With over 1000 Buddhist temples and other ancient buildings, Japanese tradition is still very much alive in Kyoto. This city also has restaurants with delicious food, and stunning natural sights of mountains and bamboo. Whether you’re chasing a spiritual experience or just a bite to eat, Kyoto’s the place, so check out our Kyoto hotels below.
Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 1000 years, before Emperor Meiji moved the title to Tokyo in 1868. In 1864, the Hamaguri rebellion burnt down 28,000 of Kyoto’s houses, and the modern city was officially founded in 1889. In the same year, Nintendo started out in Kyoto as a playing card company. During World War two, the U.S originally considered making Kyoto a military target, but chose Nagasaki instead. As a result, Kyoto is the only Japanese city that still has lots of historic pre-war buildings, like Machiya, traditional wooden townhouses and tea houses, as well as the traditional geisha system. In fact, if you’re here during July, you can join in the celebrations for the Gion Matsuri festival. Originally designed to appease the gods, it’s a street parade consisting of huge floats and musical performances.
Temples and buildings
Nijo Castle is worth seeing - an Imperial palace built in 1603, it’s surrounded by stone walls and a moat. But the most famous is probably Kinkaku-Ji, also called ‘The Golden Pavilion’. This Zen Buddhist temple has three stories, and the top two are completely covered in gold leaf. This temple is rumored to house some of Buddha’s ashes.
Kyoto has mountains on three sides, making it a worthy place for a hike. Even better, some of the hiking trails start just minutes from the city. Wander into the woods and you’ll also stumble across temples and shrines among the greenery and rivers. If you’re after an incredible view over Kyoto, take a not-too-difficult climb to the top of Mt. Daimonji. On August 16, the Okuribi Fire Festival is held on the side of this sacred mountain. Huge Japanese characters are lit up on the side of the mountain in fire, to see off the spirits of ancestors.
The Arishiyama Bamboo Grove is like another planet just 30 minutes from the city. Green bamboo stalks tower above you and surround you completely, casting a surreal light as you walk along the path.
Shopping and dining
From the upmarket restaurants to street vendors, Kyoto has all kinds of dining. Try some sushi with rice marinated in vinegar. Don’t like tofu? You will in Kyoto, where it’s so delicious they even turn it into ice-cream. Dine on ramen, duck into a hip cafe, and check out cuisine from around the globe, even French and Italian restaurants.
Kyoto’s main shopping strip is Shijo Street, where the Daimaru and Takashimaya department stores, big malls with floor upon floor of beauty and fashion. On the same street, you’ll find smaller shops selling Japanese crafts. Come to Nishiki market in downtown Kyoto, a narrow market street lined with restaurants and shops, where you can pick up some traditional Japanese fresh food.
Kyoto is just a one-hour train ride from Osaka, so book one of our flights to Osaka and your Kyoto accommodation with us. It’s the perfect place to experience a place where the old way of life sits comfortably with the new and different.
Image credit ChubbyWimbus under Creative Commons
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