Top choice in Kansai

Bujō-ji was founded in the 12th century by Emperor Toba, and while the main hall has been repaired over the years it stands pretty much the same as it always has: a simple wooden structure with a terrace overlooking Kyoto's northern mountains. The view is simply awesome; catch it on the right day – when the skies are clear and there's not another soul around – and you can have the kind of meditative experience that's so elusive at more famous temples.

It's a Shugendō (mountain asceticism) temple, reached via a 430-step climb. There's a formal entry procedure, where you surrender your personal items in exchange for a wooden staff and a special pilgrim’s bag (you can keep bottled water and your wallet, to make an offering at the temple). Just before the hall, there's a bell you can ring.

Bujō-ji is easiest to access by car, but you can take bus 32 from Demachiyanagi Station in Kyoto to the Daihizan-guchi bus stop (¥930, 95 minutes, three daily). At the bus stop a narrow road runs 2km to the temple (it's signposted in Japanese).

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