Kyoto is my favorite walking ground in Japan. My mom brought me to Kyoto to enjoy and appreciate the traditional town, arts and handcrafts, when I was a kid. She traveled as free as a bird and I learned a lot from her about how to travel with kids. Of course, my junior high school trip’s destination was Kyoto as a typical Japanese student. Over 10 times, I have visited Kiyomizu-dera Temple, Ginkakuji and Kinkakuji, but still I can enjoy seeing them in different seasons and weather.
Kyoto is fairly compact city, making walking one of the best options to find unique cafes, local shops and traditional handcrafts stores in Kyoto. Kyoto has a good balance to enjoy city life and to experience old traditions. My friend living in Osaka, the second biggest city in Japan near Kyoto, said he comes to Kyoto often for shopping or drinking with friends, because unique and stylish shops are located there. I’m sure I will never get bored of traveling to Kyoto.
Once I had a bad experience to travel in Kyoto with my friend from abroad. I wanted to show her how Japanese traditions were great, so I took her around by taxi to visit several famous temples in Kyoto, wearing Kimono and we had a gorgeous Japanese dinner at a high-class Japanese restaurant. I was not sure how much she could distinguish between the several temples and remember where we had visited.
If I have the second chance to take her there again, I would like to take her to much calmer areas in Kyoto on foot and to visit a few temples and eat at casual dining places. This time, my purpose was to discover a new walking route and modern architectures in Kyoto.
Getting Around Kyoto
I started to walk around Kyoto city from Kyoto Station and visited Higashi Honganji Temple, Shosei En and Sanjusangen-do, in order to walk the eastern part of Kyoto. It took two hours including sightseeing. Using this route, you can see old Machiya (traditional merchant’s houses) and enjoy Kamogawa and Takase riversides.
Higashi Honganji Temple
Higashi Honganji Temple is the head of Jodo Shinshu Otani group and has a huge site with several buildings, including Goei-do and Amida-do dating back to 1602. I usually meet up with my friends and family here, rather than at Kyoto Station, because it is a much calmer and quieter space with less people. Starting from Higashi Honganji Temple, Shousei-en was on the way to the Kamogawa River.
One of the superior priests of Higashi Honganji retired and built Shousei-en in 1635 near Higashi Honganji. It took about 10 mins to walk from Higashi Honganji to Shousei-en. The main buildings, such as Shukuen-tei, a tea house and Kaito-ro, a Chinese corridor-style Bridge, were rebuilt in the 19th and 20th centuries, but these buildings and gardens are still astonishing to see.
After visiting Shosei-en Garden, you can walk to Sanjusangen-do along Takase River on foot in 20 mins. Sanjusangen-do is my most favorite temple in Kyoto. Everytime when I visit Kyoto, I can not resist visiting here. There are about 1,000 Kannon statues, all the same size as humans. Each of them has a different facial expression and atmosphere. If you do Archery, this temple does Toshiya, a long-range Japanese Archery event, in every mid-January.
Kamogawa Riverside walk
Kamogawa River has wide sidewalks and the water is clean enough to walk along. Joggers, cyclists, locals and tourists can spend a relaxing time there. It was refreshing to enjoy time near the Kamogawa River after walking among crowds of people at famous temples and busy areas.
Modern Architecture in Kyoto
I skipped to visit old temples near Kamogawa River and went to several modern buildings and structures this time. Kyoto is a mecca for architecture lovers. During the transition from Edo era to Meiji era, Western Europe had a huge influence on our culture, lifestyle and architecture. In Kyoto, you can visit several historical modern examples of architecture and come to understand the life of the Modern era, from the 19th and 20th centuries in Kyoto. Doushisha University, Chorakukan and Kyoto National Museum are great examples of modern architecture in Kyoto.
Walking around Lake Biwa Canal
Lake Biwa Canal near Keage Station Tozai Line was one of my favorite areas to see architecture of the Modern era in Kyoto. Lake Biwa Canal is located in the eastern part of Kyoto. Old facilities and Incline are kept from that time and everyone can walk around there. It is particularly popular to visit in spring time to see Cherry Blossom.
I had visited the Lake Biwa Canal area in early spring, summer and at the beginning of autumn and I always climbed up to the end of Keage Incline to see Kyoto’s town. Each time, I could enjoy the trees and nature. It was a great pleasure to walk along the incline as it meant escaping from the crowded center of Kyoto city. I preferred to go down from the top of the inline to Lake Biwa Canal to see the water of the Canal. Kansai Electric Power’s Keage Power Station near the Lake Biwa Canal is also an example of modern architecture. The operation started from 1891 and it is still working today.
There were some locals fishing Ayu, sweetfish, with relaxing atmosphere at Lake Biwa Canal. The area was surrounded by beautiful nature and there were no high buildings. I usually go there in the early evening after visiting old temples which close around 4 or 5pm. When we stayed at Azukiya Inn near Lake Biwa Canal, we came here for a morning walk. You can walk through the Tetsugaku no Michi, Philoshpher’s walk, from Ginkakuji Temple to Lake Biwa Canal. This route is also my recommended walking path in Kyoto.
Former Main Building of Kyoto’s Prefectural office
I also visited the Former Main Building of Kyoto’s Prefectural office, near Kyoto Gosho, to enjoy modern architecture in Kyoto. At the Former Main Building of Kyoto’s Prefectural office, I could take photos with various lights and shades. It was a great photo spot to take modern architecture in Japan. Opening hours are 10am to 5pm from Tuesday to Friday and my recommended time to visit is early evening.