Eye Candy

Start Planning Your Fall Trip to Kyoto Now

by Kate Bitner
Saiho-ji Moss, mirror-like ponds, and maples: Saiho-ji is the stuff of Japan dreams. All photos by Kate Bitner.

Springtime cherry blossoms may get all the attention, but Kyoto is beautiful any season. Japanese expat Kate Bitner has the photos to prove it.

KYOTO – The former imperial capital tops nearly every traveler's Japan itinerary. For many, Kyoto is the embodiment of a Japan that has long lived in their imaginations: sprawling moss, technicolor maples, swaying bamboo, smoky temples, and bubbling rivers. Even after two years of living and traveling in Japan, Kyoto is still very much that place for me, and I'm constantly discovering and falling in love with new corners of the city.


Exploring Nihon's thousand-year capital.

Moss Temple, Kyoto

Saiho-ji, commonly referred to as Koke-dera (Moss Temple), is a Zen temple and moss garden located on the western outskirts of Kyoto. Its defining feature is actually the result of neglect: a flood back in the Edo period caused the garden to fall into disrepair, after which it became blanketed in a mossy carpet.

Tawawa Chan at Kyoto Tower

Kyoto is not without kawaii! Meet Tawawa-chan, the official mascot of Kyoto Tower.


Kyoto is one of few Japanese cities with a plentitude of pre-war buildings, including traditional wooden townhouses called machiya that are available for rent. The warm, earthy interior of our rental features latticework in a variety of different native woods.

Ginkaku-ji, Kyoto

A favorite morning was spent on two wheels with Kyoto Cycling Tour Project taking in the sights of Higashiyama. Our first stop was Ginkaku-ji. The name may translate to "Silver Pavilion," but don't expect to find any gleaming structures there. The temple's meticulous rock garden and its hillside location overlooking Kyoto are the true draw.

Ginkaku-ji leaves, Kyoto

When your tour guide wants to keep moving, but you really need to get that 587th leaf photograph.

Heian-jingu, Kyoto

We peddled on to Heian Jingu, a Shinto Shrine whose entrance involves passing through an 80-foot vermillion Torii gate. Before our visit, we stopped to perform misogi, a ritual to purify the body and mind with water.

Hinoki wood tub

My favorite room in our machiya rental. A Japanese hinoki wood tub – perfect for soaking tired legs after a long day of sightseeing.

Morning in Kyoto

Morning light on the tatami and no one blocked my shot – this is why you head out the door early in Kyoto.

Okoshi Sanso, Kyoto

A colorful temple to match the hued hills of Arashiyama.

Higashi-hongan-ji, Kyoto

Higashi-Hongan-ji is a Buddhist Temple located just minutes away from Kyoto Station, making it an excellent ending point on our journey. Being Kyoto's largest wooden structure, I was happily surprised to find it nearly void of tourists.

Kyoto Station

Kyoto Station in all its glittering, geometric glory.

Bento box on the Shinkansen

No shinkansen ride is complete without an ekiben (train bento).


An Architect's View of Kyoto
Pedaling Kyoto
Little Kyoto Is the Dreamy Japanese Town We've All Been Looking For

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