Archaeologists discovered that there was human activity on the Honshu Island 10,000 years ago, but there was nothing to prove of Kyoto’s existence before the 6th century A.D.
Emperor Kammu is said to have selected the site, and Heian Kyo was designated as the capital of Japan in 794.
The city was renamed Kyoto in the 11th century.
It was historically the biggest city of the country, but now is surpassed by Tokyo and Osaka.
The capital was transferred to Tokyo in 1869.
Kyoto’s location on a plain makes it easy to explore, and walking effortless, but a city guide should be hired if you want to see as much as possible in a few days. In most Japanese cities, street signs are unilingual except major avenues. Some museums display bilingual (Japanese and English) signs.
The city has approximately 1300 Buddhist temples and close to 400 Shinto shrines. In Japan both Buddhism an Shintoism are practised by the population.
One of the most famous shrines is Higashiyama, built in 1633 for lovelorn individuals, and is visited by thousands daily.
being the capital of Japan for well over eleven centuries, has many imperial palaces, lovely gardens, villas and teahouses.
One could remain in this culturally rich city for weeks to visit all the sights and experience a unique culture.
The Jishu Shrine behind the Pure Water Temple (Kiyomizu) was built in the eight century and rebuilt in 1633.
From here you can have a magnificent view of the city, especially in the fall when Japanese maples turn red, and in the spring, during the cherry blossom.
After the visit, walk the narrow, cobbled streets branching off Sannenzaka Street where you will see old Japanese houses. There are stores where you can purchase traditional tourist souvenirs, (lacquer ware, decorative paper, kimonos, and porcelain). Tourism is one of the important industries of Kyoto, along with electronics manufacturing, IT development, weaving fabric for kimono manufacturing, and sake brewing.
Sannenzaka Street leads into Gion, the city’s well-preserved geisha district, which was developed in the Middle Ages. Here “tea houses” and machiya (town houses) provide entertainment by geishas.
geishas are called geikos, and “students” maikos. In Japan, geishas go to school for a few years to learn kyomai (Kyoto style dance), flower arrangement, the intricacies of the famous and elaborate Japanese tea ceremony, to play the Japanese harp, and puppet play.
In order to become a professional geisha one must master all these skills and pass a thorough examination.
At Gion Centre tourists can watch demonstrations of all in English and attempt to pick up a few pointers to practice later.
Geikos in apprenticeship spend substantially longer to learn the intricate details of all the skills, plus how make up their hair.
In Kyoto a three-storey building devoted to artists creating porcelain and other traditional objects practice their art and sell.
Kyoto has many museums and at least a few should be visited to experience Japanese thoroughness and planning. In this city, the cuisine differs from that in Tokyo or Osaka. Specialties are famous for their delicacy and taste. In fact, a very unique way of attracting restaurant goers evolved here. Restaurants display their specialties in wax, or in pictures, in display windows. You can decide, based on these presentations, which one to patronize. All plates in the restaurant are served identical to those on display.
This practice is now spread to all Japanese cities and Hong Kong. In Kyoto tourists have a choice between traditional Japanese and western-style accommodation.
Ryokans (traditional Japanese hotels) are small family-operated and composed of rooms containing a dining area, WC, and a sitting corner. There is no western-style bed but a futon is spread at about 6 pm or later, pending on need, in the sitting corner.
There are cleverly designed partitions for privacy, and most of the doors are sliding ones to save space.
Ryokans serve dinner in the room upon advanced reservation and breakfast in the breakfast room off the reception area. Japanese breakfasts consist of green tea, cold omelette, steamed rice, miso soup, pickled ginger, and soy sauce.
In ryokans, shoes must be removed upon check in, and worn again when going out.
Ryokans are expensive, but certainly worth the experience.
You can take the Shinkanzen (the bullet train) from Tokyo and arrive in Kyoto in a few hours. The ride is an experience you won’t soon forget.
For more information of flights log on to
Ar.jal.com and for western style hotel accommodation hyatt.com or any other international hotel chain.
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
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