Ian Littlewood

Ian Littlewood
Feb 02, 2020 ยท 2 min read

Looking for Kyoto Without Crowds in autumn

Some random observations from last autumn in Kyoto. The colours were, as always, breathtaking but the crowds more overwhelming than ever. In spring and autumn, the search for a Kyoto without crowds becomes more difficult year by year. True, the gardens in the book were less crowded than others I visited, but few were anything like empty. An exception was Keishun-in, but then it's not really a spot for autumn leaves. Perhaps because Genko-an is closed for restoration, I found only a handful of people when I walked up the road to Koetsuji, ablaze with colour. Another surprise was the Gansuiken tea-house, not far from Sennyuji. At most times of the year this little spot doesn't have a huge amount to recommend it, but in late November it was a wonderful refuge from the surrounding swirl of tourist activity.

I'd never previously visited Eisho-in, a wonderful little sub-temple of Kurodani. Its lovely garden (pictured above) had a steady trickle of visitors but none of the jostling masses that flock into the main temple of Kurodani at this time of year - and now, sadly, into nearby Shinnyodo.

As the crowds increase, so do the prices. For example, Koetsuji, Zuishin-in and Ohara's Raigo-in were all charging 500 yen, while to get into Daigoji you had to pay a punishing 1300 yen (800 yen out of season). Another temple that now charges 500 yen is Koto-in, but the good news there is that it has at last re-opened.

Perhaps mindful of the increasing prices, several temples are taking more trouble with their entry leaflets. Information that one had to scratch around for in the past is now often included in the leaflet - so apologies if some of the stuff in KWC looks familiar.

I think I've tended in the past to be too dismissive of the Imperial Park. Yes, a bit boring in some respects, but when the rest of the city is heaving with tourists, its sheer size makes it easy to find empty spaces where you can enjoy its glorious trees in perfect tranquillity.