The astonishing number of temples, shrines, and palaces that adorn the city make Kyoto's architecture its most famous feature to visitors. Japan's capital for more than 1,000 years, Kyoto was the center not only for politics, but religion, philosophy, art, culture, and cuisine. Every one of Japan's refined cultural arts blossomed from seeds that were planted here, including the tea ceremony, Kabuki theater, Zen, and Tantric Buddhism.Breathtaking sights are abundant, though some places truly stand out. Many tourists come away most impressed by Kyoto's great temples, such as Kiyomizu-dera in the city's eastern mountains, and the forest-cloaked Fushimi-Inari Taisha, a shrine pathway through a miles-long chain of towering vermilion gates. Visitors also flock to cultural hubs like the Museum of Traditional Crafts, showcasing the city's artisanal legacy, and Sanjusangen-do, with its 1,000 golden statues of Kannon.Kyoto residents have a fierce sense of propriety about nearly everything, ranging from good table manners to family pedigree. This subtle yet strict code has some notorious consequences for locals—who are not considered true Kyotoites unless they can trace their lineage back four generations—but certain benefits for visitors. Wear out your welcome in a Kyoto home and they are likely to offer you tea as a signal that your time is up. The refined and symbolic Kyoto mind-set, however, insists that nothing made here should be of less than exquisite craftsmanship and stellar design. This philosophy means that whether browsing for gifts in a handkerchief shop, sightseeing at a local temple, or sitting down to a 12-course dinner, whatever you encounter is likely to be top-notch. As a visitor here you're a guest of the city, and Kyoto will make sure you leave with wonderful memories.
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Things You Can't Miss
Graceful, tiered Temple of the Golden Pavilion sits by tranquil waters and gardens. It’s a symbol of this revered cultural center.
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Return to the era of feudal shogun commanders at Nijō Castle, a complex that includes gardens and a palace with sliding doors and secret places.
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Revered Kiyomizu-dera is a standout, perched on a hill. Seeking a soulmate? Walk with eyes closed between two “love stones.”
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Alcohol and seat pockets are not your friends. Use this advice to avoid getting sick on a plane.
Learn the intricacy and meaning of the Japanese tea ceremony; wear a kimono if you like. Try the Tea Ceremony Room Juan or Tea Ceremony Experience En.
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In the Gion district, see beauties in elaborate makeup and kimonos on their way to entertain at teahouses (ochaya). Hanami-koji Street is picturesque.
Learn how to save money on travel with 5 hotel booking tips. Choose discounts that will stretch your money for activities, and give you more time away.
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