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Kyoto - Hidden Gems & Unique Things to Do/See

Kyoto - Hidden Gems & Unique Things to Do/See

Old Aug 24th, 2018, 08:14 PM
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Kyoto - Hidden Gems & Unique Things to Do/See

We will be in Kyoto in mid-March for 5 nights and will take a day trip or two.. This will be my third trip to Japan so I have seen all the big sights. Whilst we will revisit some of my favourites, this time around I would like to see some of the out of the way, unusual or less touristy places that Kyoto itself has to offer.

On our list so far:
- Otagi Nenbutsu-ji (this will be a revisit of our favourite hidden gem from last time
- Gioji Temple
- Ryokan Kannon

Any other recommendations, blog links, ideas and suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
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Old Aug 24th, 2018, 09:07 PM
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I envy you a third visit!

Shall we assume that you've already taken full advantage of japan-guide.com? And the JNTO web-site?
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Old Aug 24th, 2018, 10:34 PM
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We’ll be in Kyoto for a week during mid November, hoping to see some Fall colors. A few things were planning though I wouldn’t call them hidden gems by any means are as follows.

Kifune-Jjinja in the town of Kibune in northern Kyoto, the shrine distinctive by its red lantern stairway.

The old street of Ishibe-Koji in the Rakuto distrIct and the Maiko district of Miyagawacho.

A return visit to Ginkakuji, mostly as an excuse to stop at a nearby popular udon restaurant and to walk the Philosophers Path down to Nanzenji, with stops along the way at Honen-in and Eikan-do.

Looking forward to a great visit and hope this helps.
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Old Aug 24th, 2018, 11:45 PM
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Toji Temple fleamarket - was 21st of each month but check if that's still the case
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2014/10/im...ket-kyoto.html

Yasui Konpira-gu Shrine (not exactly hidden but a lot of people skip it, it was one of our favourites)
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2013/02/me...of-love-2.html

Yasaka Koshin-do / Kongo-ji (see last link)

If you have time and want to get out of the city and explore rural parts of Kyoto Prefecture, Miyama is beautiful and has traditional thatched cottages, we stayed in one:
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2016/08/mi...ral-japan.html

Takoyakushi-Do (Octopus temple)
I don't have a link, but this tiny tiny temple on Higashigawacho is utterly charming, I loved learning the story of the association with octopus and it's near Nishiki so easy to visit
There are a tonne of small temples between the shops in the arcaded streets of Teramachi and its parallel and cross streets...
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Old Aug 25th, 2018, 01:32 AM
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CuriousGeo - how do you plan to get to Kifune Jinja?
Thanks Kavey - we will be adding the Toji Temple markets as we will be there on the 21st and looks like it still operates then.. Also, how did you get to Miyama? Did you have a car?
kja - yes I have read all the usual blogs and websites and there is heaps of information, just hoping for a few recommendations of unique places that others have enjoyed.. It is how we heard about Otagi-Nenbutsuji last time..
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Old Aug 25th, 2018, 10:57 AM
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It’s accessible by train, the Keihan line north to Demachiyanagi station, transfer to the Elizan Dentetsu line to Kibune Guchi, then bus to the village. About 40 minutes one way from central Kyoto. Planning on lunch in Kibune at one of the riverside restaurants. Supposed to be spectacular in the Fall, though that’s true everywhere around Kyoto.
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Old Aug 25th, 2018, 12:36 PM
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Kyoto has a number of hidden gems - I usually seek out such places since I've seen most of the rest and I want to avoid the growing ocean of people these days. There are still a lot of jewels that few people know or go to. My next visit to Kyoto will be my 8th and there are still a number of places I have not seen myself - there are just that many. A lot depends on when you are traveling though.

Two of the places you mention, the Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple and Gioji, and both in Arashiyama. The thing about Arashiyama is that it can make a fantastic day of sightseeing - but there are some places that alone may not be worth all the time and trouble to go to by themselves. Gioji from late spring through autumn is famous for its moss garden - but in winter or early spring, there is far less appeal. Jojakkoji there is another temple but especially shines in the autumn colors season. Otagi Nenbutsuji really is unique in Japan - its charm may not be so historical, but its one of the most whimsical places you'll ever see in Japan.

At any rate, some really nice gems that are not on the tourist radar ---

Murin-An


This is the former home and garden of a former prime minister at the end of the 19th century and one of the most fantastically beautiful places in the city - nearly completely empty too since it is virtually unknown to the tourist guidebook "experts" as well as Japan Guide. It's tucked away on a street corner in between Heian Shrine & the Nanzenji Temple.

Sanzenin



In the northern suburb of Ohara there is an amazing temple and garden that really gets shortchanged by so many Kyoto tourists. Still, it means fewer people to swim through and makes it even more enjoyable. It does take a bit of a long bus ride to reach though - and if you go there, I highly recommend you go in the morning - I went in the afternoon, and the bus was filled up with old timers that got off at every last bus stop along the way - it took forever. There are other sights in Ohara as well to fill up a half or full day.

Jonangu



This shrine is in Kyoto's often ignored southwest area. The shrine has a number of beautiful gardens to walk though and only draws crowds at special events like the above reenactment.

Yoshiminedera




For those who really know Kyoto, Yoshiminedera is one of the best places to see the autumn colors - as well as some beautiful hydrangea in late spring. It's also in the Arashiyama area but much farther south, and requires a 30 minute bus ride from the JR Muromachi Stn. Lots of Japanese know about it, and the number of international tourists is growing though, so you won't be alone at the peak seasons, to put it kindly.

Rurikoin



It may be hard to make a case of this being a hidden gem, when it's open only 2 times a year and there is a massive throng of people lining up to get in, but it certainly is one of Kyoto's most beautiful places for autumn colors. It's also IIRC the 2nd most expensive place in Kyoto at ¥2000 per person (the most expensive is Kokedera which is also very beautiful, but requires reservations made several weeks or months in advance and they choose the time/date).

Tofukuji



Tofukuji gets completely overlooked as it sits in the shadow of the Fushimi Inari Shrine nearby, but it too is one of the better places for autumn colors, and you should get there early in the morning before it opens at 8:30 AM if you don't want to wait in line forever to get in. It has easy access as well, sitting close to the JR Nara Line between Kyoto Stn and Fushimi Inari.

Daigoji



Daigoji is another gem that is especially beautiful (and crowded) for autumn. But as you can see, there is a good reason why. I just went there a few months ago as well as some other places, and it was well worth it. It is one of the more pricey places, but there are several distinct places to go - including the Sanpoin area with a beautiful garden (and they're very strict about taking pictures) as well as the innermost area with the pond and bridge, plus a museum building with some detailed carvings (and they are even more strict - like zero).

There are of course too many others to mention. Kibune (& Kurama) was mentioned - access info here. You can see a list of many autumn places here. Some places will have night illuminations, so you can see a lot of places if you wish.
For access to Miyama, you can read this, and it also makes a great pairing if you also go up to see Amanohashidate.
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Old Aug 25th, 2018, 02:27 PM
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Another enthusiastic vote for Sanzen-in and the other sites of Ohara!

And if you haven't already seen them, I strongly recommend the ancient temples of nearby Ikaruga, particularly Hōryū-ji and Chūgū-ji.

Also, Byōdō-in in Uji.
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Old Aug 25th, 2018, 07:36 PM
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Some great suggestions here.
We were in Kyoto this year mid-March.
At this time of year, there are night illuminations.
In the Higashiyama area, there were special night time events and large flower arrangements on display, so save some energy for after dark activities.
Check the city tourist websites for 2019 spring dates.

Top 4 mysterious night illumination events in Kyoto in autumn! | Sharing Kyoto

Last edited by kalihiwai2; Aug 25th, 2018 at 07:56 PM.
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Old Aug 25th, 2018, 11:12 PM
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Originally Posted by AussieHubbyWife View Post
Also, how did you get to Miyama? Did you have a car?
Yes we did. We love driving in Japan, the maximum speeds are very low, all drivers are very polite and considered and follow the traffic rules, sign-posting is good, it's very relaxing.
That's our little rental car in one of the photos of the house...
We hire a car with an English-language Sat-Nav, though you can't enter addresses in English, so you need to look up the phone numbers of anywhere you want to go and enter the address that way, we didn't have any trouble with that. Even if visiting a natural wonder, we'd just google ahead of time, find a nearby grocery shop or such and use the phone number from that.
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Old Aug 27th, 2018, 01:08 PM
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If you’re lucky, the Miyako Odura (sp??) geisha performance may have just started in Kyoto. Although now that I think about it. It may be calendar month of April. I absolutely loved it. If it does happen to start earlier next year, your hotel or ryokan should be able to help you secure advance tickets.
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Old Aug 27th, 2018, 01:29 PM
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Adastra2200, thanks so much for all the effort you put into your response. I am loving some of your suggestions. One question.. I’m travelling outside of autumn in March.. are any of these suggestions just as good in March, or do you think it was the beautiful autumn colours that made the experience?
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Old Aug 27th, 2018, 05:56 PM
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The Miho museum designed by IMPei in the mountains about 1 1/2 hours southeast of Kyoto is totally amazing. Perhaps the best art/culture experience of my whole adult life (which these days is a lot--of years, that is). The interplay of art, architecture and the beauty of nature is like nothing else I've ever seen. You can drive or do it by train.
The beautiful photos of the koyo on this thread made me want to go back.
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Old Aug 29th, 2018, 11:15 PM
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All these photos are gorgeous. Makes me sorry I'm not going in the fall, but I will be in Kyoto mid-May 2019. This will be my first trip to Japan and I am taking lots of notes. Thank you all.
Diane
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Old Aug 31st, 2018, 08:47 AM
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March is not bad either - although to a certain extent the browned out winter is still around in the mountains, and after the cherry blossom season things really start turning green. You can still have a wonderful experience though. Rurikoen would be very iffy - they may not open for the spring window until April, so you should check their website before going. Daigoji & Tofukuji are famous for the autumn colors, but there is no reason not to go in March.
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Old Aug 31st, 2018, 05:02 PM
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@ luvtotravel: I went to Japan in May, and was glad I did! Iris were in full bloom in Kyoto, along with azalea, and both the Aoi Festival and Kamogawa Odori are staged then -- delightful!
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Old Aug 31st, 2018, 11:07 PM
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Thank you, kja. I've been watching a lot of YouTube videos on the places we will be visiting in Japan. I just wish we had more than four days in Kyoto.
Diane
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Old Sep 6th, 2018, 08:13 PM
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.A hidden gem, and truly a unique experience is to see avant-garde Butoh dance performed at the Kyoto Butoh Kan
In May last year we saw Ima Tenko, an amazing Butoh dancer
The Butoh Kan is a small performance space set inside a storehouse built in 1862 and is dedicated to Butoh dance.
There are 2 performances a week, both on Thursday, and each performance only permits an audience of 8. That isn't a typo, just 8 in the audience.
We bought our tickets online before travelling to Japan.
Seating is on the floor however we requested and were happily given 2 stools to sit on.
After the performance tip: If you would like to have your picture taken with Ima Tenko, simply ask her

.
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Old Oct 26th, 2018, 10:51 PM
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For the reading list -

Another Kyoto by Alex Kerr (of Lost Japan fame) with Kathy Sokol -

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/07/...ores-the-pity/

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture.../#.W9QIZy1L29Y
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