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.

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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.

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And it was so worth the extra time and effort!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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Or this!

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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.

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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!

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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: