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bootlegga Kyoto - A travel report by James
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Kyoto,  Japan - flag Japan -  Kyðto
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bootlegga's travel reports

Japan’s ancient capital

  17 votes
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For anyone who is looking to see traditional Japan, Kyoto is a must-see. It abounds with temples, shrines and gardens that are hundreds of years old.


Kiyomizu Temple
Kiyomizu Temple
Kyoto is Japan’s ancient capital, and was the seat of power for the Emperor for over a thousand years. Despite the formal capital of Japan being Tokyo, many residents of Kyoto believe that one day the Emperor and his family will return to Kyoto and again reside there permanently.

If Tokyo is Japan’s gleaming high tech core, than Kyoto is its center of tradition. Here, the streets abound with Buddhist monks, women dressed as geisha, and is covered with many temples dedicated to Buddhism and shrines dedicated to the many gods of Shinto. Unbelievably, Kyoto was spared the wrath of the US air force during World War two. Some say it was out of respect for the antiquities, others say it was simply because the air force had planned to use it as a target for the atomic bomb.

Much like the rest of Japan, the climate tends to be mild in winter, and hot and humid in the summer. Check out this link for more info;

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2158.html<-br />

Favourite spots:
The hand washing fountain at Kiyomizu
The hand washing fountain at Kiyomizu
I think the coolest temple or shrine in Kyoto is Kiyomizu-dera. Roughly translated, it means ‘Pure Water Temple’ and was founded in the late 8th century. Built on a large hill, it has an impressive view of Kyoto. Upon entering, you wash your hands in a spring fed by a massive dragon-head statue. Then you climb up to the main building. Off to the side of the entrance is a special well-known test. There are 2 stones set in the ground, about 25 yards apart. It is said that if you can walk from one stone to the other your eyes closed, you will be lucky in love, otherwise it’s a life of misery for you. Good luck!

The rest of the temple is spectacular. The main building overlooks much of Kyoto, and there are several other areas nearby that are worth seeing too. One of them is a large 4-story pagoda that soars into the sky. If you have traveled in Japan already, you may have seen something similar at Narita-san in Chiba. The grounds are also well maintained and full of giant cedar trees.

What's really great:
Inside Kyoto Imperial Palace
Inside Kyoto Imperial Palace
Kyoto abounds with history. The city is full of temples that are hundreds of years old and has many impressive places to visit. This is truly ‘traditional’ Japan at its finest.

Sights:
The Golden Pavilion
The Golden Pavilion
There are literally dozens of places to visit in Kyoto, whether its temples or shrines or gardens.

One of Kyoto’s most beautiful buildings is Kinkakuji, which roughly means the Golden Pavilion. It was originally built in the 15th century and is covered with authentic gold leaf! It was destroyed by fire in the 1950s, but was rebuilt and painstaking restored to its original glory.

Another sight worth seeing is the Imperial Palace in Kyoto. Due to demand, reservations must be made in advance, but it is actually easier for foreign residents to visit, as the waiting list for Japanese citizens is several years long. The palace itself is full of gardens, reflecting pools, and pavilions. While none of them individually is particularly amazing, together they form a tranquil centre to a very busy city.

The Heian Shrine is another must see. With its large grounds and beautiful red buildings, it is an important Shinto shrine.

Accommodations:
Hirano Shrine
Hirano Shrine
One of the most affordable accommodation options in Japan are ryokans, which are small inns, usually owned and operated by families. They are relatively cheap, have a common bath and washroom, although some also will have rooms with private bathrooms. At many you can also have breakfast included in the price of your night’s stay. The only drawback at many ryokans is that they have a curfew and will lock their doors after 11pm or so. Check out this link for more info;

http://www.jpinn.com/

There are several hostels in Kyoto that are marginally cheaper, but I didn’t stay at any of them while in Kyoto. If you’re interested;

http://www.jyh.or.jp/

Hangouts:
Don'f forget to wash your hands before entering temples and shrines in Japan.
Don'f forget to wash your hands before entering temples and shrines in Japan.
Sights II

Castle lovers may (or may not) be disappointed by Nijo-jo (Nijo Castle). Unlike castles in Osaka, Himeji, and so on, Nijo-jo is not a fighting castle, so there is no towering donjon or massive guard towers. There are large, thick walls, but they are lower than most other castles. Nijo-jo was instead designed largely as an administrative centre and built primarily to impress foreign dignitaries and other warlords.

Other famous temples in Kyoto can be found here;

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2058.html

For some info on Japanese castles, check out this link;

http://jcastle.info/castle/

Personally, some of the best shrines and temples we visited were ones that we found simply by walking around. As I’ve already said, there are so many, you can head down almost any street and find a small temple or shrine. While they may not be as large or impressive as the main sights, they are still wonderful in their own way.

Restaurants:
A market near Sanjo Street
A market near Sanjo Street
Sanjo Street arcade has dozens of great restaurants. Our two favourites were Capricossia, an Italian restaurant, and the Hub, a British pub wannabe. I have mentioned Capricossia before, in my report on Tokyo, and as it is part of the same chain, the quality and prices are the same.

The Hub is great because you can get cheap beer and food (cheap for Japan). If you are looking for Japanese food, it can obviously found everywhere. My advice though is to avoid those in near Sanjo Street because they are upscale and expensive. Instead simply look for a red lantern hanging outside a door in one of the less touristy areas and walk in. There may or may not be an English menu, but many places have food displays of what they serve. Another alternative is to look for a yakitori restaurant (Yakitori translates roughly to BBQ chicken). Here you can get some of the best kebabs in Japan.

The region is also well known for okonomiyaki, which is like a pancake. It is availble almost everywhere.

Other recommendations:
Osaka Castle
Osaka Castle
Nearby Nara was also once capital of Japan and also has many impressive temples. Todaiji temple is huge and houses a massive golden Buddha statue. Horyuji Temple has the world’s oldest wooden buildings, one dating back to the 7th century!

Osaka is about 30 minutes away from Kyoto and it is Japan’s 2nd largest city. Much like Tokyo, it is a high tech center of industry and commerce. Osaka castle, while a reconstruction, is one of Japan’s largest and nicest castles. The grounds in particular are fantastic. Dotonburi is Osaka’s equivalent to Shinjuku in Tokyo, and Amerika-mura has dozens of shops for die-hard shoppers.

Kobe is a bit farther along and the sight of the 1996 earthquake that killed over 6,000 people. It’s Chinatown is one of the finest in Japan.

Published on Sunday February 20th, 2005


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Fri, Dec 02 2005 - 10:09 PM rating by jorgesanchez

lovely Kyoto!!! I so love it1
This is my last rate. I thimnk there is movement in the pier, ... yes, the boat is coming!1 Urrah!
Ia mata watashino tomodachi.

Sun, Oct 30 2005 - 02:44 PM rating by isaacmolina

this is one of your more beautiful reports

Tue, Oct 11 2005 - 11:40 PM rating by gegeone

Nice and very well report.
I'll keep it in mind for the preparation of a trip to Kobe nest spring.

Tue, Mar 01 2005 - 07:02 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

excellent report

Mon, Feb 21 2005 - 04:05 PM rating by britman

Excellent well written informative report.

Mon, Feb 21 2005 - 03:45 PM rating by mistybleu

James,

This is another great report about Japan. I feel very lucky to have this personal insight to this fabulous country.

Rgds

Misty

Mon, Feb 21 2005 - 08:46 AM rating by davidx

Excellent report. I know it's all a matter of taste but this would please me so much more than Tokyo.
Cheers, David

Mon, Feb 21 2005 - 08:11 AM rating by magsalex

Really enjoyed this report. Sounds like a great visit.

Mon, Feb 21 2005 - 07:44 AM rating by rangutan

Great! We now know more about the place where the international anti-pollution "Kyoto Agreement" was signed.

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