Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto
Colorful maple leaves at a Kyoto temple. Photo Creative Commons License Bryan Cole.

Nestled in the mountains of Western Honshu, Kyoto has earned a worldwide reputation as Japan's most beautiful city. Kyoto is known as "the city of a thousand temples," but it actually has more - an astonishing 1,600 Buddhist temples, plus 400 Shinto shrines, a trio of palaces, and dozens of gardens and museums! Kyoto boasts more World Heritage Sites per square inch than any other city.

Kyoto was the capital of Japan and the residence of the emperor from 794 to 1868, when the capital was moved to Tokyo. Kyoto thus spent a millennium as the center of Japanese power, culture, tradition, and religion. During this time Kyoto accumulated an unparalleled collection of palaces, temples and shrines, built for emperors, shoguns, geishas and monks. And Kyoto was one of the very few Japanese cities to escape Allied bombings during World War II. There is much to see in Kyoto - start your virtual explorations of its temples and shrines below.


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Nanzenji
An important Rinzai Zen temple on the Path of Philosophy, Nanzenji has a beautiful Zen garden and extensive grounds.
Ginkakuji
Originally intended to be coated in silver, this harmonious temple ended up in simple wood. It houses an image of Kannon and includes lovely gardens.
Chionin
The head temple of Jodo (Pure Land) Buddhism, Chionin boasts the largest gate and the heaviest temple bell in Japan. It was built to represent the Pure Land on earth.
Toji
A Shingon Buddhist temple in the center of the city, Toji includes a five-story pagoda that is the tallest wooden tower in Japan.
Byodoin
Founded in 1052, this Pure Land Temple includes a rare and beautiful Pure Land garden and the famous Phoenix Hall. A World Heritage Site.
Daitokuji
This temple complex is considered one of the best places to experience Zen art, architecture and practice.
Sanjusangendo
Sanjusangendo houses 1,001 statues of Kannon in Japan's longest wooden building.
Kiyomizudera
This popular Buddhist temple offers a healing waterfall and an incredible view over the city of Kyoto from its wooden terrace.