Formerly the Imperial capital of Japan for more than one thousand years, Kyoto (京都) carries a reputation as its most beautiful city. Several sites in the city are inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage list.
Kinkaku-ji (literally "Temple of the Golden Pavilion"), officially named Rokuon-ji (literally "Deer Garden Temple"), is a Zen Buddhist temple and It is one of the most popular buildings in Japan. It is designated as a National Special Historic Site and a National Special Landscape, and it is one of 17 locations making up the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which are World Heritage Sites. Kinkaku-ji's history dates to 1397; however, during the 15th century Onin war, all of the buildings in the complex aside from the pavilion were burned down. The present pavilion structure dates from 1955, when it was rebuilt. The pavilion successfully incorporates three distinct styles of architecture which are shinden, samurai, and zen, specifically on each floor. Each floor of the Kinkaku uses a different architectural style. The Golden Pavilion is set in a magnificent Japanese strolling garden. The location implements the idea of borrowing of scenery ("shakkei") that integrates the outside and the inside, creating an extension of the views surrounding the pavilion and connecting it with the outside world.
Founded in the early Heian period (778), the independent Buddhist temple is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its present buildings were constructed in 1633. There is not a single nail used in the entire structure. It takes its name from the waterfall within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills. Kiyomizu means clear water, or pure water. The main hall has a large veranda, supported by tall pillars, that juts out over the hillside and offers impressive views of the city. Large verandas and main halls were constructed at many popular sites during the Edo period to accommodate large numbers of pilgrims. Beneath the main hall is the Otowa waterfall, where three channels of water fall into a pond. Visitors can catch and drink the water, which is believed to have wish-granting powers. The complex also offers various talismans, incense, and omikuji (paper fortunes). The site is particularly popular during festivals.
Opened in 1897, the Kyoto National Museum is one of the major art museums in Japan and focuses on pre-modern Japanese and Asian art. The museum was originally built to house and display art treasures privately owned by temples and shrines. It is said to have the largest collection of Heian period artifacts. The museum is also well known for its collections of rare and ancient Chinese and Japanese sutras.
This Buddhist temple was completed under order of Emperor Go-Shirakawa in 1164. The temple name literally means Hall with thirty three spaces between columns, describing the architecture of the long main hall of the temple. The main deity of the temple is Sahasrabhuja-arya-avalokiteśvara or the Thousand Armed Kannon. The statue of the main deity is a National Treasure of Japan. The temple also contains one thousand life-size statues of the Thousand Armed Kannon which stand on both the right and left sides of the main statue in 10 rows and 50 columns.
Completed in 1964, the observation steel tower is the tallest structure in Kyoto with its observation deck at 100 metres and its spire at 131 metres. It was planned to be completed in time to correspond with the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Unlike many other towers, such as Tokyo Tower that are constructed using metal lattice frames, Kyoto Tower's interior structure consists of many steel rings stacked on top of each other. The intended overall effect was for the tower to resemble a Japanese candle.
Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head shrine of Inari, sitting at the base of a mountain also named Inari. Since early Japan, Inari was seen as the patron of business, and merchants and manufacturers have traditionally worshipped Inari. The shrine became the object of imperial patronage during the early Heian period. In 965, Emperor Murakami decreed that messengers carry written accounts of important events to the guardian kami of Japan. These heihaku were initially presented to 16 shrines, including the Inari Shrine. The earliest structures were built in 711 and the main shrine structure was built in 1499. The shrine draws several million worshipers over the Japanese New Year and is just outside the JR Nara Line Inari Station.
Originally developed in the Middle Ages, Gion district was built to accommodate the needs of travelers and visitors to the shrine. It eventually evolved to become one of the most exclusive and well-known geisha districts in all of Japan. Despite the considerable decline in the number of geisha in Gion in the last one hundred years, it is still famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment. And part of this district has been declared a national historical preservation district. Gion remains dotted with old-style Japanese houses called machiya (townhouse), some of which are ochaya (tea houses). These are traditional establishments where the patrons of Gion—from the samurai of old to modern-day businessmen—have been entertained by geiko in an exclusive manner for centuries. The area is a short walk from the Gion-Shijo Station on the Keihan Line.
The Heian Shrine is a Shinto shrine and it is listed as an important cultural property of Japan. In 1895, a partial reproduction of the Heian Palace from Heian-kyō (the former name of Kyoto) was planned for construction for the 1100th anniversary of the establishment of Heian-kyō. After the Exhibition ended, the building was kept as a shrine in memory of the 50th Emperor. After World War II, the construction of Heian Shrine was a symbol of revival for the city. The revival consisted of the new Kyoto in education, culture, industry, and daily life, where at the same time the "good old" Kyoto was maintained. The architecture of the main palace mirrors the style and features of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, the style from the 11th-12th century (late Heian Period). The Shrine’s torii (the traditional Japanese gate ) is one of the largest in Japan.
The Kyoto Imperial Palace is the former ruling palace of the Emperor of Japan. The Emperors have since resided at the Tokyo Imperial Palace after the Meiji Restoration in 1869, and the preservation of the Kyoto Imperial Palace was ordered in 1877. The palace is situated in the Kyoto-gyoen, a large rectangular enclosure which also contains the Sento Imperial Palace gardens. The estate dates from the early Edo period when the residence of high court nobles were grouped close together with the palace and the area walled. The grounds include a number of buildings, along with the imperial residence, or dairi.
Nijō Castle is a flatland castle which consists of two concentric rings (Kuruwa) of fortifications, the Ninomaru Palace, the ruins of the Honmaru Palace, various support buildings and several gardens. It is one of the seventeen Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto which have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The castle was completed during the reign of Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1626. In 1939, the palace was donated to the city of Kyoto and opened to the public the following year. The castle is an excellent example of social control manifested in architectural space. Low-ranking visitors were received in the outer regions of the Ninomaru, whereas high-ranking visitors were shown the more subtle inner chambers. The castle area also has several gardens and groves of cherry and Japanese plum trees.
The museum has a collection of 300,000 items includes such rarities as Meiji period magazines and postwar rental books. The 200 metres of stacks hold 50,000 volumes in the "manga wall", which can be taken down and read freely. The museum holds many items of historical, as well as contemporary, interest. Highlights of the museum's collection include Japan Punch. Published by Charles Wirgman in Yokohama, it ran from the year Bunkyū 2 (1862) to Meiji 20 (1887).
Rich with history and tradition, the 400 year old marketplace Nishiki Ichiba (literally "brocade market") is renowned as the place to obtain many of Kyoto's famous foods and goods.