It offers great views of Kyoto from the viewing platform and even though it was touristy the place is so serene and grand it's worth a visit. I don't know if it was because it was my first temple visit in Japan but I was so facinated by the architecture of the temple and what kind of smaller temples there were in the compound and the carvings on the structures and how each building was designed.
Sanjusangendo is an amazing place; perhaps one of my favorite . According to the legend, this man became a Kannon (basically a kind of god in Buddhism, but there aren’t gods in Buddhism so it is kind of hard to explain). The idea is that he reached enlightenment and arose to the heavens. Now he looks over humans and takes away their pain and suffering. He supposedly has 1000 arms and extends to all 25 planes. There are hundreds of human-sized replications of his figure in this temple, along with a 2-story sized buddha statue. Each statue has 42 arms arranged in 25 rows to reflect the 1000 total arms. The Kannons are guarded by statues of various figures adopted from Hindu religion (i.e. Brahma). They believe these aren’t gods; rather they are guardians of the Kannon. It is pretty awesome!
A tiny and rather inconspicuous Shinto shrine in Matsumoto, Yohashira is an all-wooden structure and is home to fascinating stone sculptures of mighty lions and warrior frogs. Apart from being a striking religious site that attracts both tourists and locals in large numbers, Yohashira is also a good place to buy pretty souvenirs that will serve as reminders of your trip to Matsumoto. It is only a few minutes away from the Castle and is adjacent to Nawate Dori.Getting There:The JR Azusa Limited Express will bring you from Tokyo's Shinjuku Station to Matsumoto in around 2.5 hours. Expect to pay 7000 Yen for a reserved seat. Local trains along the Chuo Line are definitely cheaper but a lot longer with several transfers. Alternatively, 2 hour long local trains along the Oito Line connect Matsumoto and Hakuba.
Something old, something new. Standing on the site of the Edo castle, The Tokyo Imperial Palace is the official residence of the royal family. The Edo castle was once the seat of the Tokugawa shogun, who ruled Japan till 1847. The Imperial Palace is a beautiful stone-built structure lying in the midst of a beautiful garden. A juxtaposition from the tall, concrete towers of the city. There are guided tours that will take you around the several administrative buildings and a small museum. But, I would recommend you explore this place yourself. The main premises are not open to the public, which could be a bit of a spoiler, but the East Gardens are a great place to get some fresh air away from the noise of the city.
Fondly referred to as the 'Crow Castle' because of its black exterior, Matsumoto Jo (Jo: Castle in Japanese) is one of the oldest castles in Japan and continues to remain in its original state. With six elaborate floors and a hidden storey for Samurais, it dates back to the 16th Century and is a treasure of the Naganao Prefecture. While the wooden interiors of the 'Jo' are impossibly beautiful and the relics are interesting, you will have to climb some extremely steep stairs without footwear. The admission fee is around 600 Yen and the fortress and its gardens are open from 8:30 am till 5 pm. Constructed by Ishikawa Kazumasa and his son Yasunaga, it is a 15 minute walk from the Matsumoto Station. Visit during the Cherry Blossom season for some exceptional views.