Kyoto © Shadowgate
Kyoto is Japan's most historically important city
and sightseeing capital, packed with something like 1,600 Buddhist
temples, 300 Shinto shrines, imperial palaces, gardens, and
traditional wooden homes. All are well preserved and present a
charming picture of traditional Japanese culture. The city lies in
the mid-western Kansai district on the island of Honshu, surrounded
by plains full of rice paddies which complete its old-world
Visitors arriving from the Kansai International
Airport or on board the famous Shinkansen bullet train at Kyoto's
modern central station may be disenchanted to initially discover a
thriving, overcrowded industrial city with a straight grid of
uniform streets presided over by the futuristic Kyoto Tower.
The city may present a modern face, but explore
behind the scenes in the outer districts or off the beaten track in
the old merchants' quarters and you will glimpse cameos and images
of traditional Japan, from cherry blossoms to geishas and bonsai
trees to shoji screens.
Apart from the architectural legacy, which was
fortunately spared the heavy bombings inflicted on other Japanese
cities during World War II, Kyoto also boasts some of Japan's most
significant artworks, a culturally traditional way of life, and
superior cuisine. No visit to Japan is complete without devoting
some time to exploring Kyoto.