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.


Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! She is the co-founder and editor of Why Wait To See the World. Learn more about her here.

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26 thoughts on “The Stairs of Kyoto”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

    1. 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!

  6. 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…

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

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