Kyoto is a city so dynamic and historical that it warrants two blog posts. The city has some of the most scenic temples and landscapes. Download our Kyoto walking tour guide and follow below for the top sights to photograph in Kyoto.
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Music Credit: Zedd "Lost At Sea" | All videos shot with iPhone 5 | Editing: iMovie & Hyperlapse
It is said that if you visit Kyoto without seeing the Kiyomizu temple, then you have not really visited Kyoto. It is a Buddhist temple that sits above Kyoto with gorgeous panoramic views of the city. One of the best times to visit is in November, which is when we visited for the autumn maples. The entire forest surrounding the temple was red with maple leaves, which makes for great photography.
This temple is also home to many fun superstitious activities. My favorite is drinking from the Otowa waterfall, which is supposed to give you superpowers. There is also the "love rock" which promises visitors success at love if they are able to reach a rock a few feet away while closing their eyes. There are also numerous good luck charms that tourists can purchase, including ones that promise "luck on exam" and "safe travels". While I am not the most superstitious person, I must say that after being at a site as ancient as the Kiyomizu temple, which was built in 798 and still intact, I did feel a slight hint of superpowers coming on.
Sagano Train and Arashiyama
The Sagano train travels about 25 minutes through one of the most enchanting hillside landscapes I have ever seen. The train is an old fashioned train with an open air cart that travels alongside a winding turquoise river. The train passed through the misty hillsides of Kyoto and past a whirl of colorful yellow, orange, and red trees. Finally, we reached the bamboo forest, one of the most popular sights for photographers. Plan to get to the forest in the early morning hours to avoid the crowds. The bamboo grows so tall that it creates a canopy of leaves, blocking out most of the sun. Photographing this area is best done with a low-light setting on your DSLR camera.
Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion)
This temple is one of the iconic symbols of Kyoto and a must-see site to photograph. I visited it in the late afternoon where I was able to get photos of the golden temple shimmering in the reflecting pool that surrounds it. Built in 1397, the Golden Pavilion served as the summer house for the Shogun. It was burned down and restored in the late 1950's. Today, although tourists cannot enter the interior, the exterior offers some of the most scenic views of the gold leaf pavilion and traditional Japanese gardens.
Fushimi Inari Shrine
If you have seen the film Memoirs of a Geisha, then you probably recognize the Inari Shrine. This is a Shinto shrine with red wooden torii that seem to go on forever. The torii are split into different paths that travel up the mountainside. The area is truly a sanctuary, with a brook that runs alongside the path as well as a forest. The shrine is also decorated with statues of foxes which add to the playfulness of the shrine. In traditional Shinto style, there were stations in between each torii path for lighting incense and candles. The worshipers would clap twice, ring a bell, and bow. I am not sure what it all meant, but I will say that this is by far one of the most serene and spiritual places I have ever been.
During my visit, I arrived at dawn on a weekday to find that the shrine was completely empty besides a few worshipers. This made our photographing venture much easier.
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