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7 Top Photo Spots in Kyoto

The large and vibrant Japanese city Kyoto is located on the island of Honshu and is simultaneously ancient and modern. This special atmosphere attracts photographers from around the world; with so many amazing photography opportunities, it can be a bit overwhelming. Here’s a list of some of the best places to give you ideas for your trip.


Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine

Definitley a must-visit site for any photographer in Kyoto, the Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine has become one of the top tourist sites in the city. This historic shrine was established in AD 711 in honor of the goddess of rice, an integral crop for Japan. In 1499 the shrine was expanded, and a four kilometer stretch of impressive orange and black arches called “torii” were constructed. These spectacular arches will add a significance to your photo shoot difficult to capture in other sites. In addition to this impressive architectural display, the Fushimi-Inari Taisha Shrine also features numerous statues of animals, in particular foxes, which according to legend are messengers of the gods. Make sure you don’t pass up this important cultural site when you’re taking pictures for your photo shoot in Kyoto.


Kyoto Imperial Palace

The first Imperial Palace of Kyoto was built in AD 794, and still remains one of the best photo sites in the city. It has also become a symbol of perseverance and growth, since even though the structure has been destroyed several times, it was always rebuilt to preserve its beauty and glory.

Every photographer in Kyoto should visit this impressive landmark, and enjoy attractions like the intricately decorated front gates, and interior chambers like the Library and Courtroom. It takes a guided tour to see the inside of the Palace, but your photo shoot will greatly benefit from this amazing experience.


Kiyomizu-dera Temple

On the beautiful slopes of Otowa Mountain is the beautiful Kiyomizu-dera Temple, named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historic and cultural significance in Japan. First constructed in AD 790, the original building is no longer in existence, but the structures seen today were designed to represent the ancient tradition on which the temple was founded. An integral part of the temple is the statue of Kannon, a goddess of mercy, which is a great place to get some unique pictures for your photo shoot. In the Main Hall, you can get pictures of the mighty 30-meter high pillars and enjoy a spectacular view out over Otowa Mountain and Waterfall. For an extra special splash of color, visit during the fall when the brilliant autumn leaves will light up your photographs.


Katsura Imperial Villa

Built to utilize the best aesthetic design and beautiful scenery of Kyoto, the Katsura Imperial Villa is a spectacular site to visit when you’re on a photo shoot in Kyoto. The background of your pictures will be graced by the majestic Kameyama and Arashiyama mountains, and the intricately planned gardens are a wonder to behold.

This building was intended as a summer villa for Prince Hachijo Toshihito, and you might just feel a bit royal yourself when you visit to take photographs. Each separate building of the villa has its own unique characteristics that you can use in your photo shoot.



Known as the “Golden Pavilion,” the Kinkaku-ji was built during the 14th century. Today it functions as a Zen Buddhist temple, and the calm atmosphere and peaceful surroundings make this site truly special and an amazing photography location in Kyoto. Everything about the Kinkaku-ji temple speaks to amazing photographs, such as the elegant golden leaf decorations from which it gets its name “Golden Pavilion,” as well as the serene pond next to the building. Take some time on your photo shoot to explore the grounds and you might find the perfect nature shot to supplement your Kyoto photo shoot.


Nijo Castle

A royal palace by every regard, the Nijo Castle used to be a building of government residence, though now it serves as a tourist attraction and historic monument. Constructed in 1603, the building has needed some repairs, but much of the original artwork and design has been preserved. Noteworthy attractions that will make your photo shoot of Kyoto extra special include the impressive gates like the East Gate and Inner Gate, and the beautiful paintings that decorate the walls. Enjoy the serene majesty of the Nijo Castle and come away with excellent photographs that capture the unique charm of Kyoto.


Byodo-in Temple

Dating back to the 988 AD, this temple offers photographers some of the best cultural and historic scenes for their photographs. There are numerous shrines, and a large display of artwork that showcase traditional Japanese styles. Make sure you visit the spectacular Phoenix Hall, which is famous for the ornate design and magnificent altar. In the temple gardens, you’ll be able to get some more tranquil images for you photo shoot. Regardless of what time of year you come, the gardens offer a special atmosphere of serenity with the tranquil pond and beautiful trees next to the main building. A short distance from the temple is the bamboo grove Arashiyama, and these monumental native Japanese plants will make a wonderful site for photographs that capture meaning as well as natural beauty. The Byodo-in Temple also has an adjacent museum, with ancient artifacts from this site as well as other historic treasures of the country.