The Higashiyama District along the lower slopes of Kyoto’s eastern mountains is one of the city’s best preserved historic districts. It is a great place to experience traditional old Kyoto, especially between Kiyomizudera and Yasaka Shrine, where the narrow lanes, wooden buildings and traditional merchant shops invoke a feeling of the old capital city. Recent renovations to remove telephone poles and repave the streets have further improved the traditional feel of the district.
The streets in Higashiyama are lined by small shops, cafes and restaurants which have been catering to tourists and pilgrims for centuries. These businesses retain their traditional design, although many have been renovated through the years, and they continue to serve customers today, selling local specialties such as Kiyomizu-yaki pottery, sweets, pickles, crafts and other souvenirs.
The shops and restaurants in the area typically open around nine or ten in the morning and close relatively early around five or six in the evening, except during the ten day long Hanatoro in March when the streets of Higashiyama are lined by thousands of lanterns and many of the area’s temples, shrines and businesses have extended hours and special illuminations.
While the walk through the Higashiyama District between Kiyomizudera and Yasaka Shrine is only about two kilometers long and could be done in half an hour, you could easily spend half a day or more in the area, visiting the various temples, shrines, shops and cafes along the way. Good walkers are likely to enjoy walking beyond Yasaka Shrine past Chionin and Shorenin Temples to Heian Shrine, and possibly even further via Nanzenji and the Philosopher’s Path to Ginkakuji Temple.
Get There and Around
From Kyoto Station take bus number 100 or 206 in direction of Kiyomizudera. The Higashiyama district can be accessed from multiple bus stops between the Gojozaka (10 minutes, 230 yen one way) and Gion (15 minutes, 230 yen) bus stops.
Alternatively, the district can be reached in a 10-15 minute walk from Kiyomizu-Gojo Station or Gion-Shijo Station along the Keihan Line, from Kawaramachi Station along the Hankyu Line or from Higashiyama Station along the Tozai Subway Line.