Kyoto was the imperial capital and cultural centre of Japan for over 1000 years, from 794 AD to 1868, when the government was transferred to Edo (Tokyo). Literally meaning "capital city", Kyoto, which has a population just shy of 1.5 million is now the capital city of the Kyoto Prefecture, and a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto trio.

Surrounded by mountainous plains on the island of Honsho (Japan's largest land mass), Kyoto is adulated across the globe for its immense beauty. In some parts of Japan modernisation has proceeded so fully that only remnants of the country's rich past linger. Kyoto however, remains grounded in its own story which stretches back across history. Natural vistas, shrines and temples sit peacefully, side by side with more recent inclusions to the cityscape. In the city of Kyoto, the customs and traditions of Japanese culture are still in bloom today, much like the traditional Japanese flower arrangements that can be found throughout the city. It is this synthesis of the old and the new that has maintained Kyoto's position as the heart of Japanese culture and ensures that it will continue to be one of Japan's most significant cities in the future. To those visiting the city, it will come as no surprise that Kyoto is affectionately referred to as "Japan�s heartland".


Because of its privileged position as imperial capital for hundreds of years, Kyoto contains many historical marvels, monuments to the various Emperors and prominent Shoguns (warrior elites) who dominated Japan's political history during this period.

There are a plethora of shrines and temples throughout Kyoto, and it would indeed take months to fully explore all the historical beauty that the city has to offer. Nishi Honganji is the home of one of the largest sects of contemporary Buddhism in Japan. The temple was built in 1591, and houses several national treasures. Along with Kiyomizudera (Pure Water Temple) � one of the most celebrated temples in Japan built in the 8th century � and a dozen other temples and shrines from the area, it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site of great significance. Kodaiji is another outstanding temple, a monument from the early 17th century to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the most important political figures of the period. It boasts an excellent Zen style garden with tea houses and a small bamboo grove. Kinkakuji is also a Zen temple, but is quite unique in that it is completely covered in gold. The "Golden Pavilion" really has to be seen to be believed. The Fushimi Inari Shrine is an extremely beautiful monument to Inari, the Shinto God of rice. Although there are thousands of such shrines throughout the country, this is the most famous. These sites and the many others are particularly beautiful in the Autumn when the leaves change colour, something that people from all over Japan gather to witness.

Kyoto is not however, all history. It is a vibrant and exciting city. One needs to look no further than the new Kyoto Station Building for evidence of this. In perfect contrast to the temples and shrines that adorn the postcards of Kyoto, this ultra-modern complex houses a top of the range department store, hotel, theatre, arcade, shopping mall, several restaurants and even a night club. For a truly breathtaking panoramic view of the city, there is an observation deck on the top floor.A comprehensive list of what's on in the city can be found at [ KYOTO event web magazine].


Because of its popularity with tourists, both from Japan and the rest of the world, the city has a large selection of souvenir shops selling traditional hand crafted fans, parasols, carved wooden dolls and other such paraphernalia. The region around Kyoto is also particularly famous for its unique floral incense, which can be found throughout the city at very reasonable prices. Also popular are the wooden tablets produced at Shinto temples and inscribed with prayers.

For those looking to come back with a more striking piece of Japanese culture, the shopping areas around Kiyomizudera offer genuine samurai swords which can cost easily in excess of �3,000,000 (�13,000)!

Nightlife and Eating Out

Although Kyoto is famed for its history and traditions, it has an excellent assortment of bars and nightclubs. Bar, isn't it? and Metro are two excellent clubs, while Taku Taku regularly plays host to some of the biggest international DJ's. Most venues will stay open all night, especially at weekends, and serve a variety of different musical styles, both DJ and live.

For the uninitiated, the thought of Japanese cuisine will most probably conjure images of raw fish. Although sushi is a national dish, the gastronomic heritage of Japan is infinitely richer and more varied. And nowhere is there a better selection of traditional dishes on offer than Kyoto. From rice based dishes, to noodles, seafood and nabe (something like a hotpot), the city has a large collection of different foods on offer. Caf� Rue Ribera, Siam and [ eFish] are all top notch restaurants. For anyone travelling in Kyoto, a visit to the Nishiki Market is a must. This narrow street market, known as "Kyoto's Kitchen" has hundreds of stalls offering all manner of Japanese delicacies. For the less adventurous, it will come as a comfort to know that Kyoto has also embraced the foodstuffs from around the world. Yoshoku which literally means "western food" can be found at most restaurants.

Tourist Information

Kyoto City Tourist Information Office2F Kyoto Station Building, 721-1 Higashi Shiokoji-cho Karasuma-dori Nanajo-sa, Kyoto

  • Tel. +81 (75) 343 6655
  • Opening: 08:30-19:00 daily
  • Website: []


Kyoto does not have its own airport. The main route into Kyoto is through [ Kansai International Airport], the main airport for the Kansai region which serves Osaka and Kobe as well as Kyoto. The airport�s single terminal building is said to be the longest building in the world measuring in at 1.7km. It is situated in Osaka, and from there, it is just over a 1 hour drive to get to the centre of Kyoto. For domestic flights into or out of the region, Osaka International Airport, commonly referred to as Itami Airport (ITM) is the best bet.

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