After meeting your guide at Lawson's General Store in Kyoto, begin your private 3-hour tour with a stroll through the historical Gion district. Your private guide will provide a scholarly introduction to the historical and present-day religions that infuse Japanese culture. Listen to a fascinating discussion on the synchronicity of spiritual traditions, beliefs and rituals of Shintoism — and its indigenous tribal origins — and Buddhism, which was imported from China and Central Asia.
Walk to the Yasaka Shrine and explore the numerous gates and halls of the Shinto complex. Witness the temizu, a ritual hand washing conducted before entering a Shinto shrine, as your guide outlines the basic principles of this spiritual belief system and introduces you to the kami, spiritual deities. You’ll also discover the role of folklore and its use in the nationalism promoted by the 19th-century Meiji regime.
Passing again through Gion, wend your way toward one of Kyoto’s most renowned temples, the Kiyomizu-dera. This UNESCO World Heritage-listed temple was established in 788 AD and its main hall, perched halfway up Otowa Mountain, provides amazing views across the city. Your introduction to Buddhism begins with a basic understanding of the way temple complexes are structured. Here, learn how charms and amulets are used to help change one’s fortune or provide protection.
Your final stop is the Zen Buddhist temple complex of Kennin-ji, rebuilt several times since it was established in 1202 AD. As you explore the complex with your guide, you’ll gain a better understand of the daily life of Buddhist monks, and discover how work and meditation are used to reach enlightenment. Structures you might visit are the Abbot's Quarters, the Dharma Hall (Hatto), a teahouse built in the 16th century and the Imperial Messenger Gate.
After the cultural immersion of your private walking tour, you’ll be better prepared to explore Japan's religious sites on your own!