Knowing stuff about the town you are going to visit will make your journey a lot more fun. This article showcases Kyoto, one of the leading sightseeing destinations in Japan. Try to deepen your knowledge of Kyoto by reading this article!
What Kind of Place is Kyoto?
The history of Kyoto dates back to the 8th century. After Kuni-kyo and Nagaoka-kyo on the southwestern area of the current-day Kyoto Prefecture, the capital of Japan was moved to Heian-kyo, which is located at the center of the current-day Kyoto City. The capital remained in Heian-kyo for more than a thousand years, with the prefecture significantly developing over time. Kyoto City is characterized by its structure that resembles the grid of a Go (Japanese chess) board with crisscrossed roads, but its layout and zoning system is actually based on the structure that was adopted during the Heian-kyo era. Amid its long prosperity as the heart of Japan, the elegant culture that has been inherited from ancient times continues to deepen, penetrating all corners of everyday life. Today, even after the capital has been transferred to Tokyo, Kyoto continues to welcome throngs of visitors hoping to get a glimpse of the town that symbolizes Japan’s traditional culture.
Kyoto City is a basin area that is surrounded by mountains in three directions, so it is characterized by hot, humid summers and freezing cold winters. During spring and autumn, there are many bright, sunny days and the weather is relatively mild, but the temperature difference between day and night can be quite large, so beware! The annual average temperature is 15.9℃/60.6°F, while the annual precipitation is 1,491.3mm. On the Sea of Japan side (e.g. Maizuru City), it is hot in the summer and snowy in the winter. The annual average temperature there is 14.5℃/58.1°F, while the annual rainfall is 1,826.6mm.
People from Kyoto have the highest level of pride out of all the people in Japan. This is probably due to the fact that it served as the capital and seat of power in Japan for more than a thousand years. While they are open and kind to people from other regions since it is a town that is visited by many sightseers, people in Kyoto are also said to have aristocratic and clannish tendencies, as many of them say what they don’t really mean just to be polite. The preservation of the traditions of the ancient capital is also an art born from their attachment to the region.
In Kyoto, people use a dialect that is called Kyo-kotoba (Kyoto dialect), which has rich expressions and unique sounds. The enormous difference that it has with other Kansai-ben (Kansai dialects) has already disappeared, but in olden times, the words used varied depending on people’s occupations. Some expressions still heard today are “okoshiyasu”, which means “irasshai” (Welcome!), and “hannari” to define something that is elegant, bright and radiant. Furthermore, if you are on a road in Kyoto City, you say “agaru” if you’re heading north, and “sagaru” if you’re going south.
Transport Access Guide
Access to Kyoto
Kyoto Station, where the Shinkansen (bullet train) stops, is the gateway to Kyoto Prefecture. From Tokyo Station, it takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to Kyoto Station. From Nagoya Station or Hakata Station, you will reach Kyoto in roughly 35 minutes or around 2 hours and 45 minutes, respectively. There is no airport inside Kyoto Prefecture, but it is quite easy to get to Kyoto from the Kansai International Airport since there is the direct train Kansai Airport Express Haruka available, along with limousine buses. If you’re coming from Itami Airport, you can hop on a shuttle bus. Travel time from Osaka Station to Kyoto Station is approximately 30 minutes by JR trains.
Transportation Inside Kyoto
In Kyoto City, which is dotted with tourist spots all around, small-turning buses are convenient. However, traffic often gets heavy in the city, so it would be best to combine these buses with the subway, JR lines and private railways. Of all the modes of transport available, the Keihan Electric Railway is recommended if you will be moving north to south at the eastern side of the city, while the JR lines and Hankyu Railway are best if you are heading to Arashiyama. Going to areas outside of Kyoto is usually done via JR trains.
Representative Tourist Attractions
Kyoto is packed with must-see places that you won’t be able to completely explore in just a day. It is dotted with many cultural assets that have been registered as World Cultural Heritage Sites. Some of the more famous spots are the shining golden temple known as Kinkakuji, Nijo Castle that has opulent and gorgeous structures and gardens, and Kiyomizudera Temple that is famous for its main hall that has been designated as a national treasure. Aside from those, you can also check out classic tourist spots such as Fushimi Inari Taisha that is famous for its vermillion torii (shrine archway) corridor, Arashiyama that is filled with bamboo grove roads, as well as temples and shrines, and Gion, a quaint town. How about going a little farther north of Kyoto to see Amanohashidate, one of the three most famous scenic spots in Japan? Measuring at about 3.2km long, this sandbar is known for its beautiful view created by the white sand and green pine forest.
Must-Try Specialty Dishes
Japanese cuisine has been registered as an UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. The origin of this cuisine is Kyo-ryori (Kyoto cuisine), which has been developed over Japan’s long history. It is characterized as a kind of food that is cooked by capitalizing on the original flavors of ingredients, with the dishes mainly using seasonal ingredients and dashi (soup stock). The containers used for serving such dishes are selected by considering harmony with the size, balance, color, texture and other elements related to the ingredients. You can eat Kyoto dishes at traditional Japanese restaurants, so make sure to try them. Apart from those, other popular dishes in Kyoto are Yudofu (boiled tofu), which is made by boiling tofu in dashi and then eating it with soy sauce and other condiments, Saba-zushi that has become a customary food to eat when celebrating, and Kyo-yasai (Kyoto vegetables) that are grown in Kyoto Prefecture. The matcha and wagashi (Japanese sweets), which are authentic to Kyoto, are also must-try items!
For souvenirs, how about choosing traditional handicrafts? The Kyo-sensu (Kyoto fan) comes in a wide variety of designs, from elegant patterns that epitomize Kyoto to modern patterns, so they are recommended for all ages. The Tsuge Gushi that has been loved since ancient times is also popular. This traditional wooden comb is made from natural materials, removes static electricity in hair, and makes hair shiny. Venerable cosmetic items from Kyoto brands called Yojiya and Kazurasei are also perfect as souvenirs for women. Furthermore, the Gofun Nail, a kind of nail polish that is good for your nails because it uses Gofun (fine powder made out of scallop shells), which is utilized in Japanese painting, is also recommended.
There are probably many people who wish to go to Kyoto if they ever come to Japan. After deepening your knowledge through this article, try to actually visit Kyoto and marvel at this former capital’s elegant charm!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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