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att. Travel - Kyoto
att. Travel - Kyoto
You are here: att.JAPAN > Travel Guide > Kyoto
att.JAPAN Issue 6, May 2002

Kyoto

Map If you have ever wanted to see and experience the real Japan, Kyoto is the place to be. With some 1,000 years of history and as one of the original capitals of Japan, Kyoto offers a complete view into the land of ancient Japan.

Kiyomizuderaw TempleIn Kyoto there is so much to take in, things of which connect so deeply to Japan and its people in every way. By getting to know Kyoto you dig your fingers right into the heart of everything Japanese and result in a keen sense of a lot of what Japan is about. It is a place for your eyes and bodies to enchant in ancient walkways paved with stone, lined with old-fashioned wooden shops. Kyoto is not only famous for its 2,000 temples and shrines, but also for its ancient streets, gardens, natural energy, and culture as can still be seen displayed by people as in days of old, together with its general ancient presence. Kyoto is well known for its ancient history as the original capital of Japan. You will be able to enjoy all of Japan through these cultural things in the place that gave birth to them- Kyoto.

Kyoto Station On to the Ancient City of Tranquility
The first thing to see will be Kyoto Station or perhaps the candle shaped Kyoto Tower just outside. Here you will notice something you haven't been anticipating out of Kyoto: the station as well as its immediate surroundings resembles any modern city. While you are in the station, take the opportunity to go up to the observation floor (15th floor), and get a good first view of Kyoto. Although the area has some very nice modern architecture, there are also plenty of ordinary modern square buildings. Many tourists and especially Kyoto residents are concerned that modernization is encroaching too rapidly and should be avoided at any cost. Although shaking under the constant pressure to modernize, Kyoto still offers the world its traditional energy in superb balance with the nature elements ever present in its every bend and corner. In the time when Kyoto was Japan's capital it was known as Heian-Kyo(or peaceful and tranquil capital). On the other hand many historical contributions, modern and not, have come to shape Japan through this ancient city- historical occurrences such as Japan's first phonetic scripts Katakana and Hiragana along with the nation's first women scholars, Japan's first public learning institution, and elementary school, Japan's first tea garden, Japan's first projected movie film, and Japan's first city to have street lamps installed. Various Japanese cultural achievements such as ikebana (flower arrangement), kabuki, green tea and its ceremony, and Zen Buddhism were born here as well.

 Kyoto is a place to connect yourself to the heart of Japan
Southeastward in walking distance from Kyoto Station is Toji Temple. Historically known as the temple where the Shingon sect of Buddhism, one of Japan's two most historically prevalent sects (the other being the Tendai sect) was founded by priest Kukai. This temple features Japan's largest standing pagoda today (five stories), as well as a mix of Chinese and Indian architecture. Back up just north of Kyoto Station are two temples facing each other, Higashi (east) Honganji, and Nishi (west) Honganji Temples. The original Honganji changed its name to Nishi Honganji after its rival, Higashi Honganji, was erected in the early 1600's by Tokugawa Ieyasu. While in the area, take a short walk east of Higashi Honganji to have a peak at the Shosei-En Garden, an old style Japanese garden with a pond. Further east of the garden across from Kamogawa River are the Kyoto National Museum, Chishaku-In, famed for its paintings of tree scenes and lovely gardens. Travel north from there by one of two railways, one from back at Kyoto station, the Karasuma subway line, and the other closer-by Keihan Honsen train line (which happens to be subterranean in this area) from the Kamogawa River area. Both lines will deliver you to two separate stations with the same name- Shijo Station. Both stations are located at separate ends of east Shijo-dori Road.

Ninenzaka Take a stroll along Kyoto's old paths and streets
Along Shijo-dori Road can be found an array of exciting cultural shops and entertainment like the kabuki theater, the historical wood and paper architecture houses and shops which line the pathways down Gion's Hanami Koji-dori road (Maikosan hanamachi), and all the interesting shops all along Ponto-cho, a narrow pathway to the west of Kamogawa River; a place you should see both day and night. Take your time down Hanami Koji-dori road where you may catch a glimpse of a real maikosan, traditional Japanese dancers similar to geisha in their stark white face makeup red lips and colorful kimono dress. Going eastbound on Shijo-dori can be found various shops selling items of its antique heritage to tourists from near and far.

Ryoanji Walk where culture meets splendid greenery in divine harmony
Further down Shijo-dori all the way to its east end is Yasaka Jinja shrine, a brightly colored shrine with beautifully curved hinoki (Japanese cedar) bark roof shingles. The shrine grounds connect into a large J-shape with its surrounding greenery, continuing, and curving toward the north in which also lies Maruyama Koen Park, and Chion-in, a large Buddhist Temple and historical school of Buddhism, following all the way north past the Kyoto National Art Museum is Heian Jingu Shrine of which is a two-thirds the size replica of the old Imperial Palace. Here is where the Jindai Matsuri in late October June. East from Heian Jingu up against the mountain is Nanzen-ji Temple. Straight north of there is Ginkaku-ji Temple, in between which is a very scenic cherry blossom lined pathway which runs along a stream at the foot of heavily vegetated mountains, Tetsugaku-no-michi (meaning 'philosophy way').
Back down towards Yasaka Jinja and southward of that is the main Gion area of which area the Yasaka Shrine is the designated guardian of. In this direction you will meet up with both the Kodai-ji and Kiyomizu-dera Temples. Stop along the ancient rolling hills to take in the seemingly vast scenery of old architecture, and stop by to have some tea at one of its many teahouses. A great place to stop by and enjoy the garden and Edo era architecture is the Seiryu-En inside which are various shops underneath a winding garden area stretching above it. It is located on Kiyomizu Sannei-zaka hill.

Traditional industrial art object Kyoto's Imperial Palace imbedded in this land of brilliant natural elements
For the nature lover Kyoto will not disappoint. Throughout the city is some of the best seasonal flower and foliage viewing
Japan has to offer along with some very old and giant trees. In addition to its natural beauty is the fact that there are mountains offering great hiking on three sides surrounding Kyoto, and a river that stems from the south that runs and forks to surround the city upstream. Over the eastern mountains is Lake Biwa. It is here in present day Kyoto that Japan's ancient people decided to build its capital in large part because of all of these natural elements surrounding it. To see the original grounds of Kyoto's Imperial Palace (Kyoto Gosho) from the outside is no problem. The park area around it is very wide and makes a great to stroll or picnic. Entering the Imperial grounds, however, will require special permission that you can apply for in the north end of the Imperial Park at the Imperial Household Agency office. Tours in English are given Monday through Friday until 2pm. As a foreigner you will get permission to tour the palace within days, or hours of application. It takes longer for a Japanese national to be granted access.
Kyoto has so many things to take in that when it is time to leave you cannot help but to wish that you could only stay a bit longer to take in everything. Just to get to start to know the place may take a while in itself and although getting to love it may not even take your first glance, there will never seem to be enough time to build a relationship upon that love. To embrace Kyoto for many will seem like a fleeting daydream, one to which could easily become addicting. Thus you will always think of Kyoto as a place you would have always wanted to visit or revisit many times again. A place you would like to call home.

 Maps
Japan Railway Map PDF 414 KB
Kyoto Arashiyama PDF 404 KB
Kyoto Shijo PDF 93 KB
Kyoto Subway Map PDF 122 KB

 Links
Kyoto Prefecture
Kyoto Prefecture Tourist Information
Kyoto City

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