Roots of Japan

Kyoto

Kyoto is the former capital of Japan. People flock both from around Japan and abroad to feel the atmosphere of an ancient city filled with historical shrines, temples, gardens and locations connected to the imperial family. The entrance to this massive flow of tourists is Kyoto station, a building with a very modern architectural design and an underground mall where visitors can enjoy shopping.

Besides the valuable cultural and historical assets passed down to the present day, we’d also like to feature a new side of Kyoto. The area of Kyoto is approximately 4,613㎢ and the population is about 2.6 million. The climate differs dramatically across the thin, vertically elongated shape of land that stretches 140km from the northwest to the southeast. The south part of Kyoto, located in the Kyoto Basin, has extreme differences in temperature, in winter particularly, people are said to feel chilled to the bone. Meanwhile, Northern Kyoto faces the Sea of Japan, and while summer temperatures differ little from the south, in winter it is famous for heavy snowfall.

With four distinct seasons, Kyoto has long been a favorite place to enjoy cherry blossoms and autumn colors. This remains unchanged today. Many people come to Kyoto's famous shrines and temples during these seasons to take in the beautiful scenery.Let's now see the best places to enjoy cherry blossoms and autumn colors.

Famous places for –
Cherry blossoms / Autumn colors
1/ Philosopher's Path 1/Nanzenji Temple
2/ Hirano Shrine 2/ Ryoanji Temple
3/ Kyoto Imperial Palace 3/ Tenryuji Temple
4/ Daigoji Temple 4/ Tofukuji Temple
5/ Keage Incline 5/ Hosenin Temple

Places famous for both cherry blossoms and autumn colors
1/ Arashiyama and Sagano 2/ Kodaiji Temple
3/ Ninnaji Temple 4/ Kiyomizudera Temple
5/ Komyoji Temple

Kyoto has so many famous places that it is difficult to choose which places to list. They are all beautiful, with every scenic spot having a charm of its own. Each year an event called Arashiyama Hanatoro (meaning the “path with flower and light”) is held in the Arashiyama district. It is a large-scale illumination event that lights up the streets beautifully for just one week in December. There are also great spots to see cherry blossoms or colorful autumn leaves lit up at night, so if you can go, it is certainly worth checking out!

There are many other popular tourist spots besides seasonal attractions. We carefully picked out the top must-see locations.
1/ Fushimi Inari Shrine 2/ Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion)
3/ Byodoin Temple 4/ Kiyomizudera Temple
5/ Nijo Castle (Nijojo) 6/ Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion)
7/ Gion 8/ Kifune Shrine
9/ Yasaka Koshin-do 10/ Heian Shrine

1/ Fushimi Inari Shrine, famous for its endless red Senbon Torii gates (meaning, thousands of torii gates), is also open at night. It may feel like an entrance to another world as you pass through the gently illuminated Senbon Torii. How about visitng this shrine to take in the serene atmosphere? 7/ Gion is a historical geisha district. Old streets with a uniquely Kyoto atmosphere give a friendly welcome. Ochaya, or tea houses, are brightened by the presence of maiko and geisha. Maiko begin their work around 6pm. If you are lucky to see one, always remember to show good manners and don’t get in their way as you take photos.

Ranked among Japan's three most scenic views is Amanohashidate. At the observatory, if you turn your back to the bay, bend down and look from between your legs, it is said to look like a bridge to heaven! This natural land bridge, made approximately 2,000 to 3,000 years ago, is home to around 8,000 pine trees. These trees were not planted by hand, but rather the majority self-seeded naturally. It seems most people who go to Kyoto visit the historical buildings found inland, but if you head out towards the Sea of Japan, you might enjoy seeing Kyoto from a slightly different perspective.

Also, there are festivals called “Kyoto’s Three Great Festivals”.
1/ Aoi Matsuri (May) 2/ Gion Matsuri (July) 3/ Jidai Matsuri (October)

All these festivals take place in Kyoto city, but the date they were established and the events held differ greatly from each other. It can be said they display three types of festival culture.
1/ The Aoi Matsuri is one of the few festivals in Japan that preserves the traditions of the dynasty era. As you see the parade of men and women dressed in their beautiful costumes, you will no doubt feel as if you have slipped back in time to the Heian period.
2/ The Gion Matsuri is a summer tradition that dates to the 9th century! It is one of the longest festivals in Japan as it runs for the entire month of July. Many people enjoy the variety of arts and crafts and how the streets of Kyoto sparkle with color.
3/ The Jidai Matsuri, or “Festival of the Ages”, may have a shorter history than numbers 1 and 2, however it is a festival to celebrate Kyoto's history as the center of Japan.

The costumes and equipment that the people wear in the procession are careful replications of each time period. Although crowded with a lot of tourists, this is a chance to catch a glimpse of Japanese culture that is rarely seen! Come and feel the atmosphere! Kyoto also preserves other valuable cultural assets. Included is “Kyo-ryori”, or Kyoto cuisine, which is different from other Japanese cuisines. Doesn’t this sound intriguing? Featuring lightly seasoned dishes, it is a cuisine that uses the natural taste of ingredients with its focus on vegetables, dried, and soy-based foods. It appeals to the five senses with refined flavors, arrangement and atmosphere and is truly unique to the ancient capital of Kyoto.

Let's now see some of Kyoto's delicious dishes!
1/ Yudofu (Tofu simmered in a broth) 2/ Obanzai (Homestyle Kyoto cooking)
3/ Saikyozuke (Miso marinated grilled fish) 4/ Hamo (Pike Conger)
5/ Kyotsukemono (Kyoto pickles)

Have you ever had the chance to eat any of these dishes? It would be an extraordinary experience and would surely feel very special to enjoy Kyoto cuisine in a tatami dining room. We also recommend you try Gyoza dumplings! They are so popular that gyoza consumption in 2017 ranked number one in the country! A variety of different seasonings such as ginger instead of garlic in Shōga Gyoza and Kujo Green Onions, a Kyoto vegetable, in Kujo Negi Gyoza etc. have developed out of this battle for number one. Definitely give this a try too!

After such delicious food it's time for something sweet. In Kyoto there is a Japanese confectionery called Kyogashi, which is designed to be enjoyed by all five senses in the same way as Kyoto cuisine. Here we'll talk about some classic Kyogashi whose color and shape appeals to the eyes, the taste and feel to the tongue, while the nose takes in the aroma and the name tingles the ears and ignites the imagination.

1/ Chimaki (Rice dumplings) 2/ Yatsuhashi (Sweet rice crackers)
3/ Kuzu-gashi (Sweets made from arrowroot) 4/ Misomatsukaze (Miso cake)
5/ Kaichu jiruko (Instant sweet red bean soup) 6/ Joyo manju (Bun made from grated yam)

Was it the first time to hear some of these names? There are still more we could list, but all quality Kenjou-gashi confections that are used in events or ceremonies are sure to taste delicious! Those that have a long shelf life make perfect souvenirs. When you come to Kyoto, make sure you give them a try!

No matter how many times you visit, there is always something new to discover. The city of Kyoto will look different each time you come.

This may be because of its long, prosperous history as a capital. Would you like to come and feel the atmosphere of Kyoto, a city that has been shaped by times past?

It is my opinion and summary. Please acknowledge that there are various opinions.