Kinkaku-ji Temple (The Golden Pavilion)
The image of the temple richly adorned in gold leaf reflects beautifully in the water of Kyokochi, the mirror pond.
It is perhaps the most widely-recognized image of Kyoto. Seen reflected in the adjoining “mirror pond” with its small islands of rock and pine, Kinkaku-ji Temple, “The Golden Pavilion,” is a breathtaking must-see.
The building’s first purpose was to serve the retiring Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1409) as a residence. The gold-leaf-adorned building was converted into a Zen temple shortly after his death. In an event that was later fictionalized by the renowned author Yukio Mishima, a 21-year-old monk burned Kinkaku-ji Temple down in 1950. The temple was rebuilt in 1955 and continues to function as a storehouse of sacred relics.
The temple’s garden is also a scenic delight and contains in its grounds a charming teahouse.
The Togetsu-kyo Bridge has been a landmark in Western Kyoto’s Arashiyama District for over four hundred years. The wooden bridge spans the Katsura River in front of Arashiyama Mountain, offering incredible views. The spring cherry blossoms and fall colors draw large crowds, as the scenery is spectacular.
The bridge has often been used in historical films. It is also a popular place for feeding koi (carp) which live in the river, or watching cormorant fishing in the late summer. It is also the site of an important initiation for local children. Young boys and girls (the latter clad in kimono) first receive a blessing from a local temple and then make their way across the bridge under orders to do so without looking back. If one ignores this instruction, it is said to bring bad luck as a result, so the stakes are high!
Kyoto, as the capital of Japan for over 1200 years, was the kitchen of the Imperial Court. Top-ranking nobles inherited a multitude of refined cuisines, including specialties unique to Kyoto such as elegant “Kyo-kaiseki-ryori,” vegetarian-friendly “Shojin-ryori”, and “Obanzai” for everyday dining. Today, Kyoto remains the home of traditional Japanese cuisine, and there are many specialty eateries for sushi, tempura, soba, and ramen. It was the efforts of Kyoto chefs that resulted in “Washoku,” or Japanese cuisine, being recognized as an intangible heritage by UNESCO in 2013. Kyoto is also famous throughout Japan for traditional Japanese sweets, some of which are used in the Japanese tea ceremony (the tea also comes from Kyoto). Needless to say, eating in Kyoto is a rich and multifaceted experience!
There is a unique regional rule in Kyoto City which is called“Raise toasts with Nihonshu” that was passed in 2013. The purpose of this rule is to promote various traditional industries in Kyoto by using locally-produced Nihonshu (sake) when raising toasts, and in so doing contribute to Japanese culture.