As the long time capital of Japan, Kyoto has no shortage of sites. Designated as a UNESCO world-heritage site, Kyoto actually has 17 UNESCO sites within city bounds, and contains roughly 20% of Japan’s National Treasures.
But a lot of these sites cost money – usually 300 – 500 yen a piece, which can add up quickly – especially once you factor in transportation. With that in mind, Mrs. Selfish and I quickly set out to find the best free sites Kyoto had to offer.
The Heian Shrine
The Heian Shrine was built in honor of Emperor Kanmu, and was a symbol of Japan’s revival after World War 2. Unfortunately, it burned down in 1976 (as seemed to happen a lot in Kyoto), so the current version was reconstructed in 1979.
The Yasaka Shrine
Originally called the Gion Shrine, the Yasaka Shrine has been around since the mid-600’s, and is located in (you guessed it) the Gion district. During the day it’s filled with merchants selling trinkets, but it’s more beautiful at night when it’s mostly empty.
The Shimogamo Shrine
Founded by the Kamo Clan in the 8th century, the Shimogamo Shrine is the official guardian of the Imperial Palace, and plays an important part in many ceremonial rites.
The Inari Shrine
My personal favorite, the Inari Shrine, is a great shrine for walking, taking about 3 hours at a leisurely pace. This is a shinto shrine to the god Inari, who is the god of prosperity and is usually marked by orange-red torii gates. Roughly 1/3 of all shinto shrines are to Inari.
As Mrs. Selfish mentioned in her post yesterday, Kyoto has over 2000 shrines and temples, so you’re sure to stumble across your fair share just wandering around.