen on previous trips to give our girls the chance to enjoy them as well. This is also the first time we’ve been in Kyoto during the cherry blossom season, which added a whole new level of beauty to the experience.

Here are the places we visited in Kyoto this trip:

Kiyomizu-dera entrance
Kiyomizu-dera. The “Temple on Stilts” originally built in 778 A.D. without any nails. There are several shrines around the temple and impressive views of Kyoto and the surrounding mountains.


Nijo Castle. Completed in 1626, this large palace surrounded by a moat and amazing gardens and ponds housed shoguns during the Edo period. It was also intentionally built with “squeaky floors” that sound like birds when walked on, to make it easier to detect intruders.


Maruyama Park and Gion. Walking around the streets of Gion gives you the feeling of stepping back in time, with the small wooden houses and lanterns, and especially if you’re able to spot a geisha (or even someone dressed like one).  Maruyama Park is a large park in Gion with many cherry trees, temples and shrines.


Gion Corner. This is a place for tourists to get a sampling of Japanese cultural arts. In a short hour, you get to see the tea ceremony, koto playing, flower arranging, geisha dancing, court music and dance, comedic performances, puppets, and more. It’s fairly pricey (2800 yen for adults), but if you don’t have much time and won’t see these things elsewhere on your trip, it’s worth a visit.


Family at Kingaku-ji
Kinkaku-ji. The “Temple of the Golden Pavilion,” a famous icon in Japan with beautiful strolling gardens and a three stories of gold-plated goodness. Beautiful. But I’d still like to go inside.


Ryoan-ji Zen rock garden
Ryouan-ji. Like the last time I was in Kyoto 2 years ago, this temple was again my favorite. It’s a zen temple with a serene zen garden inside and amazing strolling gardens surrounding it. We spent some time meditating in front of the rock garden, which also had cherry blossoms cascading over the wall and raining down like snow (see the video below). In other parts of the garden, the mossy ground was almost completely covered in pink blossoms. Such a beautiful sight!


Arashiyama. We enjoyed this peaceful and picturesque town. We arrived somewhat late in the day, so didn’t make it to the monkey park or take a boat ride, but we enjoyed walking around the town and through the bamboo forest. The mountain backdrop was quite spectacular. Note: We started looking for a restaurant right before 6pm, and then everything started closing up, so if you want to eat dinner there, make it before 6.

Here are some videos and more pictures of the trip.

Brandon is a location independent entrepreneur, musician, worldschooling father, and the principal author of this blog. He's all about reaching his potential and enjoying life to the fullest in each moment.


  1. Jennifer Pearce Says: April 23, 2012 at 12:09 am

    That little row of random buddha statues was so cute. I really enjoyed seeing Kyoto in the Springtime, and am glad it was perfect weather for both our days of sightseeing there. Arashiyama is such a charming little town, as was Gion, especially at night with the lanterns lit. Japanese gardens are simply enchanting. I also can’t get enough of the beyond adorable little potted flowers I see all over the place.

  2. I love Kyoto…. those weeping cherry trees covered in pink blossoms are simply magical. And the pink/white petals dropping like gentle snow is so serene. I want to go there. I want to be there and sit in among the mossy forest covered in pink blossoms, and stand among the majestic bamboo…..

    And that row of Buddha statues totally made my day. I would love them in my garden. They look so happy and serene.

    So when are you moving to Kyoto? :)

    • Glad you liked the pictures.

      As for moving, we won’t be moving to Kyoto or anywhere in Japan, probably. Too cold in the winters and too expensive. But we could certainly enjoy spending a few months each year in Japan, provided Fukushima doesn’t blow up any worse.

  3. Nice photos. The pictures are really vibrant and colorful. Reading about your trip and looking at the photos would be enough inspiration for anyone to visit Kyoto. Glad to see that you had a nice time and you have an adorable family.

  4. Great Pix. I didn’t see a Wall Mart in any of them. Looks like a beautiful place to be.

  5. Gorgeous. Those pictures are so beautiful. My first reaction to each one was “Wow.” :)

    I agree with mom- that row of Buddha statues is SO darling. I would like a set in my garden, as well.

    And yes. When are you moving to Kyoto?

  6. Beautiful! I’ve been to Kyoto in 2010. Also, visited Kinkaku-ji. Wrote about it in my blog http://zze.st/japan-temples-palaces-and-gardens

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