Jun. 04, 2021 UPDATE
Exploring Kyoto in autumn!
Part 3

Itinerary for autumn leaves in eastern Kyoto around Kiyomizu Temple

Autumn leaves in Kyoto for many people means a visit to Kiyomizu Temple. For this reason the temple gets even more crowded than usual around this time, but many people don’t know that the temple actually opens its doors at 6 a.m. so if you are early you can see the temple without having to worry about the crowds.
kiyomizu temple
9 am: Begin your day at Kiyomizu Temple
Kiyomizu Temple is a place you should visit as early as possible, and we think that 9 a.m. is the perfect time to aim for. Of course, if you’re feeling active, nothing is stopping you from going to the temple even earlier!

The famous Kiyomizu Temple “fetal experience” also starts at 9 a.m. making this the perfect time. In the experience you walk around the completely dark Zuikudo Hall while feeling a Sanskrit character in the middle with your hands. The autumn leaves of Kiyomizu Temple will surely look even more vivid after you come out from the darkness of the Zuikudo Hall.
11 am: Head for the Ninen and Sannen slopes
The historic slopes of Ninen and Sannen are beautiful any time of the year, but especially in autumn with the red of the leaves matching beautifully with the stone paved paths. Just beware of falling down here; it’s said that if you fall down Ninen-zaka you’ll have bad luck for two years, and at Sannen-saka it’s three years.

These slopes are not only pretty to look at, but there are also many interesting shops around them selling all kinds of souvenirs. There’s even a Starbucks that’s located in a 100-year old Kyoto town house! This Starbucks even has tatami seating. Note that it’s so popular that it might be hard to get inside as you’re not allowed to line in front of the café, but at 11 a.m. you should stand a chance.

If you want to buy some very nice matcha cookies, you could consider getting some at Malebranche. While their cookies and chocolate are not cheap, the quality is well worth it.
Toh no Shita
12 noon: Healthy lunch at Toh no Shita
When looking for places to eat around Kiyomizu Temple, one nice place is the café Toh no Shita. This café offers healthy food that is sugar free contains no oil. The café is also very close to Yasaka Pagoda so you can see the pagoda first and then head for the café.
One nice thing about this place is that they also offer really good Finnish pancakes. It’s not that often that you see Finnish pancakes outside of Finland, and they are very good at Toh no Shita. You can even choose your own teacup if you visit the café after the busy lunch time.
1:30 pm: Kodai-ji Temple and bamboo grove
Kodai-ji Temple is a temple built to commemorate Toyotomi Hideyoshi by his wife Nene. This is also why the stone paved path in front of the stairs leading to the temple is known as Nene’s Path.

The temple area is really big and continues up the mountain, where you can even find a little bamboo grove. So without going to Arashiyama you get to see both autumn leaves and a bamboo grove, isn’t that nice.
3 pm: Have a break at Rakusho
Rakusho is a traditional Japanese café close to Kodai-ji Temple that is famous for its warabi-mochi rice cakes. These rice cakes are topped with a copious amount of kinako, roasted soy bean flour, and eaten fresh at the spot. Kyoto is famous for its tea houses, and Rakusho is a great place to enjoy this ancient culture of this ancient capital of Japan.
And this is the main attraction here at Rakusho: their warabi-mochi. The mochi is soft, a bit sticky, and sweet. It’s the perfect thing to have with matcha green tea if you want to have the full Kyoto-experience. The tea house also has a garden in the back, so you can gaze at the beautiful garden while you sip your matcha and think of the wabi and sabi of it all.
Maruyama Park
4 pm: Head to Yasaka Shrine and Maruyama Park
While Yasaka Shrine may not be as famous for its autumn leaves as it’s for its cherry blossoms, the temple is still very beautiful during the autumn leaves season, especially the path behind the main hall leading to Maruyama Park.

And what’s best about the shrine is not the shrine itself, but the park: Maruyama Park is almost breathtaking in autumn. And what’s even better, it’s not as crowded as it is during the cherry blossom season.
6 pm: Chion-in at night or dinner at Negiya-Heikichi
If you are still feeling like you have it in you for another temple visit, the close by Chion-in Temple is also open at night during the autumn leaves season.

Or you could also consider heading for Negiya-Heikichi in Ponto-cho for some dinner and call it a day temple-wise.

First, Chion-in, this temple is the head temple of the Pure Land Sect of Buddhism, and the importance of the temple is easy to know from the huge main gate which is the first thing that welcomes you to the temple.
One of the best parts of this temple has to be the beautiful Yuzenen Garden which at night is illuminated in November (remember to check the dates before going from the link below). The temple is open at night from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
But if you are already feeling a bit tired and ready for dinner, Negiya-Heikichi in Ponto-cho is a nice choice. The Ponto-cho alleyway is lined with restaurants and bars, and many of them are pretty good, like Toraya, to name one. But this time we are going to concentrate on sukiyaki, which is Negiya-Heikichi’s specialty.

Negi in Japanese means green onion, and you do get a lot of green onion with your sukiyaki. So for those who like green onion this is the place to be in Kyoto. The meat they use is wagyu beef, so the fat in it has that distinctive sweetness to it so it goes really well with green onion.

The Japanese way to eat would be to dip the beef into raw egg, but you can also put some egg to the soup if you don’t want to eat raw egg.
masuya saketen
8 pm: Drinks at Masuya Saketen
From Negiya-Heikichi it’s only a short walk to Masuya Saketen which is a sake bar par none. They have all kinds of sakes on display on their blackboard, and from there you can choose the one that you want to taste. They also have a taste chart so you can easily see if the sake you are ordering is a dry one or a sweet one or something from between.
If you went to Chion-in to see the autumn leaves at night, you may be hungry, but Masuya Saketen actually has a pretty good food menu too. They even have some Kyoto specialties like yuba, and here you have something rather special: yuba blue cheese pizza! And it’s only 500 yen.
So, this brings to an end our autumn special, and I hope you have found at least one of these itineraries to be worth a try. So, we’ll see you at the temples of Kyoto in autumn!

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