Kyoto today only has about 1.4 million inhabitants, but has tremendous cultural assets including around 20% of Japan’s National Treasures, and 15% of the Important Cultural Properties. Capital of Japan from 794 until the 1868 “Meiji Restoration”, this city is cupped in a ring of mountains and cut through by rivers. Home of several UNESCO World Heritage sites, the city remains beautiful in parts, but has an unfortunate micro-climate – Kyoto is notorious for uncomfortably hot/humid summers and frigid cold winters. Kyoto is a must see for any traveller interested in Japan, with a long history and rich culture. Although the genteel rooflines and historic cityscape have largely been replaced by a concrete, steel and neon mess, traditions remain vital to the city – people flock to see raked pebble gardens at Zen temples such as Ryoan-ji or Ginkaku-ji, experience the artworks and history of Nijo Castle, dine in Pontocho or experience an overnight stay in a traditional ryokan in Gion.
A major business center and home of high tech corporations such as Kyocera (Kyoto Ceramic), there are as many temples to mammon as to deities. Kyoto is also a major student town with more than 35 universities and colleges – and although some may be attracted by famous colleges, one of the major lures attracting young Japanese university students to Kyoto is the raucous nightlife. It is a particularly great place during the Gion Festival and New Year.
City Highlights – Ryoan-ji, Kinkaku-ji, Nijo Castle, Kiyomizudera, Jishu Shrine, Sannen-zaka & Ninnen-zaka walk Ginkaku-ji, Path of Philosophy, Nanzen-ji, Imperial Palace, Mt. Hiei and Enryaku-ji, Heian jingu, Saiho-ji, Tenryu-ji, Ichiriki Ochaya
Gion District & Gion Festival: – Yasaka (Gion) Shrine | Gion Festival | Maruyama park | Pleasure quarters | Pontocho | Teramachi | Shijo Street Shopping
Region Highlights – Uji, Byodoin, Ujigami Shrine, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Obakusan-Manpukuji, The Tale of Genji sites & museum, Uji Bridge, Tea Ceremony.