From Our Archive
This story was published before Summer 2021, when we launched our new digital experience.

Samurai Splendor: 2 Secular Sites to Visit in Kyoto

The residences of two former warriors (one historic, one cinematic) rival Kyoto’s temples for their spectacular beauty.


A Nonalcoholic Drink That Continues to Blossom


A Nonalcoholic Drink That Continues to Blossom

Derived from French grapes and created by connoisseurs, French Bloom is the...

Be Serene Now With This Infrared Mat


Be Serene Now With This Infrared Mat

The Go Mat pairs electromagnetic fields and heat with healing crystals for at-home...

San Diego’s Essential Surf-Inspired Dining


San Diego’s Essential Surf-Inspired Dining

Jennifer Latham, a beloved baker and cookbook author, shares her favorite stops...

Visiting one ancient temple after another—as first-time travelers to Kyoto often do—can bring diminishing spiritual returns. So it’s refreshing to break up the dutiful temple-going with destinations that have no religious significance.

One of Kyoto’s most exquisite such sites is Shisendo (27 Ichijoji Kadoguchi-cho, Sakyo-ku;, built in 1641 as a mountain retreat for Ishikawa Jozan, a scholar, poet, and samurai. The villa is considered one of the best examples of 17th-century landscape design, featuring a dry garden, roji stone pathways, satsuki azaleas (in full bloom late May), and maple trees (peak red in late November). The three-room main building is open to the outdoors; before walking the tiered grounds, take a seat on the tatami floor, turn off your mind, and listen to the murmuring stream. Another secular gem, Okochi Sanso (8 Sagaogurayama Tabuchiyama-cho, Ukyo-ku;, was built not by a samurai but by a movie star who frequently played one in period films, Denjiro Okochi, who died in 1962. (He also headlined several of Akira Kurosawa’s first efforts.) Okochi poured much of his fortune into this five-acre property on the slopes of Arashiyama. With its multiple structures built in the Edo style and gardens that invite you to get lost in them, it rivals the beauty of Kyoto’s most famous places of worship.


Let’s Keep in Touch

Subscribe to our newsletter

You’re no longer on our newsletter list, but you can resubscribe anytime.