Japan. The name evokes images of cherry blossoms and temples, of samurai and geishas dressed in kimono. Today’s contemporary Japan is a diverse conglomeration of history and tradition that merges with a future that often struggles to understand itself. A country that is vibrantly alive and awaits the traveler who seeks to experience a culture full of skyscrapers and bullet trains, castles and rice fields lined with rustic wooden houses. What better place to start your journey through this exotic land than the city of Kyoto. This extraordinarily beautiful city with its abundance of historically priceless shrines, temples, palaces, gardens and buildings, exemplifies the essence of Japanese culture and history. With more than 2,000 architecturally intact Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, it is one of Japan’s best-preserved cities and a premier tourist destination for foreigners and Japanese alike.
One of the most visited sites is the Kiyomizu Zen Temple. Its wooden terrace supported by hundreds of pillars located on a mountainside overlooking the region offers a breathtaking view of the city below. Visitors can also stand under the temple’s Otowanotaki Waterfall and collect water in tin cups to quench their thirst before hiking the mountain path that leads from the structure to the tranquility of the forest above.
Two additional temples that are also popular attractions are Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji. The construction of Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) began in 1397 as part of a new residence for retired shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, and it became a Zen Shrine after his death in 1408. The Pavilion is covered in gold leaf and houses sacred relics. of Buddha. Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion) was inspired by Kinkakuji and is located at the foot of the Higashiyama Mountains in Kyoto. Built as a villa for Ahsikaga Yoshimasa, (a descendant of Yoshimitsu), the building also became a Zen Shrine after her death in 1490.
Another impressive structure that is a well-known tourist destination is Nijo Castle. Located on the eastern edge of a 70-acre complex, the 33-room building is famous for the intricate landscape paintings that adorn the Palace’s sliding doors, and for the innovative construction of wooden floors that squeak like nightingales when walk on them. it was used as a security measure against intruders.
Other memorable sites in and around Kyoto include the “Philosophers’ Walk”, the Gion district and Arashiyama, a charming tourist area distinguished by its iconic Togetsukyo Bridge, with Mount Arashiyama in peace in the background. A wide selection of cafes, restaurants and shops are located near the famous bridge. If you venture a short distance to the north, you will also come across a cluster of bamboo groves and a residential district with several small temples placidly set amongst the wooded hillside.
The “Philosophers’ Walk” refers to a two-kilometer scenic trail that runs south from Ginkakuji Temple along a meandering river to Nyakuoji Shrine, and was named after philosophy professor Kitaro Nishida, a who could often be seen using the path. The Gion district, located to the northwest of the Kiyomizu temple, consists of lanes paved with flagstones lined with traditional buildings, where, if you are lucky, you can catch a glimpse of Geisha as they gracefully make their way through the cobbled streets.