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Higashiyama 東山

Higashiyama (東山, lit. "eastern mountains") is the name of the mountain range at the east of the Kyoto basin. Today, the name refers to the area east of the Kamo River, south of Marutamachi Street, north of Fushimi Inari Taisha. As the city's most famous temple, Kiyomizu-dera 清水寺, is located in Higashiyama, it is one of the names I first learned when reading about Kyōto some twenty years ago.

Historically not part of the city, Higashiyama contains a significant number of temples belonging to different Buddhist sects, among them Kennin-ji 建仁寺, Japan's oldest Zen temple, and Tōfuku-ji 東福寺 and its many sub-temples, one of the major Rinzai sect temple complexes of Kyōto.

It is recommended to explore the area along a north-south axis. Starting in the north, one of the first temples are Shōren-in 青蓮院, a splendid wet landscape style temple, and Chion-in 知恩院, the main temple of the Pure Land branch of Buddhism. Passing through Maruyama Park 丸山公園 and Yasaka Shrine 八坂神社, in a preserved historical district popular with travellers, are the Kōdai-ji 高台寺 and Entoku-in 圓徳院 Zen temples.

Further south, at Shichijō Street passing by Chishaku-in 智積院 and Sanjūsangen-dō 三十三間堂 temples, lies Sennyū-ji 泉涌寺 and its sub-temples, among them Imakumano Kannon-ji 今熊野観音寺 and Unryū-in 雲龍院, before reaching the large Tōfuku-ji (which ultimately connects to Fushimi Inari Shrine).

Kenninji Jun18-3.jpg

A Moss Garden at Kennin-ji, Kyōto's oldest Zen temple.

​Due to the vast number of visitable temples in the area, it is almost impossible to visit all of them on a single day. Rather, I recommend to separate the area around Shijō Street (Shōren-in to Kiyomizu) and that around Shichijō Street (Sennyū-ji and Tōfuku-ji).

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