Places to Visit in Kyoto Higashiyama Area, Where You Can Get Unforgettable Experiences Based on Japanese Culture and History!

East Kyoto Things to do in Kyoto

Introduction

East Kyoto, also known among Japanese by another name “Higashiyama District”, refers to a specific area which has several world-famous tourist attractions such as “Kiyomizu-dera Temple”. This is exactly where you can immerse yourself into Japanese culture and its long history. In this article, we will introduce must places to visit in Higashiyama, East Kyoto!

You will love Kyoto Higashima area if you want to see:

  • Historical sites
  • Japanese traditional culture
  • Popular and famous spots in Kyoto

1. Maruyama Park

Maruyama park is the oldest park in Kyoto which opened in 1886. It is most famous as a cherry blossom viewing spot, and has a huge weeping cherry tree which is loved by local people as a symbol of the park. More than 200 cherry blossom trees are beautifully illuminated at night during spring season, and some exciting events are held with a number of food stalls. There is also a pond called Hyotan Pond, and you can spend a relaxing time watching the petals from the cherry blossom trees falling and floating on water!

Maruyama Park Official Website (Japanese Only)

2. Yasaka Pagoda

Some of you might have seen a picture of the noticeable pagoda before. Yasaka Pagoda is a five-storied pagoda located in Hokanji Temple which was established in 592. The pagoda itself was destroyed by fire several times, and the current one was restored in 1440, with the support of the Muromachi Shogunate. The feudal military government of Japan in the middle ages. It is designated as a national important cultural property and welcomes tourists as a landmark in Higashiyama district. If you get too close, it is difficult to take good photos as the height of the pagoda (46-meter tall). Therefore, it is better to take photos from a distance. for example on Yasaka street with Japanese traditional houses standing along the street. 

You can get there from Gion Shijo station, and we highly recommend you visit Yasaka Shrine, another popular tourist spot, on your way from the station. It is one of the most famous shrines in Kyoto and it also known as Gion Shrine. The shrine holds an annual summer festival called “The Gion Festival” which is recognised as one of the biggest festivals in Japan.

Yasaka Temple Official Website

3. Gion Area

Gion area refers to a particular Geisha district located in Higashiyama district, known as the most famous Geisha area in Kyoto. Geisha and Maiko are professional female entertainers whose job is to entertain guests through traditional performances such as singing, dancing and playing Japanese musical instruments. They typically wear a kimono, Japanese traditional garment, and cover their face with a unique make-up called “Oshiroi”. Their remarkable appearance may look strange at first, but in the old days, the unique make-up helped them look more attractive under the candle lights in the dark room in the evening.

4. Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple is definitely one of the most popular tourist spots in Kyoto. It is a Buddhist temple established in 778, and on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites along with other world-famous historical sites in Kyoto. It takes about an hour to explore the entire precincts of the temple, and much longer when it gets packed with tourists. In spring the temple is surrounded by the many blossoming sakura trees. And in autumn, the temple finds itself in a sea of red, yellow and orange coloured leaves. The main hall was rebuilt during the Edo era, dating back about 400 years ago, which has a wooden stage standing on the steep hillside. It offers tourists a breathtaking view of Kyoto and its surroundings!

There are several ways leading to the temple, and many of them are stone-paved roads that provide an impressive atmosphere in harmony with Japanese traditional houses standing along. It is a perfect place to try some Japanese food and get some souvenir gifts for your family and friends!

Kiyomizu-dera Temple Official Website
6am – 6pm (extended opening times certain weeks in spring, summer and autumn)
Admission fee ¥400

5. Kenninji Temple

Kenninji Temple is a Zen temple located in the heart of Gion area. It was established in 1202 and has a large collection of cultural properties including a replica of “The Wind and Thunder Gods”, a national treasure painted by Tawaraya Sotatsu. It is the oldest Zen Temple in Kyoto and a well known (tourist) spot. It also has one of the most famous rock gardens in Kyoto, with an arrangement of rocks which is simple but well-designed. They offer some cultural experiences to visitors, including Zen meditation (Zazen) and Sutra copying (Hand-copying of Buddhist Sutras)! 

Kenninji Temple Official Website
10am – 5pm
Admission fee ¥500

6. Sanju-Sangendo Temple

Sanju-Sangendo is a Buddhist temple built in 1165. It is famous with its main hall which exhibits 1,001 life-sized wooden statues of Kannon, the Buddhist God of mercy. The main hall itself is also extraordinary, known as the longest wooden building in Japan and designated as a national treasure. From Kyoto station, taking a bus is the easiest and fastest way as the bus stop is located right in front of the temple.

Sanjusangendo (Japanese only)
9am – 5pm
Admission fee ¥600

7. Rental Kimono Okamoto

If you are interested in Japanese traditional outfit, why don’t you stop by a kimono rental shop to change into kimono and explore the Higashiyama district? Most places have have a large variety of kimono with different designs and colours to choose from. In summer, yukata is also available, a thinner version of the kimono that is more comfortable since the air passes through it easily! There are several options available, ranging from simply renting a kimono or yukata or complete photoshoots.

8. Rickshaw Ride in Higashiyama

Rickshaw is a small, human-powered vehicle which was once widely used as a way of transportation in Japan. It is still seen and used in many tourist destinations in Japan, and it is a popular activity. You can enjoy a personal guided trip by an energetic puller while feeling fresh air and listening to the facts puller telling you about the local area. It is the best option if you prefer not to walk around on your own or use the public transportation packed with passengers! Please remember that they can usually carry up to two passengers at a time and there are some areas where they can’t enter with a rickshaw.

Read more about the Rickshaw Ride experience!

Don’t forget to check out our private tour!

If you need some help to organize your trip to Kyoto, you should definitely check out our private tour including English guide. We will happily help you make your trip to Kyoto a safe, comfortable, and unforgettable memory!

  1. Gion Walking and Meeting Maiko Tour
    Explore the biggest Maiko & Geiko district and see their professional performance while having tasty Macha! 
  2. Small Group Kyoto Highlight Walking Tour (East)
    Visit the popular tourist attractions in the east part of Kyoto with our friendly guide.
  3. Kyoto Rickshaw Ride (Arashiyama/ Higashiyama)
    Experience a comfortable & exiting rickshaw ride in Higashiyama!

Where to stay in Higashiyama?

  • Kyoto Granbell Hotel
    2minutes walk from Gion Shijo Subway Station, this hotel is a beautiful mix of new and old, western and traditional Japanese style
  • Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto
    Great location, they have a beautiful garden and pond, allows you to relax at the spa and pool with sophisticated atmosphere
  • Luxury Hotel SOWAKA
    Beautiful designed hotel which renovated traditional Japanese old house into comfortable modern style Ryokan located in Higashiyama

Conclusion

East Kyoto is somewhere tourists can directly feel and experience Japanese culture and history. Each tourist spot there has respective characteristics, and worth visiting several times. Find your favorite ones and make the most of your time staying in Japan!

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Happy travelling!


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