Grab your coat, because winter is an amazing time to see Kyoto’s Kifune Shrine.

While Kyoto prides itself on its atmosphere of calm tranquility, the city has some of the most extreme weather in Japan. In part due to its geographical position in a basin, the city gets incredibly hot and humid in the summer (even by Japanese standards), while winter brings frigid cold to both the downtown area and the surrounding mountains.

All that chilly winter weather, though, also gives Kyoto’s historical architecture a whole new facet to its beauty. There’s something truly timeless about seeing the former capital’s shrines and temples blanketed in snow, and arguably the most beautiful of all in those conditions is Kifune Shrine.

Kifune Shrine doesn’t make it on to everyone’s list of sights-to-see in Kyoto. Located in the Kibune neighborhood in the mountains north of downtown, it’s about an hour away from Kyoto Station, and with so many cultural attractions clustered closer to the city center (like the newly renovated Kinkakuji/Golden Pavilion), a lot of travelers simply don’t have time for it.

But if you can clear out part of your schedule for a visit to Kifune, you’ll be rewarded with a picturesque view as you gaze up the lantern-flanked stone stairway that leads to the shrine’s entrance. It’s especially breathtaking right after a snowfall, with fresh powder covering the curved tops of the lanterns and the cross-beams of the torii gates.

Being located in a less developed part of the city means less concrete sprawl, which lets snow pile up in the nearby forests and waterways as well.

Though heading out after sundown in snowy conditions requires even more bundling up, adding an extra layer to your outfit is worth it since the glow of Kifune’s lanterns lend an otherworldly allure to the grounds.

Of course, none of this is to say that you should scratch Kifune off your itinerary if it’s not snowing, since the shrine looks cool in any weather conditions.

Still, there’s no denying that there’s something extra special about seeing it in the snow, when it looks like the shrine has laid out a white carpet to welcome you.

With Japan not quite at its coldest winter weather just yet, odds are we’ll be seeing more wonderful views of a snowy Kifune in the weeks to come.

Shrine information
Kifune Shrine / 貴船神社
Address: Kyoto-shi, Sakyo-ku, Kurama Kibunecho 180

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