Ever wondered what makes Kyoto such a favorite destination for Japanese and foreigners alike? WIT Agent Pam headed there from Tokyo last week to find out exactly why. Call us at 503-224-0180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to chat the ins and outs of Japan.
City of Lavish Temples & Exquisite Palaces
Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, Kyoto is known for its rich history, exquisite gardens and ornate palaces. Chief among them is Kinkaku-Ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, so-called due to its pavilion that is lavishly coated in gold-leaf. The gold is meant to purify any negative thoughts towards death.
Be sure to stop by the peaceful grounds of the Imperial Park, where you’ll find the Imperial Palace, beautiful gates and gardens. The palace was home to the imperial family until 1868, when the emperor moved his residence to Tokyo.
Just a half-hour’s walk away, Nijo Castle was originally built as a shogunate residence. It is famous for its “nightingale floors,” wooden floors that squeak to note any presence that passes through its halls. Toji Temple is also a must-see, if only for its colorful interiors and elegantly carved Buddhist sculptures. The temple grounds is also home to a flea market on the 21st of the month, where visitors can find old postcards, movie posters, traditional crafts and other souvenirs.
Higashi Hongan-ji temple is worth a stop just for its unusual hair rope, a thick rope of human hair. This is the last remnant of the the hair ropes used during construction of the temple in the late 1800s. Historically, ordinary rope was not available–so women would donate their hair to make stronger ropes.
Other places of note is the Museum of Kyoto, which houses a huge collection of ancient pottery, and the International Manga Museum, home to over volumes and items of 300,000 manga, Japanese comic books. The latter keeps books in both Japanese and foreign languages, and is popular with the 30 and younger crowd.
More to Kyoto than Meets the Eye
But there’s more to Kyoto than temples and museums. Hop on a bike with a small group for a healthy paced, but intimate look into the real former capital. Join a walking tour into the Inari district to learn about sake production from the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum. Or hit the culinary path and explore the Nishiki Food Market with a knowledgeable guide.
If you’re only in Japan for a week or two, Kyoto is the place to go for an immersion of traditional culture. Experience a traditional tea ceremony or samurai sword demonstration. Here you can witness the elegance of Maiko, or apprentice geishas, during an evening of delicious kaiseki cuisine, dancing and festive games.
For a more inclusive experience, delve into the world of Geisha. Follow a private guide into the Gion neighborhood, savor high-cuisine at an invitation-only dinner with a geisha, learn about her hidden world as your guide translates, and enjoy her performance of dance and music.
Did you know? Kyoto is just a short jaunt from Tokyo on the Shinkansen, Japan’s famous bullet train.