Discover temples and tombs, and find a tea bowl bargain
The Yamashina area is in southeast Kyoto, along a route connecting Kyoto and Nara . Nara was the capital before Kyoto and the Nara-kaido Highway, linking the two capital cities, was important for centuries.
In addition to the tombs of Emperors and a huge temple, Yamashina is famous for its pottery, with everything from tea bowls to beautifully decorated wares for every day use, including plates and even coffee cups.
- Daigo-ji Temple dominating the landscape
- Pottery-a-plenty at Kiyomizu-yaki Pottery Complex
- Find a bargain ast the Gojozaka Pottery Fair
How to Get There
Yamashina is easily accessed by train from JR Kyoto Station .
From Kyoto Station , take the JR Tokaido-Sanyo Line (Biwako Line) to Yamashina Station. It is just one stop away.
Where roads cross
Yamashina was a historical crossroads. In addition to being on the Nara-kaido Highway, it became a stop on the all important Tokaido Road, connecting Kyoto and Osaka with Edo (old Tokyo). The JR Tokaido Shinkansen and Tokaido Mainline still bear the name of the route today.
Yamashina also contains numerous tombs of important historical figures, including those of Emperor Tenji (626–672); Sakanoue no Tamuramaro (758–811), a famous shogun and general; and Emperor Daigo (885–930).
The tomb of Emperor Tenji is the oldest Imperial tomb in Kyoto.
Daigo-ji sits grandly on Mt. Daigo, one of the largest temples in all of Kyoto. The complex is made up of more than 80 buildings sprawling up the mountain. It was founded in the ninth century and later restored in the 16th century by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who re-unified Japan in the 16th century and who is said to be responsible for planting the many cherry trees.
Hike to the top
Daigo-ji Temple is separated into three parts. The Sanpo-in and the Shimo-Daigo are easy to reach at the base, but you must hike to the Kami-Daigo at the top of the mountain. While it's not the easiest trek, you'll be rewarded with solitude and a great view.
Daigo-ji is best known for its five-storied pagoda. This pagoda is the oldest structure in Kyoto, built in 951.
A pottery town
Yamashina is the center of Kyoto's pottery community. It has hosted a pottery community since the 15th and 16th centuries. More than 70 potters and wholesalers are still found in the neighborhood of Kiyomizu-yaki Danchi.
Designed for tea ceremonies
Yamashina is famous for Kiyomizu-yaki pottery (or Kiyomizu-ware). The art form saw its heyday in the 16th century, when the tea ceremony became popular and special bowls were in high demand.
During this era, the traditional ceremony was reserved only for distinguished guests of nobles and monks. The design of the pottery evolved to fit the taste of the aristocracy. Kiyomizu-yaki is delicately produced and uses vivid colors.
Today, you don't need to be an aristocrat to buy and use Kiyomizu-yaki. It is gaining a following internationally, but you can still find bargains in Yamashina.
A local festival, Kiyomizuyaki no Sato Matsuri, is celebrated on the third Friday, Saturday and Sunday of October. Here, you can find very affordable pottery.
There are many street vendors right in front of Yamashina Station, as well as many food and beer vendors.
Gojozaka Pottery Fair
Another good opportunity to find local pottery at a steep discount is at the annual Gojozaka Pottery Fair . The largest pottery market in Japan, the fair is held from August 7th to 10th. About 400 vendors sell their goods on Gojo Street. Stalls open at 9:00 a.m. and close around 10:00 p.m.
Score a deal during Obon
During the Obon market, you can find traditional Japanese pottery (tea ceremony bowls, sake ware) and more basic ceramics here. The market has been held since 1920. Local merchants realized they could take advantage of the crowds in the area during Obon — Japan's summer holiday — and offered the passers-by alluring discounts.
Go on the first day to find the most valuable items or on the last to haggle with the merchants.
Plan to spend a few hours visiting the sites in Yamashina or longer if you're a fan of world class pottery.