Enjoy a Visit to Kyoto Prefecture!
Kyoto Prefecture (京都府; Kyoto-fu) is part of the Kansai Region (関西地方; Kansai-chiho) on Honshu, the main island of Japan.
For most of history, Kyoto played an important role as Japan’s capital. As you can imagine, being the capital for over a thousand years means Kyoto is filled with ancient artifacts and cultural treasures. Once the government head moved to Tokyo, Kyoto’s economy became mainly based on tourism.
Kyoto Prefecture contains fifteen cities, with the most famous being it’s capital city of the same name– Kyoto.
Known as the “City of Ten Thousand Shrines”, you could easily spend a week in Kyoto and still not see all of its shrines. While ten thousand is a bit of an exaggeration, the city does hold 2,000 religious sites, which draw 30 million tourists annually.
Within Kyoto City alone, you’ll find around 20% of Japan’s National Treasures and 14% of the Important Cultural Properties.
Today the city is home to 17 registered UNESCO World Heritage Sites– more than any other city in Japan.
One of the most popular of these UNESCO sites is Kinkaku-ji (金閣寺), or the Golden Pavillon. This is one of the most visited buildings in all of Japan.
The thing about Kyoto is that, unlike many other parts of Japan, it was spared from most of the damages caused during WWII. Originally, it was at the top of the atomic bomb target list, but fortunately US Secretary of War removed it because he had developed attachments to the city while on his honeymoon.
Can you imagine if Kyoto had been affected? All of these thousands of culture sites– gone.
What to See & Do
Kyoto is well known for its traditional festivals, which have been taking place for over 1,000 years. The most popular is Gion Matsuri, lasting the entire month of July. This festival is known as one of the three great festivals of Japan, and as such, get’s incredibly crowded during this hot month.
If you’re not planning to attend their summer festivals, I recommend avoiding the city in summer all together. You see, the great thing about Kyoto is that there is always more than enough to do at any time of the year.
Places you absolutely must check out are Kinkaku-ji, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kiyomizudera, and Arashiyama.
These are some of the city’s most important cultural properties and they are incredibly beautiful (and photogenic!). If you have additional time, I also highly recommend the Imperial Palace, Nijo Castle and strolling around Gion to spot a geisha or two.
Also, Kyoto is the perfect place to experience Japanese fine arts. Take part in a tea ceremony, try your hand at calligraphy or learn about the art of ikebana (flower arranging).
[post by Beth]
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