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Higashiyama (center)

Higashiyama is a fairly large district of the city of Kyoto.
This page is dedicated to the central area of Higashiyama, which also includes the popular area of Gion, that you can deepen in this page.
For the southern part of the district, see Higashiyama (southern).

The neighborhood

In this area of Higashiyama there is one of the most famous temples in all of Japan, the Kiyomizu-dera (see below). The narrow streets that from this temple lead up to the Maruyama Park are one of the "preserved historic districts" of the city, with preserved traditional buildings that now house hundreds of restaurants and shops.
This area is one of the most fascinating of Kyoto.

Kiyomizudera Temple

(admission 300 yen, opening hours 6:00-18:00)
Maybe it is my favourite temple famous temple of Kyoto.
This temple was founded way back in 798, and the current buildings date back to 1633.
The temple is located on a hill about 11 meters high, surrounded by cherry and maple trees that make this place incredibly spectacular in autumn and spring, when the grounds are open also in the evening, since they're adorned with a wonderful lighting (from mid-March to mid-April, from mid-November to early December).
The most famous place of the temple is its terrace, veranda, which overlooks the area below, and in the distance you can enjoy a view of the city of Kyoto, from this place you can admire one of the most famous views of all Japan.
kiyomizudera higashiyama kyoto the Kiyomizudera seen frontally
kiyomizudera night view cherry blossom higashiyama kyoto one of the most famous views in Japan: Kyoto seen from the illuminated Kiyomizudera during the cherry blossom (photo taken from

Yasaka Pagoda (Hokanji Temple)

(admission 400 yen, opening hours 10:00-16:00)
A 5-story pagoda that is located on the road between the Kyomizudera and Maruyama Park, belonging to a temple which no longer exists, the Hokanji Temple.
It gives an even more "magic" touch to the area, and you can visit it also inside (a rare opportunity, the pagodas of the temples are usually closed to the public).
pagoda yasaka higashiyama kyoto the pagoda that rises in the middle of the streets of Higashiyama (photo taken by cronyogitect)

Kodaiji Temple

(admission 600 yen, opening hours 9:00-17:30)
A Zen Buddhist temple, belonging to the Rinzai sect. It is located on the road between the Kiyomizudera and Maruyama Park.
Like any Zen temple, this is also surrounded by beautiful gardens, including a rock garden. In the surroundings of the temple there is also a bamboo grove and two tea-houses, one of which was designed by one of the greatest masters of the tea ceremony in Japanese history, Sen no Rikyu.
kodaiji higashiyama kyoto view from inside the Kodaiji Temple
kodaiji rock garden higashiyama kyoto Kodaiji's rock garden (photo taken by bibouroku)

Maruyama Koen (Maruyama Park)

A public park with free admission, always open, famous for its cherry trees, so it's very popular especially in April during the blossoming period.
To the east, next to the park, there is the famous Yasaka shrine, about which you can read the dedicated paragraph on the guide of Gion.
Walking to the north there are instead two other temples, the Chionin and the Shorenin.
maruyama park picnics higashiyama kyoto picnics under the trees in Maruyama Park
shidarezakura maruyama park higashiyama kyoto the "star" of the park during the cherry blossom: a spectacularly illuminated shidarezakura (weeping cherry)

Chionin Temple

(free admission, always open, the interior of buildings 9:00-16:00 )
The main temple of the Jodo sect of Buddhism.
The main entrance gate (Sanmon Gate) is the biggest of all Japan (24x50 meters, built in 1619).
Inside the main building (Miedo Hall) a statue of the founder of the Jodo sect, Honen, is housed.
Inside the temple there are two zen gardens, each with separate admission, the Hojo Garden and the Yuzen Garden (combined admission 500 YEN), the gardens are obviously very beautiful, but like all Zen gardens. If you have already seen a few of them I advise you to avoid spending more money.
Following the paths that climb up the hill behind the temple, you will find many other small buddhist buildings, and the atmosphere is very charming.

Shorenin Temple

(admission 500 yen, opening hours 9:00-17:00)
A Buddhist temple of the Tendai sect, certainly less famous than other sacred places in the area.
The most interesting place of this temple, as well as the beautiful gardens that surround it (four gardens), is the Kacho-den building, inside which the doors are painted with floral motifs created by the artist Kimura Hideki, and from where you can enjoy a "meditative view" over the gardens sipping a cup of tea.
In autumn and spring special lightings are installed also in this temple (as is happens at the much more famous Kiyomizudera Temple), at this link you can find further information.
On March 21, May 5 and throughout the month of November, you can participate in tea ceremonies (they cost 1000 YEN) inside the teahouse of the temple (Kobun-tei), further information here.
chionin temple gate higashiyama kyoto shorenin temple lights higashiyama kyoto Sanmon Gate of the Chionin Temple (on the left) and lightened Shorenin Temple (on the right)

Sleeping, where to stay in Higashiyama

A few minutes walk from Kiyomizudera, hidden along a small street, you can find the Guest House Yamato, a small, family-run guest house with good prices.
For other recommended hotels nearby, you can refer to the "Sleep" paragraph in the guide of Gion.

Pratical guide, how to get to Higashiyama and map

The best way to reach the Kiyomizudera, from where I suggest to start your itinerary and then going up towards the Maruyama Park and the Gion area, is the bus: from Kyoto station you can take the line number 100 or the 206 getting of at "Kiyomizumichi" stop.
You can also reach this part of Higashiyama on foot from Gion area.

Higashiyama station, served by the Tozai line of the metro (Kyoto Municipal Subway), is located in a bit inconvenient position, about 600 meters north-west of the Temple Shorenin, which in turn is located 2 km away from Kiyomizudera.

View Higashiyama in a larger map

Guided tours, activities and other things to do

If you are planning a trip to Japan and you want to do something more than just visiting famous places and monuments, we suggest you to use Rakuten Travel Experiences.

How to use Rakuten Travel Experiences

Rakuten Travel is a very useful website to enrich your travel experience, especially if you are going solo or it's your first time in Japan.
Because of the language barrier (and more), in Japan it is very difficult to interact with the locals and to get off the tourist track.
Thanks to Rakuten Travel you can find a lot of interesting and sometimes unique guided tours and activities all over Japan (and not only in Japan), that you would otherwise never be able to enjoy.
But there's more: on Rakuten Travel you can also buy tickets for several famous attractions, events, transportation and other useful services for tourists. Last but not least, you can reserve a table in hundreds of restaurants.

Some examples

Take a look at Rakuten Travel Experiences

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