1. Sannenzaka:Kyoto’s Enchanting Historic Slope

Sannenzaka:Kyoto’s Enchanting Historic Slope

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S-fleage is a Kyoto-based company. We are proud to introduce the charms of Kyoto to the world. We hope this article will help you to experience Kyoto.


Nestled among the ancient streets and traditional machiya townhouses of Kyoto lies Sannenzaka, a picturesque slope steeped in history and charm. 

With its cobblestone paths, quaint teahouses, and centuries-old architecture, Sannenzaka offers visitors a glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural heritage and timeless beauty.

In this article, we will embark on a journey through the winding streets and hidden alleys of Sannenzaka, uncovering its storied past, cultural significance, and captivating allure. 

Join us as we explore the enchanting allure of this historic slope and discover the treasures that await around every corner in Kyoto’s timeless landscape.

Sannenzaka, which has been watching over the currents of time since the Heian period. 

In the Edo period, there were renowned teahouses frequented by prominent figures of the late Edo period, such as Sakamoto Ryoma, where various dramas unfolded.


Historical Background

Sannenzaka, or Sannen-zaka, is a historic cobblestone street located in the Higashiyama district of Kyoto, Japan. 

There are various theories about the origin of Sannenzaka, but the most common one is that it is named “Sannei-no-Saka,” meaning “easy childbirth slope,” because it leads to the “Koyasu no To,” a pagoda known for safe childbirth within the precincts of Kiyomizu Temple. 

It is said that passing through this slope to visit Kiyomizu Temple will lead to safe childbirth.

Historical Significance

Dating back to the Heian period, it is renowned for its well-preserved traditional architecture and historical significance.

The road was opened in 808 (Daitoku 3), just ten years after the establishment of Kiyomizu Temple by Sakanoue no Tamuramaro in 798 (Enryaku 17). 

According to legend, it was believed that if one fell on the stone steps of this slope, they would die within three years.

Preservation Efforts

Over the years, efforts have been made to preserve the cultural heritage of Sannenzaka, ensuring that its historical charm and architectural integrity remain intact. 

Various restoration projects have been undertaken to maintain the authenticity of the street and its surrounding buildings.



Cultural Attractions

Sannenzaka, steeped in history and tradition, offers more than just its picturesque cobblestone pathways and quaint shops. 

Surrounding this charming area are a plethora of cultural attractions waiting to be explored by visitors seeking to delve deeper into Kyoto’s rich heritage.

At the end of Sannenzaka lies the iconic Kiyomizu Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its stunning architecture and panoramic views of Kyoto.

Cultural Events and Festivals around Sannenzaka

Sannenzaka is not only admired for its historical ambiance but also for the cultural events and festivals that take place in its vicinity. 

Throughout the year, visitors can experience traditional Japanese festivities, such as the Gion Matsuri and Hanami (cherry blossom viewing), which add to the cultural richness of the area.

Scenic Views from Sannenzaka

Sannenzaka offers breathtaking panoramic views of Kyoto’s picturesque landscape. 


From this vantage point, visitors can admire the beauty of the city’s traditional rooftops, ancient temples, and lush greenery, providing an unforgettable glimpse into Japan’s rich cultural and natural heritage.

 Basic Information and Tips of Sannenzaka



Sannenzaka is a pathway leading to Kiyomizu Temple, and you can walk along it at any time. 

However, Kiyomizu Temple opens at 6 a.m., and nearby shops typically open around 9 to 10 a.m. 

These are mostly individually operated businesses, so opening hours may vary from shop to shop.


Ichinennzaka, Ninenzaka

It is said that the slope below Sannenzaka is called “Ninenzaka,” and the slope below that is called “Ichinenzaka.”


Ichinenzaka is a gentle slope of only about 85 meters. 

Along the narrow streets, you’ll find traditional buildings housing soba and udon noodle shops, souvenir stores, and more. 

Besides shops, there are also ordinary homes lining the street. 

During less busy times when tourists are scarce, you can feel the pleasant atmosphere of local life. 

Let’s stroll through quietly as much as possible.


Ninenzaka, unlike Ichinenzaka, has a wider road and stretches about 150 meters longer, quickly immersing you in the atmosphere of a tourist destination. 

Along Ninenzaka, various shops line up, ranging from souvenir shops selling traditional Japanese goods and sweets to tea houses and eateries. 

A monument stands in the area where the popular Taisho-era artist and poet, Yumeji Takehisa, lived for about two years starting from 1917, adding to the historical charm of the neighborhood.


Sightseeing spots around Sannenzaka

There are numerous tourist spots around Sannenzaka. 

Since they are within walking distance, let’s take a stroll and explore them.

Yasaka Shrine

Yasaka Shrine, also known as Gion Shrine, is a prominent Shinto shrine located in the Gion district of Kyoto, Japan. 

It is one of the most famous shrines in the city and is particularly popular during the annual Gion Matsuri festival, one of Japan’s largest and most famous festivals. 

Yasaka Shrine features a beautiful vermilion-colored main hall and various smaller shrines and structures within its grounds, offering visitors a glimpse into traditional Japanese Shinto architecture and culture.

Chionin Temple

Chionin Temple, located in the Higashiyama district of Kyoto, Japan, is one of the most significant temples in the country. 

Established in 1234, it serves as the head temple of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism. 

Chionin Temple is renowned for its majestic architecture, including the massive Sanmon gate, which is one of the largest wooden gates in Japan. 

The temple’s serene gardens and historical significance make it a popular destination for tourists and pilgrims alike.

Pontocho Alley

Pontocho Alley is a narrow, atmospheric alleyway located in the heart of Kyoto, Japan. 

It is famous for its traditional machiya buildings, which house a variety of restaurants, teahouses, and bars. Pontocho is particularly popular for its charming atmosphere, especially at night when lanterns illuminate the alley, creating a magical ambiance.


How to get to Sannenzaka

Sannenzaka is a path leading to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, surrounded by numerous tourist attractions. 

While a bit distant from the JR station, there are various transportation options available.

From Kansai international airport to Kyoto station

Navigating from Kansai International Airport to Kyoto Station offers various convenient options, allowing you to choose the mode of transportation that suits your preferences. 

Airport Express Train (Haruka)

Purchase Tickets: Upon arrival at Kansai International Airport, head to the JR West Ticket Office to purchase tickets for the Haruka Airport Express Train bound for Kyoto.

Boarding the Haruka Train: Follow the signs to the Haruka train platform. The Haruka train departs directly from the airport and offers a comfortable and scenic journey to Kyoto Station.

Travel Time: The travel time on the Haruka train is approximately 75-80 minutes, providing ample time to relax and enjoy the picturesque views. 

Airport Limousine Bus

Bus Terminal Location: Locate the Airport Limousine Bus Terminal at Kansai International Airport. It is on the first floor.

Purchase Tickets: Purchase your bus ticket to Kyoto Station at the terminal counter. Boarding the Bus: Board the Airport Limousine Bus bound for Kyoto Station.

Travel Time: The bus journey takes around 90-120 minutes, depending on traffic conditions. 

Taxis and Rental Cars

Taxi Services: Taxis are available at the airport, providing a convenient but pricier option. Inform the driver of your destination, Kyoto Station. 

Rental Cars

Rental car services are also available at Kansai International Airport if you prefer the flexibility of driving.

From Shin-Osaka station to Kyoto station

To travel from Shin-Osaka station to Kyoto station, you can take the JR (Japan Railways) Tokaido Shinkansen. The Tokaido Shinkansen is a high-speed train that connects major cities in Japan. 

First, go to Shin-Osaka station and locate the Shinkansen platforms. Shin-Osaka is a major transportation hub, and you can easily find signs directing you to the Shinkansen area.

Purchase a Shinkansen ticket for the Hikari or Kodama train bound for Kyoto at the ticket counters or vending machines. Make sure to check the departure time and platform information. 

Then proceed to the designated Shinkansen platform. Look for the train with the appropriate departure time and destination (Kyoto). 

Enjoy the high-speed journey to Kyoto station. The travel time is relatively short (about 15-30min), and the Shinkansen provides a comfortable and efficient way to reach Kyoto.

From Kyoto station to Sannenzaka

If you prefer to use a taxi, it’s convenient to take one to Sannenzaka. 

However, if you plan to use the train, note that there isn’t a JR station nearby. 

Instead, you can disembark at either the Keihan Electric Railway’s “Gion-Shijo Station” or the Hankyu Railway’s “Kawaramachi Station” to get closer to Sannenzaka.


Take the City Bus Route 206 for approximately 15 minutes.

Get off at Kiyomizumiti bus stop.

Walk for 8 minutes to reach Sannenzaka.


It takes approximately 15 minutes by taxi from Kyoto Station to Sannenzaka.


My experience of Sannenzaka

Sannenzaka tends to be very crowded throughout the year. 

If you want to experience a quiet atmosphere, I recommend going in the early morning. 

However, if it’s too early, some shops might not be open yet. 

It’s also a good idea to stroll around wearing a kimono. 

Moreover, walking from Ichinenzaka to Sannenzaka, you’ll find many beautiful shops selling various handicrafts and food items. 

Experience colorful Japanese sweets and more.

Sannenzaka: Rediscovering Kyoto’s Timeless Charm

In a city known for its juxtaposition of past and present, Sannenzaka stands as a testament to Kyoto’s enduring charm. 

With its picturesque scenery and timeless allure, it’s no wonder that visitors from around the world are drawn to this enchanting pathway, eager to rediscover the magic of Kyoto’s ancient past.

So, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, make sure to include Sannenzaka in your itinerary and experience the beauty and tranquility of Kyoto’s timeless charm.