Kyoto (map) is the capital city of Kyoto Prefecture in the *Kansai region. Kyoto forms a part of the *Keihanshin metropolitan area along with Osaka and Kobe.
Kyoto is considered the cultural capital of Japan and a major tourist destination. It is home to numerous Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, palaces and gardens, some of which are listed collectively by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Kyoto contains roughly 2,000 temples and shrines
Prominent landmarks include the Kyoto Imperial Palace (map), Kiyomizu-dera (map), Kinkaku-ji (map), Ginkaku-ji (map) and the Katsura Imperial Villa (map).
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In 794, Kyoto (then known as Heian-kyō) was chosen as the new seat of Japan’s imperial court. The emperors of Japan ruled from Kyoto in the following eleven centuries until 1869, when the court relocated to Tokyo.
The modern municipality of Kyoto was established in 1889. The city was spared from large-scale destruction during World War II and as a result, its prewar cultural heritage has mostly been preserved.
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.
⇒ *Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)
Other sites in Kyoto include Arashiyama (wiki, map) is a nationally designated Historic Site and Place of Scenic Beauty. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (wiki, map).
The Gion district (wikivoyage, map) in front of Yasaka Shrine (Gion Shrine, map). The flagstone-paved streets and traditional buildings of the Gion district, located to the north-west of Kiyomizu-dera, are where you’re most likely to see geisha in Kyoto, scurrying between buildings or slipping into a taxi.
The area just to the north of Shijō-dōri, to the west of Yasaka Shrine, is especially photogenic – particularly around Shinbashi-dōri and Hanami-kōji. Sannen-zaka (“three-year-slope”) and Ninen-zaka (“two-year-slope”), two stepped streets leading off from Kiyomizu-zaka, are also very picturesque – but watch your step, slipping over on these streets brings three or two years’ bad luck respectively.
Philosopher’s Walk (wiki, map), is a pedestrian path that follows a cherry-tree-lined canal.
Kyoto is well known for its traditional festivals which have been held for over 1,000 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.