Kyoto off the beaten path: see the ancient capital in a whole new way!

Kyoto as a destination needs very little in terms of introduction. As the ancient capital of Japan and home to a vast majority of its UNESCO World Heritage sites, Kyoto is a staple of itineraries for visitors to the country, both for first-time and veteran travelers alike. But what many may not realize is that Kyoto is much more than just the central city and is, in actuality, an entire prefecture with a medley of destinations to discover if you deviate from the usual spots. 

Neighboring Kyoto to the east is Shiga Prefecture, home to the largest freshwater lake in all of Japan: Lake Biwa. It’s on the banks of Lake Biwa, where the town of Omi-Hachiman is located. This is a town with a very distinct atmosphere, a rich feudal past, and many wooden-constructed temples. Also formerly a well-established merchant town, the historic districts are laced with canals that can be traversed via small boat!

Overlooking the town and lake is Mount Hachiman, whose summit is easily accessible via cable car or a short hike up. The panoramic view of the land meeting the lake water is an enigmatic scene that encapsulates the charm of the area perfectly. 

Ine

The northern end of Kyoto Prefecture is actually the coastal area of the Japan Sea, and on this coast is the fishing village of Ine, located between the sea and the mountains. Ine is architecturally distinct for its funaya, traditional homes built on the water, often with downstairs structures meant to house boats. 

The waters around the town are beautiful and pristine, with opportunities for coastal cruises and other water activities. Of course, being a fishing village, the seafood in Ine is among the best in the area. Be sure to try specialties such as buri (amberjack) and oysters at the local restaurants!

Kibune

For the first scenic getaway, not much distance needs to be made between you and the city. Kibune is a village built right into the side of a mountain high above Kyoto. About 1.5 hours away with public transportation, it perfectly encapsulates the charm of the area while having an atmosphere all its own.

Pay a visit to Kibune Shrine with a lantern-illuminated path and take in the tranquility of the nature-infused holy location. Nearby, the town of Kurama is just a hike across the mountain and holds its own number of historic sites, temples, and beautiful scenery.

Amanohashidate

Back to the northern coast of Kyoto brings travelers to one of what is called “the Three Views of Japan,” as canonized by scholar Hayashi Gaho in the 1600s. Amanohashidate is an impressive sight that one would not believe was natural at first viewing. Amanohashidate is a natural sand bar that connects two ends of a bay. The sand bar itself is covered with dense foliage, and at one end there is a Buddhist temple and a Shinto shrine at the other.

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