Kyoto – The Imperial Crown
Arguably, one of the most serene and culturally vibrant centers of modern civilization, Kyoto is the personification of the Japanese dream of happiness, health and growth. Anyone who has visited this erstwhile capital of Imperial Japan, would bear testimony to the sheer beauty and calmness of Kyoto’s urban center; a rarity in today’s world.
1. History of Kyoto
Also known as the thousand year capital, Kyoto is the former Imperial capital of Japan and is now the capital city of Kyoto Prefecture located in the Kansai region. Human settlement in the city began as early as the Paleolithic period; relatively little is known about human activity in the area before the 6th century AD, around which time the Shimogamo Shrine is believed to have been established. This city remained capital of Imperial Japan until the transfer of the imperial court to Tokyo in 1869 at the time of the Imperial Restoration.
2. Night Life in Kyoto
The soul of Kyoto’s nightlife is between the Streets of Shijo-dori and Sanjo-dori, sandwiched by the Kamogawa River to the east and Kawaramachi to the west. There are numerous bars in Pontocho, which is a narrow food street just east of Kiyamachi. It is impossible to miss a geisha apprentice in Pontocho or Gion, another traditionally active nightlife district in the city.
The art scene in this city is second to none in the Japanese cultural arena.
There are numerous bars in and around Kiyamachi areas including ‘A Bar’, ‘Ace Cafe’ and ‘Metro Club’, which are particularly big hits with the tourists.
One can find a lot of options for eating as well in Shijo-dori and Sanjo-dori regions well into the night.
3. Safety in Kyoto
It is widely believed that it is a safe destination for any first time traveler. The crime rate has always been low and thus everyone, from travelers to locals, all find it safe to travel during the day as well as night without any hesitation.
4. Living Expenses in Kyoto
Renting a one bedroom apartment in the city center costs up to 58,000¥ (USD 510), while if you plan to stay long term then buying the same apartment may cost anything up to 46,0000¥ (4100 USD) per square meter. Tariffs for General utilities like Water, electricity are towards the higher end with the average rate at least a dollar more than the national average, thus judicious use is always advisable.
For a tourist, this city has plethora of options in terms of accommodation. From sharing service apartments on daily basis to 5 star properties, everything is easily available in every price segment. It is always advisable to book your accommodation before itself, especially if you are looking to stay at comparatively cheaper properties. Year after year, Hotel Granvia Kyoto, Hyyat Regency, Royal Park, Hotel Moterary and Citadines have been rated among the top 10 hotels in the city and are highly recommended by our team as well. The cost may range from 45$ to 150$ for budget accommodation and anything above that for high end properties. A smart traveler shall do his research before booking based on his needs.
5. Cuisines in Kyoto
It is famous for its tofu, it’s sublime kaiseki cuisine and its Buddhist vegetarian fare. It is also a great place to sample all the main classics of Japanese cuisine. Kyoto cuisine is famous throughout Japan for its refined and delicate taste.
A kaiseki meal has a prescribed order of courses which is determined by the cooking method of each dish. If you visit Kyoto then do try these local delicacies.
Food in general is cheap in Japan. In the city, particularly one can find a meal for two at an average of USD 6 at an inexpensive restaurant. At a mid range restaurant the same cost may go up to USD 34. We may understand this cost with the universal McDonalds’ McMeal cost. It is roughly USD 6 in Kyoto. Alcohol though is not as cheap as you may want it to be.
6. Statistics of Kyoto
Now the 9th most populous city in Japan, this city with over a million citizens is an IT hub of Japan. It is well spread out over an area of 828 sq.km, resulting in a population density of 1800/sq.km.
This city is located in a valley. The concentration of population to the capital city area is 55% which is highest among the prefectures of Japan.
7. Public Transport in Kyoto
Buses: Most city buses have a fixed fare and signs in both Japanese and English. A one-day bus pass and a combined unlimited train and bus pass are also available.
Cycling: Cycling is one of the best ways to traverse through the city. Parking spots of cycles are limited and if you land up parking in areas not designated as cycle parking, the bikes are impounded.
Pollution in Kyoto: For a busy IT Hub, Kyoto’s air quality is good and the city boasts of major green patches, a favorable climate and government policies. The main polluting sources are motor-vehicles.
8. Weather of Kyoto
It has a humid subtropical climate. Summers are hot and humid while winters are relatively cold with occasional snowfall. Rains begin around the middle of June and last until the end of July, yielding to a hot and sunny latter half of the summer. It is prone to typhoons.
The average annual temperature is 5.6°C. Annual rainfall is 545.4 mm. The temperature goes as high as 39.8°C, and as low as -9.4°C.
Summer: June to August. From the middle of June to July is tsuyu, the rainy season, so be sure to pack rain-wear.
Autumn: September to November. Mild temperatures and wonderful afternoon light make it a very pleasant time. Bring light jackets and sweaters, perhaps a light scarf as well.
Winter: December to February. Average temperature ranges from 8 to 15 degrees Celsius. Pack warm coats and sweaters, jackets, scarves, and gloves.
Spring: March to May. Cherry blossoms, the national flower of Japan, can be seen in the most picturesque scenes in the city, and are the highlight of the season. Pack lightweight jackets and sweaters.
9. Culture of Kyoto
It is culturally vibrant, welcoming all nationalities from across the globe. Being an IT hub, it houses people from all over but usually for shorter durations. Major population, over 85% still is of locals.
Nearly 61 % population is folk Shinto and 31% is Buddhist. Rest are Christians or sects other than Shinto.
Culturally it is a very tolerant area with modernity and traditionalism going hand in hand.
There are at least 54 small or large galleries and theatres in Kyoto. Kyotoites are known for their love for music. Live Music is an attribute at almost every pub/cafe in the city.
10. Places to Visit in Kyoto
Things to do in Kyoto: The UNESCO World Heritage Site lists 17 locations in this city, Uji in Kyoto Prefecture, and Ōtsu in Shiga Prefecture. Kamigamo Shrine, Shimogamo Shrine, To-ji, Kiyomizu-dera, Saiho-ji, Ryoan-ji, Nishi Honganji, Nijo Castle, Daigo-ji, Ginkaku-ji are some of the famous places in this city to be seen.
Museums and Galleries: There are numerous Museums and galleries in Kyoto. Some of them are: Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum, Onishi Seiwemon Museum (Kitamura museum, The Kyoto Arashiyama Orgel Museum, Kyoto City Heiankyo Sosei-Kan Museum, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, Kyoto City Archaeological Museum, Kyoto Art Center, The Kyoto International Manga Museum, The National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto, The Kyoto National Museum, Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts, The Museum of Kyoto, The Kyoto Botanical Garden, Garden of Fine Arts, Kyoto and Kyoto Prefectural Insho-Domoto Museum of Fine Arts.
Things to do for Kids in Kyoto: It has numerous parks where kids love to play. Kyoto Imperial Palace & Park, the Fushimi-Inari-Taisha, Maruyama Park are some of the best parks in the city. Maruyama Park especially is a very pretty park on the edge of the Gion district. It offers space to run off some steam and is a lovely spot for a picnic. The Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama is another place, which is a big hit with the kids. Nijo Castle is a brilliant version of a samurai castle which has been attracting kids and parents for years now.
Places Nearby: The Otagi Nenbutsu-ji has beautiful buddhist stone sculptures. In Arashiyama, go to Adashino Nenbutsu-ji, where one can walk the bamboo grove. Lake Biwa is the largest lake in Japan and among the top largest lakes in the world. It is actually surrounded by a few prefectures, one of which is Shiga. Many say that one will not need to visit any other castle after seeing the Himeji Castle, the most beautiful castle of Japan. The ‘Hozugawa Kudari’ – trip down the river Hozu – near Kyoto is a very famous attraction. Two train stops south out of Kyoto, a brilliant walk right from Fushimi station takes you to the temple of Fushimi-Inari, and continuing up the hill through 10,000 red torii. This is a huge temple complex situated in the eastern part of Kyoto at the foot of the hills, and can be considered off the beaten track as it doesn’t seem to get as much visitors as the other temples get .
Offbeat: Kurama Onsen in this city is a brilliant spot for a relaxing day in the natural springs Spa. Toei Movie Land is an amusement park about film making. Often real samurai movies are shot here. The Goyozaka area and street are not that of the beaten path, it is actually rather known to be a place to stroll around and inspect the architecture. One may go to Kiyomizu-dera Temple to dress as Maiko. If you get sick and tired of seeing temple and shrines but still have plenty of time before leaving, how about trying an easy hike to the peak of Mt.Daimonji?
Author’s Conclusion: Kyoto is an amazing amalgamation of the old and the new. The plethora of sites are a must visit for any globetrotter. It deserves not only a stop in any traveler’s travel log for the magnificence of its structures, food and life, but also the sense of appreciation of what Japan has achieved in its years of civilization and prosperity.
|Area||827.83 sq.km (319.63 sq.mi)|
|Population||1,474,570 as of October 2015|
|Currency||Japanese Yen (1 USD= 113.47 ¥ as of 16th March, 2016)|
|Time Zone||Japan Standard Time (UTC+9)|
|Driving||Left Hand Drive|
|Helpline||Police: 110 , Ambulance: 119|
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