May. 22, 2017 UPDATE

Hidden places in Kyoto where you can feel relaxed

I’m going to tell you about quiet temples and gardens in Kyoto where there are not that many people.
Unryu-in Temple

I think many people visit Kyoto to see temples and Japanese gardens. But the famous places are all crowded. Since you came all the way to Kyoto you probably want to spend some time in a place with not too many people enjoying the tasteful elegance of Kyoto. For those of you who feel this way, I’m going to introduce to you temples and gardens in Kyoto only the locals know about. I hope you can have a calm and relaxing experience in Kyoto.

1Rokuo-in Temple

Rokuo-in is a small temple in the Arashiyama area. Arashiyama is a really popular spot in Kyoto with many famous sights like Tenryu-ji Temple, Nonomiya Shrine, and the Bamboo Grove. But a little way from the center of Arashiyama, there in a quiet place is the hidden autumn leaves spot of Rokuo-in.

Rokuo-in is in a quiet residential area, and the way the path to the temple is lined with moss and autumn leaves in spring is a balanced, serene sight, and even though the temple is not big you feel like you could spend hours looking at the scenery. Even during the autumn leaves season if you go in the morning you can have the garden all to yourself. The new greenery in May and June is also beautiful. 

The garden of the temple is in the style of “karesansui,” which translated directly means dried mountain water. This karesansui is one style of “shakkei” gardens, and as some of you may know in shakkei the garden incorporates the mountains in the background into the design of the garden. Just looking at this garden you start to feel like you were sucked into and completely surrounded by nature. The dynamic scenery woven by the Shariden Hall which houses Buddhist relics and the mountains is something you have to see. This place can surely be called a hidden spot in the popular sightseeing area of Arashiyama.


2Unryu-in Temple


Unryu-in Temple is a 20-minute walk from JR Tofukuji Station, and the temple is a sub-temple of Sennyu-ji, plus the temple is usually not featured in guide books. Inside the small temple there is a garden and a study room. In this picture the sliding doors in this room called “Renge no Ma,” the lotus room, have four holes that all offer a different, limited view into the garden. 

This is one of the most famous sights in Unryu-in, “Satori no Ma,” the room of enlightenment. From this window that is almost a perfect circle you can in spring see plum blossoms, and in autumn you can see autumn leaves, the window will show you a different scene every season of the year. 

They also have a quiet garden full of greenery. When the weather is nice you can sit on the veranda and spend a quiet moment looking at the garden. Also, the oldest sutra copying hall in the whole of Japan is at Unryu-in, and there you can try your hand at sutra copying. It may be a good idea to calm down your mind at a quiet temple and also calm down your soul by doing sutra copying.

 


Unryu-in

Kyoto Station / Central Kyoto Area
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3Honen-in Temple

Honen-in is a 10-minute walk from that famous temple, Ginkaku-ji. It’s not too far from the Philosopher’s Walk and close to Ginkaku-ji so it’s hard to believe how quiet it is. You can feel the tastefulness in the thatched roof of the gate of the temple. 

After going through the gate, you get to a path which on both sides of it has small mounds of white sand called “byakusadan,” or white sand mound, and it is said that going past these mounds of sand purifies one’s body and soul. 

The temple grounds full of greenery can be strolled for free. Please enjoy this subtle and profound place that was also the favorite of many Japanese writers and academics.


Honen-in Temple

Nanzenji Temple & Ginkakuji Temple / Central Kyoto Area
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4Murin-an

Murin-an is a garden that was built as the villa of Field Marshal Prince Yamagata Aritomo in the Meiji period. Besides the garden, there is the main hall, a tea ceremony room, and a western style building with a retro atmosphere. Here you may feel like time is going by slower than usual and maybe even find the essence of the wabi esthetic. 

The entrance to the garden is really small and tall people have to be careful not to hit their heads. 

After going through the small entrance you get to see the vast garden that is also registered as a place of scenic beauty in Japan. Using Mt. Higashiyama in the background in the shakkei style, this chisen kaiyu shiki, or strolling pond garden is a place where you can enjoy nature by looking at the grass, moss, pond, and the waterfall.

 


Murin-an

Nanzenji Temple & Ginkakuji Temple / Central Kyoto Area
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5Shisen-do

Shisen-do is a quiet mountain villa in the Ichijoji area which is a battleground area for ramen restaurants. This mountain villa was built in the beginning of the Edo period. 

Shisen-do is a bit far from the center of Kyoto, but the place is a hidden great place where there are not many tourists. After going through the small entrance, you start walking up stone steps, surrounded by a tall bamboo forest. The rays of sunshine that pass through the bamboo forest make you feel reinvigorated. 

The garden with its white sand at Shisen-do is also an attraction. In autumn it is known as a great place to see autumn leaves, and you can enjoy the contrast between the white and the autumn leaves. In the garden you can hear the sound of a “shishi-odoshi” running through the garden, cutting through the serene atmosphere.


Shisen-do (Jozan-ji Temple)

Shisendo Temple & Ichijoji / Central Kyoto Area
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Erika[ Sharing Kyoto Staff ] STAFF DETAIL
I just introduced to you five temples and gardens in Kyoto that are not well known. Of course everyone wants to go to the famous sights like Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kinkaku-ji Temple, and Kiyomizu-dera Temple, but I think the real charm of Kyoto can be felt at these quiet and serene places. How about getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoying a quieter Kyoto?
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