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If you are up for braving the summer heat, then it's always fun exploring the amazing temples and shrines around Kyoto. In fact, exploring the temples is a nice way to keep relatively cool as they are shading with often open plan areas which allow for nice breezes etc. Back when they were built they had no air conditioning, so this was the best way to cool down!
As well as temples, below are a few other fun things to do while in Kyoto this summer.
Kiyomizu Dera, which is one of the most famous in Japan. The temple is in the east of the city and is a part of the Historic and Ancient Kyoto UNESCO World Heritage sites. As you walk up towards the temple, walk along Matsubara Dori. There are many small traditional shops selling great little gifts and snacks. You can spend an hour or two exploring the little back streets before actually going to the temple.
►Admission fee: 400yen
Fushimi-Inari Taisha is an iconic shrine located in the Inariyama mountains. It sounds daunting but its actually a 10 min walk from Inari station. Super easy to get to, and once you walk up, which is a bit of a work out in the summer, the reward is fantastic. The multiple corridors of red gates are very hypnotic and beautiful. Each red gate or 'Torii' has been donated to the shrine by a local business, and the Inari mountain was always seen as a patron of business so many merchants and manufacturing businesses have worshipped it.
►Admission fee: Free
►Hours: Open 24/7
Now, Tofukuji is actually accessible from Fushimi Inari. It's a bit of a walk (20 mins) through a hidden back path of the mountains but it is a beautiful walk, and well worth it. Tofuku-ji takes its name from two temples in Nara and is one of the so-called Kyoto Gozen, or 'Great five Zen temples of Kyoto'. The walk from Fushimi-inari will take you 20 mins, and I have outlined below in the map in red where you'd need to walk. It's difficult to actually see it on the map but if you have a smartphone you will be able to see it on google maps if you have the app. If you don't fancy a little mountain walk, then you can walk straight up and right as you can see with the blue dotted line.
►Admission fee: Kaisando Hall and Tsutenkyo Bridge - 400 yen, Hojo Building and Gardens - 400 yen
►Hours: 9:00 - 16:30 (April - October), 8:30 - 16:30 (November - December), 9:00 - 16:00 (December to early March)
Probably at the top of my personal favourite is Nanzenji. Possibly Japan's MOST important Zen temples, this complex is based at the foot Kyoto's mysterious and beautiful Higashiyama mountains. It is the head temple of one of the main schools in the Rinzai sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism. In the 13th century, Emperor Kameyama built his retirement villa where the temple is today and later converted it into a Zen temple.
Nanzenji is great to visit during the summer due to the presence of many waterways and beautiful Japanese Gardens which have a natural cooling effect.
Fun Fact: The famous Sanmon gates tower above the treetops and is the location where the legendary thief Ishikawa Goemon and his son were boiled alive for a failed assassination attempt on the warlord Hideyoshi. Goemon stole gold and other goods and gave them to the poor - some say he inspired the story of Robin Hood. These days when you go to hot spring onsens and bathhouses, you often will find an iron or stone bath that is in the shape of a cauldron, called Goemonburo - named after Goemon and the cauldron that he and his son were boiled alive in.
Another fun fact: Near the Hojo (main building and former residence of the head priest) you will come across a large structure that looks very out of place - a huge red brick European aqueduct. It was built by a British architect during the Meiji period (1868-1921) and is part of a canal system that connects Lake Biwa and Kyoto, and is still active today.
Nanzenin is a sub-temple located just behind the brick aqueduct. This spot is a particular favourite of mine as it's incredibly beautiful and peaceful all year round. The main building hall looks out onto a pond and Japanese garden that surrounds the building. There is a mausoleum for the Emperor Kameyama as this was the original location for his retirement villa.
►Admission fee: Temple grounds and Sanmon gates are free of charge to walk around and look at, Hojo Building: 500 yen, Nanzenin: 300 yen, Konichi-in Temple: 400 yen
►Hours: 8:40 - 17:00