Kyoto is a beautiful resort city located in the legendary Andes

Kyoto – a city in Japan

Kyoto - City in Japan

Kyoto is one of the oldest cities in Japan and the place where the capital of Japan was located in ancient times. Originally the city was called Heianke, which means “City of Peace and Serenity” in Japanese. Kyoto, called by locals the “City of a Thousand Temples” for a reason, will be featured in our article.

Located in the central part of Honshu Island, Kyoto has been the spiritual center of Japanese culture and civilization for thousands of years. Since the eighth century it became the capital of Japan and the official seat of the emperors, which it was until 1868.

Kyoto is famous all over the world for its numerous temples, geisha bars and the fact that it is one of the few cities in the country to have survived the devastation of World War II. Kyoto is an extraordinary city, colorful and very romantic. There are almost two thousand temples and churches, and seventeen of them are under UNESCO protection, and there are hundreds of beautiful parks, dozens of beautiful palaces. Kyoto city in Japan, inherent in an inexplicable charm, and despite the fact that here, in addition to older buildings are quite a lot of modern concrete buildings, they fit harmoniously into the surrounding landscape. The temples and palaces of Kyoto, as if grow out of the smooth lakes, out of the hillsides, only adding to the charm and natural beauty of the local scenery. The most beautiful time of the year in Kyoto is autumn, when the many trees in the parks are scarlet. By the way, the most common trees in Japanese parks are – “Momiji” maples, whose leaves change color from bright lettuce to scarlet or lemon. Kyoto is a city that is devoted to Japanese historical traditions. This city is the birthplace of kabuki theater, and it was here that the last Japanese geisha schools remained. So below we will tell you about the most interesting sights of the ancient Japanese city of Kyoto.

National Museum of Kyoto

The Kyoto National Museum is a place where one can learn enough about the history of Japan and the milestones of its art development. Almost all of the museum exhibits were obtained from monasteries and Shinto temples in the Kansai region of Japan. The fact is that here, all exhibits are kept in compliance with the rules of conservation, which would be absolutely impossible to implement in those monasteries and shrines. City Museum is one of the three most famous museums in Japan, and just like them, it was built during the Meiji era, at the end of the nineteenth century. The building was built of red brick, in the French Renaissance style. The entire museum complex covers an area of fifty thousand square meters. There are various exhibitions in the museum. Permanent exhibitions are located in another building, attached in 1966, the museum. In general, all museum exhibits can be divided into three parts: – Fine arts, including works of painting, sculpture, and calligraphy; – Crafts, including ceramics, lacquer miniatures, fabrics, metal products of domestic or religious use, weapons, and armor; and – Archaeological finds. The exhibits of the Kyoto National Museum feature Japanese art as well as art from other Asian countries. The collection of this museum includes more than twelve thousand items, and only half of them are on display. Two hundred and thirty museum rarities have the status – “National Treasures of Japan”. In addition, the museum has a huge photographic archive.

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Buddhist temple Rean-Ji

Buddhist temple Rean-Ji or the Temple of the Dormant Dragon is one of the most famous temples in Kyoto, famed for its stunning “Garden of Stones” created for the meditation of monks by Japanese master Soami on the orders of military leader Hosokawa Katsumoto, in 1450. The temple was patronized by the Japanese rulers Toyotomi Hideesi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. To get to the “Garden of Stones”, you have to go through the temple, or you can admire it from the temple veranda without going in. As is customary in Japanese “rock gardens,” there is a mystery: no matter from which side you look at this garden, you will only see fourteen stones. In order to see all fifteen, you would have to reach a state of enlightenment or ascend to the height of a bird’s flight. That’s what all Buddhist monks strive for.

The rock garden is a thirty-by-ten-meter site, enclosed by a clay wall, and covered with sand and gravel, on which rake furrows are made in circles around the stones. The stones, framed with green moss, stand in groups: one by five, two by two, two by three stones. People with knowledge say that the stones symbolize the mountain peaks and the white sand symbolizes the clouds. There is a stone vessel in the temple, Rean-ji Tsukubai, from which water is taken for ritual ablutions. The reservoir of the water source is similar to a Japanese coin and has an inscription on it, the translation of which reads: “This knowledge is enough. There is also a beautiful pond near the temple, where the oshidori ducks live – a symbol of fidelity in Japan, so they are very fond of coming to feed the temple, newlyweds and lovers. In the middle of this pond stands the islet “Bentenjima,” named after the goddess Benten, one of the group of seven deities of good luck in Shintoism. During the Civil War, the temple, like many other buildings in Kyoto, was destroyed and burned down, but later rebuilt to the delight of descendants and the many tourists who visit it. If you too have decided to visit this beautiful place in Kyoto, look for it on the north-west of the city, not far from the Golden Pavilion. The temple and the “Garden of Stones” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today this temple is owned by the Rinzai sect.

Golden Pavilion in Kyoto

“Golden Pavilion” or “Kinkaku-ji” is located in the northwestern part of the Japanese city of Kyoto. It is one of the most famous Buddhist temples of the Rokuon-ji or “Deer Garden Temple” complex, built in the late fourteenth century as the country home of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, who retired after his service. The entire building of the three-story pavilion, except for the first floor, was covered with sheets of pure gold with a special varnish called “urushi,” hence the name. The beautiful temple is located in the middle of Lake Kekoti, on a small island. The first floor of the pavilion is the “Hall of Purification,” with a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha in the center, as well as a statue of the Shogun, the former master of the palace. The second floor is the “Cave of Mercy,” where there are living quarters, the walls of which are decorated with rich paintings. The third floor is the “Top of Emptiness,” a place for religious ceremonies similar to the Zen temple where the relics of Shakyamuni Buddha were. The Shogun bequeathed after his death to convert the palace into a monastery, which was done: this monastery was called Rokuon-ji, in memory of the very first sermon the Shakyamuni Buddha delivered in the Deer Forest. In 1950, the pavilion, with all its treasures, burned down. But this was not the first fire here, it had burned twice before during the civil war which lasted from 1467 to 1477. In 1955, it began to be restored from the surviving drawings and paintings, it succeeded, as did the restoration of the decorations and paintings. The restoration of the building was completed in 2003. Today, the Kyoto Golden Pavilion is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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The Imperial Palace in Kyoto

The Imperial Palace or “Kyoto Gose” was the former residence of the Japanese imperial family and served as their home until 1868, the time when the capital of Japan was moved to Tokyo. Construction of the palace began in the seventh century, choosing the central part of Kyoto for the purpose. The palace has been burned to the ground several times in fires, but it has always been carefully restored and reconstructed as needed. The palace appearance was influenced by several emperors of Japan: in 1569, under Oda Nobunaga imperial chambers were built, under Toyotomi Hideeshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu the size of this palace increased and in 1789, Matsudaira Sadanobu, Chairman of the Shogunate Government, carried out a partial restoration and erected several more buildings in the “Heian” style.

The last reconstruction of this palace happened already in 1855, after another fire. Since then, the appearance of the buildings has not changed. The palace complex is located in the Kamige district, surrounded by walls that hide magnificent gardens and several other buildings. The area was named “Imperial Park.” The complex also includes the main throne room “Shishin”, the halls of the Japanese empress, the halls of princes and princesses, the Palace of the Empress Mother, the small Kogose Palace, a pond, and other no less interesting objects.

Buddhist temple complex Otowasan Kiyemizu-dera

The Buddhist temple complex Otowasan Kiyemizu-dera or “Temple of Pure Water” stands on the slope of Mount Otowa, in the southeastern part of Kyoto, in the Higashiyama district. The temple was named for its proximity to a waterfall whose water the monks claimed had healing powers. The temple was founded in 778 by a monk named Entin who had a dream in which the goddess Kannon ordered him to live near the Otowa waterfall. There he began to live in a small shelter. One day in the mountains, he was met by the shogun Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, who decided to distract himself by hunting, from the sad thoughts of his wife’s incurable illness. Entin said he would pray to the goddess Kannon for his wife, and she cured the woman and helped the shogun win a difficult military campaign. In 798, the grateful Sakanoue no Tamuromaro ordered the construction of a beautiful temple on Mount Otowa, which became the main monastery structure. In the early ninth century, the monastery came under the authority of the imperial court, acquiring the right to hold official prayers for the health of the imperial family. At the end of the tenth century, the Kiyomizu-dera temple was given to the largest Buddhist monastery in Japan, Kofuku-ji. But this brought only problems to this Kyoto monastery. The Kofuku-ji monastery was at enmity with the Enryaku-ji monastery, and there were armed clashes between them. Since then Kiyomizu-dera monastery began to suffer from pogroms. It suffered particularly badly in 1165, when Enryaku-ji monks burned down the main temple as well as other temple buildings. It was burned down completely more than once, but rebuilt again. The building in its present form was built in 1633, by order of the Tokugawa Iemitsu shogun. The temple ensemble includes a prayer hall, a pagoda, a canopy over a bell, rooms for storing sutras, and stables for horses. The main hall, the Hondo Temple, is home to the main deity of the Kiyomizu-dera temple, the “eleven-limbed” and “thousand-armed” goddess Kannon Bosatsu. Her image is on the central altar of the temple. According to Buddhist belief, she takes any of the thirty-three images to save people. Thirty-three temples in Japan are dedicated to this goddess. Attached to this hall is a veranda that protrudes twelve meters beyond the edge of the cliff above the abyss, supported by huge pillars that are fastened together without the use of nails. This magnificent vantage point is always crowded. And no wonder, both the temple itself, which can be reached by climbing up a narrow shopping street, and its surrounding beauty are beautiful.

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Heian-jinggu Temple

Heian-jingu Temple is a famous Shinto temple in Kyoto, which was built in 1895 – the one thousand one hundredth anniversary of the founding of the city of Heian-ke or Kyoto. This temple is characterized by a special veneration of the two emperors, elevated to the rank of deities of Japan, who in different years ruled the country from Kyoto: Emperor Kammu, who moved the capital to Heian-ke, and Emperor Komei, who then moved the capital to Tokyo. Emperor Kammu was also known for improving Japanese legislation and paying special attention to the development of science and international trade. Emperor Komei, who lived in the nineteenth century, is known as the man who laid the foundations for the formation of the modern country. These two rulers of Japan were, by popular request of the locals, deified. They are remembered annually during the Japanese festival of Jidai Matsuri, the “Festival of the Times,” celebrated on the twenty-second of October. The main temple building is a smaller replica of the Kyoto Imperial Palace.

The main temple entrance is the gate-torium Oten-mon – one of the highest in the country, but separated from the temple by as much as one and a half kilometers. The territory of the temple was organized according to the laws of feng shui: the Blue Dragon’s tower to the east and the White Tiger’s tower to the west. The temple is surrounded on four sides by four gardens: North, South, West, and East, which cover an area of 33,000 square meters. Each garden has some peculiar features, but together, they showcase the gardening and park art of Japan, of the Meiji period.

Silver Pavilion in Kyoto

“The Silver Pavilion” or “Ginkaku-ji” is an exquisite landmark of the city of Kyoto and Japan’s greatest treasure. The pavilion was erected in 1482, occupying a site in the eastern part of the city. It housed the country residence of the shogun Yoshimasa Ashikaga, who built the pavilion in response to the Golden Pavilion, his grandfather’s magnificent creation. The Ginkaku-ji’s walls were planned to be covered in silver leaf, but that remained in the design because, today, the pavilion is wooden. Nevertheless, it is beautiful. The interesting tea room located here is a classic example of such rooms.

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The second floor of the pavilion surprises with an unusual room whose windows are shaped like keyholes, so that through them it is convenient to watch the full moon. These windows offer a view of the “Zen” garden, whose white sand is lined with “West Lake” and “Mount Fuji.

Geisha Gion Quarter

Geisha Quarter “Gion” – As we mentioned before in Kyoto, a lot is associated with geishas. There’s even an entire quarter where absolutely amazing Japanese medieval traditions still live on. “Gion” was built many centuries ago, at a time when houses were being built near the Yasaka shrine, and the purpose was to meet the needs of the many pilgrims. In ancient times, several thousand geisha lived in the quarter.

Minamizu Kabuki Theatre in Kyoto

The Kabuki Theater – Minamiza in Kyoto is the oldest kabuki theater in Japan and the only one still adhering to the traditions of the past. The modern kabuki theater building was built in 1929. It is worth a visit just to experience the atmosphere and great cultural heritage of Japan. And where better to do this than in Kyoto, the home of this authentic art?

The ancient Japanese city of Kyoto is a veritable repository of the country’s best achievements in art, culture, religion and thought. It is an incredibly beautiful place where you can enjoy everything: beautiful pavilions with curved roofs, ancient temples, majestic Japanese castles and palaces, which are reflected in the smooth surface of ponds, neat pine trees of parks, stretching to the sun, “gardens of stones”, a lot of interesting historical and cultural sights. Kyoto is beautiful in all its manifestations!

Tag: sightseeing in Kyoto

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