Sanjusangendo Hall#8 in Best Things To Do in Kyoto
At nearly 400 feet, Sanjusangendo Hall is the longest wooden structure in Japan (there are archery contests held along the length of the hall every yeah). And lining its lengthy walls is a rare full set of 1,000 wooden statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. The human-sized statues were carved from Japanese cypress in the 12th and 13th centuries. Recent travelers are consistently blown away by Sanjusangendo and its statues, calling it an "amazing" and "thrilling" place to visit.
Sanjusangendo Hall is open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. from April through mid-November, and between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. from mid-November through March. Visitors suggest arriving at Sanjusangendo early, as the hall is not well ventilated and only gets hotter and more crowded as the day goes on. Admission costs 600 yen (about $5.25) per person (half-price for children). To get to Sanjusangendo Hall, take bus No. 100, 206 or 208 from Kyoto Station to the Hakubutsukan-Sanjusangendo-mae stop. Alternatively, you can take the Keihan subway line to Shichijo Station (Sanjusangendo is about a 5-minute walk from there). The temple sits across the street from the Kyoto National Museum, and many visitors suggest stopping by both attractions. For more information, visit the official website (in Japanese).
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#1 Fushimi Inari Shrine
As far as Shinto shrines go (there are about 400 in Kyoto), this one is pretty special. Perched on a wooded hillside in southern Kyoto, Fushimi Inari is a 1,300-year-old temple dedicated to Inari, the Shinto deity of rice and sake (Japanese rice wine). The shrine complex dates back to the eighth century, but it's not the star of the show. Most visitors come for the close to 10,000 red and orange lacquered torii gates that line the 2 ½-mile-long path up Mount Inari, where the shrine sits. Sometimes in dense rows and other times more staggered, the gates are all engraved with the names of Shinto devotees who donated them.
It takes about three hours to make the trek up the mountain, and some recent visitors say that the hike is mildly strenuous, but almost all agree this is a must-see spot in Kyoto, especially for first-time visitors. Plus, travelers report that there are plenty of places to stop and rest along the way. Peer at the dozens of stone and bronze foxes that line the paths along with the gates (foxes are thought to be Inari's sacred messengers). Or stop in to one of the tea houses or restaurants situated on the path, which serve udon noodle soup and sushi. Because crowds are drawn to their picturesque beauty, Fushimi Inari's trails can get quite congested during the day. To avoid the multitudes, opt for an evening stroll up the mountain – recent visitors say the pervading quiet coupled with the fading light filtering through the trees and torii gates makes for an eerie and spiritual experience. Early morning is another optimal time to experience the shrine sans the crowds.
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