The Northern Higashiyama Area is one of Kyoto’s most important sightseeing districts. It’s less crowded than Southern Higashiyama but it contains at least as many first-rate sights, including fantastic temples, shrines and lots of greenery.
Heian Jingu’s Torii and Okazaki Canal
Northern Higashiyama Area Description:
The Northern Higashiyama Area runs along the base of the Higashiyama (Northern Mountains) from Sanjo-dori in the south to Shugakuin in the north. The western boundary of the district is the Kamo-gawa River. The area at the base of the mountains is basically one long strip of temples, while the central area, known as Okazaki-koen, is the city’s museum district.
Things To Do And See In Northern Higashiyama
- Nanzen-ji Temple
One of the best temples in the Northern Higashiyama district, Nanzen-ji Temple is a sprawling Zen paradise surrounded by lush green hills
- The Kyoto International Community House
The Kyoto International Community House has a lot to offer the short-term visitor, including a library with international papers and magazines, free internet and wifi
- Murin-an Villa
This perfect walled in garden just down the hill from Nanzen-ji Temple is a brilliant place to escape the crowds that plague the big-name spots of Higashiyama
- Heian-jingu Shrine
Heian-jungu Shrine is one of the most important and visually impressive Shinto shrines in Kyoto. It’s worth a visit, particularly on Shinto festival days
- Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum of Art (formerly Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art)
The Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum of Art is the best museum in Kyoto (it’s only eclipsed by the Kyoto National Museum when the National is holding a special exhibition)
- National Museum of Modern Art
Kyoto’s National Museum of Modern Art is a reasonably interesting museum that occasionally holds worthwhile special exhibits
- Kyoto Museum of Crafts and Design (formerly Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts or Fureaikan)
The Kyoto Museum of Crafts and Design is a small free museum that showcases the main traditional crafts of Kyoto. It’s a great rainy day activity.
- Kyoto City Zoo
If your kids are strangely unimpressed by the subtleties of Buddhist temples, the Kyoto City Zoo can be a godsend
- Eikan-do Temple
One of Kyoto’s most famous fall foliage spots, Eikan-do Temple is a sprawling complex of gardens and halls that’s worth a visit outside of the fall foliage season
- Konchi-in Temple
Konchi-in Temple is one of the finer small temples in the Northern Higashiyama Sightseeing district. The garden alone is worth the price of admission
- The Path of Philosophy
The Path of Philosophy is easily one of the most attractive sights in Kyoto – a streamside path lined with blossoming trees and shrubs of every description
- Reikan-ji Temple
Only open for two brief periods a year, Reikan-ji Temple is a must-see attraction if you’re lucky enough to be in town when the gates are open
- Anraku-ji Temple
Another tiny charmer of a temple off of the Path of Philosophy, Anraku-ji is highly recommended if you’re in town when it’s open
- Honen-in Temple
Honen-in is our favorite temple in all of Kyoto, and that’s saying a lot in a city with over 1600 temples
- Ginkaku-ji Temple
Ginkaku-ji temple, the famed “Silver Pavilion”, has magnificient halls and gardens. It’s predicably popular so best visited in off-peak time
- Mt Daimonji-yama Hike from Ginkaku-ji Temple
The one-hour roundtrip hike from Ginkaku-ji Temple up to the viewpoint on Mt. Daimonji-yama is the best short hike in Kyoto. The view of the city from here in incredible! Here is everything you need to do this hike.
- Shinyo-do Temple
Shinyo-do Temple is a beautiful temple located atop Yoshida-yama Hill. The main hall here is sublime and the ground is dotted with cherry and maple trees.
- Konkaikomyo-ji Temple (Kurodani)
Konkaikomyo-ji Temple, better known as Kurodani, is a superb and rarely visited (by tourists) temple on Yoshida-yama Hill.
- Enko-ji Temple
This small temple in far Northern Higashiyama packs a huge punch: It’s got two incredible gardens, some fine Buddhist artwork and even a small bamboo forest reminiscent of the famous one in Arashiyama.
- Manshu-in Temple
A small gem of a temple well to the north of the “beaten path,” Manshu-in rewards the visitor with a fine garden, brilliant architecture and superb decorations
- Shisen-do Temple
Another northern temple far from the beaten track, Shisen-do Temple is the perfect choice for visitors who want to escape the crowds that plague better known spots
- Shugakuin Rikyu Imperial Villa
Shugakuin Rikyu Imperial Villa is the most spacious and, in some ways, the most pleasing of Kyoto’s four imperial properties
- Bishamon-do Temple
Bishamon-do Temple is a beautiful temple just over the Higashiyama Mountains from Kyoto in the suburb of Yamashina. It can be reached by train and subway, or by hiking trails from Nanzen-ji Temple.
- Robert Yellin Yakimono Gallery
Located a short walk from Ginkaku-ji Temple, the Robert Yellin Yakimono Gallery is a carefully curated gallery of Japanese pottery in a lovely traditional Kyoto house.
Places to Eat in Northern Higashiyama
Just down the hill from Ginkaku-ji Temple, Omen is one of our favorite restaurants in Kyoto. They serve some of Kyoto’s best udon noodles
- Sanmikouan Higashiyama Sanjo
If you’re hungry for a tasty bowl of soba and some excellent side dishes while exploring near Okazaki, try to get a table at Sanmikouan. It’s a tranquil oasis in a busy neighborhood.
- Daigin Shokudo
Daigin Shokudo is a great shokudo near Ginkaku-ji Temple. It serves the standard noodle and rice favorites. It’s a good choice for a meal when exploring Northern Higashiyama.
If you’re looking for a healthy lunch to take with you on a hike in Kurama or anywhere else in Kyoto, stop by Onigiriyasan for some of the best rice balls in town. They’re healthy, cheap and delicious!
- Kyoto Soh-an Café
Kyoto Soh-an Café is a great place for a cup of coffee or tea or a light meal when exploring Northern Higashiyama. You can usually get a seat here when the places closer to the temples are packed.
A great place to eat near Ginkaku-ji Temple, Goya is an Okinawan-themed restaurant with excellent food, cool music and comfortable seating
- Falafel Garden
A great vegetarian restaurant in northern Kyoto, Falafel Garden specializes in the eponymous falafel, but there’s plenty more on the menu to keep things interesting
One of Kyoto’s Michelin three-star restaurants, Hyotei is one of the most attractive restaurants in Kyoto. It’s a kaiseki restaurant that makes few concessions to foreign palates
- Hinode Udon
Hinode Udon is a fine lunch restaurant near Nanzen-ji Temple and the Path of Philosophy. As the name suggests, udon noodles are the specialty of the house
For a hearty bowl of ramen noodles in the Kyoto museum district (Okazaki-koen Park and Heian-jingu area), Karako is the obvious choice
Choice restaurant is a great place to enjoy Japanese-style vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free food. It’s at Sanjo-Keihan, very close to Downtown Kyoto.
Ryokan in Northern Higashiyama
- Nanzenji Sando Kikusui
(View on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
For those with a little cash to splash, consider staying at Nanzenji Sando Kikusui. A night here won’t come cheap, but it’s worth it for a sublime ryokan experience.
- Kyoto Garden Ryokan Yachiyo Hotel
(View on Booking.com or Agoda.com)
The Garden Ryokan Yachiyo is a large ryokan near Nanzen-ji Temple, very used to foreign guests
Vacation Rentals in Northern Higashiyama
- Koto Inn
One of the finest vacation rentals in Kyoto, Koto Inn is a lovingly restored Japanese machiya with all the comforts that Western travelers have come to expect
Shopping in Northern Higashiyama
- Kyoto Handicraft Center
For one-stop souvenir shopping, the Kyoto Handicraft Center should be at the top of your list
For wanna-be samurai and other fans of Japanese swords and knifes, Tozando should be high on your itinerary
Nightlife in Northern Higashiyama
The only club we’ve ever seen inside a train station, the aptly named Metro is located in one of the entrance tunnels to the Keihan Line’s Marutamachi Station
Getting to Northern Higashiyama
- By subway from Kyoto Station: Take the Karasuma Subway Line to Karasuma-Oike Station and change to the Tozai Subway line heading east. Get off at Higashiyama Station and walk north to get to Okazaki-koen. Or, get off at Keage Station and walk north to get to Nanzen-ji Temple and the Path of Philosophy.
- By bicycle from Kyoto Station: Cycle east to the Kamo-gawa River and then cycle north (upstream) until you hit Sanjo-dori or Marutamachi-dori.
- By Hankyu Line (from Osaka etc): Get off at Kawaramachi Station.
- By Keihan Line (from Osaka etc): Get off at Sanjo Keihan Stations
Kyoto Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Kyoto guide
- Check Kyoto accommodation availability on Booking.com – usually you can reserve a room with no upfront payment. Pay when you check out. Free cancellations too
- Need tips on where to stay? See my one page guide Where To Stay In Kyoto
- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
- Buy a data-only SIM card online for collection when you arrive at Kansai International Airport (for Osaka and Kyoto) or Tokyo's Narita Airport. Or rent an unlimited data pocket wifi router
- Compare Japan flight prices and timings to find the best deals
- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's my explanation of why it's worth it
- A prepaid Icoca card makes travelling around Kyoto easy – here's how
- Get travel insurance for Japan - World Nomads is well-regarded (and here's why)