The Higashiyama District

Located in the eastern side of Kyoto is the Higashiyama District, and is one of the city’s best-preserved historic districts, when walking through the narrow streets they give you a perspective of traditional old Kyoto. There is just loads to see and to do here you can easily spend the entire day within this district. 

The narrow streets between the Kiyomizudera Temple and Yasaka Shrine certainly give you a traditional feel of old Kyoto, with the combination of the lovely wooden buildings and traditional merchant shops creating a feel of the old capital city. Interestedly, the streets have been renovated to remove telephone poles and re-paved to help improve the traditional feel of the district.  Amazingly even the local Starbucks had a traditional feel to it, which it famous for! When walking through the district the streets are lined with traditionally designed small shops, cafes and restaurants which have been catering for tourists and pilgrims for centuries.

Higashiyama District Streets

It was our first day of one of our trips to Kyoto when we visited Higashiyama and again once we had dropped off our bags at the hotel we walked about 25mins to the district with our first stop being the Kiyomizudera Temple… Alternatively you can take the bus From Kyoto Station in the direction of Kiyomizudera the Higashiyama District can be accessed from a multiple of bus stops between Gojozaka (10mins) and Gion (15mins). Alternately the district can be reached by train from Kawaramachi Station to Kiyomizu-Gojo or Gion-Shijo Stations via the Keihan Line, which takes 10 to 15 minutes. 

Kiyomizudera Temple Entrance City View

After Kiyomizudera we walked back through the busy narrow streets of Higashiyama it was only a 15mins walk to our next stop, which was another very nice temple, Kodaiji. This Zen Buddhism temple was established in 1606, its main building is lavish in style for the era it was constructed, making it quite eye catching. 

Kodaiji Temple Garden_1

Kodaiji Temple Garden_2

The garden also has a tea house and a bamboo grove on the return path. When walking in the garden you are naturally guided in a certain direction to walk the paths through the garden, which is designed so you see each part of the garden. There is a small fee to enter the Temple and its ground ranging from 600 yen (approx. £4.30) to 900 yen (approx. £6.40) depending on what you want to see...but certainly well worth it. 

Kodaiji Temple Garden_4

After exiting the Kodaiji temple and its gardens there are a series of steps, called the Nene’s Path, which lead back to the narrow streets. On these steps we were fortunate to see a small group of Geisha or Geiko in the Kyoto dialect, a nearby area of Gion is famous for Geisha.  (They were very photographic) 

Geisha Girls

The steps lead to a recently redeveloped area of streets which again maintaining their traditional feel, with shops and cafes. Also, along this street is the Kodaiji Sho Museum which we visited, as part of our ticket for the Kogaiji Temple and its grounds which also included entry into its small museum, which exhibits historic items and was certainly very interesting to see.

From the museum we continued walking north and passed the famous Yasaka Pagoda, which peaks above the traditional roof tops. The Pagoda is one of the most visible and recognizable landmarks of the Higashiyama District, and has been photographed many times! The Pagoda is the remnant of the Hohanji Temple. 

Otanisobyo Temple Grounds_1
Otanisobyo Temple Grounds_2

Maruyama Park Red Pine

The Maruyama Park is public and free to enter and walk around, which has a nice pond area surrounded in acer’s, large pines and cherry trees, although we were there in the autumn the park is popular for its cherry blossom or Sakura, with many people gathering to view the blossom or Hanami in the spring.  There was also a spectacular Red Pine. 

After walking around and through the park we then visited the nearby Chinon Temple, which is a head temple of Japanese Buddhism for Kyoto and has large grounds and buildings surrounding it, but almost more impressive is the massive Sanmon Gate, which is the main entrance to the temple. The gate is alongside the road near the Maruyama Park and stands 24 meters tall and 50 meters wide! Very impressive to say the least. INSERT PICTURE – Sanmon Gate_1,2 and Chinon Temple.

Sanmon Gate_2

Once the had got back to our hotel, after a quick freshen up, we decided to go out for an evening meal at one of the nice restaurants and treat ourselves to a few beers! 


Please find our other Kyoto articles in the 'Kyoto' section of the website.

Kiyomizudera Temple Entrance building
Kiyomizudera Temple Entrance building_2

The Kiyomizudera Temple is referred to as the “pure water temple” and is one of the most celebrated temples in the whole of Japan and is a UNESCO world heritage site. It was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall. The temple is best known for its wooden stage that extends out from the main hall, 13 meters above the hillside. We were already aware, but unfortunately when we visited the temple it was being renovated, but it still did not detract much from this superb temple. 

Kodaiji Temple

The building is surrounded on two sides by lovely and impressive gardens, one is a rock garden style with raked gravel and the other is a Tsukiyama style garden, which includes a pond, hills, rocks, beautiful pines and maples, the maples look lovely in there autumn foliage. 

Kodaiji Temple Garden_3

There is a small fee to enter the Temple and its ground ranging from 600 yen (approx. £4.30) to 900 yen (approx. £6.40) depending on what you want to see...but certainly well worth it. 

Kodaiji Temple Garden_6
Yasaka Pagoda

Continuing on we also walked through and past a few other temples one being the Otanisobyo Temple and its grounds (seen to the left), while headed to the Maruyama Park

Maruyama Park_1
Sanmon Gate_1
Chinon Temple

This day we spent in Higashiyama, was fantastic and we walked 10.2 miles and totally lost track of the time and ending our day with the setting sun, although there was more to see we had to end the day here so we could find our way back to the hotel. Bearing in mind that this particular day was our first day of this trip and so we had been awake again for approximately 36 hours!! 

Higashiyama District_1