Photogenic Spots in Kyoto

May 17, 2019

By Hanami Yanagi, Saya Ishida, Tomoka Yamazaki

Recently in Japan, photogenic spots are getting a great deal of attention. Such spots are increasing dramatically. There are many attractive places in Kyoto. Therefore, we would like to introduce a few specially selected locations in Kyoto that are very good for taking photographs. Not only Japanese, but foreign tourists can come to these spots. Tourists enjoy visiting these locations, taking lots of photographs and then upload their favorite images to SNS. We chose three spots to recommend and introduce them here.

Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine

Access: 7 minutes’ walk to the east of the Inari Taisha-mae bus stop on the Minami 5 line

Right next to Inari Station on the JR Nara Line (2 stations/5 minutes from Kyoto Station) 5 minutes’ walk to the east of Fushimi-Inari Station on the Keihan Main Line

Business hours: Always open

Closed: No closing days

Admission fee: Free

Also known as “O-inari-san”, the Fushimi-inari-Taisha Shrine is very famous in Kyoto. In the 1300 years since its establishment, people have gathered here to pray for good harvests, ecomnomic prosperity, the safety of their home and the health of their family. They may pray for many other things as well, such as finding a good partner, safe travels and good scores on examinations. And Fushimi-inari-Taisha Shrine has recently become famous as a photogenic spot.  There is “Senbon-Torii” in the shrine, or a thousand toriii gates, They are painted bright vermilion.


They are placed next to each other and so form tunnels up the mountain. In the winter, snow accumulate on them, and you can take beautiful pictures that are different from the usual.  Many people enjoy taking pictures there every day, but if you want to take especially good pictures there, we recommend you to go to the shrine in the early morning.

Senbon-Torii in winter


Access: Near to the Kyoto City 5 Bus Stop ‘Nanzenji-Eikando-michi Station’ stop.

Near to Keage Station on the Tozai Subway Line. Continue on foot about 10 minutes to reach Nanzen-ji.

Business hours: 8:40~17:00 (until 16:30 from December to February)

Closed: December 28 to 31

Admission fee: Sanmon Gate and Hojo is 500 yen, Nanzenin is 300 yen, Tenju-an and Konchi-in are 400 yen each.

Nanzen-ji is one of the most famous Zen temples in Japan. Emperor Kameyama loved this beautiful place so much that in 1264 he built his detached palace here. The temple is especially beautiful in the autumn because of the many yellow and red maples trees on its grounds.


We especially recommend “suirokaku”. Suirokaku is near Nanzen-ji. It is an aqueduct that was used to carry water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto in the Meiji-era. During this age Japan was rapidly modernizing and taking in a lot of Western culture. It is said that its design is based on the ancient aqueducts of the Roman age. It is very wonderful scenery and a photogenic spot. Therefore, there are always many people there taking photos, especially in recent years.


Shouju-in Temple

Access: Near to the ‘Okuyamada station’ stop

Business hours: 9:00~16:00(November 16 to March)8:00~17:00(April to November 15)

Closed: December 26 to January 4

Admission fee:400 yen

The Shoujuin temple was founded in 1291, about 800 years ago. It is surrounded by beautiful nature and fresh green. This temple treats visitor very kindly. Therefore, you can make special memories here.  The most recommend spot within the Shouju-in temple grounds is the window called ‘Inome-mado’.


It is a heart-shaped window because it is based on the shape of a boar’s eye. Boar is an animal regarded for its ability to expel evil and avert fire hazards. Moreover, it brings happiness. Of course, you can enjoy seeing it. However, we want you to see the heart-shaped pool of light. You can see it between 3:00 to 4:00 pm. You must take a picture it. There are many more beautiful things here. For example, the roof has a beautiful picture. You can feel the artistry of Japan traditions at this temple.

“Photogenic” is buzzword and popular all over the world nowadays.  Kyoto is famous area for photogenic spots.  In fact, there are a lot of spots in Kyoto that we haven’t introduced here.  We want you to go photogenic spots in Kyoto and take good pictures!

The Beautiful Sub-temples of Nanzen-ji

By Eri Aoki and Shoko Osawa

Tenju-an and Konchi-in are sub-temples (tachu) of Nanzen-ji, one of the great Zen temples in Kyoto. This temple complex is nestled in the eastern hills of Kyoto in Sakyo ward. This city has so many famous places, such as Kiyomizu-dera, Kinkaku-ji, and Nijo Castle, that visitors seldom come to these small yet beautiful sub-temples. Many tourists visit these temples in November because of their autumnal tints.



This small sub-temple was built in 1336 as a dedication to the third Chief priest of Tofuku-ji, Daiminkokushi. Emperor Kameyama, who had converted his palace into a temple that would later be renamed Nanzen-ji received help from this priest. Tenju-an was destroyed in a a huge fire that engulfed Nanzen-ji in 1447. One-hundred and thirty years passed before it was reconstructed with the help of Daimyo Hosokawa Yusai.

After entering Tenju-an, visitors follow a geometric stone path to the east side of the main hall, which is a dry landscape garden that features two “islands” of moss and a pine tree in a sea of raked white gravel. Pines and maples trees form the backdrop of this garden and the maples are especially beautiful in the spring and autumn. Another stone path leads to the back garden, which consists of a small pond and a larger pond surrounded by maple trees. There are many carp (koi) in these ponds. The landscape style of these gardens is said to be typical of the gardens of the 14th century. Visitors cannot enter the main building, but can visit the garden.

In the back of the temple there is a small cemetery —the gravestones of many famous people including the founder of the Kyoto Shimbun (newspaper), are here.

Visitors can also see famous paintings by Touhaku Hasegawa on the fusuma sliding doors of the main hall. These paintings of pine trees were painted in 1602 in Zen ink-painting style; they have been designated as Important Cultural Properties.

Tenju-an has special night illumination from November 15th to 30th. During that time the temple will be lit up from 17:30 to 21:00. Fee: Adult 500 yen, high school student 400 yen, junior high school student 300 yen.

Tenju-an is located just south of the huge sanmon gate of Nanzen-ji.



Konchi-in, another small sub-temple of Nanzen-ji, was constructed by Yoshimochi Ashikaga in 1605.  This temple is famous for a garden that was designed by Enshu Kobori. It is called Tsurukame no niwa—“Crane and Turtle Garden.” The main garden has two facing arrangements of rocks and trees that represent a crane and turtle, which are symbols of happiness and longevity. One of the rock arrangements represents a “takarabune”, a treasure ship carrying the Seven Gods of Good Fortune in a sea of snowy white sand. The garden is gorgeous and powerful. This garden was built with the purpose of bringing happiness to visitors. On the left side of the garden is a pond that is built in the shape of the Chinese character for heart or “kokoro” (心) It has a small shrine and beautiful moss.

This temple has four buildings. The main hall was constructed in 1611 and is an Important Cultural Property. Next there is a tea-ceremony room. It is also an Important Cultural Property, and was made by Masaichi Kohori. Another important building that is located on a hill behind the garden is Tosho-gu, which was built to follow the instructions of Ieyasu Tokugawa’s last words.

Konchi-in is located on the south side of the street leading up to the main gate of the entrance to Nanzen-ji.


Our thoughts

After we went Tenju-an and Konchi-in, we felt really proud of Japanese culture and tradition. Before going, we thought this was just another sightseeing place. As children we felt temples were boring places. However, we found that there is a lot of history and traditional Japanese thinking in these temples. Also we discovered how the atmosphere changes with the seasons.

Nanzenji is accessible by the number 5 bus (get off at the stop called  “Dobutsu-en Mae”) or by the east-west subway line. Get off at Keage Station and walk north 5 minutes.

Kyoto’s Great Zen Temple


By Chinami Aizawa, Marino Tekuchi and Nao Mochizuki


Nanzen-ji is one of Kyoto’s great Zen temples. It is located in Sakyo ward at the foot of the eastern hills near Sanjo Street. Nanzen-ji has large grounds and many things to see, so it is an especially good place to take a walk. Also, there are many other famous sightseeing spots nearby, such as Heian Shrine, the Lake Biwa Canal, Murin-an, Eikando, the Kyoto Zoo, the Municipal and Modern Art Museums and the Nomura Museum.

As you see in the pictures, an especially good time to visit Nanzen-ji is in November when the leaves of the maple and gingko trees change into red, yellow and gold. This temple is not only popular among foreign tour groups, but also for Japanese. In November is is better to visit on a weekday as the weekends are very crowded with people.

DSC08888 DSC08887 DSC08861

What to see at Nanzen-ji

In Nanzen-ji temple there is no water to purify ourselves by gargling and washing our hands. Such water basins are found at shrines and not temples. Nanzen-ji’s great sanmon (gate), built in 1628, is rated as one of the top three temple gates in Japan. It is not enclosed so it is accessible at any time of the day or night. On the second story is a chamber that contains paintings of celestial maidens, a wooden statue of the Buddha and 16 rakkan. You can see wonderful views of Nanzen-ji and Kyoto city from here. There are many souvenir shops and yudofu restaurants on the road leading up to the temple. Many events are held at Nanzen-ji throughout the year.

Fee areas; We cannot enter the garden of the Hojo (head priest’s quarters), the second story of the sanmon gate, or the sub-temple of Nanzen-in without buying an entrance ticket. In general visitors pay about 500 yen to see each one of these places. However, the entrance fee for Nanzen-in is 300 yen. Nanzen-in was the retirement villa of Emperor Kameyama and has a beautiful pond garden. It is located in back of Nanzen-ji on the other side of the aqueduct.

Famous Cuisine

The area around Nanzen-ji is famous for yudofu—a tofu hotpot. Tofu is prpared in many ways in the restaurants around Nanzen-ji. For example, in summer, tofu is served chilled with ginger and myoga. People sometimes eat tofu with flavored with kudzu paste on top. Boiled tofu, or yudofu, is served in in a nabe (hotpot) at the table and warms you up in winter. One famous yudofu restaurant, Shousouin, unfortunately closed a few years ago, but it had been serving tofu ever since the Edo era.


In 1264, Emperor Kameyama built Zenrin-ji dono as a detached palace in the eastern hills of Kyoto. Twenty-five years later, in 1289, he became a Zen priest and converted his palace into a Zen temple. He dedicated this temple to a famous priest of Tofuku-ji Temple, Daiminkokushi. This temple later became known as Nanzen-ji (“Southern Temple of Enlightenment”). At that time, Emperor Kameyama changed his title to Mukan Fumon and served as the temple’s first head priest. He believed that the chief priest of Nanzen-ji should be the best Zen priest in all of Japan. So from then on, “The chief priest of Nanzen-ji” was always thought to be the best Zen priest in Japan.

In 1334, Emperor Godaigo ranked Zenrin-ji dono as the best among the “Gozan.” “Gozan” meant “the Five Mountains”, and was a system of ranking the five greatest Zen temples of Kyoto.

In 1467, Nanzen-ji temple was burnt down during the Onin War. The temple had been rebuilt, but full-scale reestablishment started much later, so it languished for years.

The quarters of the head priest  (Hojo) features three dry landscape gardens (karesansui). The first and largest is said to be built by Kobori Enshu around 1600. The garden is called “Toranoko-watshi-no-niwa” (Tiger cub crossing the river), because of the placement of the stones. In the Hojo, there are about 40 paintings, the most famous of which are tigers painted on fusuma by Kano Tanyu. They are Important Cultural Properties. Visitors can also request green tea here.

After the Meiji Restoration, the Lake Biwa canal or aqueduct was built through the grounds of Nanzen-ji temple. It was used to bring water to Kyoto from Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture. This sight became famous for the citizens of Kyoto.

Today, Nanzen-ji is known as the best Zen temple in Japan.


Lake Biwa Aqueduct


How to get to Nanzen-ji

Visitors can access Nanzen-ji by bus or train. If you want to get there from Kyoto station, take the number 5 bus and get off at either at “Kyoto “Dobutsuen-mae” or “Nanzen-ji Temple Eikando-michi”. It takes about 30 minutes and costs 230 yen. The buses on this route run about every ten minutes, though at peak times the bus is packed full like a can of sardines. If you take the east-west subway, get off at Keage Station and walk north.