The Ultimate Guide to Kyoto’s Higashiyama District
March 20, 2019
The Higashiyama District along the lower slopes of Kyoto’s eastern mountains is one of the city’s best preserved historical districts. A glimpse into narrow lanes, wooden buildings, and traditional merchant shops evokes a sense of nostalgia and allows you to experience the old capital city. It’s easy to discover the historical charms simply by taking a walk around Higashiyama. If you have a full day to spare, you’ll be able to cover both Southern and Northern Higashiyama.
Southern Higashiyama is known to be the most important sightseeing district in Kyoto. Besides the usual magnificent temples, you’ll also end up in the city’s main geisha district, Gion. I recommend visiting Kiyomizudera Temple and Kodaiji Temple. The former boasts panoramic views of maple trees rich in autumn colours and Kyoto’s cityscape while the latter features a fascinating night-time illumination that only runs during the autumn season. The Kyoto National Museum, Yasaka-no-to Pagoda, and Maruyama-koen Park are some of the other interesting landmarks in Southern Higashiyama.
As for Northern Higashiyama, it’s less crowded than the Southern area, but still offers beautiful attractions such as the Path of Philosophy, Shinnyodo Temple, and Shugakuin Rikyu Imperial Villa, just to name a few. If you’re in Kyoto around late November, you’ll get to admire the autumn foliage at Shinnyodo Temple.
Need a break from exploring? Just pop into any of the cafes or restaurants lining the streets of Higashiyama, and enjoy lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner. Yuba (tofu skin) skewer is a popular street food in Higashiyama district and definitely worth trying. I loved having the yuba with cheese. I also enjoyed pairing my green tea with dango (sticky-sweet dumplings made from rice cake powder), a Japanese traditional dessert. Remember to buy some Japanese sweets, pickles, crafts and other souvenirs before leaving the city.