Kyoto Temple City, Japan

Kyoto Temple City, Japan

In the west of Honshu Island, amidst the mountains, lies the city of Kyoto, considered to be the cultural center of Japan. It is one of Japan’s best-preserved cities, containing numerous Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, palaces, and gardens. If you go to Japan, you should definitely visit Kyoto. The foundation of Kyoto dates back to 794, when it grew the city Heian-kyo, or “capital of peace and tranquility. The city became the seat of the Japanese imperial court and was later named Kyoto.

In the past, it had suffered several times from natural disasters, such as earthquakes or floods caused by the Kamo River overflow. During these difficult times, the locals began to make entreaties to the gods, and so many rites and festivals were created that are still observed in the city today. In 1467 – 1477 there was a civil dispute that came to be known as Onina. From the 17th to the 19th centuries Kyoto competed with Tokyo (then Ed) for power. In 1868, however, it finally lost its status as the capital of Japan, and the emperor moved to Tokyo.

Kyoto came under great threat during World War II, when it was listed as the city on which the United States wanted to drop the atomic bomb . Fortunately, because of its great cultural importance, it was eventually removed from the list. It thus became one of the few Japanese cities where pre-war buildings can still be seen today, such as the traditional wooden town houses called “matia”. These are the classic vernacular buildings of the Heian period. These houses used to be inhabited mainly by merchants and craftsmen. Today, the houses are Japanese folk architecture.

Kyoto Temple City, Japan - Photo 2

Temple City of Kyoto, Japan

Today Kyoto is a modern city but it is very different from other Japanese capitals in many ways. The locals still live in harmony with nature, speak a peculiar dialect, and everything is tied to the seasons. Here traditions are proudly observed, and Kyoto is a kind of inexhaustible source of Japanese culture. Nevertheless, it is worth delving into the narrow alleys and remote quarters to discover the real gems of the city. As already mentioned, Kyoto has a huge concentration of historical monuments, some of which since 1994 are also included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.

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The most visited monument and the most photographed building in Kyoto was the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji. However it is only a copy of the original from 1397 which was reduced to ashes after a fire in 1950. The temple was built by the Shogun, then priest Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, as his final resting place. The entire temple is covered in gold leaf, and a bronze phoenix is placed atop it.

Although not as gleaming as other Kyoto temples, To-ji Temple boasts a rich history and cultural significance. It is the place where the foundations of the local religion were laid, and to this day ancient rituals are still observed here. The church was built in 796 but was rebuilt in 1603. Today the temple is considered a masterpiece as this five-story pagoda is the tallest in Japan at 55 meters tall and is the main attraction in Kyoto.

Kyoto National Museum

It is worth visiting the Kyoto National Museum with its collection of Heian-style paintings. The museum was founded in 1895 at the initiative of the Office of the Imperial Court. The city is also dominated by Nijo Castle, which was built between 1543 and 1616 . It was supposed to represent the power and property of the shogunate based in Tokyo. The more majestic its fortifications, the more attractive the interiors with their creaky festive floors. The purpose of such adapted floors was to warn the inhabitants of the castle against possible intruders . Around the castle there is a garden, which is rich in various stones of different shapes and colors.

The five-story Ningna-ji Temple with its 1930s pagoda is beautiful. This temple once stood in a complex with 60 other temples. However, they burned down and have not survived to this day . In Kyoto you can go to classic Japanese dance performances or visit one of the bars and clubs. Almost every day in one of the hundreds of temples and shrines a traditional event or mysterious ritual takes place.

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Kyoto Temple City, Japan - Photo 3

Kyoto National Museum

The center of entertainment is the Gion district, whose history dates back to feudal times. In addition to teahouses, stores, and entertainment venues, there is also the Minamiza Theater and Yasaka Shrine. Hanamikoji is a protected area in this district because the elegance of the area in its traditional form has been preserved. It is not a place for tourists and it is mainly populated by politicians and influential officials. Gion is also a center where you can meet real professional companions, the geisha. They still wear the traditional kimono, white makeup, high sabots and hairstyles. They can be found on Pontocho Street, known for its many tea pavilions.

Nanzen-ji Temple

The 13th-century Nanzen-ji Temple is one of the famous sites of Japanese Buddhism. This typical Zen temple belongs to the Rinzai sect and has been the center of Japanese Zen Buddhism since 1386. Nanzenji was originally built as the residence of the Japanese emperor Kameyama and was converted into a Zen temple after his death. It was destroyed during the Onin War in 1467, and Ishin Suden worked to rebuild it from 1605. He asked Kobori Enshu to create a large garden in front of the main hall.

It didn’t take long to build a very simple and refined composition consisting of 6 natural stones that are in harmony with their surroundings and nature. Although the traditional arrangement of the stones was odd, Kobori Enshu was not afraid and showed great courage in following this rule. He also played with the empty space, which gives this narrow garden an impression of openness and spaciousness.

Kyoto Temple City, Japan - Photo 4

Nanzen-ji Temple

Within the Nanzen-ji Temple complex is the Hojo, the abbot’s room, where one can admire paintings from the Ajuchi-Momohama period, including the masterpiece Kano Tanyu, which means “Tiger Drinking Water.” The paintings on the ceilings and walls of the temple in the Kano school style have been declared a national monument. Nearby is a hall overlooking a waterfall and a beautiful garden where, for a small fee, you can enjoy a cup of ceremonial “cat” tea and a sweet dessert.

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Most of today’s Nanzen-ji complex buildings were reconstructed in 1611-1691. Three of the twelve side temples are open to the public throughout the year. The most interesting is the Kontiin, which boasts a garden of stones and pine trees arranged in the shape of a turtle and a crane. A very attractive tourist attraction of Nanzen-z and is the red brick aqueduct from 1890. It was built in the Western style as part of an ambitious project to bring water and goods from neighboring Shiga Prefecture to Kyoto. It is the first act of Japanese architecture of the Meiji period.

Kyoto Temple City, Japan

Kiyomizu-dera is a famous Buddhist temple in Japan that was founded, according to legend, in 778 by a waterfall on the slope of Mount Otowa. The story goes like this: a wandering monk named Entin was given a dried tree by another hermit named Geei (that’s the kind of gifts monks have, as they say).

Ginkaku-ji Temple

By its name, it’s easy for a foreigner to confuse this temple, the Silver Pavilion Temple, with the Kinkaku-ji Temple (“Golden Pavilion”). The resemblance is not just in the sound: it was the gold one that was used as a model during the construction of the “silver” one.

Kyozan-ji Temple

Toganosan Kyosan-ji Temple (or Kyozan-ji) is a Buddhist shrine of the Omuro sect of the Shingon branch located northwest of Kyoto. It is quite far off the beaten tourist track and is therefore rarely visited as part of the standard program of exploring the city.

Kiyomitsu-dera Shrine

Otowa-san Kiyomitsu-dera is an independent Buddhist temple in eastern Kyoto. Everything in the temple is now dedicated to wish fulfillment, love, and good luck, which adds to its attractiveness in the eyes of tourists.

Kinkaku-ji Temple

This temple, better known as the Golden Pavilion, is officially called Rokuon-ji (“Deer Garden Temple”). It is a Zen Buddhist shrine whose temple complex is a fine example of Muromaki period garden design.

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A variety of itineraries, lots of excursions and experiences!

Ryoan-ji Temple

This temple has a second name of “Temple of the Resting Dragon” and belongs to the Miyoshin school of Zen Buddhism of the rinzai branch. The Ryoan-ji Garden is among the best (perhaps the best) examples of the “dry landscape” (“kare-sansui”).

Saiho-ji Temple

Saiho-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple of the Rinzai branch located in Matsuo, Kyoto Prefecture, on the outskirts of the city. This temple is known throughout the world for its garden of mosses and is often referred to as such, “Koke-dera” – “Temple of Mosses.”

To-ji Temple

To-ji Temple (“Oriental Temple”) is located in the Shingon district of Kyoto. It once had a “partner”, Sai-ji Temple (“western”), and together they stood at the Rashomon Gate. The temples were used as protective structures.

Fushimi Inari Temple

Fushimi Inari Taissa Temple, the main shrine in honor of the female inari deities, is located in Fushimi-ku (Kyoto Prefecture). Inari are “responsible” for tea, rice, sake, and fertility. The shrine stands at the foot of the mountain of the same name, 233 meters above sea level.

There are more than 2,000 temples and shrines in Kyoto and the surrounding area. Naturally, it would be impossible even for a hyperactive tourist to explore them all. But by dividing the city into districts and methodically combing through each one, you can at least get closer to this audacious goal. Start in northern Kyoto: this is the maximum of the famous temples per hour. Here are Kinkaku-ji, Ryoan-ji, Ninna-ji, Kyozan-ji, Shimogamo and Kamigamo shrines. The richest part of northern Kyoto in terms of temples is the northwest.

The Golden Pavilion Temple, Kinkaku-ji (Rokuon-ji), can rightfully be considered the most popular tourist attraction in Kyoto. It was originally built as a secluded imperial villa (14th century) and was converted into a temple by the emperor’s son and heir. The Golden Temple’s twin brother, the Silver Temple, Ginkaku-ji, is no less beautiful.

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In 1950, Kinkaku-ji Temple burned down, set on fire by a young monk. This story was the basis for the novel The Golden Temple by Yukio Mishima.

Next door to the Golden Temple is Ryoan-ji with its famous Zen garden, which is considered one of the most remarkable examples of “dry” landscape architecture. Another major temple complex is Ningna-ji, which has a five-tiered 17th-century pagoda surrounded by an entire plantation of dwarf cherry trees that bloom in early to mid-April. The former palace on the temple grounds features wonderfully painted walls, and in the hills behind the temple is a superb miniature version of the pilgrimage route through the 88 temples of Shikoku (which is great because it takes only 1-2 hours to see it, not 1-2 months like the original).

In the hills behind Ninna-ji Temple is an excellent miniature version of the pilgrimage route through the 88 Shikoku temples, which is great because it takes only 1-2 hours to see it, not 1-2 months like the original.

The Daitoku-ji Temple is also very extensive, with many individual shrines and temples. It is the quietest temple complex in northwestern Kyoto, and in the morning tourists have a good chance of exploring it almost alone. The most popular of the temples within Daitoku-ji is Daisen-in, which is on the north side of the complex. It has a beautiful Zen garden. It is also the only temple that makes delicious cinnamon sweets. Koto-in is notable for its maple trees, and Hosun-in resembles the Golden and Silver Pavilions.

One of the first temples in what is now Kyoto is Shimogamo Temple, in the northeastern part of the city. It was built before Kyoto was the capital of Japan. Many festivals are held at the temple, including Aoi Matsuri, one of Kyoto’s three most famous events. Paired with Shimogamo Shrine is Kamigamo Shrine (together they are called Kamo Shrines). Kamigamo is especially famous for its two large sand cones, the origin and purpose of which no one still knows.

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