Kyoto is a city located in the central part of the island of Honshu, Japan. 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. Over the centuries, Kyoto was destroyed by many wars and fires, but due to its historic value, the city was dropped from the list of target cities for the atomic bomb and spared from air raids during World War II. Countless temples, shrines and other historically priceless structures survive in the city today.
Kyoto is an ancient city with a 1200 year history. During the 8th century, when powerful Buddhist clergy became involved in the affairs of the Imperial government, Emperor Kammu chose to relocate the capital in order to distance it from the clerical establishment in Nara. His last choice for the site was the village of Uda, in the Kadono district of Yamashiro Province. In the 11th century, the city was renamed Kyoto (“capital city”). Although military rulers established their governments either in Kyoto (Muromachi shogunate) or in other cities such as Kamakura (Kamakura shogunate) and Edo (Tokugawa shogunate), Kyoto remained Japan’s capital until the transfer of the imperial court to Tokyo in 1869 at the time of the Imperial Restoration.Read More
Heian-kyo was a remarkably large area with a vast cityscape planned around the grounds of the old Imperial Palace, located in the north. It extended 5.2km. from north to south, and 4.7km. from east to west. On either side of the main road, Suzaku-oji (85m. wide), were areas called Sakyo and Ukyo, inhabited by up to 150,000 residents. The national markets in each of these areas were the largest in all of Japan, and a great number of commodities were brought in from around the nation. The Government was directly managing the manufacture of many handicrafts, and craftsmen who practiced the most advanced techniques of the time also gathered to live here.
The city suffered extensive destruction in the Ōnin War of 1467-1477, and did not really recover until the mid-16th century. Battles between samurai factions spilled into the streets, and came to involve the court nobility (kuge) and religious factions as well. Nobles’ mansions were transformed into fortresses, deep trenches dug throughout the city for defense and as firebreaks, and numerous buildings burned. The city has not seen such widespread destruction since. A quarter of a century was spent trying to recover, but the city would never be as it was before. Kyoto was not an integrated center anymore. There were fields and gardens extending for 2km. between the Kamigyo and Shimogyo regions, making Kyoto look like as if it had been split in two.
This city plan remained for about one century until in 16th century Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered the city to be completely rebuilt. Toyotomi Hideyoshi reconstructed the city by building new streets to double the number of north-south streets in central Kyoto, creating rectangle blocks superseding ancient square blocks. Hideyoshi also built earthwork walls called odoi encircling the city. Teramachi Street in central Kyoto is a Buddhist temple quarter where Hideyoshi gathered temples in the city. Throughout the Edo period, the economy of the city flourished as one of three major cities in Japan, the others being Osaka and Edo.
The Gosho (Imperial Palace), was reconstructed in the center of the city, and the newly built Juraku-dai Castle shined proudly in gold. Thus began the modern age. The Toyotomi rule revived temples and shrines considerably, and under the Tokugawa rule which followed, Kyoto regained its honor as a city of religion and culture. Revitalization as an industrial city was even more remarkable. At the end of the 17th century, Nishijin became one of the most renowned textile districts in the world.
The Hamaguri rebellion of 1864 burnt down 28,000 houses in the city, and the subsequent move of the Emperor to Tokyo in 1869 weakened the economy. The modern city of Kyoto was formed on April 1, 1889. The construction of Lake Biwa Canal in 1890 is one measure taken to revive the city. The population of the city exceeded one million in 1932.The Imperial City, of Kyoto is one of the few Japanese cities that still have an abundance of prewar buildings, such as the traditional townhouses known as machiya. However, modernization is continually breaking down the traditional Kyoto in favor of newer architecture, such as the Kyoto Station complex.
Kyoto became a city designated by government ordinance on September 1, 1956. In 1997, Kyoto hosted the conference that resulted in the protocol on greenhouse gas emissions that bears the city’s name.
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Kiyomizudera (“Pure Water Temple”) is one of the most celebrated temples of Japan. It was founded in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the wooded hills east of Kyoto, and derives its name from the fall’s pure waters. Kiyomizu-dera was founded in the early Heian period.The temple was founded in 778, and its present buildings were constructed in 1633, ordered by the Tokugawa Iemitsu. 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.
Kiyomizudera is best known for its wooden stage that juts out from its main hall, 13 meters above the hillside below. Behind Kiyomizudera’s main hall stands Jishu Shrine, a shrine dedicated to the deity of love and matchmaking.The Otowa Waterfall is located at the base of Kiyomizudera’s main hall. Its waters are divided into three separate streams, and visitors use cups attached to long poles to drink from them. Each stream’s water is said to have a different benefit, namely to cause longevity, success at school and a fortunate love life. The temple is part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities) UNESCO World Heritage site.
Nijo Castle was built in 1603 as the Kyoto residence of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo Period. It was completed during the reign of Tokugawa Iemitsu in 1626. t was built as the Kyoto residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns. The Tokugawa Shogunate used Edo as the capital city, but Kyoto continued to be the home of the Imperial Court. Kyoto Imperial Palace is located north-east of Nijo Castle.
The 3300 square meter Ninomaru Palace consists of five connected separate buildings and is built almost entirely of Hinoki cypress. The decoration includes lavish quantities of gold leaf and elaborate wood carvings, intended to impress visitors with the power and wealth of the shoguns. The sliding doors and walls of each room are decorated with wall paintings by artists of the Kanō school.The building houses several different reception chambers, offices and the living quarters of the shogun, where only female attendants were allowed. One of the most striking features of the Ninomaru Palace are the “nightingale floors” (uguisubari) in the corridors. To protect the occupants from sneak attacks and assassins, the builders constructed the floors of the corridors in such a way as to squeak like birds when anyone walks on them.
After the Tokugawa Shogunate fell in 1867, Nijo Castle was used as an imperial palace for a while before being donated to the city and opened up to the public as a historic site. Its palace buildings are arguably the best surviving examples of castle palace architecture of Japan’s feudal era, and the castle was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1994.
Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) is a Zen temple in northern Kyoto whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. It is one of the most popular buildings in Japan, attracting a large number of visitors annually. It is designated as a National Special Historic Site and a National Special Landscape, and it is one of 17 locations comprising the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto World Heritage Site.
Kinkakuji is an impressive structure built overlooking a large pond, and is the only building left of Yoshimitsu’s former retirement complex. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history including twice during the Onin War, a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto; and once again more recently in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. During the fire, the original statue of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu was lost to the flames and is now restored.
The Golden Pavilion ( Kinkakuji) is a three-story building on the grounds of the Rokuon-ji temple complex. The top two stories of the pavilion are covered with pure gold leaf.The pavilion functions as a shariden (舎利殿), housing relics of the Buddha (Buddha’s Ashes). The building was an important model for Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion Temple), and Shōkoku-ji, which are also located in Kyoto. When these buildings were constructed, Ashikaga Yoshimasa employed the styles used at Kinkaku-ji and even borrowed the names of its second and third floors.
Ginkakuji is a Zen temple along Kyoto’s eastern mountains. It is one of the constructions that represents the Higashiyama Culture of the Muromachi period. In 1482, shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa built his retirement villa on the grounds of today’s temple, modeling it after Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), his grandfather’s retirement villa at the base of Kyoto’s northern mountains (Kitayama). The villa was converted into a Zen temple after Yoshimasa’s death in 1490.
In 1485, Yoshimasa became a Zen Buddhist monk. After his death on January 27, 1490 (Entoku 2, 7th day of the 1st month), the villa and gardens became a Buddhist temple complex, renamed Jishō-ji after Yoshimasa’s Buddhist name. In addition to the temple’s famous building, the property features wooded grounds covered with a variety of mosses. The Japanese garden, supposedly designed by the great landscape artist Sōami. The sand garden of Ginkaku-ji has become particularly well known; and the carefully formed pile of sand which is said to symbolize Mount Fuji is an essential element in the garden.
Today, Ginkakuji consists of the Silver Pavilion, half a dozen other temple buildings, a beautiful moss garden and a unique dry sand garden. It is enjoyed by walking along a circular route around its grounds, from which the gardens and buildings can be viewed.
Kyoto National Museum:Read
The Kyoto National Museum, then the Imperial Museum of Kyoto, was proposed, along with the Imperial Museum of Tokyo and the Imperial Museum of Nara, in 1889, and construction on the museum finished in October, 1895. The museum was opened in 1897.The museum’s permanent collection is presented to the public in rotating exhibitions and consists of a wide variety of cultural properties, including archaeological relics, sculptures, ceramics, calligraphy, costumes and paintings. In addition to the permanent exhibitions, temporary special exhibitions are held in the museum’s original main building that was constructed during the Meiji Period in 1895.
Higashiyama is one of the eleven wards in the city of Kyoto, in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. It lies in the lower slopes of Kyoto’s eastern mountains is one of the city’s best preserved historic districts. It is a great place to experience traditional old Kyoto, especially between Kiyomizudera and Yasaka Shrine, where the narrow lanes, wooden buildings and traditional merchant shops invoke a feeling of the old capital city.The streets in Higashiyama are lined by small shops, cafes and restaurants which have been catering to tourists and pilgrims for centuries.
It was created in 1929 when it was split off from Shimogyō-ku. During the years 1931 to 1976 it also covered the area of present-day Yamashina-ku, which was an independent town until its merger into the city in 1931. The name literally means “Eastern Mountain District”.Due to the restrictions against urban development, the population inside the ward is continually decreasing. Higashiyama-ku has the lowest population of all the wards in Kyoto, and a disproportionate number of elderly people.
As early as the middle of the 14th century, many shrines, temples and aristocrats’ villas were built in this area, where a variety of architecture and gardens, artistic and cultural masterpieces such as paintings and crafts were created. In the southern part of the Higashiyama district is the famous Kiyomizu-dera Temple, built halfway up a steep cliff with its main hall projecting over a steep precipice.The northern part of the city is known for Heian-jingu Shrine, where the Jidai-matsuri Festival (Festival of the Ages) is held in fall. It includes a parade that presents costumes, manners and customs from the ancient days.
Fushimi Inari Shrine:Read
Fushimi Inari Taisha is the head shrine of Inari, located in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Japan. The shrine sits at the base of a mountain also named Inari which is 233 metres above sea level, and includes trails up the mountain to many smaller shrines which span 4 kilometers and takes approximately 2 hours to walk up. The trails lead into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, belongs to the shrine grounds.
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. From 1871 through 1946, Fushimi Inari-taisha was officially designated one of the Kanpei-taisha, meaning that it stood in the first rank of government supported shrines. The earliest structures were built in 711 on the Inariyama hill in southwestern Kyoto, but the shrine was re-located in 816 on the request of the monk Kūkai. The main shrine structure was built in 1499. At the bottom of the hill are the main gate ( “tower gate”) and the main shrine ( go-honden). Behind them, in the middle of the mountain, the inner shrine (okumiya) is reachable by a path lined with thousands of torii. To the top of the mountain are tens of thousands of mounds (tsuka) for private worship.
Foxes, regarded as the messengers, are often found in Inari shrines. One attribute is a key (for the rice granary) in their mouths. Unlike most Shinto shrines, Fushimi Inari Taisha, in keeping with typical Inari shrines, has an open view of the main idol object.
A drawing in Kiyoshi Nozaki’s Kitsune: Japan’s Fox of Mystery, Romance and Humor in 1786 depicting the shrine says that its two-story entry gate was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The shrine draws several million worshipers over the Japanese New Year, 2.69 million for 3 days in 2006 reported by the police, the most in western Japan.