Kyoto Notre Dame University is located in Japan’s world-famous ancient capital city of Kyoto, 45 km (27 miles) from Osaka and 514 km (320 miles) west of Tokyo. Rich in cultural heritage, Kyoto is a city where tradition and contemporary culture co-exist in harmony. Following its founding in 794, Kyoto flourished as the cultural and political capital of Japan for over a thousand years until 1868, when the capital was moved to Tokyo. Kyoto is surrounded by the natural beauty of the Kyoto basin. The forests of Kitayama and Higashiyama fringe the city, while the picturesque Kamo River runs the length of the city from north to south. Thousands of temples, shrines, and gardens built throughout the long history of Kyoto have been well preserved. In 1994, seventeen of these ancient sites were recognized as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites.

Kinkaku-ji Temple

Located in northern Kyoto, Kinkaku-ji (the Temple of the Golden Pavilion) is a Zen Buddhist temple most notable for having its top two floors strikingly decorated in radiant gold leaf. The temple was originally built as the retirement villa of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. The building we see today is, like many historical buildings in Japan, a reconstruction of the original. The present structure dates from 1955, when it was restored to its full former glory following a fire.

Daitoku-ji Temple

One of fourteen autonomous branches of the Rinzai school of Japanese Zen, Daitoku-ji is an expansive temple complex in northern Kyoto that comprises more than 20 sub-temples. The walled complex provides visitors with an authentic experience of Japanese Zen culture and architecture, while offering a superb variety of Zen gardens for public viewing. Following its founding in 1319, tea master Sen no Rikyu helped the temple to become a center for practicing the Japanese tea ceremony.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

One of the most celebrated temples in all of Japan, Kiyomizu-dera was founded in 780 and built in its current form in 1633. The temple is located in the wooded hills to the east of Kyoto, beside the crystalline Otowa waterfall that inspired its name (kiyomizu means “pure water”). While originally associated with the Hosso Buddhist sect, the temple’s custodians severed that affiliation to form the independent Kitahosso sect in 1965. The temple was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1994.


The verdant riverside area of Arashiyama has been a popular tourist destination since the Heian Period (794–1185), when the ruling classes would come to relax in its natural splendor. Located on the western outskirts of Kyoto, Arashiyama is a perennial favorite throughout the year, but particularly during the cherry blossom and fall color seasons. In the heart of Arashiyama is the romantic Togetsukyo (“Moon Crossing”) Bridge, the backdrop to many a tourist photo.