Kinkakuji, or the Golden Pavilion, is a Zen Temple that is covered in real gold and was originally the residence of the retired shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. The Golden Pavilion is beautiful throughout the year, especially when the fall leaves are changing colors. Along with the actual Golden Pavilion, the surrounding grounds are quite picturesque. The GP is located on the west side of Kyoto, close to Ryoanji. The best way to get there is either by taxi or bus 101 or 205.
Ryoanji Temple is most famous for it’s Zen rock garden (below), which is the most famous in all of Japan. The rock garden consists of, yes you guessed it, rocks (and a little moss). The rocks of various sizes are arranged in a certain way and small rocks (more like pebbles) are raked to create a Zen design.
Ryoanji is most famous for the rock garden, but the temple grounds are much more picturesque, especially around the lake. Also of the 4 times I have been there has been construction work on or close to the rock garden which obviously is not a plus. Ryoanji is located in northwestern Kyoto and close to Kinkakuji and Ninnanji.
Along with cherry blossom season, fall is a great time to visit Japan. In any country, fall leaves are beautiful and make for great photos and this holds especially true with Japan. Japan’s most famous fall leaf is the Japanese Maple Tree which turns brillant red in the fall. These red leaves are reffered to as “koyo” (紅葉) in Japanese. The photo on the left was taken at The Itchiku Kubota Kimono Museum and the one on the right on the grounds of the Golden Pavilion.
There are many sites in Japanese that give more detailed information, I cannot read Japanese very well, but even so, there are some sites that are very helpful. For example rurubu.com has a map of Japan and a small color picture of a maple leaf to represent the current status of the leaves in the area. If you want to find a different site, simply go do a google search for “紅葉” followed by the year (紅葉 2006) and you will get more sites in Japanese. The photo below was taken at Kinkakuji in Kyoto.
Below is a tentative schedule for Koyo in Japan for Fuji Five Lakes, Hokkaido, Hakone, Kansai, Kanto, Kyoto, Kyushu, Nikko, Shikoku, Tohoku and Tokyo; however, depending on the weather, these dates tend to change from year to year. The bulleted list below are places I have been to and personally recommend for the fall season.
Where to start…Well, let’s just say if you are a photographer in Japan and you do not go to Kyoto, you should really consider giving up photography. Seriously, Kyoto and the surrounding areas like Arashiyama and Nara are so spectacular that there is no excuse not to find a way to get to Kyoto. As of Spring of 2006 I have been to Kyoto 5 times, going atleast once ever season of the year. The two best times to go are, cherry blossom season and during the fall.
Kyoto is the old capital of Japan is said to have more than 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines. Also Kyoto’s district Gion, is the only place in Japan where you can regularly see real geisha or maiko (and no they are not prostitutes).
There are many famous places and most of which I will encourage you to go to, but sometimes it is a good idea to go off the beaten path and find your own little treasure in Kyoto.
Here are some of the famous places you should consider going:
- Nanzenji (My personal favorite)
- Kinkakuji (Golden Pavillion)
- Ginkakuji (Silver Pavillion)
- Ryoan-ji (Most famous rock garden of all of Japan)
- Kiyomizudera (One of the most famous temples in Japan and a good view of Kyoto)
- Tetsugaku no michi (Philosopher’s Path)
- Kokedera (Moss Garden Temple–3000 yen and reservation required to enter!)
- Ninnanji (A very diverse UNESCO World Heritage Site close to Ryoanji)
- Fushimi Shrine (Shinto Shrine with thousands of tori gates)
Here are some Links you may find useful about Kyoto:
- Kyoto’s Visitor’s Guide–Online version of the monthly publication.
- Kyoto Event Web Magazine–Provides information about festivals and events.
- K’s Hostel–The best hostel in Kyoto.
- Japan-Guide.com–A lot of really good information
- Kyoto Prefecture Travel Guide–Official site of Kyoto Prefecture with travel information