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2024 Kyoto Japan, Travel Guide - Best Things To Do & See

The Complete Guide to Kyoto Japan: Hotels, Sushi, Places
Japan Kyoto Things to Do & See |

Inside Kyoto, Japan

Kyoto is one of the major cities in Japan. The city has gone through the test of time to stand today. Between 794 and 1868, it was the capital of Japan, serving also as the residence of the emperor. It stands today among the top 10 largest cities with a population of over 1.5 million people.

Over the centuries, Kyoto has gone through several destructions as a result of many wars. However, the exceptional historic value of the city has kept it alive. During World War II, it was removed from a list of targeted bombs, saving it from destruction. It has been rebuilt many times to achieve the modern face it presence today.

There are countless temples, shrines, and other priceless historical sites in the city today. They all have survived to become a great attraction today.

History of Kyoto

The first civilization came to Kyoto during the 7th century. And by 794, it had become the biggest city in Japan, earning its position as the capital. It is however interesting that it never served as the focus of political power even though it was the home of the imperial family from 794 to 1868. Between 1185 and 1333, Kamakura was the national capital. And during the Edo period, 1600 to 1867, Japan was ruled from Edo. Edo is now Tokyo.

The imperial family was much isolated from political struggles, leaving military families to rule. Kyoto was therefore just the capital in name. It was the focus for culture and a symbolic area.

Most of the city was destroyed during the Muromachi period. This was also the end of the Imperial Palace. The Onin war of 1466-67 caused the destruction, ending the Muromachi period.

Kyoto was later rebuilt and allowed to flourish in terms of culture, religion, and economy. Kyoto was spared during the WWII atomic bombing, leaving some of the oldest structures from the Edo period we see today.

The modern Kyoto is marked with rapid industrialization. It continues to serve as a cultural and educational center. 20% of Japan national treasurers are located here. It also hosts 15% of most important cultural properties.

There are 24 museums and 37 universities/colleges in Kyoto today. And outward look shows what looks like any other large Japanese city. But a deeper look reveals a long history.

How Do I Get to Kyoto? Which Train Do I Take?

Kyoto is a town blessed with modern transport facilities. The Osaka International Airport is the nearest but very convenient. It will take you about 50 minutes from the airport to the city. Then there is Kansai International Airport and the Central Japan International Airport which are about 90 minutes away. Use the airport express and shinkansen for convenience.

For easier traveling, consider taking the JR pass. This will get you faster from Tokyo to Kyoto and another place. The Shinkansen Bullet train is the best option. It travels at a speed of 320km/hr.

Historic Areas in Kyoto to See

If you are traveling to Kyoto, it is important to plan your trip well to get the most out of it. This is an ancient city that is rich in culture. It has everything cultural, from temples to shrines, to castles and palaces. Some of the best places include:

 •  Nijo castle: This is a UNESCO world heritage site that was once the emperor's residence. Tokugawa Shogunate lived here between 1603 and 1868.

 • Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine: This was the most important shrine dedicated to the god of rice, Shinto. Founded in711, it is still a beauty to behold and experience spiritual uplifting.

 • Kyoto Imperial Palace: The original palace was built in 794. The current one was built in 1855. It is an important place for official state ceremonies.

 • Kinkaku-ji Temple: Originally built in 1397, this is a magnificent temple you can't afford to miss.

 • Kiyomizi-dera Temple: This temple was built in 780 and dedicated to the god of mercy, Kannon. The main hall is its greatest attraction.

Top Things To See and Do in Kyoto

In central Kyoto, visit the Nijo Castle, the Kyoto railway Museum and the Sento Palace. The Nishiki market, Imperial Palace and Pontocho also offer great excitement.

And if you are in Eastern Kyoto, there is Kiyomizudera, Higashiyama, Ginkakuji, Kyoto National Museum and the Nanzenji Temple to see. Southern and Northern Kyoto has the Fushimi Inari Shrine, Daigoji Temple, Kinkakuji, Kibune, and Kurama.

How Popular is Kyoto Compared to Other Japan Cities?

The only reason why Kyoto is less popular than Tokyo now is that it is not the capital. But they are almost on the same level. They both serve as great cultural areas in Japan.

Compared to other cities, Kyoto is more popular. It is among the 10 biggest cities in the country, with a population of about 1.5 million people.

Best Places to Shop in Kyoto

Kyoto has two main shopping districts. They are the Kyoto Station area and Downtown Kyoto. There are a lot of shops inside the Kyoto station offering all kinds of goods. Downtown Kyoto also presents a huge opportunity for shoppers. There is a famous Nishiki Market here.

Many people find Downtown to be the best place to get anything you want. There are a number of cafes and shops here.

Being a cultural city, some of the goods you will get here include:

 • Incense
 • Green tea
 • Kimono
 • Lacquerwares
 • Ceramics
 • Yukata and many other goods.

Top Temples in Kyoto

There are over 1600 temples in Kyoto. The Best include:

 • Nanzen-ji
 • Honen-in
 • Ginkaku-ji
 • Daitoku-ji
 • Chion-in

Best Time to Visit Kyoto

The best times to visit Kyoto is in October, November, and, March, April, May. The weather and temperatures are best. In December, January and February, the weather is cold.

The best events, including Plum blossom, cherry blossom, Yobusame, Aoi Matsuri, and Obon take place during fall and spring.

The Oldest Historical Areas to Visit Kyoto

The Kyoto Historical city has several landmarks for the visitor. They include:
 • Nijo Castle
 • Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
 • Kyoto Imperial Palace
 • Kinkaku-ji temple
 • To-ji temple
 • Ninna-ji temple.

Where is Nara?

Nara-shi or simply Nara is a city found in Japan. It is one of the biggest cities, known well for its cultural significance. It is a spectacular picturesque city, only second to Kyoto in richness. It prides in its vast temples, shrines, and gardens.

It is the capital city of Nara Prefecture in the Kansai region of Japan. It covers the whole northern part of Nara Prefecture to the border of Kyoto Prefecture.

If you are in Kyoto or Osaka, you can simply take a day trip to Nara. But you might not be able to resist its gorgeous districts and parks. The most significant features are eight temples that have remained a mark of culture in the country. It will take you a few days to finish visiting all these places.

From far, Nara looks like just another Japanese town. When you get deeper, you will be surprised by how much heritage the city holds. There are a lot of modern structures combined with ancient buildings making up a beautiful city to visit.

History of Nara

Nara was once known as Heijo. In March 708AD, empress Genmei issued a degree through the court to relocate the new capital to Nara. The city was first established in 710 CE as the permanent capital of Japan.

It served as the seat of the government until 784 CE. At this time, another order was issued by Emperor Kammu to leave Nara and move temporarily to Nagaoka. This new area, however, was to retain then new status for 1100 years.

In 1869 CE, the Meili emperor made the final resolution to move to Edo. These came as a result of changed relationship status between the court, nobility, and country.

The city of Nara continued to thrive altogether. It was modeled after the Tang Capital in Chang'an. This was an action reacting to the political centralization of China. Nara came into the picture, divide by four roads.

The design of Nara has been unique since the time it was built. The ruler's place was fixed, just like the pole star, as recorded from the Chinese cosmology. In essence, the ruler brought heaven to earth through his dominance over the city.

At the north center laid the south temple facing the palace. This brought about the 'Right capital' and the 'Left capital' zones. Nara, therefore, started growing as the center of the Buddhist church. The plan of the city combined different pre-Heijo and Heijo period.

Today, we find the Yokushiji and the Todaiji still existing. These are structures that were contracted centuries ago during the planning of Nara.

What is the Significance of the City Nara?

Nara was a former capital of Japan. It served in the capacity from 710 to 794. However, it only became an official city in 1898.

Since then, the city has developed to great length. It had survived the Edo and the Meiji periods to become a modern city it is today.

The city has a number of historical temples, landmarks, and monuments that makes it an important part of history. In 1998, it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Some places in Nara, like shops, ryokans and art galleries are made with traditional architecture. They have been adapted from what were once merchant houses.

Traditional festivals such as Neri-Kuyo Eshiki and Kemari are observed in Nara every year. This makes the city a preservation area for Japan's ancient history.

People come from all over the world to learn about religion, culture and Japan's civilization. It is a great cultural center in the nation.

The only challenge today is rural-urban migration with has decreased the number of youth in Nara. This is a result of the passing of the Heisei period.

The Historic Significance of Nara

Nara had often been referred to as the period of political stability. It is the period that provides evidence for administrative law order. Many codes from the Chinese T'ang dynasty were modeled. The central government established the Taiho code which led to administrative sects. The code did not hold for long though.

It is not only in politics that Nara shines. It also holds a significant position in religion. The temple of the Soga clan, Asuka-dera was relocated here. Later, an order from emperor Shomu saw the construction of Todaiji temple. It is the same time when the largest bronze Buddha statue was constructed as well.

Sightseeing became apparent during the Edo period. Several maps were published to help visitors. And today, Nara continues to be a great tourist destination.

Top Attractions in Nara

 • Karuga Grand Shrine: This shrine was built in 768 at the sacred mountain of Mifuta. It is of great cultural significance.

 • Kasuga-yama Hill Primeval Forest: This forest has been protected for over 1000 years. It is forbidden to cut trees from this forest.

 • Temples: There are several temples dating over 1000 years. They include Todai-ji Temple, Kofuku-ji Temple, Gango-ji Temple, Yakushi-ji Temple, and Toshodai-ji Temple.

Things To Do in Nara

Visit the Todai-ji temple to view the largest Buddha bronze statue. Then get to the Nara Park where more than 1000 tame dears will be waiting for you.

Other places to visit are the Kasuga-Taisha shrine, Horyu-ji temple, Yakushi-ji temple, and the Isui-en Garden. There are many things to do in this city.

Best Time to Visit Nara

There is no best or worst time to visit Nara. Any season, any time of the day will give you a great view of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city.

However, there are two important festivals you may not want to miss:

 • Yamayaki (Grass Burning festival) An annual event that comes on the fourth Saturday of January. It is a great show of fireworks and setting of Wakakusa-yama on fire.

 • Mantoro (Lantern Festival) On the 3rd of February and August 15, the locals hold the Mantoro. It is a truly magical view.

Places to Eat in Nara

Here is a list of best hotels in Nara:

 • Edogawa Namarachi
 • Kura
 • Wakasa Curry Honpo
 • Kameya
 • Yoshinohonkuzu Tengyokudo Narahonten
 • Karugano
 • Nara Hotel


Plan well when visiting Nara because it will take you some time to finish all the sites. Make early travel plans and you will enjoy your trip!

2024 Kyoto Japan, Travele Guide - Best Things To See & Do Tips

Kyoto Japan Travel Guide Tokyo Japan Travel Guide Hiroshima Japan Travel Guide
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Kyoto Japan Travel Guide Tokyo Japan Travel Guide Hiroshima Japan Travel Guide