Kyoto is an ancient city with a 1200 year history. It was established as Japan's capital under the name "Heian-kyo" in the year 794. Since then, Kyoto has preserved the beloved properties of its culture as testimonials of time. This is shown in a lot of ancient temples (e.g. Kiyomizudera, Kinkakuji) and shrines (e.g. Heian-jingu) built in styles unique to Kyoto. These properties as well as many festivals, ceremonies and traditional industries, attract people all over the world today. Kyoto is often called "Japan's heartland", and it is said that it is impossible to know the real Japan without knowing Kyoto.
|Historical Appeal of Kyoto City|
Kyoto's has an inadequately developed public transportation system, consisting of two subway lines (Karasuma line and Touzai line), a dense bus network and as many as half a dozen railway companies. Those railways (except subways) and buses, however, are almost irrelevant to tourists, although not completely. Taxis can be a worthwhile alternative.
Kyoto's city center with the highest concentration of dining, shopping and entertainment opportunities, is located around the junction of Shijo-dori (4th Avenue) and Kawaramachi-dori (Kawaramachi Street). JR Kyoto Station is located south of the city center at the height of Hachijo-dori (8th Avenue). The most prominent north-south street is Karasuma-dori (Karasuma Street), which runs from Kyoto Station via the city center to Kyoto Imperial Palace.
Gion is Kyoto's most famous geisha district. Stroll along Hanami-koji, a street lined by beautiful old buildings, teahouses and restaurants and you may be able to spot a geisha apprentice in the evening. Pontocho is another traditional nightlife districts. It is a narrow street running from Shijo-dori to Sanjo-dori, one block west of the Kamo River. In the evenings, the narrow street offers a great atmosphere and lots of restaurants and teahouses, ranging from inexpensive yakitori stores to highly exclusive establishments which require the right connections and expenses.
Kyoto has a rich history which has made it the cultural center of Japan. There is no way to experience all the city has to offer in our short stay, however, there are some general things that you should consider doing.
Experiencing Traditional Culture: Kyoto has many tourist attractions that will allow you to experience the traditional culture of the city. These include the Gion (Geisha) district, tea houses, and even Maiko make-over studios. The city is also known for its traditional arts and crafts, which can be seen in stores and markets city-wide. For an interesting experience, you can also visit companies that brew sake. One example is Ama no Kura, which was founded in 1832. They let you taste their famous sake as well as try your hand at brewing your own.
Natural Environment: Many of Kyoto’s attractions display the city’s natural beauty. Some of the most visited include Amanohashidate (a sandbar in Miyazu Bay that is said to be the fallen ladder used by a mythical god to climb to heaven), the Path of Philosophy (where professors from Kyoto University walk among the cherry trees and shops in meditation), and Kyoto Imperial Palace Park (located near the center of the city, it is known as an urban oasis for birds).
Relaxing: Kyoto is also known for its bath houses and hot spring resorts. Two well known ones include Funaoka Onsen (a bathhouse in the city with museum quality wood carvings in the changing rooms) and Kurama Honmachi (a hot springs resort within easy reach of the city with indoor and outdoor bathes).