Meet your guide in front of the Lawson's General Store and embark on your small-group walking tour of Kyoto. First, head to the historical Gion district and start at the Yasaka Shrine, a Shinto complex that includes numerous gates and halls. Here, witness the temizu, a ritual hand washing conducted before entering a Shinto shrine.
Your guide, a local scholar, will outline the basic principles of this indigenous spiritual belief system and introduce you to the kami, spiritual deities. Hear an interesting discussion on the role of folklore and its use in the nationalism promoted by the 19th-century Meiji regime.
Stroll through the streets of Gion and 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 spectacular views across the city. Your introduction to Buddhism begins with a small-group discussion of the the religion's origins and a basic understanding of how temple complexes are structured. You’ll also 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.
By the end of your small-group walking tour, you’ll have a better understanding of the symbols of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples for a more fulfilling experience during your time in Japan!