The Wards of Kyoto (Part 3 of 4)
In the last two episodes, we have looked at six of Kyoto’s eleven wards, mostly in the central and southern areas of Kyoto. This time, we will be moving westward, into the countryside and mountainous areas of Nishikyo-ku, Ukyo-ku and Kita-ku.
Nishikyou-ku, which occupies the south-western boundary of Kyoto, was a part of Ukyou-ku until 1976, when the two were separated. The Katsura River is along their borders. There are a few places of note within Nishikyou-ku, including the Katsura Imperial Villa, a gem of Japanese architecture and gardening. There is also Saiho-ki, a moss temple where admission is only granted to those who send a formal request in advance. The cherry blossom temple of Shoji-ji is a wonderful place to visit during early spring, and Matsuo-Taisha, a Shinto Temple built in 701 is also in the area. Nishikyou-ku also has an Ikebana Museum, which is worth a visit.
Of all of the eastern wards, Ukyou-ku is the most diverse in its entertainment offerings. One of its largest attractions is the Arashiyama area, famous for its spring and fall colors, as well as a number of natural and man-made points of interest. Arashiyama houses many temples, including Tenryuji, one of Kyoto’s five great Zen Temples, Daikakuji Temple, once the residence of an emperor, Jojakkoji Temple, founded in 1596 with great views of downtown Kyoto, Nisonin Temple, a majestic hillside temple of the Tendai Sect, Gioji Temple, which has a small moss garden and a main hall with a traditional thatched roof, and Nenbutsuji Temple, where thousands of stone buddhas cover the grounds. It is said to be good luck if you can find the buddha that resembles you at the temple. Of course, Arashiyama’s attractions don’t stop there, with the Togetsu-Kyo Bridge (the Bridge to the Moon), a towering Bamboo Grove and the Iwatayama Monkey Park all worth leisurely visits as well.
Further to the north, one can also enjoy the temples of Ninna-ji and Ryoanji. Ryoanji, a famous Zen temple, is best known for its rock garden of fifteen stones, of which at most fourteen can be see at any given angle. In the south is the neighborhood of Uzumasa. Within Uzumasa is the temple Koryu-ji, which was established before Kyoto became the imperial capital, and Toei Uzumasa Eigamura, the center of Japan’s television and film industry and a Edo-themed park where visitors can dress in old-fashioned clothes and wander around an Edo-style movie set.
Kita-ku could be considered the university side of the city, as even though Kyoto University is not located there, a host of others are, including Bukkyo University, Kyoto Sangyo University, Ritsmeikan University and Otani University. There are also plenty of bars for those who wish to enjoy a low-key nightlife. Two museums of note in this ward are the Kitayama Cedar Museum and the Insho-Domoto Museum of Fine Arts. As with every other ward in Kyoto, there are a number of temple and shrine offerings, including Ota Shrine, famous for its irises during the months of May and June, Hirano Shrine, which holds a cherry blossom festival on the tenth of April every year, Daitoku-ji, a temple of the Rinzai sect with beautiful gardens and Koto-in. There is also Shoden-ji a temple whose ceiling used the bloodstained floorboards of an old castle and is often said to be haunted, due to the fact that whole footprints can be seen on the temple’s ceilings. However, the most famous temples of the area would be both Kamigamo Shrine, one of the oldest shrines in all of Kyoto, built during the Nara period, and Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion, which was rebuilt after a monk suffering from mental illness burned it to the ground in 1950.
This concludes part three of four. In the final part, we will be going eastward, taking a look of Higashiyama-ku and Sakyo-ku. See you in Part 4!