Kyoto may seem like a well-explored destination, but trust me, there’s so much more to see than just its tourist hotspots. It’s enigmatic charm resides in the quaint alleys and hidden corners, waiting to be discovered. In this blog, I seek to take you on a journey of Kyoto’s offbeat temples, shrines, food culture, streets, and cultural heritage.
Forget everything you know about Kyoto, because this blog aims to give you an insider’s perspective. From exploring the lesser-known temples to unveiling Kyoto’s heritage, you’ll find some amazing things to discover. So whether you’re a foodie, culture buff, or seeking adventure, tag along for an unforgettable ride. Ready to unfold the secrets of Kyoto? Let’s get started!
Unraveling the Lesser Known Temples
Welcome to Kyoto, Japan’s cultural capital that boasts of a glorious 1000-year-old history. The ancient architecture, stunning temples, beautifully landscaped gardens, and delicious food make Kyoto a must-visit destination for culture enthusiasts. In this blog, we explore the hidden gems of Kyoto that are offbeat yet equally appealing.
Unraveling the Lesser Known Temples
Kyoto is synonymous with temples and shrines and attracts millions of tourists every year. However, some lesser-known temples in Kyoto hold their ground who command the attention of visitors who prefer to discover the less trodden paths.
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion or Kinkaku-ji is one such temple that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, flaunting a beautiful golden roof. Fushimi Inari-taisha beholds 10,000 vermilion torii gates, and each of these gates is sponsored by an individual or a company.
The Eikan-do Zenrin-ji is a hidden gem, and visitors can explore the temple’s stunning autumn maple leaves during the autumn season. Gio-ji Temple is another hidden gem with a tiny garden perfect for solo travelers looking for solace. The Ethereal Bamboo Grove in Gio-ji Temple is considered a transcendental beauty.
Kyoto’s enigmatic charm is further enhanced by the lesser-known temples and shrines that offer visitors a peaceful and serene atmosphere. If you’re looking to escape the crowds and experience Kyoto like a local, then exploring the offbeat temples and shrines is a must.
Exploring the Offbeat Shrines
Kyoto is home to numerous lively and vibrant shrines, but also has hidden gems that are offbeat and less known. Myoshin-ji Temple is a prime example of Kyoto’s hidden treasures. It’s a serene Zen temple that is quite contrary to the flamboyance of other Kyoto temples. The temple exudes an air of profound meditation, and the simplicity of wooden structures and serene pond reflect a peaceful atmosphere.
Kifune-jinja is another offbeat shrine that is perfect to explore during the monsoon season. The approach to the shrine has a romantic touch, with a river flowing on one side and shops selling wooden sandals on the other. The shrine’s elegance and tranquility is worth the hike up the stairs.
Kurama-dera Temple, nestled in the northern mountains of Kyoto, is a hidden gem. The thick forest, the panoramic view of the city, and the tranquil atmosphere of the temple make it a shopper’s stop. The cherry blossoms during springtime, coupled with the fiery red foliage, offer a picturesque view worth capturing.
Unfolding Kyoto’s Food Culture
Kyoto’s food culture is a reflection of its rich cultural heritage. Traditional cuisine in Kyoto lays emphasis on the use of seasonal ingredients and preserving their natural flavors. From succulent wagyu beef to tofu soft as silk, Kyoto has a lot to offer in terms of traditional Japanese cuisine.
To get a true taste of Kyoto’s food culture, one must try the famous local dishes like kaiseki ryori, a multi-course haute cuisine, and obanzai, home-style dishes made with fresh, local ingredients. Yudofu, a hot pot dish of boiled tofu, is a must-try for vegetarians.
Apart from the traditional cuisine, Kyoto has a variety of offbeat food places to offer. One can indulge in the experience of eating fresh ramen served inside a converted train carriage at the Kyoto Ramen Koji, or enjoy a cup of matcha latte and sesame-flavored ice cream at Tsujirihei Honten.
Kyoto’s Nishiki Market, also known as “Kyoto’s Kitchen,” encapsulates the essence of Kyoto’s food culture. The market is replete with stalls selling fresh seafood, vegetables, and traditional Japanese confectioneries.
Kyoto’s food culture is not just about the taste but also the presentation. The food is typically served in traditional Japanese pottery, adding to its aesthetic value. So, why not indulge in the food culture of Kyoto and savor the taste of Japan?
Strolling through the Quirky Streets
As you stroll through the streets of Kyoto, you realize that every path has a story to tell. From the cherry blossom-lined Philosopher’s Path to the bustling Gion district, the city is a perfect amalgamation of old and new.
Arashiyama, a picturesque district located on the outskirts of Kyoto close to the mountains, is a hidden gem with timeless appeal. Take a walk across the iconic Togetsukyo Bridge or witness the stunning sights of the bamboo groves. The Arashiyama Monkey Park offers a unique experience of interacting with monkeys while overlooking the city’s breathtaking view.
Gion, famous for its traditional geisha culture, comprises narrow alleys lined with traditional teahouses and shops selling souvenirs and antiques. Take a leisurely walk around the preserved district to check out the well-manicured gardens and the Yasaka Shrine, dating back to the 7th century.
Leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind as you walk through the Philosopher’s Path, surrounded by lush greenery. This serene pathway follows the Lake Biwa Canal, allowing you to admire the cherry blossoms in spring, the fireflies at night and the crimson leaves during autumn.
Kyoto has so much to offer that one can spend days exploring the city’s streets, reliving the legacy of Japanese culture.
Unveiling Kyoto’s Cultural Heritage
Kyoto is a city that is deeply steeped in its cultural heritage. The city has a rich history, and it comes as no surprise that the locals are deeply proud of their tradition.
Kyoto’s Performing Arts are an integral part of its cultural heritage. You can witness performances of Kyogen, a classical Japanese theatre form originating from the Edo period, or marvel at the evocative movements in “Kabuki”, the century-old dance and drama form that’s indigenous to Japan.
Kyoto’s Textile Heritage is also an essential aspect of the city’s cultural heritage. The city is renowned for its traditional kimono-making, and you can visit places like the Nishijin Textile Centre to see the intricate process of creating the fabric.
Kyoto’s Pottery Tradition is yet another facet of the city’s rich heritage. The city is known for its unique style of pottery known as Kyoto ware, and you can witness pottery-making at places like the Shimizu Kiln.
The city’s cultural heritage is deeply ingrained in its local life and can be seen in several aspects of Kyoto’s life and architecture. From temples to tea ceremonies, Kyoto’s cultural heritage is always present, and experiencing it is a must-do for anyone visiting the city.
Kyoto, being a perfect blend of traditional and modern charm, has something for everyone. The lesser-known temples surpassing the popularity of the most trendy ones, exploring the offbeat shrines, savouring the delectable food, walking through the quirky streets and unveiling the cultural heritage is undoubtedly a remarkable experience.
Don’t forget to admire the traditional performing arts and handicrafts of the city. Kyoto undoubtedly is a city that offers endless exploration and wonder. Make sure you get lost in the alleys, smile at the locals, and have an open mind while exploring this enigmatic city. Happy travelling!