While Kyoto’s Fushimi Inari Shrine is certainly a must-see, it also gets extremely crowded with visitors. So, whenever possible, I like to mix in some sights that are off the tourists’ beaten path.

I found two in the Kyoto area that I thought were particularly special. And, when I visited, I had them all to myself!

The first was Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, a Bhuddist temple in the Arashiyama area. If you’re headed to the famous Bamboo Grove anyway, this is a worthy excursion. I loved this temple. It’s filled with 1200 Rakan statues. Each one is handcrafted, and they cover the temple grounds and surrounding hillside.


Finding Otagi Nenbutsu-ji took some patience. The temple is at the top of a steep hill, and there is minimal signage along the way. I kept wondering if I was headed in the wrong direction. But then, finally, I found it.


And it was so worth the extra time and effort!


The statues are whimsical, and no two are alike. There’s a pair embracing, another sharing a cup of tea, and even a statue that looks like the Moai from Easter Island.

Another place I loved was Unryu-in Temple. This one’s closer to central Kyoto, and it also took some doing to find.

But it’s really special.


The temple is known for its Window of Enlightenment that beautifully frames a cherry blossom tree in the garden. I had trouble getting a nice photo of the window that wasn’t overexposed. I’ll post my lame attempt … but better to visit yourself and enjoy the view in person!


Here’s the room where the window is located. See the lone chair? That’s where visitors like me are asked to sit for optimal viewing. And enlightenment!


Unryu-in Temple is a feast for the eyes and offers visual treats around every corner. Literally every corner. No matter where I walked, I’d turn a corner and see something like this.


Or this!


Unryu-in cost 400 yen to enter. For 500 more, I was able to enjoy a cup of matcha — and a bit of mochi — while gazing at the garden.


The aesthetics throughout this temple are amazing. Everything is arranged just so and incredibly visually pleasing. Every window frames a beautiful garden view. Even these rocks on the floor made me want to sit and stare!


Both Otagi Nenbutsu-ji and Unryu-in have neighboring sights that are also worth a visit. Otagi is close to Adashino Nenbutsu-ji with its roughly 8000 Buddhist statuettes and small bamboo forest.

Unryu-in is part of the larger Sennyū-ji Temple, which is also lovely — and just as uncrowded!

Here are the rest of my photos from Otagi Nenbutsu-ji and Unryu-in Temples: