Best places to photograph in Kyoto, Japan

Best places to photograph inKyoto, Japan

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have captured on film is captured forever… It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” – Aaron Siskind

Kyoto is a city that evokes a sense of timeless beauty and charm. With its rich history, stunning landscapes, and traditional architecture, it is no wonder that Kyoto is a haven for photographers seeking to capture the essence of Japan. From picturesque temples and shrines to vibrant cherry blossoms and enchanting bamboo groves, this ancient city offers countless opportunities to create stunning images that will forever evoke the memories of your Kyoto journey.

Key Takeaways:

  • Kyoto is a photographer’s dream, with its blend of historical sites, natural landscapes, and cultural treasures.
  • Arashiyama Bamboo Grove provides an ethereal backdrop with its towering bamboo stalks.
  • The Higashiyama District showcases traditional Japanese architecture and comes alive during the Hanatoro Festival.
  • Nanzenji Temple offers a serene atmosphere and unique photo opportunities.
  • Fushimi Inari Shrine is famous for its vibrant torii gates, creating a captivating visual experience.

Arashiyama & Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Located just a short train ride away from Kyoto Station, Arashiyama is a district that is renowned for its scenic beauty. One of the prominent highlights of this area is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. As you venture into this enchanting bamboo forest, you will find yourself surrounded by tall bamboo stalks that create a mesmerizing green tunnel.

The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove provides a unique and captivating backdrop for photographers. The towering bamboo shoots create a sense of tranquility and Zen-like atmosphere, making it a popular spot for capturing the beauty of Kyoto in photographs.

Aside from the Bamboo Grove, the district of Arashiyama itself offers a plethora of temples and shrines that contribute to its allure. One such temple is the Tenryuji Temple, which dates back to the 14th century and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. With its stunning Zen garden and panoramic views of the Arashiyama mountains, Tenryuji Temple is a must-visit location for photographers.

Top Photography Spots in Arashiyama

  • Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
  • Tenryuji Temple
  • Togetsukyo Bridge
  • Hogonin Temple
  • Daikakuji Temple

Arashiyama, with its Bamboo Grove and scenic beauty, is indeed one of the top photography spots in Kyoto. Whether you’re capturing the ethereal atmosphere of the Bamboo Grove or exploring the temples and shrines in the district, you’re bound to find plenty of picturesque moments to capture.

Higashiyama District

The Higashiyama District is a hidden gem within Kyoto, steeped in history and offering a glimpse into the city’s traditional architecture and culture. As I explored its narrow lanes, I found myself surrounded by beautifully preserved wooden cottages housing delightful pottery and souvenir shops, inviting teahouses, and charming restaurants. The district’s timeless ambiance provides the perfect backdrop for capturing stunning photographs that showcase the essence of Kyoto’s historic charm.

Hanatoro Festival: A Spectacle of Light

One of the highlights of the Higashiyama District is the annual Hanatoro Festival when the streets and temples come alive with the warm glow of thousands of paper lanterns. This magical event transforms the district into an enchanting wonderland, creating a truly immersive photography experience. As you wander the illuminated streets, you can’t help but be amazed by the ethereal beauty and captivating atmosphere. It’s a feast for the eyes and a photographer’s paradise.

During the Hanatoro Festival, the Higashiyama District presents a multitude of photo opportunities, with the lantern-lit temples and narrow alleys casting a soft, ethereal glow. The convergence of traditional architecture and the warm lantern light creates a unique visual tapestry that truly encapsulates the beauty of Kyoto.

Must-Visit Attractions

A visit to the Higashiyama District wouldn’t be complete without exploring its iconic landmarks. Here are two must-visit attractions that will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression:

Ginkakuji Temple Yasaka Pagoda
A Zen temple famous for its tranquil gardens and silver pavilion. An exquisite pagoda that stands tall in the heart of the district, offering a picturesque backdrop for your photographs.
Stroll through the meticulously maintained gardens adorned with moss and carefully placed rocks. Marvel at the intricate details of the pagoda and capture its elegance against the vibrant hues of the surrounding district.

These attractions provide a glimpse into Kyoto’s rich cultural heritage and serve as perfect subjects for your lens. Whether you’re capturing the serenity of Ginkakuji Temple’s garden or framing the Yasaka Pagoda against the backdrop of the Higashiyama District, your photographs will reflect the innate beauty of this historic area.

As you explore the Higashiyama District, take your time to immerse yourself in the ambiance, discover hidden gems, and capture the essence of Kyoto through your lens. This district offers a unique blend of history, architecture, and cultural experiences that will undoubtedly spark your creativity and result in breathtaking photographs.

Nanzenji Temple

Nanzenji Temple, located in Higashiyama, is a revered Zen temple steeped in history and known for its tranquil ambiance. As you step into this sacred space, you’ll be captivated by the serene atmosphere that exudes a sense of peace and introspection.

The temple’s main hall, Hojo, showcases the essence of minimalist design, with its clean lines and uncluttered aesthetic. Inside, sliding paper doors adorned with delicate nature depictions invite soft light to bathe the space, creating a calming environment for meditation and contemplation.

Surrounding the main hall, Nanzenji Temple encompasses smaller sub-temples and enchanting gardens that offer a delightful respite from the hustle and bustle of city life. One of the highlights is the picturesque Roman-style aqueduct, a surprising architectural element that adds a touch of uniqueness to the temple grounds.

With its exquisite blend of nature, art, and spirituality, Nanzenji Temple provides a treasure trove of photographic opportunities. Every corner of this Zen temple offers a chance to capture the beauty of Kyoto in a single frame.

Capturing the Essence of Nanzenji Temple

When photographing Nanzenji Temple, consider exploring the following elements:

  • The sublime simplicity of the main hall’s interior
  • The delicate beauty of the sliding paper doors
  • The harmonious coexistence of nature and architecture in the temple gardens
  • The ancient Roman-style aqueduct that adds a unique touch
  • The stone steps leading to the entrance gate, offering a photo-worthy perspective

Aspect Photography Tips
Main Hall (Hojo) Experiment with different angles to capture the minimalist beauty. Focus on the delicate details of the sliding paper doors.
Temple Gardens Frame your shots to showcase the peaceful coexistence of nature and architecture. Look for vibrant colors and serene spaces.
Roman-style Aqueduct Highlight the contrast between the ancient aqueduct and the lush greenery surrounding it. Consider capturing the play of light and shadow on its hallowed structure.
Stone Steps (Sanmon) Use the stone steps as a foreground element to lead the viewer’s eye towards the temple gate. Experiment with different lighting conditions to create captivating compositions.

Fushimi Inari Shrine

Fushimi Inari Shrine is a must-visit destination for photographers in Kyoto. This iconic shrine is famous for its breathtaking torii gates that stretch endlessly along the pathway leading up to Mount Inari. The vivid vermilion hue of the gates against the lush green surroundings creates a truly mesmerizing sight.

Photography enthusiasts will find endless opportunities to capture unique and captivating shots at Fushimi Inari Shrine. The intricate details of the torii gates, the interplay of light and shadow, and the serene atmosphere make this location perfect for both amateur and professional photographers.

If you’re aiming to capture the essence of Fushimi Inari Shrine in your photographs, I recommend visiting during the early morning hours. The soft golden light of sunrise adds a touch of magic to the scene and allows for a more peaceful and atmospheric photography session.

Exploring Fushimi Inari Shrine

When visiting Fushimi Inari Shrine, be sure to set aside enough time to explore the grounds. The shrine is located at the base of Mount Inari, and there are various hiking trails that lead to different parts of the mountain. These trails offer stunning viewpoints and additional photo opportunities.

As you wander through the torii gates, take your time to appreciate the intricate craftsmanship and symbolism behind each gate. Don’t rush through the experience – immerse yourself in the peaceful ambience and let your camera capture the beauty of this sacred place.

Don’t forget to also explore the smaller shrines and sacred monuments scattered throughout the shrine grounds. These hidden gems offer unique angles for photography and provide a deeper understanding of the shrine’s cultural significance.

With its vibrant torii gates and serene atmosphere, Fushimi Inari Shrine offers an unforgettable experience for photographers in Kyoto. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional, this iconic location will inspire you to capture the essence of Kyoto’s cultural and natural beauty through your lens.

Yasaka Shrine & Gion District

When it comes to capturing the essence of traditional Japanese culture and the iconic geisha lifestyle, the Gion District is the place to be. Also known as the geisha district, Gion offers a captivating glimpse into Kyoto’s rich heritage. As you wander through its streets, you’ll be surrounded by wooden merchant houses, teahouses, and charming restaurants, creating a nostalgic atmosphere.

At the heart of Gion lies the vibrant Yasaka Shrine, beckoning photographers with its colorful entrance and lantern-adorned stage. This sacred shrine has been an integral part of Kyoto’s religious landscape for centuries. Its vibrant and intricate architecture provides an excellent backdrop for your photographs, capturing the spirit of this enchanting district.

While exploring Gion and Yasaka Shrine, keep your camera ready, as you might even catch a glimpse of geishas and maikos gracefully passing by in their exquisite kimonos. These iconic figures add an extra layer of charm and authenticity to your photography experience.

Whether you’re interested in architecture, street scenes, or portraits, Gion District and Yasaka Shrine offer an abundance of opportunities for stunning photographs. Don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of this geisha district and capture unforgettable moments in the heart of Kyoto.

Maruyama Park

Located in the heart of Kyoto, Maruyama Park offers a tranquil retreat for those seeking natural beauty and a peaceful atmosphere. This beloved public park is especially renowned during the cherry blossom season, when the park becomes a breathtaking sea of blooming sakura trees.

The highlight of Maruyama Park is undoubtedly the magnificent weeping cherry tree, which takes center stage and transforms into a glorious waterfall of pink petals during spring. This iconic sight is a photographer’s dream, capturing the essence of Kyoto’s cherry blossom magic.

To make the most of your photography experience, consider visiting Maruyama Park in the early morning or evening hours when the light is soft and the crowds are thinner. This allows for a more serene and intimate atmosphere, allowing you to capture the beauty of the cherry blossoms in all their splendor.


What are the best places to photograph in Kyoto, Japan?

There are several stunning locations in Kyoto that are perfect for photography. Some of the best places include Arashiyama & Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Higashiyama District, Nanzenji Temple, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Yasaka Shrine & Gion District, and Maruyama Park.

What makes Arashiyama & Arashiyama Bamboo Grove an ideal photography spot?

Arashiyama is known for its scenic beauty and the highlight of this area is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. The tall bamboo stalks create a mesmerizing green tunnel, providing a unique backdrop for photographs. Additionally, the district itself offers numerous temples that add to the charm of this photography spot.

What makes Higashiyama District a recommended photography location?

The Higashiyama District is a well-preserved historic area that showcases Kyoto’s traditional architecture and culture. Wandering through its narrow lanes, you’ll find wooden cottages housing pottery and souvenir shops, teahouses, and charming restaurants. The district comes to life during the Hanatoro Festival, when thousands of paper lanterns illuminate the streets and temples.

What are the highlights of Nanzenji Temple for photographers?

Nanzenji Temple is a significant Zen temple in Higashiyama with a rich history and serene atmosphere. The temple’s main hall, Hojo, features minimalist interior design and sliding paper doors adorned with delicate nature depictions. The temple grounds also encompass smaller temples and beautiful gardens, including an ancient Roman-style aqueduct. The stone steps leading to the entrance gate, Sanmon, offer a perfect photo opportunity.

What makes Fushimi Inari Shrine an iconic photography spot in Kyoto?

Fushimi Inari Shrine is known for its thousands of vermilion torii gates that create an enchanting pathway leading up to Mount Inari. The striking contrast of red gates against the surrounding greenery provides a captivating visual experience. Exploring the shrine during the early morning hours allows for a more peaceful and atmospheric photography session.

Why is Yasaka Shrine & Gion District a captivating photography spot?

The Gion District, also known as the geisha district, offers a glimpse into traditional Japanese culture and the iconic geisha lifestyle. The streets are lined with wooden merchant houses, teahouses, and quaint restaurants. Yasaka Shrine, located in the heart of Gion, serves as a vibrant centerpiece with its colorful entrance and lantern-adorned stage. This district is a captivating photography spot where you may even catch a glimpse of geishas and maikos in their exquisite kimonos.

Why is Maruyama Park recommended for photography?

Maruyama Park provides a peaceful oasis in the heart of Kyoto, perfect for relaxing and capturing natural beauty. This public park is particularly famous during the cherry blossom season when the park is adorned with blooming sakura trees. The centerpiece of the park is a magnificent weeping cherry tree that becomes a cascading waterfall of pink petals in spring. Visiting during the early morning or evening hours allows for beautiful light and a quieter atmosphere for photography.

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