Any tourist making the effort to visit Japan simply must visit the city of Kyoto, one of the country’s true treasures. Full of high-rise concrete buildings and avenues of neon signs, in many ways, Kyoto resembles Tokyo, although for many tourists, the city of Kyoto is the absolute epitome of Japan, with over 2,000 shrines and temples located here, together with a number of magnificent palaces and traditional Japanese gardens, complete with raked gravel and shaped pine trees.
For as long as you choose to stay in Kyoto, you will be sure to discover new surprises and tourist attractions every day as there is simply so much on offer here. You will find that many of the main offerings are immersed beneath Kyoto’s initial showy appearance, including a number of outstanding UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Kyoto Station acts as an important landmark in the city and serves both Kintetsu and Japan Railways, being close to the main thoroughfares of Karasuma-dori and the Higashi Hongan-ji. The main commercial centres in Kyoto stand between the Sanj-dori and the Shijo-sori, being also known for their nightlife. A map of the city is available at the City Tourist Information Centre (TIC), together with a free ‘Kyoto’s Visitors Guide’ booklet and other tourism information.
Brimming with tourist attractions for everyone, a trip to Kyoto is sure to be a memorable one. Highlights include the lively Gion – which has become known for its high concentration of geisha girls, the building of Higashi Honganji – which was built at the beginning of the 17th-century; Kyoto Municipal Zoo – always a big hit with young children and home to over 1,000 creatures; the Ryoanji Garden – a traditional Zen garden at its best; the eye-catching Kyoto Tower – which offers simply awesome views across the cityscape; and the highly acclaimed Uzumasa Movie Village – where many major blockbusters are often filmed and a popular theme park can be found.
Also to be found around the Japanese city of Kyoto are various historic landmarks, and Nijo Castle is amongst the main highlights being built at the beginning of the 17th century. Various shrines and temples are also located in Kyoto and include the Temple of Pure Water – known locally as the Kiyomizudera, the Golden Pavilion – offering the perfect photo opportunity, and the Heian Shrine – which dates back to 1884 and features bright red Japanese architecture, a large pond and an attractive bridge.
Kyoto is without doubt a city of culture and home to a series of impressive museums and splendid art galleries. Particularly notable is the Kyoto National Museum, which was founded at the end of the 19th century and is brimming with historical information about the city, while if you are in search of fine art, look no further than the Imura Art Museum, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, the Koryo Museum of Art, and the Garden of Fine Art, the latter of which features works by non other than Leonardo da Vinci, Monet and Van Gogh. For information about the local production of sake, the Gekkeikan Okura Sake Museum deserves your attention and is the perfect place to sample this traditional Japanese rice wine.
For many, a visit to Kyoto is the perfect holiday and the many tourist attractions are more than enough to fill their days. However, others prefer to venture outside of the city and explore the numerous surrounding cities and towns, with nearby Osaka being a firm favourite and often quite overwhelming. Also close to Kyoto and Japan’s fourth-largest city is Nagoya, a top tourist destination with outstanding museums, traditional Japanese gardens, and an eye-catching castle. Other popular excursions include trips to Kobe, Himeji and Nara, where a number of historic temples, shrines, palaces and ancient structures await.