became the seat of Japan’s imperial court in the year
794 of the Christian Era. Then called Heian-kyo, it remained
the nation’s capital for more than 1,000 years until
the seat of government was transferred to Tokyo in 1868.
Kyoto is rich in a world-celebrated cultural heritage. Most
of its buildings and gardens have been designated as national
treasures. Seventeen of them are world cultural heritages recognized
by UNESCO in 1994:
Daigoji Temple, is divided into upper and lower precincts and
houses for a total of more than 100 halls, pagodas, and monasteries.
Byodo-in Temple, the Ho-oh-do (Phoenix Hall) is so well known
that Hawai‘i even has a replica of it in Temple Valley
on the windward side of O‘ahu.
Hieizan Enryakuji Temple is located on the top of Mt. Hiei.
Hongwanji Temple is the primary temple of the Jodoshin sect
Jishoji Temple, known as the Silver Pavilion, is of simple,
but elegant architecture .
Kamigamo Shrine occupies large grounds blessed with a richness
of green vegetation.
Kiyomizu Temple’s main hall has a platform built out
over a precipice that presents a panoramic view of Kyoto.
Kosanji Temple, in a quiet mountain precinct, includes Japan’s
oldest tea garden.
Nijo Castle is a magnificent example of Momoyama-style architecture
full of gorgeous decorations.
Ninnaji Temple was originally Shishinden Hall of the Imperial
Palace and famous for its beautiful blossoms.
Rokuonji Temple is known as the Golden Pavilion.
Ryouanji Temple is well known for its rock garden.
Saihoji Temple is known as the Moss Garden as its precincts
are covered with a thick carpet of 120 species of moss.
Tenryuji Temple, built circling a fish pond and garden, has
a long aristocratic tradition.
Shimokamo Shrine has 53 buildings, including gates and halls,
designated as an important Cultural Properties.
Kyo-oh-gokokuji Temple, also known as Toji Temple, is a five-storied
Ujigami Shrine is Japan’s oldest shrine building, a typical
example of the aristocratic style of architecture that dominated
the Heian Period (794 - 1192).
Kyoto’s climate is hot and humid in the summer and very
cold and snowy in the winter, but during all four seasons,
the city basks in an abundance of beautiful natural scenery.
Cherry blossoms in the spring and red leaves in the fall are
only two of the natural showcases for the five annual traditional
festivals that preserve Kyoto’s ancient heritage: the
Aoi Festival, Gion Festival, Ine Festival, Daimonji Festival,
and Jidai Festival.
The Aoi Festival is the
annual festival of Kamigamo
and Shimogamo Shrines
held on May 15. Historically,
it was held to pray for
a good harvest following lean years caused by storms and floods.
July’s Gion Festival was held to pray for the end of
an epidemic that had struck nearly the entire population of
Japan. The festival features various events: the Kippu-iri
Festival on July 1, the Yoiyama Festival on July 16, the Yamaboko
Junko Festival on July 17, and the Eki-jinja Natsukoshi Festival
on July 31.
The Ine Festival, held
July 27 and 28, is famous
as a sea version of the
Gion Festival. It was
held to pray for maritime
good fishing, and a good harvest.
The Daimonji Fire Festival
is a spectacular event
held on August 16 every
year. The Daimonji bonfire,
in the shape of the Chinese
character “dai,” which means “large,” is
lit on Mt. Nyoigatake in the Higashiyama Range. Four other
bonfires, in the shape of other Chinese characters, are lit
on surrounding mountains. Lit one after another, they enhance
and adorn Kyoto’s summer-night sky.
Kyoto has a variety of
accommodations for visitors,
including both modern hotels
and Japanese traditional-style
shops abound near tourist attractions, especially in the Gion
area, which has many shops. Popular gift items included are
sweets, pickles, lucky charms, traditional items such as utensils
for tea ceremonies, textiles—called Nishijin-ori, and
Kyoto is also famous for
several styles of food
preparation well known
throughout Japan, especially
preparations of tofu
and yuba. Syoujinn-style, vegetables-only meals for Buddhists
are famous. Kaiseki-style food was originally created especially
for the tea ceremony. Originally very simple, it has become
a sumptuous meal today.
Kyoto attracts the world’s visitors. It combines Japanese
culture and history through architecture, festivals, beautiful,
seasonal scenery, tasty food, and entertainers who wander the
city in period costumes and kimonos.