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Kinkaku-Ji

Kinkaku-Ji

As Kyōto's most iconic landmark, Kinkaku-Ji (literally the "Temple of the Golden Pavillion"), is undoubtedly astonishing. Built in 1397, the complex was the retirement villa of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. Soon after his death in 1408, the structure was converted into a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect by his son. Engulfed in flames several times throughout the ages, the current complex was rebuilt true to the original in 1955 (except for the top two floors that were both covered in gold leaf). Thousands of sightseers pack the site to glance at the breathtaking Gold Temple, its reflection shimmering in the serene pond in a picturesque setting. It's best to go early in the morning or just before closing to avoid queuing in notoriously slow-moving lines.
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Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimi Inari Shrine

The complex of Fushimi Inari Shrine is one of the most remarkable sights in southern Kyōto. The impressive complex was dedicated to a Shinto god (Shinto gods are known as 'kami') by the Hata family in the 8th century, and encompasses five shrines. Curiously, the deity the entire complex is dedicated to – Inari Ōkami – is one of the principle Shinto kami, whose circle of influence includes foxes, rice, sake, agriculture and industry, and even general success and prosperity. The spotlight here goes to the 5,000 of vermilion gates (known as Senbon torii), that lead up to the summit of 233m Mt. Inari-san. The Romon Gate at the shrine’s entrance was donated in 1589 by the samurai warlord, Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Stone foxes also play an important role here, as they are considered to be messengers of Inari.
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Tōfuku-Ji Temple

Tōfuku-Ji Temple

Tōfuku-ji Temple is one of the oldest and most famous Zen temples in Kyōto for its wonderful and extensive gardens. The original buildings were burnt down but rebuilt faithfully to the original in the 15th century. In 1881, a blazing fire destroyed the Buddha hall, which was never again rebuilt. The complex' main gate is the oldest sanmon in Japan and a National Treasure. Today, the temple welcomes thousands of visitors throughout the year; to make their experience even more unforgettable, it offers regular Zen meditation sessions for beginners (only in Japanese). Note that the temple is overcrowded during autumn as a favourite haunt to witness kōyō (the falling of colourful leaves).
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Nishiki Market

Nishiki Market

For any visit to Kyōto, a stop at Nishiki Market is a must. The over 400-year-old market with its 126 stalls is a foodie haven. All sorts of scents and flavours, from the sweet savouriness of tamagoyaki (the Japanese rolled omelette) to the fried treats, to the acidic tanginess of tsukemono (pickled goods), fill the thriving narrow shopping street. Besides the delicacies, the market is also famous for kitchen paraphernalia and tools, such as the acclaimed hand-crafted knives of Aritsugu. Fun fact: almost all edibles sold here are served on sticks.
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Gion District

Gion District

Developed in the Sengoku period as a village for the visitors of the nearby shrine (Yasaka Shrine), the historic district is famous for being the home of geisha (the Japanese entertainment). Narrow streets dotted with teahouses, local eateries, traditional wooden houses, and bars and nightclubs are crammed with tourists from all over the world, wishing to see a geisha in their colourful kimono. The best way to explore the picturesque district is from Hanami-kōji street towards Shijō-dōri.
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