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Top 10 Tourist Attractions to Check-In to Over the Four Seasons in the Capital of Tea! Let’s Take a Tour Around the Southern Part of Kyoto Prefecture!

2021.10.22

When it comes to Kyoto, what comes to mind to most travelers are places such as Kinkaku-ji Temple, Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Kamogawa River. However, besides these well-known classic attractions, Kyoto also has many attractions that are suited for travelers who are visiting Kyoto for the second time, or travelers who like to explore the depths of the city’s outskirts. This time around, we will introduce you to some tourist attractions to check-in to over the four seasons in the southern part of Kyoto, which is renowned for being the “capital of tea.”

Spring: March to May

● Gansen-ji Temple (Kizugawa City)
As an antique Buddhist temple with a history of around 1200 years, Gansen-ji Temple is home to many important cultural properties such as its seated statue of Amida Nyorai, its statue of Fugen Bosatsu on an elephant, and its three-story pagoda. It is a Buddhist temple that is full of history and natural essence. This time around, the tourist attraction that we recommend you to check-in to on Instagram is the three-story pagoda.

The three-story pagoda surrounded by luxuriant gardens is a hot spot for tourists to check-in and take pictures when visiting Gansen-ji Temple. When taking pictures, we suggest that you to use the flowers and trees as the foreground to capture the beauty of the three-story pagoda surrounded by the colors of spring.

By changing the angle of your camera, you can also photograph the pine trees with the small ponds inside the courtyard to reveal another color of Japan.

Gansen-ji Temple

Gansen-ji Temple

Gansen-ji Temple is an ancient Buddhist temple located in Kamo-cho, part of Kizugawa City in the southernmost part of Kyoto Prefecture. Thought to have been built in 729, the name “Gansen-ji” translates literally to “Rock Boat Temple” and near the entrance of the temple’s main gate is a boat-shaped rock, where legend has it that priests used the rock for sacred cleansing rituals. Nestled in the pristine nature of Kyoto’s tea producing region, the three-storied pagoda on the temple grounds is a designated Important Cultural Property and the main hall maintains an ancient yet elegant charm. Gansen-ji Temple is famous for its displays of bright hydrangeas, water lillies, and crape myrtle flowers in the summer. Gansen-ji is truly a sight to see in any of the four seasons, though, with Japanese plum and cherry blossom trees blooming in the spring, autumn foliage, and camelias in the winter.

● Takayama Dam (Minamiyamashiro Village)
Ever since its management was taken over in 1970, Takayama Dam has mainly been used to control floods, to supply tap water, and to utilize water sources to generate electricity.

From the office, Takayama Dam Lake Park, filled with all its greenery, is stretched out as far as the eye can see. With the many cherry blossom trees planted there, the park also becomes a holy land for viewing cherry blossoms each April.

Visitors may as well bring a blanket and refreshments to have a picnic under the park filled with cherry blossom trees. There, they can enjoy the sight of a world of pink splendor as far as the eye can see.

In addition to checking-in and photographing the vast world of pink splendor, we also recommend you to take and post beautiful shots of yourself gently holding a fully bloomed double cherry blossom in your hands!

Takayama Dam

Takayama Dam

Enjoy driving and hiking while viewing a row of cherry trees.

Summer: June to August

● Shoju-in Temple (Ujitawara town)
For Japanese people, “wind chimes” are a completely indispensable part of summer. In southern Kyoto, there is even a place where you can enjoy a festival of wind chimes in the summertime. Every year from June to mid-September, Shoju-in Temple holds its annual “Wind Chime Festival” where colorful wind chimes that match the blue sky let out a crisp ringing sound that continually echoes throughout the courtyard. This is the representative feature of Shoju-in Temple during the summer, which has also given it the nickname “the temple of wind chimes.

    

The most special aspect about the Wind Chime Festival at Shoju-in Temple is that in the courtyard, there are “flower wind chimes” with sunflowers and hydrangeas embedded inside of them. When the wind blows, the wind chimes gently sway and jingle along, making it seem as though the scorching summer is being carried away quietly by the melodious sound of ringing.

Shoju-in Temple also has a reception hall known as “Sokuten no Ma,” which is a popular tourist spot to check-in to. Within the reception hall, the two main points of interest are the “Inome (boar eye) window” and the “ceiling paintings.” The colorful ceiling paintings were completed jointly by a number of painters in Japan when the ceiling paintings in the main hall were reconstructed 300 years ago. Among these paintings, the most special one is that of “maiko over the four seasons,” which very much embodies the essence of Kyoto.

The “boar eye” is a form of architectural adornment that has been used to decorate the courtyards of shrines and temples since about 1400 years ago. Windows that are decorated with this adornment are known as “boar eye windows.” Such windows take the lovely shape of a heart that seems to signify a moral of “avoiding and dispelling calamities, while simultaneously inviting happiness.” With each season, different moving sceneries can be photographed through the temple’s boar eye window. The dim lights also form a contrast with the emerald green vegetation outside the window, which has a peaceful beauty of Japan.

Shoju-in Temple

Shoju-in Temple

Located in Ujitawara in Kyoto, Shoju-in Temple was built around 800 years ago, and belongs to the Koyasan Shingonshu sect of Buddhism. According to records, during the Sengoku (1467-1615) and Edo periods (1603-1868) Shoju-in Temple caught fire twice, and was rebuilt in 1596 by the monk Yuin.
The temple’s principal image, an eleven-faced Kannon statue, is a designated local cultural property, and is shown to the public only once every 50 years. Apart from the Kannon statue, there is a sitting statue of the Buddhist minor deity Acala made by Kaikei, one of the Kamakura period’s (1192-1333) representative Japanese sculptors of Buddhist statues. This image is also an Important Cultural Property.

There are over 2,000 wind chimes in the temple in the summer, and every year there is a Wind Chime Festival from July 1st to September 18th. In the side hall there is a heart-shaped window from which the pink cherry blossoms, the green grass of summer, the red autumn leaves, and the white snow of winter can be seen.
The heart shape is a traditional pattern used in Japan for fortunes and blessings, so this window is known as the “Window of Happiness,” and always attracts many visitors. On the ceilings of the side hall there are 160 different pictures of flowers and Japanese scenery, which creates some beautiful scenery overhead. Shoju-in Temple also offers activities such as bracelet-beading, sutra-writing, Buddha-sketching, and yoga classes (reservations required).

● Mimuroto-ji Temple (Uji City)
When asking the people of Kyoto where hydrangeas are the most beautiful in summer, the answer you would surely get is “Mimuroto-ji Temple.” At Mimuroto-ji Temple, there are hydrangeas that can be seen on a seasonal basis each year from early June to mid-July.
The temple has 20,000 hydrangeas in its courtyard and is situated between cedar trees. This makes it seem as though you have entered another world of fairy tales when visiting, and allows you to feel the wonder of nature with all five senses.

Seeing the billowing hydrangea blossoms will bring much healing! When taking pictures, other than using the usual angles, we also recommend you to use the hydrangeas as the foreground, and to couple them with the cedar trees on the horizon to enhance the sense of space in your pictures!

As rain drizzles softly onto the courtyard, umbrellas are held up by the crowd, which adds a lot of color to the hydrangea garden. The colorful umbrellas alongside the blooming hydrangeas are not dissonant with one another, but are actually harmonious and playful!

If you are lucky enough to enter the park in the evening, you will be able to take pictures of the sky colored purple by the setting sun, in combination with the hydrangeas.

Mimuroto-ji Temple

Mimuroto-ji Temple

Mimuroto-ji Temple is known for its spectacular gardens, and it is sometimes called the “Temple of Flowers.” Mimuroto-ji is located in Uji City, part of Kyoto’s tea-producing region in the south of Kyoto Prefecture. From late April to early May, you can find a sea of some 20,000 azaleas—one of the best displays in the Kansai region—and wander through the garden paths to surround yourself with the flowers. Opposite the azalea gardens are approximately 10,000 hydrangeas that begin to blossom in June, surrounding visitors with magnificent shades of pinks and blues. Finally, as you get closer to temple’s main hall, you’ll find a huge display of lotus flowers which bloom in all shades of pink and white from late June to early August. Make the most of the flowers by taking a rest at the tea house inside the temple grounds. Take in the pond and dry rock gardens, and of course the Buddhist statues, which are designated Important Cultural Assets.

Autumn: September to November

● Keihanna Commemorative Park (Seika town)
This is a park where you can enjoy walks in the forest and see various plants all year round. On this occasion, we would like to recommend the park’s beautiful view of maple leaves in autumn. In addition, the park will also be open for night visits during the autumn leaf season. (Event period: Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Japanese national holidays between early November and late November)

A warm tone of orange embellishes the maple trees by the pond, and a ray of sunlight shines in through the gaps between them, driving away the chill of the autumn breeze. In the park full of maple trees, you can see a tunnel of autumn leaves formed by the maple trees, which arguably makes the entire park a scenic spot to check-in and take pictures.

In addition to the maple tree tunnel, we also highly recommend you to check-in and photograph the scenery by using the maple trees as a frame in your pictures!

Keihanna Commemorative Park

Keihanna Commemorative Park

Keihanna Commemorative Park is 24.1 hectares in size, and commemorates the establishment of Keihanna Science City (Kansai Culture and Science Research City) in 1995. The park includes both freely accessible and paid areas. The free areas include the ‘Hiroba’ a wide open plaza, which has cascading grounds shaped like rice-paddy terraces with large lawns for playing freely, and a childrens’ playground. Also free of charge is the ‘Tani-ai’ valley, made to look like a typical Japanese landscape with a small stream, bamboo grove, and plum garden. The paid area includes the Suikei-en, a Japanese-style garden with a path that brings you around scenery including a magnificent rock cluster, cascading water ponds, colourful seasonal flora and an area to feed carp, making it enjoyable for children and adults alike. Visitors can also enjoy a panoramic view of the garden from Kangetsukyo Bridge, which is 123m long and 4m wide, and 10m above the water. Particularly spectacular is the view of autumn foliage from the Japanese maple tree valley. There, amongst the moss, approximately 80 trees line a small, delicate stream. Inside Suikei-en Garden you can also find Mebuki Forest and Nagatani Pond, which are likewise styled like traditional Japanese landscapes, perfect for a stroll to enjoy nature in all four seasons. Additionally, the park hosts a range of events, from firefly-viewing to star-gazing.

● Taisho-ike Green Park (Ide town)
Surrounded by nature, Taisho-ike Green Park is a good place for locals to do outdoor activities and camping. Once it becomes autumn, you can also enjoy the scenery of maple leaves.

At a corner of Taisho-ike Pond, there is pavilion-like spot where you can rest, known as the “Floating Temple.” If you wish to take pictures of the maple leaves around the mountain and the beautiful lakeside scenery, you might as well stand on the walkway that leads to the pavilion and ask a friend to press the shutter. That way you will be able to capture the stunning nature in photographs.

The maple trees surrounding the lake gradually turn red in autumn, and their reflection in the shimmering lake holds a quiet kind of beauty.

Taisho Pond Green Park

Taisho Pond Green Park

Registered as a scenic asset by Kyoto Prefecture, Taisho Pond is surrounded by quiet greenery, and includes walking paths and a floating pavilion.
The attached Ide Town Outdoor Sports Center, Taisho Pond Green Park, has bungalows, camping and tent sites, and the administrative buildings includes a cafeteria, rooms for large groups, and shower facilities.

Winter: December to February

● Kasagi’s Sea of Clouds (Kasagi town)
The roaring Sea of Clouds surge amidst the mountains covered in greenery, which makes you feel as if you are in a fairyland, while cleansing your spirit at the same time. Such a stunning view can also be seen at Mount Kasagi in Kyoto.

The period spanning from mid-October to March of the following year is the best time to see Kasagi’s Sea of Clouds. The vast view of mountains alongside the endlessly flowing Sea of Clouds is one of the go-to attractions of many avid Japanese photographers in the local area.

As the color of the sky varies depending on the weather of the day, a fuchsia colored landscape may also be photographed occasionally.

#笠置山(mount_kasagi)  #雲海(sea_of_clouds)  #京都南部(southern_kyoto)  #期間限定絕景(stunning_view_for_a_limited_time)

Mt. Kasagi / Kasagi-yama Maple Park

Mt. Kasagi / Kasagi-yama Maple Park

Mt. Kasagi in Kasagi rises 288 meters about the south bank of the Kizu River. It is home to many strange and mysterious rock formations giving it the nickname “Megalith Theme Park” and is designated as a historic scenic spot in Japan. Although it is not an easy hike, anyone with average ability can reach the top and enjoy the spectacular views.
From the top of the mountain, it looks like you are on an island floating in a sea of clouds. The view from the top of the mountain was a popular place to moon gaze during the Edo Period. The view is particular spectacular during the autumn season when the entire 3,000 sq. meter river valley is covered in carpet of red maple leaves
Mt. Kasagi is of great historical significance. It is home to a Shingon Buddhist temple of the Chisan School with historic connections to Todaiji on nearby Nara. Famous monks such as Jokei have lived at the temple and Yamabushi, or warrior hermits said to be imbued with supernatural powers, are said to have trained here; making it an important part of Japanese Buddhist history. What’s more, in the late Kamakura period (1185–1333), it was also the stage of foiled plot kill the shogun by the 96th Emperor Go-Daigo.

● Aodani Plum Grove (Joyo City)
Aodani Plum Grove harbors the “hometown of Kyoto’s plums” and is the largest region to produce plums in Kyoto.
From late February to mid-March, Aodani Plum Grove holds its annual “Plum Festival.”
The festival lasts for three weeks and attracts more than 20,000 people each year. During the event, visitors can also purchase dried plums and other pickled plum products that are made from the plum gardens in the Aodani region.

The peaks that stretch across the sacred Mount Jubu, the Joyo specialty “Joshuhaku” white plums, along with the scattered red plum blossoms form a view that resembles a painting with carefully matched tones. This makes it a very suitable check-in spot for taking pictures.

“Joshuhaku” is a variety of plum that has small seeds but a full and abundant flesh. At its largest, the plum can grow bigger than a golf ball and is considered to be very suitable for making plum wine and dried plums.

Having existed for 800 years, the Plum Grove has a considerably long history. The plums produced there are sometimes made into dyes, and sometimes made into stockpile dried plums. In addition to this, they can also be made into plum extract supplies.

Aodani Plum Grove

Aodani Plum Grove

Commanding a distant view of the holy mountain Jubo, the Aodani Plum Grove spreads out over the gently sloping hills bordering the crystalline Aodani River. The 20-hectare plum grove has been reknowned as a scenic spot since olden times. Its 10,000 plum trees are mainly of white-blossomed varieties, such as the large and fragrant Joshuhaku, Joyo City’s plum species. The Plum Festival is held every year from late February to late March.

Suitable all year round

● Ishitera Tea Field (Wazuka town)
This is a well-known tea field in Kyoto that is designated as a scenic asset by Kyoto Prefecture, and is selected as one of Japan’s national heritages. In addition to visiting Uji, those who like green tea might as well make a trip to the tea field to personally experience a different journey with tea.

The lush green tea field that stretches as far as the eye can see, complemented with the blue sky, puts the heart at ease. In late April, you can even catch a glimpse of farmers picking tea leaves!

On one side of the tea field, there is a coffee shop named “dan dan cafë” (ダンダンカフェ). There, you can enjoy a Japanese-style green tea sundae, while gazing over the vast tea field. This makes it an ideal scenic spot to check-in to online for those who are green tea enthusiasts!

In addition, when making your way to dan dan cafë from Wazuka takahashi Bus Stop in the springtime, you can also see the beautiful scenery of cherry blossoms intertwined with the tea field. The cherry blossoms in full bloom, coupled with the emerald green tea field, carry a faint touch of Japan’s “serene beauty,” and allows you to deeply experience the beauty of Kyoto’s tea.

Ishitera Tea Fields

Ishitera Tea Fields

These tea fields, known as the first scenic property designated by Kyoto Prefecture, are also registered as a Japanese heritage site. The tea fields spread out across the steep hillside, in a sight you might not expect to find looking up the side of a little mountain. This area, located in the west of the town of Wazuka, is known as Hayaba. The tea harvesting begins here in late April.

● Byodoin Temple (Uji City)
At Byodoin Temple, you can enjoy “cherry blossoms in spring, green leaves in summer, maple in autumn, and snow in winter.” However, in recent years, the temple has had less snow fall in winter, which means that you will have to leave it to luck if you wish to catch a snowy view of Byodoin Temple! If you happen to encounter snow there, don’t forget to take plenty of pictures to record this rare scene.

The clear pond, like a mirror, reflects the magnificent Phoenix Hall on its surface, which creates a symmetrical image that is beautiful and picturesque. The pink weeping cherry blossoms on the side also add a touch of color to the Phoenix Hall at the center of the scene.

In addition, the vermilion Phoenix Hall, complemented by maple leaves of the same color, give Byodoin Temple a different atmosphere in autumn. It’s very pleasant to walk along the stone pavement on the side, and enjoy the view of the red maple surrounding the Phoenix Hall.

Byodo-in Temple

Byodo-in Temple

Byodo-in Temple, which shows the historical glory of the Fujiwara clan, was once a villa on the west bank of the Uji-gawa River. It belonged to Minamoto no Toru but was given to Fujiwara no Michinaga. His son, Yorimichi, converted it into a temple. The Houou-do (Phoenix Hall, a National Treasure), which is surrounded by the Aji-ike pond, demonstrates elements of the gardens of the Heian period (794-1185). The influence of the Heian aristocracy, who dreamt of entering the Pure Land of Amida Buddha, can be seen in the building. Byodo-in Temple is depicted on the 10-yen coin and is a familiar sight in Japan.
Meanwhile, the Byodo-in Museum Hoshokan exhibits precious items owned by the temple, such as the National Treasures of a Gilt Bronze Phoenix, “Unchu Kuyo Bosatsu” (Buddhist saints holding a mass in the clouds), and Bonshou (temple bells). Reproductions that made with computer graphics utilizing state-of-the-art digital technology can also be enjoyed in the museum.