Surrounded by the hills of central Honshu, Kyoto is one of the largest cities in Japan and the educational center of western Japan, with several universities and institutions of higher education. Despite being one of Japan’s most popular tourist destinations, it has managed to retain much of the atmosphere of the past by being the only major Japanese city to escape the devastation of World War II.
Known as the seat of the emperor and the main cultural center of Japan for almost 1,100 years, Kyoto today boasts numerous fine examples of sculptures, paintings and other art forms in many museums and galleries. The city is also home to centuries of architecture, much of it influenced by Buddhism and found in well-preserved temples. Kyoto continues to play an important role in Japanese religion, and 30 of the city’s temples still serve as centers for various Buddhist sects, as well as 200 Shinto shrines within the city.
Nijo Castle, with walls, towers and a moat, was built in 1603 and later served as the seat of government. The complex has several buildings containing many significant works of art and is known as the site chosen by the emperor to issue a rescript abolishing the country’s once powerful shogunate. Highlights include the East Gate of the castle (Higashi Otemon, its main entrance); The Inner Gate or Caramon, distinguished by fine carvings and decorated metalwork; and beyond that, the difficult Mikuruma-yoza. The site’s most important building is the Ninomaru Palace, which consists of five separate buildings connected by corridors, and with exquisite interiors decorated with paintings by Kano Tanyu and his students.
The main apartment is the Imperial Emissary Hall (Jodan-no-ma), matched in the adjoining rooms by Ni-no-ma and Tozamurai-no-ma with their tiger paintings. Also of interest is the adjoining building, with its large auditorium surrounded by a gallery and sliding doors with large larch paintings on a golden background. The fourth building, Kuro-Shoin, has paintings by Kano Nanobu, and in the Shogun’s private apartments, mountain scenery paintings.
Fushimi-Inari Taisha Temple
One of Japan’s most famous shrines, Fushimi-Inari Shrine is a must-see in Kyoto. Founded in 711 AD and dedicated to the goddess of rice, Ukanomitama-no-mikoto, the temple is still visited by merchants and merchants who pray for prosperity. The main building dates from 1499 and features an impressive four-kilometer-long avenue of bright orange “torii” or arches, each dedicated to business (requires walking through 32,000 arches along the route). Also notable are his many sculptures of foxes, believed to be messengers of the gods. Hot tip: Strengthen yourself with buying traditional Japanese cookies from the shops and standing at the entrance of the temple.
Kinkaku-ji: Golden Pavilion
Originally built in the 14th century as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and now a Zen Buddhist temple, the magnificent Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji) is one of Kyoto’s most scenic attractions. Taking its name from the golden leaf that adorns the top two floors of the three floors – a design element believed to soften any negativity associated with death – the structure has been rebuilt in its original form several times, this last incarnation dating back to the late 1950s. . Built over a large pond, the site is also known for its beautiful grounds, as well as its old stone pagoda and Sekkatei tea house with traditionally served drinks.
In the eastern part of Kyoto, Kiyomizu Temple, an important UNESCO World Heritage Site, enjoys a scenic location on Mount Otowa overlooking the city. Visitors can enjoy a delightful temple walk along the quaint Tea Pot with its small shops and shops. Founded in 790 AD and dedicated to the 11-year-old Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, whose statue can be seen here, the existing buildings were erected after 1633 during the period of the third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu, and stood mostly on a rocky outcrop high above Otowa Falls.
Highlights include the large terrace of the main hall, built on 30 meters high columns with five rows of cross beams and used as a stage for temple dances and ceremonies. The terrace offers breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding wooded hills, especially when the leaves change color in autumn.
Sanjūsangen-dō (Rengyoin Temple) or Temple of 33 Niches, takes its name from its rather unusual structure, its façade is divided into 33 (sanjusan) niches (gen) to reflect the belief that Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy, can host 33 different personifications. Originally built in 1164, the present elongated building was built in 1266 after a fire destroyed its predecessor, testifying to its former importance as a site of archery training still seen in the many pits in its ancient columns and lumber, created by arrows.
The most important of his many works of art is the Cannon with a Thousand Arms, a nearly three and a half meter tall statue that dates from the 13th century and is notable for having 500 standing figures of Kannon lined up on either side of it . Also of note are additional sculptures of 28 “celestial aids” placed behind him by spirits subordinate to Cannon.