Kyoto in Japan

Friday, 11 August 2017 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Environment, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  8 minutes

Kyoto City Hall © Tomomarusan/cc-by-2.5

Kyoto City Hall © Tomomarusan/cc-by-2.5

Kyoto is a city located in the central part of the island of Honshu in Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the Imperial capital of Japan for more than one thousand years, it is now the capital city of Kyoto Prefecture located in the Kansai region, as well as a major part of the Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe metropolitan area. Kyoto is also known as the thousand-year capital. In 1997, Kyoto hosted the conference that resulted in the protocol on greenhouse gas emissions that bears the city’s name. Home to 37 institutions of higher education, Kyoto is one of the academic centers in Japan. Kyoto University is considered to be one of the top national universities nationwide. The original city was arranged in accordance with traditional Chinese feng shui following the model of the ancient Chinese capital of Chang’an (present-day Xi’an). The Imperial Palace faced south, resulting in Ukyō (the right sector of the capital) being on the west while Sakyō (the left sector) is on the east. The streets in the modern-day wards of Nakagyō, Shimogyō, and Kamigyō-ku still follow a grid pattern. Today, the main business district is located to the south of the old Imperial Palace, with the less-populated northern area retaining a far greener feel. Surrounding areas do not follow the same grid pattern as the center of the city, though streets throughout Kyoto share the distinction of having names.

Although ravaged by wars, fires, and earthquakes during its eleven centuries as the imperial capital, Kyoto was spared from much of the destruction of World War II. It was removed from the atomic bomb target list (which it had headed) by the personal intervention of Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, as Stimson wanted to save this cultural center which he knew from his honeymoon and later diplomatic visits. With its 2,000 religious places – 1,600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, as well as palaces, gardens and architecture intact – it is one of the best preserved cities in Japan. Among the most famous temples in Japan are Kiyomizu-dera, a magnificent wooden temple supported by pillars off the slope of a mountain; Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion; Ginkaku-ji, the Temple of the Silver Pavilion; and Ryōan-ji, famous for its rock garden. The Heian Jingū is a Shinto shrine, built in 1895, celebrating the Imperial family and commemorating the first and last emperors to reside in Kyoto. Three special sites have connections to the imperial family: the Kyoto Gyoen area including the Kyoto Imperial Palace and Sentō Imperial Palace, homes of the Emperors of Japan for many centuries; Katsura Imperial Villa, one of the nation’s finest architectural treasures; and Shugaku-in Imperial Villa, one of its best Japanese gardens. In addition, the temple of Sennyu-ji houses the tombs of the emperors from Shijō to Kōmei. Other sites in Kyoto include Arashiyama, the Gion and Pontochō geisha quarters, the Philosopher’s Walk, and the canals which line some of the older streets. The “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto” are listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. These include the Kamo Shrines (Kami and Shimo), Kyō-ō-Gokokuji (Tō-ji), Kiyomizu-dera, Daigo-ji, Ninna-ji, Saihō-ji (Kokedera), Tenryū-ji, Rokuon-ji (Kinkaku-ji), Jishō-ji (Ginkaku-ji), Ryōan-ji, Hongan-ji, Kōzan-ji and the Nijō Castle, primarily built by the Tokugawa shoguns. Other sites outside the city are also on the list. Kyoto is renowned for its abundance of delicious Japanese foods and cuisine. The special circumstances of Kyoto as a city away from the sea and home to many Buddhist temples resulted in the development of a variety of vegetables peculiar to the Kyoto area. Japan’s television and film industry has its center in Kyoto. Many jidaigeki, action films featuring samurai, were shot at Toei Uzumasa Eigamura. A film set and theme park in one, Eigamura features replicas of traditional Japanese buildings which are used for jidaigeki. Among the sets are a replica of the old Nihonbashi (the bridge at the entry to Edo), a traditional courthouse, a Meiji Period police box and part of the former Yoshiwara red-light district. Actual film shooting takes place occasionally, and visitors are welcome to observe the action. The dialect spoken in Kyoto is known as Kyō-kotoba or Kyōto-ben, a constituent dialect of the Kansai dialect. When Kyoto was the capital of Japan, the Kyoto dialect was the de facto standard Japanese and influenced the development of Tokyo dialect, the modern standard Japanese. Famous Kyoto expressions are a polite copula dosu, an honorific verb ending -haru, a greeting phrase okoshi-yasu “welcome”, etc.

Kamigamo Shrine © PlusMinus/cc-by-sa-3.0 To-ji Pagoda © Simone Urbinati/cc-by-sa-3.0 Tenryu-Ji Garden © SElefant/cc-by-sa-3.0 Shimogamo Shrine © Moja/cc-by-sa-3.0 Nishi Honganji © 663highland/cc-by-2.5 Ninna-ji © 663highland/cc-by-2.5 Nijo Castle © Araisyohei/cc-by-sa-3.0 Higashi Honganji © 663highland/cc-by-2.5 Kyoto National Museum © Tomomarusan/cc-by-2.5 Kyoto City Hall © Tomomarusan/cc-by-2.5 Kyoto Botanical Garden -  Conservatory © Daderot/cc-by-sa-3.0 Kyoto and Karasuma Street © Marc Antomattei/cc-by-sa-3.0 Tsukemono shop © flickr.com - Gavin Anderson/cc-by-sa-2.0
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Kyoto Botanical Garden - Conservatory © Daderot/cc-by-sa-3.0
The key industry of Kyoto is information technology and electronics: the city is home to the headquarters of Nintendo, Intelligent Systems, Dainippon Screen, Tose, Omron, Kyocera, Shimadzu Corp., Rohm, Horiba, Nidec Corporation, Nichicon, Nissin Electric, and GS Yuasa. Tourism also forms a large base of Kyoto’s economy. The city’s cultural heritages are constantly visited by school groups from across Japan, and many foreign tourists also stop in Kyoto. In 2014, the city government announced that a record number of tourists had visited Kyoto, and it was chosen as the world’s best city by U.S. travel magazine. Traditional Japanese crafts are also major industry of Kyoto, most of which are run by artisans in small plants. Kyoto’s kimono weavers are particularly renowned, and the city remains the premier center of kimono manufacturing. Such businesses, vibrant in past centuries, have declined in recent years as sales of traditional goods stagnate. Sake brewing is Kyoto’s traditional industry. Gekkeikan and Takara Holdings are major sake brewers headquartered in Kyoto. Other notable businesses headquartered in Kyoto includes Aiful, Ishida, MK, Nissen Holdings, Oh-sho, Sagawa Express, Volks and Wacoal.

Kyoto contains roughly 2,000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. About 20% of Japan’s National Treasures and 14% of Important Cultural Properties exist in the city proper. The UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) includes 17 locations in Kyoto, Uji in Kyoto Prefecture, and Ōtsu in Shiga Prefecture. The site was designated as World Heritage in 1994. Kyoto is well known for its traditional festivals which have been held for over 1000 years and are a major tourist attraction. The first is the Aoi Matsuri on May 15. Two months later (July 1 to 31) is the Gion Matsuri known as one of the 3 great festivals of Japan, culminating in a massive parade on July 17. Kyoto marks the Bon Festival with the Gozan no Okuribi, lighting fires on mountains to guide the spirits home (August 16). The October 22 Jidai Matsuri, Festival of the Ages, celebrates Kyoto’s illustrious past.

Read more on Kyoto, Kyoto Travel, Wikitravel Kyoto, Wikivoyage Kyoto and Wikipedia Kyoto (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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