The former capital of Japan, Kyoto is a city with a long history, and where much of modern Japanese culture grew and developed from. Given its past as the country's former capital, it is said that one does not have to dig too deep to uncover artefacts within the city. Traditional buildings stand shoulder to shoulder with modern buildings, and the city has one of the highest concentrations of cultural attractions in Japan.
Regardless of the season, there is always something different to see. However, with the large numbers of shrines and temples in Kyoto, it is almost impossible for travelers to visit all the attractions over a few days. The best method is to limit yourself to perhaps one shrine, one temple, and a walk in one of the Kyoto districts.
Below are some of the best things Kyoto has to offer through the year.
Cherry blossoms or sakura signal new beginnings, and the main cherry blossom season in Kyoto is generally in early April. There are many popular cherry blossom spots in Kyoto where visitors can enjoy the open blossoms alongside cultural sights. During the peak of the season, I personally feel a buzz in the city, of things coming alive and gears kicking into motion after the cold winter.
Shinto is one of the major religions in Japan, and there are a number of Shinto shrines in the former capital. Of the shrines in Kyoto, the Kamo Shrines are two of the most important and oldest shrines in the city. Some shrines are also popular places to see seasonal flowers like cherry blossoms and plum blossoms.
Buddhism was the major religion in Japan when Kyoto was the capital of Japan. As a result, there are many temples belonging to the various Buddhist sects. One of the most well known temples in Kyoto has to be Kiyomizudera Temple with its wooden stage. Other temples, while simple in building structure, are famous for their gardens, like Saihoji, nicknamed Moss Temple after its moss garden, and Ryoanji, which is famous for its dry rock garden.
Autumn colors in Kyoto, for me, are usually more striking compared to the autumn colors in the mountains or parks. Many of the popular autumn color spots in Kyoto are at temples, of which there are many in the city. The fiery colors of autumn mark the last spark of life before the cold of winter hits, and in places where there are lots of trees that turn colors, the brilliant leaves create a lively contrast against the typically sedate traditional buildings.