Kyoto – the cultural treasure of Japan

Kyoto is a city of west-central Japanese island of Honshu, north-northeast of Osaka. Founded in the eighth century, it has long been a cultural, artistic, and religious center. In over thousand years, until 1869, Kyoto was also Japan's capital. As many as two thousand Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and many other historic buildings in and around the city, 17 of them being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, are today a mayor tourist attraction.

  • The Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji), the best known temple in Kyoto, housing relics of Buddha. 
  • Kamigamo Shrine - a shrine that worships nature itself.
  • Shimogamo Shrine.
  • Yasaka Shrine, also place of celebration of Gion Matsuri, one of the most famous festivals in Japan.
  • Ninna-ji – a temple of the Shingon sect.
  • Nijo Castle, the former palace of the shoguns.
  • Tofukuji Temple.
  • Sanzen-in Temple.
  • Heian shrine (a Shinto holy place) with its gate, and where Jidai Matsuri, the most important festival takes place.
  • Fushimi Inari-taisha.
  • Kyoto International Manga Museum.

Things to do
Kyoto has a variety of temples where you can try your hand at things like Zazen meditation and shakyo, or sutra copying. Tea ceremony with geisha and maiko entertainment, flower arranging, and dressing yourself as geisha or samurai are other options of getting closer to the Japanese culture.

Eat & Drink
Kyoto is renowned for its abundance of traditional Japanese foods and cuisine, in particular for sweets (wagashi).
Kaiseki-ryori is somehow an essence of Japanese cuisine and there are many restaurants specialized in this delicious seasonal dish. Clearly, you should also try sushi, tempura, soba, ramen, sukiyaki, or maybe perhaps the simple Babuzuke, known outside Kyoto as ochazuke.
Being home to many Buddhist temples, the city developed also a variety of strictly vegetable dishes, Shojin-ryori, based on beans and fruits.

Just make up your mind if you want to stay in a tatami-floored room in ryokan (Japanese style inn), in shukubo (temple lodging), or in one of the many western-style hotels. Making reservation in advance is recommended especially during spring and autumn. A list of temples offering shukubo can be obtained from Tourist Information Center.

Kyoto is famous for its cloisonné, bronzes, damascene work, silk, porcelain, and lacquer ware. On the 21st of each month, a large flea market with handicrafts, antique clothing, furniture, and food is held on the grounds of To-ji Temple. Kyoto´s Handicraft Centre, situated not far from Shin-njo-do temple, offers the best of traditional handicrafts and art.
Kyoto´s shopping area is in the centre of the city. Kyoto station is not only the railway hub, but also a big shopping mall.

Getting here
From Osaka (Kansai Airport, ITM) there is a quick connection by JR Rapid or limousine bus; Shinkansen bullet train will bring you from Tokyo Station (Narita Express connects it with Narita airport, NRT) to Kyoto. Other trains are obviously available, as well as buses, for instance the quite popular night bus JR Dream Bus between Kyoto and Tokyo (travel time: 8 hrs; the journey by Bullet train Tokyo - Kyoto will take 2,5 hrs).

Getting around
Extended bus and subway system make getting around smooth and easy. The buses have announcements and electronic signs in English. Most buses have fixed fare; one-day tickets (suitable for tourists) are also available. Cycling is also very popular.

Four distinct seasons. Hot and humid summers, with temperatures 23-32°C, and cold winters, when occasionally snowfall and temperatures often falling below 0°C. The average yearly temperature is 17°C.

Kyoto was funded in the 8th century. Under the name of Heian-kyo, it became the seat of Japan's imperial court in 794 (and later on called often Miyako or Kyoto/Kioto). Although its political importance declined after the rise of the shoguns (1192), Kyoto remained Japan´s capital until 1868.
Kyoto was heavily destroyed in the Onin war (1467-1477); it recovered slowly because nobility, samurai and religious fractions persistently involved themselves in battles and intrigues. Kyoto was not bombed during WWII, and today it is one of the best preserved cities in Japan. Kyoto´s economy is based on tourism and electronic industry (Nintendo has its headquarters here).

Time zone: UTC (GMT) +9
Currency: Japanese yen (JPY)


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