Ukyo-ku Walking Tour (Self Guided), Kyoto

Ukyo-ku is one of the eleven wards of Kyoto and it comprises the northwestern corner of the city. This area contains a large number of important religious complexes, some of them listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The most famous attractions of Ukyo-ku in Kyoto are selected and described in the next walking tour. So check it out and enjoy your Kyoto adventure.
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Ukyo-ku Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Ukyo-ku Walking Tour
Guide Location: Japan » Kyoto (See other walking tours in Kyoto)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 8.7 Km or 5.4 Miles
Author: emma
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple
  • Nison-in Temple
  • Tenryu-ji Temple
  • Kurumazaki Jinja
  • Koryu-ji Temple
  • Ninna-ji Temple
  • Ryoan-ji Temple
Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple

1) Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple (must see)

The Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple is a temple dedicated to the souls of the dead who were brought and left at the site for thousands of years. It is a Buddhist temple and the presiding deity is the Amida Buddha.

The Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple was established by Kobo Daishi popularly known as Kukai in 811. Founder of the Japanese sect Jodo Shu, Honen, expanded the building and the present temple hall dates back to 1712. Bodies of unknown people were brought here and left to the elements. From the Haien period to the Edo Period, it became a burial ground and stone Buddhas or small pagodas were placed on the graves as tombstones.

The Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple is located on top of a small hill. A beautiful green path flanked by bamboo groves and hedges leads to the temple. In front of the temple are over 8000 stone Buddhas and many stone pagodas. The temple has a large statue of Amida Buddha in its main hall. The statue was carved by the sculptor Tankei in the Kamakura style. The Buddhist ceremony called Sento-kuyo is observed on August 23rd and 24th here and over a thousand candles are lit near the Buddha statues in honor of the spirits of the dead.

Why You Should Visit:
Gorgeous scenery including an own bamboo grove; 1200-year-old history; less crowded.

Please note that pictures are prohibited in the inner graveyard as it is a sacred place.
Walk back down the hill on the Kyoto Trail through the historic district to complete the experience.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-4:30pm (Mar-Nov); 9am-3:30pm (Dec-Feb)
Nison-in Temple

2) Nison-in Temple

The Nison-in Temple is managed by the Tendai sect of Buddhism. Two revered statues are placed in the temple. Both the statues have been designated as Important Cultural Properties and are from the Haien era in Kyoto.

The Nison-in Temple was founded in the 9th century on the site of the house of Fujiwara no Teika, a poet who compiled an anthology of One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets. The name of the temple is derived from the two statues of Buddha that it houses. The meaning of Nison is Two Revered Images. The Shaka Nyorai image is the Buddha that looks after humans during their life and the Amida Nyorai that looks after humans in their afterlife.

Most of the original buildings were destroyed during the Onin War. The main hall was reconstructed in 1521. The interiors have some fine examples of Fusuma, the Japanese carved wood panels. The temple has a large sloping cemetery with graves of members of the Imperial family, emperors and noble men and women. On the fourth Sunday of the month of May a traditional literary card game is played by costumed women at the Nison-in Temple. It is also a famous location for Maple tree viewing during the Momiji season when the leaves change color.
Tenryu-ji Temple

3) Tenryu-ji Temple

Tenryu-ji Temple is one of the five great Zen Buddhist temples in Kyoto. It is managed by the Rinzai School of Buddhism and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

Tenryu-ji Temple was built by the Shogun, Ashikaga Takauji in 1339. He dedicated the temple to the Emperor Go- Daigo. Most of the temple buildings were destroyed by fire and others suffered extensive damage during the Onin war. The present buildings date back to early 20th century. The only surviving feature of the original temple is the pond and gardens designed by well known landscape designer, Muso Soseki.

The Tenryu-ji Temple has many unique features compared to other Zen temples. While most Zen temples are built facing the south, the building faces east. The two gates, the Chokushi Gate and the Middle Gate guard the eastern part of the temple. The Chokushi Gate is the oldest structure in the complex. The path from the gate leads west to the main hall and the sub temples are located on either side of the path. The Main Hall has an image of Gautama Buddha and two guardians and the ceiling has a painting of a dragon by artist, Suzuki Shonen. It is also the last resting place of Emperors Go-Saiga and Kageyama.
Kurumazaki Jinja

4) Kurumazaki Jinja

Kurumazaki Shrine is a nice religious spot located in the Arashiyama Area of the Ukyo district of Kyoto. In English, the name of the shrine would be translated as "Stop Car Shrine" as there is a legend that one day the Emperor's carriage stopped suddenly in front of this place and wouldn't go any further. The Shrine is dedicated to a Confucian scholar, usually regarded as a deity of commerce and learning.
Koryu-ji Temple

5) Koryu-ji Temple

The Koryu-ji Temple in Kyoto is managed by the Shingon Sect of Buddhism. It is the oldest temple in the city.

The Koryu-ji Temple dates back to 603. It was built by Hata no Kawakatsu who was given a Buddha statue by the Prince Shotoku. It was built to commemorate the death of Prince Shotoku. It is mentioned as an imperial temple patronized by the Imperial family in the book, The Emperor Horikawa Diary. In 818 and 1150, many of the temple buildings were burned down by fires. It has been rebuilt several times.

The Koryu-ji Temple has many important statues of cultural importance. There are statues of the Buddha and Prince Shotoku. The treasure at the temple is a carved wooden depiction of the Bodhisattva Maitreya or Miroku Bosatsu sitting in a half lotus position deep in meditation. The statue is said to have been carved in Korea. The Lecture Hall in the complex dates back to 1165. It has been designated as a National Treasure by the Japanese government. Traditionally, a bull festival called the Ushi Matsuri, which is now suspended, was hosted annually by the temple in mid October. Like other temples in Kyoto, the Koryu ji temple is also surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Ninna-ji Temple

6) Ninna-ji Temple (must see)

The Ninna-ji Temple is a temple complex with beautiful gardens and fascinating buildings managed by the Omuro School of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

The Ninna-ji Temple was built by Emperor Udo in 888 who later became its first Abbott. After him, all Abbotts of the temple from 888 to 1869 were sons of the reigning Emperor and the temple received immense imperial patronage. The original structure was burned by fires and damaged during the Onin War. Most of the present buildings date back to the 17th century. The entire complex was carefully restored in the early 20th century.

The Ninna-ji Temple complex has many grand buildings suitable for its Abbotts who came from the Imperial family. Visitors pass through an impressive and imposing gate to reach the temple. The complex has a five-storied pagoda, tea houses, a bell tower, and expansive gardens. The Omuro-Gosho, a palatial building located at the southwest of the complex is said to be the site of the temple built by Emperor Udo. The garden has a small grove of late-blooming miniature cherry trees called the Omuro cherry trees that bloom in the middle of April at the end of Kyoto’s Cherry Blossom season.

Why You Should Visit:
This is a very large complex with not only a five-storied pagoda but 6 or 8 buildings, each one more spectacular than the last!
Very peaceful and allows you to enjoy the atmosphere without people hitting you with their selfie sticks.

Take the time to go see the Goten palace in the southwest corner. You take your shoes off, relax on the wooden floors, and are allowed to walk around some of the connected buildings.
If you find yourself missing the 'normal' blossoms in April, try this place because you might just luck out.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm (Mar-Nov); 9am-4:30pm (Dec-Feb); admission ends 30min before closing time
Ryoan-ji Temple

7) Ryoan-ji Temple (must see)

Ryoan-ji is a well-known temple in Kyoto managed by the Myoshin-ji School of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism. The temple's Zen garden is world famous and is a declared Historic Monument of Ancient Kyoto and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ryoan-ji was built on the site of a mansion belonging to the Hosokawa branch of the Fujiwara family. Hosokawa Katsumoto inherited the property. He died fighting during the Ōnin War. Under his will, the property was to be converted into a Zen Buddhist temple. The present buildings and gardens were the results of restorations after the Ōnin civil war.

Notable features in the Ryoan-ji Temple are its famous Zen garden consisting of 15 moss-covered rocks placed amidst a raked gravel yard. The unique feature is that one can see only 14 rocks at a time. It is believed that only when one attains Nirvana can one see the 15th rock. There is also a receptacle called the Tsukubai where water for purification is placed. One needs to bend in humility to reach the water. The guiding philosophy of Zen Buddhism, ‘What one has is all one needs’, are the words carved on the Tsukubai. The meditation hall has a verandah with a view of the Zen garden. The entire complex covers 120 acres of land with a pond and two islands, one of which has a small shrine dedicated to the Shinto Goddess of good luck, Benten. A restaurant serving the traditional Kyoto delicacy, Yudofu or boiled Tofu is located near the pond.

Why You Should Visit:
The gardens are large and centered around a pond, with many strolling paths you can wander down as you take in the gorgeous surroundings.
The rock garden is within the temple and there is a fee for this section – fairly small, but well worth it to sit on the long ledge and ponder life.

Come as early as possible and you will have the best experience.
Reading a bit about Japanese landscape gardens and Zen aesthetics before the visit will be great.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-5pm (Mar-Nov); 8:30am-4:30pm (Dec-Feb)

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