A Day in Kyoto’s Temples & Shrines


Visited April 2011

Did you know that a shrine and a temple is different?

Signs that you are at a Shinto Shrine:

  • You always enter a Shinto shrine through a torii gate.
  • Shinto shrines use the suffix  jingu.
  • A pair of guardian dogs or lions, called shisa or komainu, often sit on each side of the entrance to a Shinto Shrine
  • There is a purification fountain near the entrance to a Shinto shrine where you cleanse your mouth and hands before prayer.

Signs that you are at a Buddhist Temple:

  • Buddhist temples use the suffix ji in their name.
  • A Buddhist temple always houses an image of the Buddha.
  • A large incense burner is usually that the front of a temple.  The smoke created by the burning of incense is said to have healing properties.
  • There is often a pagoda on the premises of a Buddhist temple

Taken from : The Nihon Sun

Day 5: Kyoto
Our last 3 days saw us move on to Kyoto, where we stayed at Ikoi no Ie, a traditional type of hotel where we get to sleep on a tatami! While we welcomed to novelty, the hotel was unfortunately a little too far away from the train station. Sometimes, we wondered if we were lost. Thankfully we finally managed to locate it, and were welcomed warmly by Japanese who could speak English pretty well!01 HotelStarting our temple hopping tour, we took either the bus 5, 17 or 100 to Ginkakuji from Kyoto Station. The bus ride however, was an eye-opener to us.

  1. The bus driver will always turn the engine off when waiting at the traffic lights, bus stops, or when going downhill.
  2. Passengers had to board from the back door, and people do squeeze themselves like sardines in order to board.
  3. People will always give up their seats to the elderly, no matter how crowded it is.

Point 2 was pretty overwhelming for us, so much so that the bus started to get really warm, even though it was early Spring. Nonetheless, this was their culture, and I am glad to be able to experience it. Plus, the squeeze was worth it because in the end, we were rewarded with cherry blossoms in full bloom. This was unlike the earlier cities we had been to, as the flowers there only just started to bloom.02 Philosophers PathAs a result, I got really excited, especially when we arrived at the Philosopher’s Path, because the trees were simply lovely!

Our first temple was Ginkakuji, the Silver Pavilion, and I really love the dry sand garden. It exudes Zen and peace just looking at it.03 GinkakujiThe next temple was Heian Shrine, dedicated to the spirits of the first and last emperors who reigned from the city, Emperor Kammu (737-806) and Emperor Komei (1831-1867). Here, we encountered a different type of sakura, the weeping cherry tree, which intrigued me greatly.04 HeianAs we looked for the temples mainly on foot, we got lost halfway during our journal, and could only visit one last shrine for the afternoon. Nanzenji Temple was our final destination before we stopped for a really late lunch. At the temple, I got to enjoy the Hojo Rock Garden, as well as the aqueduct.05 NanzenjiDuring our ‘lost’ walks, we came across a beautiful sight of an abandoned railway track, lined with cherry trees. After some research, I found out that it is called the Biwako Incline.  It was constructed during the Meiji Period to transport water, freight, and passengers from Lake Biwa to the nearby City of Kyoto. With the development of the railway and road, the means of using water for transportation stopped by the 1940s. The structure however has been preserved, and it is now a tourist attraction during Spring.06 BiwakoAfter our dinner break, we made our way to Kiyomizudera, for a night shot of the temple and end our events for the day. Taking bus 100 from Kyoto Station, we alighted at Kiyomizu-michi bus stop and spent the next 10-15 minutes climbing uphill to the temple.07 KiyomizuCredits to my partner for photos of the night scene of Kiyomizudera.


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