Kyoto prospered as the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years. During that time, the emperor, the aristocrats and generals all lived here, and a rich culture developed. Even today, these traditions remain alive.
In this tour, we will explore the local traditional food, a venerated shrine, temples and a geisha quarter.
In Kyoto, the public transport network is not well developed because of the need to preserve the cultural assets. Though this tour involves quite a bit of walking, it provides the opportunity to get to know the traditions of Kyoto and to feel its charm and beauty.
The Nishiki market is called the kitchen of Kyoto. What is that? It is said that underneath this district, there is a gigantic water reservoir. Therefore, Kyoto has been blessed with fresh and delicious water from long ago. Utilizing that water, about 500 years ago, a fish market developed in this place, and various shops gradually gathered later. Almost anything you need on a daily basis is available in this market. Kyoto's speciality is vegetables are grown in pure water, pickles made of those vegetables and tofu, also utilizing this delicious water. There are many shops where you can sample food, so please try Kyoto’s specialties loved for centuries by the local people.
Yasaka shrine which enshrines Susanoo-no-Mikoto was founded in the 7th century. It is the head shrine of 2,300 branches in Japan. This is one of four shrines which protect Kyoto from evil spirits, and it is believed that a dragon dwells beneath the shrine. The emperor, the aristocracy and also the common people worshipped at Yasaka Shrine. Even today, a million people visit this shrine during the first three days of New Year. Don’t forget to touch the running water at the small shrine of the God of Beauty located inside the shrine grounds, worshipped by all women including Geisha.
This temple was founded in the late 8th century by the shogun before the capital was moved from Nara to Kyoto. It is famous for the veranda standing on a 12-meter-high wooden framework built without using a single nail. Standing on it, you can command a panoramic view of Kyoto. In the precincts, there are three waterfalls called Otowa-no-Taki which bring good fortune when you drink from them. Let’s give it a try!
Kennin-ji Temple is the first zen temple founded in Kyoto in 1202. The shogun, samurai warrior leader, at that time ordered the top priest Eisai who introduced zen from China to open this temple.
The simple idea of the Zen sect, discipline and meditation, appealed to the samurai warriors, while former Buddhist sects thrived under the protection of the imperial family and aristocracy.
There are many things to see in this temple such as fine arts, the simple but puzzling zen garden and the huge twin dragon painting on the ceiling of the hall.
Geisha are an important part of traditional culture in Kyoto. Let’s stroll around Gion district which is the largest one among Kyoto’s five geisha towns where beautiful, old-style restaurants and tea houses are well preserved. If you are lucky enough, you may encounter Geisha or Maiko (apprentices) dressed in gorgeous kimono and wearing high wooden clogs that make a peculiar sound on the street.
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