Experience a pocket of Kyoto’s history in the sloping cobbled streets of Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka. Translating to “Two-Year Hill” and “Three-Year Hill,” these two lanes date back to the very beginnings of Kyoto’s imperial history and have been beautifully restored to demonstrate the neighborhood’s former way of life.
Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka are both pedestrianized lanes that lead up from Nene-no-Michi Lane past the Yasaka Pagoda to the famous hilltop Kiyomizu-dera Temple. The charming streets are lined with traditional wooden-façade teahouses, cafés and stores selling locally made crafts and souvenirs.
Take your time exploring the small stores and workshops dotted throughout the lanes. You might see traditional ceramics, special “ohashi” chopsticks, Japanese paper crafts, fabric, candy and garments. Pick up a souvenir or keepsake, such as a handcrafted saké bottle or “hashioki,” small ceramic holders for your chopsticks.
Make sure you stop by one of the traditional teahouses to experience a tea ceremony, complete with a kimono-clad server. If you try “matcha,” or powdered green tea, your server will prepare your tea ritualistically with a tea bowl, spoon and whisk. Often, tea is served with a rice cake with a sweet filling, called “mochi.” Enjoy a quiet moment sipping your tea, watching visitors and locals wandering up and down the lanes. Some visitors try on traditional kimono costumes and pose for photographs.
Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka are open daily for free. Visit in the daytime to check out the shops or in the evening to see beautiful lanterns and warmly lit restaurants. Allow 45 minutes to wander uphill all the way to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Those who prefer an easier walk might opt to begin their visit with a bus ride to Gojo-zaka or Kiyomizu-michi. From here, take the 10-minute uphill walk up to the temple before making a descent via Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka. Kiyomizu-dera Temple is one of Kyoto’s most famous Buddhist sites and features several shrines, including a sacred waterfall and a shrine for finding success in love.