Five fun and free things to do in Kyoto
| 1. Two Rival Temples – Higashi Hongan-ji and Nishi Hongan-ji Conveniently close to Kyoto Station are these two rival temples, the Higashi one of the largest wooden buildings in the world and reopening in October 2009 after major renovation, and the more ornate Nishi designated as a National Treasure. Both are headquarters of rival Buddhist sects.Kyoto Station, JR, Karasuma, Kintetsu lineshttp://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/attractions/facilities/shrines_temples/83dn3a000000eihj.htmlhttp://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/attractions/facilities/shrines_temples/83dn3a000000eigk.html
2. The Emperor’s Palace and Gardens – Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sento Goshu and Katsura Imperial Villa
This is the old Imperial Palace where the Emperors of Japan lived for over a thousand years, although this building dates only from the 19th century. You will need to apply online to the Imperial Household for permission to visit and there are guided tours of the palace in English twice a day, at 10 and 2, Monday to Friday.
If you are visiting between 1st – 10th November 2009 there are special Open Days, 9am-3.30pm, because this is the 20th anniversary of the accession of the Emperor, and you can just turn up.
There are also tours of the Sento Goshu Gardens next door, at 10 and 2 in English, with the same application process.
Imadegawa Station, Karasuma line
The Gardens of Katsura Imperial Villa are quintessentially Japanese with beautifully manicured trees, elaborately staged viewpoints, ponds, bridges and elegant teahouses in 7 hectares. Again, you need to apply online to the Imperial Household for permission to visit.
JR Kyoto Station, Kyoto Shiei Subway Karasuma line, Hankyu Karasuma Station, Hankyu Kyoto line.