top of page

Northwestern Kyoto 右京区・北区
Kita Ward and Ukyo Ward


Northwestern Kyōto is home to two of perhaps the city’s most famous gardens: Kinkaku-ji 金閣寺 and its golden pavilion, and Ryōan-ji 竜安寺, the embodiment of the “Zen/rock garden” for most Westerners. Situated along the northwestern mountains, connecting the triangle with the Kamo shrines in the east and Arashiyama/Sagano in the west, are several places worth exploring.


These include the Daitoku-ji 大徳寺 and Myōshin-ji 妙心寺 complexes, two of the six Rinzai branch Zen head-temples, with its many sub-temples, and also the temple and former palace of Ninna-ji 仁和寺 or the wet landscape garden at Tōji-in 等持院. This area, known in Japanese as the Kinukake Path, is best explored together, walking (or taking the bus) from one direction to the other.

Further into the city are Jōbon Rendai-ji 上品蓮台寺 and Hirano Shrine 平野神社, two spots famous for their cherry blossoms in spring (as well as Kitano Tenman-gū, which I have included in the Central Kyōto section).

Kinkaku-ji Schnee-16.jpg

The Golden Pavillon - An iconic Kyoto sight on a winter's morning..

Further north, in the rather quiet (and remote) Takagamine area, Kōetsu-ji 光悦寺, Genkō-an 源光庵 and Jōshō-ji 常照寺 temples are at the cradle of the Rinpa school of painting, a major seventeenth century style of Japanese painting that can be found in most of Kyōto’s temples today, along with a traditional producer of Japanese soy sauce quite different from the mass-produced one we eat in the supermarkets, and the Shōzan Resort Gardens しょうざん庭園.

Somewhat nearby, nestled into the mountains is Shōden-ji 正伝寺, a Zen temple known for its karesanui-style garden with Mt. Hiei as a borrowed landscape (whose beauty apparently moved David Bowie to tears on his visit to the temple). Finally, descending towards the east and crossing the river, from there, lies Kamigamo Shrine 上賀茂神社 (the sister-shrine to Shimogamo Shrine, located further down the river), as well as a number of other gardens and shrines in the area, such as the Nishimura Family Villa 西村家庭園or Ōta Shrine 太田神社.

bottom of page