Higashiyama - The Temple District

The Higashiyama Area of Kyōto is the city's busiest and most recognizable districts. In fact it contains a large percentage of Kyōto's most popular tourist spots, including the whole of the Gion, the famous Geisha District. 


It's name literally means Eastern Mountain and is characterized by its steep, narrow streets, winding like a maze between traditional style wooden buildings, and of course for the large number of stunning temples and shrines.

Given its size and amount of sightseeing spots, it is probably easiest to split the district into two parts, north and south.


The southern part of Higashiyama is probably the busiest in terms of tourists, and with good reason. It stretches south from (and includes) Gion and all of its splendours. Its temples include the unmissable Kiyomizu-dera with its giant wooden stage and commanding views over eastern Kyōto and Kennin-ji, the oldest Zen temple in the city.


Southern Higashiyama is more than just temples though. Many of the streets themselves are worthy of note and in-depth exploration. A great example is the Nene-no-Michi, named after the wife of Sengoku Period warlord, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. This pretty little street runs from Kōdai-ji temple and contains plenty of inviting shops and cafes.

Northern Higashiyama is marginally less busy than the south but still contains some important landmarks well worth seeing. This half of the district stretches north from Gion as far as the stunning Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) and its magnificent gardens.


Heian Shrine, on the site of the original Heian Period Imperial Palace, is an impressive structure and the surrounding area is full of great museums covering virtually every aspect of the culture and history of this beautiful city.


Of course the north also has its fairytale streets and one of the best of these is the "Path of Philosophy"which starts near a temple called Eikan-do and runs as far as Ginkaku-ji. This narrow runs alongside a lazily flowing stream and is especially popular in spring for its dense canopy of cherry blossoms.


The whole of the Higashiyama District covers quite a large area, and while it is definitely best to explore on foot, it's easy to build up quite an appetite. Luckily, the one thing that Higashiyama has more than temples, is places to eat.


Gion has a huge concentration of cafes, bars and restaurants catering to a wide variety of tastes (and budgets). The streets surrounding some of the main temples also have a good selection of cafes and shops evolved from nearly 1,000 years of servicing pilgrims. A great example would be the long, steep road leading up to the entrance to Kiyomizu-dera.


If you can't immediately find anything that takes your fancy, be sure to check down each and every side-street as you never know what kind of hidden treasures you might find in this most historic part of Kyōto.

The whole of the Higashiyama District covers quite a large area, and while it is definitely best to explore on foot, it's easy to build up quite an appetite. Luckily, the one thing that Higashiyama has more than temples, is places to eat.

Gion has a huge concentration of cafes, bars and restaurants catering to a wide variety of tastes (and budgets). The streets surrounding some of the main temples also have a good selection of cafes and shops evolved from nearly 1,000 years of servicing pilgrims. A great example would be the long, steep road leading up to the entrance to Kiyomizu-dera.

If you can't immediately find anything that takes your fancy, be sure to check down each and every side-street as you never know what kind of hidden treasures you might find in this most historic part of Kyōto.