Discover Kyoto

By Cassandra Ling, MyDestination.com

Kyoto is home to all the culture, history, and charm Japan has to offer. Traditional Japanese culture comes to life in this large city with a small town feel. From the covered shopping districts to the 1,600 temples and shrines, Kyoto has something for every type of traveler. Adventurers can hike to the top of any of the mountains that surround the valley, and take in spectacular views. Families can feed wild monkeys, or explore ancient temple grounds. Couples can snuggle up with hot tea to watch winter illuminations. Scholars can learn about history at a variety of museums and temples. No matter the reason for visiting, Kyoto is sure to fascinate.

History

Kyoto, once the seat of government of ancient Japan, has a long and complex history associated with being the capital. Remnants of the ancient capital are seeded throughout the city and history buffs have always been captivated by sites like the Golden Pavilion, Nijo Castle, and the imperial palace. Temples as old as the year 1200 still stand, and the 17 Unesco World Heritage Sites are always a popular attraction for locals and foreign visitors.

Getting Around

Bamboo Forest in Japan, Arashiyama, Kyoto via Shutterstock*
Bamboo Forest in Japan, Arashiyama, Kyoto via Shutterstock*

Kyoto is set in a valley on the main island of Honshu. It is a quick train ride away from other major cities such as Osaka and Kobe, and many other small towns with special charm for easy day trips. The gridded streets and Y-shaped Kamogawa River make Kyoto an extremely easy city to navigate. As one of Asia’s most popular travel destinations, visitors have no need to worry about the language barrier. All buses and trains have announcements with signs in English and restaurant staff warmly welcomes any chance to practice speaking with patrons. Every trip in the city comes with convenient access to public restrooms, vending machines on virtually every corner offer seasonal favorites, warm coffee and cold soda, or even beer.

Culture

Throughout Japan, Kyoto brands have an image of refinement and excellence. Many of Japan’s traditional arts and crafts were born in Kyoto, so there is no better place to experience the rich cultural heritage of Japan. Visitors can try their hand at the art of flower arranging, cooking local cuisine, making their own woodblock prints, or dressing in a traditional-style kimono. Experiences like these offer a cultural perspective you can’t find anywhere else.

All Year Round

Ginkakuji temple - Kyoto, Japan via Shutterstock*
Ginkakuji Temple – Kyoto, Japan via Shutterstock*

The locals call Kyoto the only city with four distinct seasons, and with good reason. Each season’s unique delicacies are celebrated fully by its inhabitants. In spring, couples and friends take their picnic baskets to sit under the cherry trees in full bloom and take in the iconic beauty of Japan’s national treasures. In summer, wait for the sun to go down and the fireworks to light up the night sky, or take in the sights and sounds of one of the fire festivals at temples throughout the city. Autumn means finding the best places to see the leaves change in explosions of color. Winter brings citywide illuminations and snow capped temples. There is no better place in Japan to enjoy each of these distinct seasons than Kyoto.

So let Kyoto inspire you, take you on a trip back through time, or show you a side of the world completely different from your own.

Copyright © 2015 by My Destination. This article was written by Cassandra Ling and originally published at My Destination Kyoto.

*Image of Ginkakuji Temple – Kyoto, Japan via Shutterstock

*Image of Bamboo Forest in Japan, Arashiyama, Kyoto via Shutterstock

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