Introduction of Kyoto

Why people go toward Kyoto?
From the year 794, for over approximately 1,000 years, Kyoto was a prosperous city, home to the Emperor of Japan and a long-standing central metropolis for politics and culture.

Many ancient wars and revolutions greatly changed the history of Japan. Among these, those that took place in Kyoto are countless, so much so that primary and junior high school field trips from all over the country will always include Kyoto as part of their itinerary. Kyoto has preserved many traditional customs, as well as a large number of architectural structures that have been designated as World Heritage Sites. On the one hand, it is an area greatly cherished through festivals and the like; and on the other hand, it is also a city famous for its gourmet food, also known as an area that promotes the creation of new cultures by young people, featuring the popular cafe culture and many creative projects. Kyoto boasts great popularity among visitors who travel from all over Japan.

Kyoto’s highlights are highly varied and wide-ranging, capable of catering more than enough for any type of visitor, with its dramatic history, its beautiful scenery across all four seasons, its large number of stunning architectural structures such as Kiyomizudera and Ginkakuji, as well as its wonderfully varied food culture including its delicious multi-course kaiseki cuisine, plus many cultural experiences ranging from Zen culture with its thought-provoking life philosophies, to its more florid culture characterized by Japanese geisha (maiko and geigi) and the like.

Experiencing Kyoto to the full through only one visit, and only after a few days, would probably be almost impossible. There is no doubt that every time visitors come to Kyoto, they will be likely to discover something truly amazing.
The town areas of Kyoto form the shape of a basin surrounded by mountains in all four directions. As with all geographical basins, summers are hot and clammy with a high level of humidity, and winters feature highly penetrating cold temperatures likely to freeze you starting right from the toes.

Compared to any other area in Japan, the four seasons of Kyoto are the most vivid and beautiful -the perfect location for enjoying the many colors of each one of the seasons-. Soft cherry blossoms in the spring, lush greenery in the summer, striking Japanese maples in the fall, and dazzlingly-white snow scenery in the winter. Kyoto’s remarkably beautiful landscapes across all four seasons bring great joy to all visitors.

Visitors can wander around in short sleeves roughly from the middle of June to the end of September. Coats are essential from the middle of December to the middle of March.
Kyoto, a city that has grown to be one of Japan’s major tourist destinations, is continuing to strive to develop itself further in order to cater for the recently increasing number of overseas visitors. The people of Kyoto, who are already masters in hospitality for tourists, are gradually putting systems in place to provide a warm welcome to visitors from abroad. This is a slight digression, but sometimes people who live in Kyoto are considered to be "wicked" within Japan. This is believed to be because their habit of saying things indirectly and never revealing their true intentions can be fairly exaggerated. However, this is one of Kyoto’s cultural traits, and there is definitely no malice behind it. This habit is thought to be one of the heritages left from the nobility of the Heian Era (where saying things directly was considered as unrefined and inelegant behavior).

Looking at it the other way, this custom may even be a manifestation of the high sociality of the people of Kyoto and a testimony to their maturity.
Let’s explore a little bit the transitions within Kyoto’s culture. In the early period of the Heian Era (from 794 to 1185), culture in Japan was heavily influenced by the Tang Dynasty (the China of that time). By the middle period, Japanese elements started to come forth, giving birth to prosperous literature through the invention of the Japanese hiragana and katakana characters (“The Tale of Genji” was written during this period by Murasaki Shikibu), and witnessing the emergence of Japanese architecture and the widespread diffusion of Buddhism among the general population. The Gion Festival, one of the three great festivals of Kyoto that are still celebrated to this day, begun in the early period of this era.

The Muromachi Era (from 1336 to 1573) saw the flourishing of two contrasting cultures: the Kitayama Culture, characterized by the building of Kinkakuji; and the Higashiyama culture, which was highly influenced by the Zen philosophy Wabi-sabi, with Ginkakuji as its prime example. Since then, during the era of the civil war, people witnessed the building of castles, as well as the introduction of the tea ceremony, Noh plays, and a style of Japanese domestic architecture known as shoin-zukuri. This can be considered as an era when new cultural models were established, proof of which we can still enjoy today as part of the everyday lives of the Japanese people.

In addition, even the stores in Kyoto with over 100 years of history can be heard saying, "In Kyoto, our company is still a newcomer." Well-established Kyoto stores and manufacturers with many years of history have been in business for 100, 200, and 300 years, and even those that have been around for over 1,000 years are not necessarily rare. There are many stores in Kyoto that were established way before the time when the samurais used to wander around the town with one katana sword at each side. Kyoto’s culture has been maturing from that long ago, enabling it to build great things over the years.

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