The Stairs of Kyoto

Back in my not so far away past, I was pretty sedentary. When I was sitting in a cubicle all day the farthest I walked was from my desk to the mail room and back. In my new life walking 3-4 mile or more a day is pretty standard and my feet are definitely taking a beating for it. I know it’s been a productive day when my feet are throbbing as I go to sleep. That’s healthy, right?

The stairs of Kyoto are not making life any easier for my poor shell shocked tootsies. Kyoto, the former capital city of Japan, is known primarily for it’s historic palaces, temples and shrines. The city is literally thousands of years old, so it has had time to accumulate quite a large number of these beautiful compounds.

Unfortunately for me, many of these amazing sites involve stairs. A LOT of stairs. Kyoto is a pretty flat city, but all of the best temples seem to be built into the surrounding hillsides. When you think about it, it’s a lovely dramatic device to build your temple at the top of some terrifically steep steps. Kind of like climbing to heaven, where only the most devoted trekkers who reach the top are rewarded with great beauty- and a great view.

Here are some of my favorites, all worth the vertical hike:

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Chion-in Temple

Ryozen Kannon World War II Memorial

bamboo path

Nigatsu-Do (Nara)

There’s a travel lesson in here I think. When you see a flight of stairs, take it. The steeper the better. 9 times out of 10 something awesome is waiting at the top. At the very least you’ll sleep well.

And wear good shoes.

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26 Responses to The Stairs of Kyoto

  1. ayngelina October 5, 2010 at 8:22 AM #

    The days I’m trudging through the streets, sweating from the heat and humidity, about to cry because I can’t find my hostel, I try to remember that it is better than sitting in a cubicle. Plus with scenery like the photos above, who can complain.

    • Steph October 5, 2010 at 11:27 AM #

      Yeah I have to remind myself this sometimes too!

  2. Michael October 5, 2010 at 9:31 AM #

    Travel is the new weight lost drug.

    I LOVE that shot in Ryozen Kannon World War II Memorial with the bamboos and stairs.

    • Steph October 5, 2010 at 11:27 AM #

      I knew you’d like that one! And yes, my jeans are already fitting looser.

  3. Washi October 5, 2010 at 3:08 PM #

    All of us stuck in our cubicles are green!!!! Love the bamboo pic…thanx for sharing 🙂

  4. Andi October 5, 2010 at 6:23 PM #

    These pictures blow me away!!! I think all of the most amazing things in life require some sort of arduous journey to get to. 🙂

    • Steph October 10, 2010 at 9:02 PM #

      Sure seems like it to me as well!

  5. Steve October 5, 2010 at 9:05 PM #

    Love the bamboo shot and am excited for the posts to come. Thanks for the inspiration as I get ready for my adventures!


  6. Emily S. October 5, 2010 at 10:17 PM #

    Your photos are absolutely beautiful! My favorite is the one of the WWII memorial. I think it would feel odd to see the memorial for a war my country was on the other side of, if that makes sense.

    ….and that is a LOT of stairs.

    • Steph October 10, 2010 at 9:03 PM #

      It was actually a memorial to foreign soldiers, so it’s a memorial for us!

  7. sofia October 6, 2010 at 10:09 AM #

    So true, there is usually something incredible at the top of a flight of stairs, I’ll keep that in mind next time 😉

  8. Amanda October 6, 2010 at 1:42 PM #

    Kyoto looks amazing! It certainly seems like you’re seeing a lot, which is great. I love all the photos.

    And you’re right — lots of steep steps (especially when found in an ancient, foreign country) are usually worth the climb.

    • Steph October 10, 2010 at 9:10 PM #

      Yeah I have so mcuh more about Kyoto to say-just don’t have the time to say it!

  9. Gray October 7, 2010 at 12:12 PM #

    Beautiful photos! I love walking everywhere when I travel. I don’t get nearly enough exercise in my everyday routine. As long as the weather’s nice, I love being out there. Enjoy it while you can!

    • Steph October 10, 2010 at 9:12 PM #

      Yeah, I’m a big walker too, just need some time to break my feet in.

  10. carmen October 7, 2010 at 3:13 PM #

    beautiful photos! 🙂

  11. Claire October 8, 2010 at 4:51 PM #

    After climbing up to the Great Wall of China, on stairs too numerous too count and DEFINITELY unplanned for,( I seriously thought I would just drive right up to it-ha, who knew?) I somehow managed to injure my knee. Walking around China over the next 3 weeks didn’t help much. Too this day ( 4 years later) the pain comes back after too much walking/hiking/climbing. Despite the pain, I like to refer to it fondly as my “old Great Wall of China” injury.

    • Steph October 10, 2010 at 9:17 PM #

      Ugh you have described my worst fear. I keep telling myself the constant aches and pains are temporary- hope I’m not doing any serious damage to myself!

  12. Christian October 9, 2010 at 4:20 PM #

    OK, I’ll give you Nigatsu-Do (did that guy make it to the top alive?), but Ryozen Kannon has such pretty bamboo and Chion-in is the most laid back, horizontal staircase I’ve ever seen – if it was ever made into a Hollywood blockbuster Matthew McConaughey would play it. Come on Steph, the view is from the top – you’ve got to earn it. Safe travels…

    • Steph October 10, 2010 at 9:20 PM #

      Pfft, I’d like to see YOU try them all in a two day period 🙂

  13. Kate Lyn October 12, 2010 at 2:25 PM #

    Stephie, these pictures are fantastic! Kyoto is at the top of my travel-wish list. I’m so happy your trip is going well, and your blog posts are great! Keep them coming!

    • Steph October 14, 2010 at 3:17 AM #

      Thanks Kate Lyn! Miss you guys!

  14. Alicia October 15, 2010 at 10:40 AM #

    Wow. This place is absolutely stunning. I didn’t know Kyoto has so much to show to travelers. No doubt tourist rate has been increasing in that place. The photos that you have shared are really beautiful. I love your angels very professionally done. Thank you for having the thought to share it.

  15. Andrew - The Unframed World March 16, 2011 at 8:05 PM #

    I went to Kyoto last October and saw almost all of these sights too. So cool to see your perspective on it. Did you happen to get to the seemingly infinite walkways of red gates (tori) just southwest of kyoto station?

    • Steph March 16, 2011 at 9:41 PM #

      I ran out of time and never made it! Definitely next time.

  16. Nathan Anderson March 21, 2014 at 2:28 AM #

    Good tips! I’m traveling to Kyoto and Nara in May, will be sure to climb lots of stairs 😉

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