For most of its history, the city of Kyoto was Japan’s Imperial capital. The city’s history can be traced back as far as the 8th century.
The city of Kyoto is famous for tourism. Northern Kyoto on the Tango Peninsula has fishing and water transportation, and midland Kyoto has agriculture and forestry. Nintendo is headquartered in the city of Kyoto.
For over 1000 years it was Japan’s capital. When the capital was changed to Tokyo, Kyoto remained Japan’s cultural capital.
In 794, Emperor Kammu moved the capital to Heian-kyo, and this was the beginning of the current-day city of Kyoto. Even today, almost all of the streets, houses, stores, temples and shrines in Kyoto exist where they were placed in this year.
It eventually evolved to become one of the most exclusive and well-known Geisha districts in all of Japan.
Some of the festivals held in Kyoto are Aoi Matsuri from 544, Gion Matsuri from 869, Ine Matsuri from the Edo-era, Daimonji Gozan Okuribi from 1662, and Jidai Matsuri from 1895. Every shrine and temple holds some sort of event, and many of them are open for public viewing.
Amanohashidate is one of Japan’s three scenic views. The sandbar, covered with about 7000 pine trees is located in Miyazu Bay.
Nijo-jo Castle in Kyoto has witnessed some of the most important events in Japanese history in the 400 years since it was built. In 1940 the palace was first opened to the public. Today it is one of the most important tourist spots in the city of Kyoto.
A Zen Experience in Kyoto
There is a Zen temple called Koshoji, located near Kuramaguchi Station, which is not a typical tourist sightseeing spot. There is even a signboard saying "no sightseeing" to discourage tourists from just going in to have a look around.
Kinkakuji was founded in 1397 as a resting villa for the third shogun of the Muromachi era, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. This shogun asked his son to turn the villa into a Zen temple when he died, and so it happened.
5 Recommended Places in Kyoto
While planning a trip to Kyoto, it can be difficult to make the decision to choose where to go if you have a limited amount of time due to the large number of amazing sights that exist in Japan's ancient capital city. Therefore, here is a list of the 5 best places to visit during your stay in Kyoto.
How to Use the Bus System in Kyoto
In Kyoto, the best way to get around is by bus. This is because in many cases the train stations are located a long walk from the attractions that tourists want to see.
Located in the famous Gion district in Kyoto, the Yasaka Shrine, founded more than 1350 years ago, stands out for its great beauty and its great buildings.
More than 1200 years have passed since the founding of the Kiyomizu-Dera temple. Situated halfway to Mount Otowa, on one of the peaks of the Higashiyama mountain range of Kyoto, this temple draws a large number of visitors who want to pay their respect to Kannon
If you don't have the budget to see Kyoto's geisha in action in an actual tea house, Gion Corner in the Gion district is a must-visit on your trip to Kyoto to get a great overview of traditional Japanese performing arts.
In the early medieval years, rich nobles traveled to Arashiyama to enjoy the natural landscape and escape the city. Now this place is for everyone, rich or poor. The word 'Arashiyama' translates to 'Storm Mountain'.
In Kyoto, it is very common to see people dressed in the traditional clothes of Japan, the kimono. There is even a rather peculiar place that honors the designs of this beautiful garment. This place is known as Kimono Forest. It is a must-see promenade for people heading to the bamboo forest, located in the Arashiyama area.
When we hear or see the words 'yuka midori' somewhere (like on a train station poster) it is considered as the herald of early summer. This year, I visited Rurikoin temple for the first time while it was holding a special opening for the yuka midori!
A Local Neighborhood in Kyoto
If you have already finished the beginners‘ course of travel in Kyoto and traveled around the many touristy spots, it is time to explore the daily lives of the locals!
Machiya: Traditional Japanese Houses
A 'machiya' is a traditional wooden house that is especially typical of Kyoto city. Machiya originated during the Heian period (8th-11th century) and were continuously developed during the Edo and Meiji periods. It was the artisans and merchants of the cities who lived in machiya.
The best way to learn about everyday Japanese life and what people like to cook at home is to visit one of its many food markets. Nishiki Market (Nishiki-Ichiba in Japanese) is in the center of Kyoto, and it has a history that dates back more than 400 years.
The Byodoin temple is the most famous landmark in a part of Kyoto that is especially known for its tea, Uji. The image of the temple is very well-known throughout Japan because it is the image depicted on the back of a 10-yen coin
Kodaiji Temple is located in Higashiyama. It was founded in 1605 by Kita-no-Mandokoro as a memorial to her husband, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
The Heian Jingu shrine was instituted in 1895 to commemorate the 1,100-year anniversary of the return of the capital to Heian (today's Kyoto). The Shin-en Garden within the grounds of the Heian Jingu Shrine is known worldwide as one of the most famous gardens that were created during the Meiji period.
The official name of Sanjusangendo is Rengeo-in temple, and the structure is registered as a National Treasure by the Japanese government. It was established by the powerful warrior-politician Taira-no-Kiyomori in 1164.
Kyoto Gion Matsuri
The Gion Matsuri in Kyoto is one of the three most famous festivals in Japan with more than 1000 years of history. I’m crazy about this festival which is cool, high-spirited and elegant at the same time.
Gion is the place where the famous geisha, the cultural symbol of Japan, are still doing their work every night. Geisha literally means 'artist', although in Kyoto they are called 'geiko' which means 'woman of art'.
The Chion-in temple in Kyoto is a Buddhist temple and is the home of Jo-do Buddhism, founded by monk Ho-nen in the 12th century. This school of Buddhism is also called 'Pure Land Buddhism', one of the most practiced forms of Buddhism in the east of Asia.
One of my favorite Zen temples is the Tofukuji temple located in the east of Kyoto city. What makes this temple very special are its magnificent landscapes of maple trees and cherry blossoms in autumn and spring and its wonderful garden.
Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
The shrine of Kitano Tenmangu was built in the 10th century by the emperor of the time in honor of Sugawara no Michizane, who was a scholar and politician.
Ryoan-ji (The Temple of the Peaceful Dragon) is a Zen temple located in Kyoto which was built by Hosokawa Katsumoto, a minister of the Ashikaga Shogunate in 1450. The temple is especially famous for its stone landscape garden.
Fushimi Inari Taisha
Known worldwide for its more than 10,000 torii gates in a row, the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine attracts around 3 million visitors the first three days of the year alone and is one of the most famous attractions of Kyoto.
Toji means Eastern Temple, and this temple in Kyoto has a very long history. The religious foundations of Kyoto were laid here, and Buddha has protected the city from where Kukai founded the temple since 796.
Ginkaku-ji or Silver Pavilion was constructed by the Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa in the 15th century. You can still see Yoshimasa's quest for beauty in the Ginkaku-ji, even after 500 years.
For more than 1200 years from the move of the capital in 794 until the late 19th century, Kyoto was the capital of Japan. There are many ways to enjoy Kyoto.