Discover the traditions and practices of two of Japan’s most important religions, Shinto and Buddhism, along with some of the country’s most important religious sites, during this 3-hour private walking tour led by a religious scholar. Your immersion into the religious culture of Japan takes place in Kyoto, one of the country’s most historically important cities and once the center of religious and political life.
Start your private tour by meeting your guide at the Lawson store in front of Yasaka Shrine. The meeting time depends on whether you’ve selected a morning or afternoon tour. For those that pick the morning option, you will meet at 10am. For afternoon tour participants, your meeting time is 1pm.
Begin your exploration with a scholarly introduction from your guide to the history of these two important Japanese religions. Hear about the importance of synchronicity (in traditions, beliefs and rituals) to Shintoism along with the practice’s origins in tribal culture. Then learn about the history of Buddhism, which came to Japan by way of China and Central Asia.
Walk on to explore Yasaka Shrine, where you’ll wander among the many gates and hallways of this Shinto religious center. Watch the performance of the temizu, the ritual hand cleansing that takes place before entering a Shinto site, and listen to your guide as they explain the principles behind kami, the spiritual deities. You’ll also hear about the role that folklore played in the political aims of the 19th century Meiji regime.
Move next through the streets of Gion to Kiyomizu-dera, one of the most famous temples in Kyoto and a UNESCO World Heritage site. First established in 788 AD, this impressive Buddhist temple is situated on a panoramic overlook of Otowa Mountain. Learn about the customs of Buddhism from your guide, including the importance of the design of temple complexes, as well as the use of charms and amulets to ward off bad luck and provide protection.
Head to your final stop at the Zen Buddhist site of Kennin-ji, first established in 1202 AD. Spend time at the temple learning about the culture of Buddhist monks, who use the practices of meditation and daily work to reach enlightenment. While at the site you’ll also visit the Abbot’s Quarters, the Dharma Hall (Hatto), a 16th century teahouse and the Imperial Messenger Gate.
Finish your tour back at Yasaka Shrine, armed with a newfound appreciation for Japan’s diverse religious practices.