The Beauty of Kyoto, Japan

It was obvious from our first day in Kyoto that the city was full of beauty.  But as we explored the famous temples, shrines and castles, we understood why Kyoto is known as the heart of Japan’s cultural center: the beauty was beyond anything I imagined.

Nijo Castle in Kyoto, Japan.

Nijo Castle :: Built in 1626, Nijo Castle was the residence of Tokugawa Shoguns.  Two moats surround the castle grounds, which contain several other buildings and an expansive garden space.  Unfortunately, much of the exterior of the castle was under construction during our visit (and therefore hidden from view), but we were able to tour the interior of Ninomaru Palace with its beautiful wood carvings and wall paintings.  The wood floors of the palace were designed to squeak as a warning if intruders were inside (known as “nightingale floors“).  So cool!

Ninomaru Palace, inside the Nijo Castle grounds.
Honmaru Palace, inside the Nijo Castle grounds, in the rain.
The gardens surrounding Nijo Castle.
One of Nijo Castle’s two moats.

Kinkakuji Temple :: Translated as “The Golden Pavilion,” Kinkakuji Temple was at the top of my list of sites to see in Kyoto.  It will remain one of the most breathtaking places I have ever seen.  The Buddhist temple was originally built as a villa in 1397 and later converted to a temple.  Like much of Japan’s famous sites, it was burned down and rebuilt several times, most recently in 1955.

Kinkakuji Temple, stunningly beautiful.
Posing (for Father’s Day!) in front of Kinkakuji Temple.

Yasaka Shrine ::  Located in the heart of Gion, Kyoto’s geisha district, Yasaka Shrine was built in 656.  Beyond the Shinto shrine was Maru Yama Park, full of lush greenery.  It was a peaceful escape after the crowds of bustling tourists at Kinkakuji Temple.

The entrance to Yasaka Shrine in Gion, Kyoto.
Details of Yasaka Shrine.
Maru Yama Park in Gion, Kyoto.

Ginkakuji Temple ::  The Temple of the Silver Pavilion, or Ginkakuji Temple, is modeled after Kinkakuji Temple in design (complete with a rooster perched on top) and built in 1482.  Original plans were to cover the temple in silver foil (hence the name), but that was never completed.  The grounds around Ginkakuji, which is located high in the Sakyo Ward of Kyoto, are filled with lush forests.  The moss-covered hills and dense forests, including hundreds of bamboo trees, were my favorite part.

Ginkakuji Temple in Kyoto.
Exploring the forests surrounding Ginkakuji Temple.
Forests of Ginkakuji Temple.

Kyoto was truly enchanting.  Its beauty, peacefulness and history make the city a place my dreams will forever be made of.

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