Experience the sheer tranquillity of the beautiful temples, and discover some of the greatest ancient treasures in Japan.
Kyoto was the capital city of Japan for more than a thousand years – and its unique beauty still remains today. The city was renowned as a leader in Japanese (indeed, Asian) economic, industrial and cultural development, and even today, Kyoto consists of enough steel, glass and concrete buildings to show it remains an economic success. However, it is the meditative temples and sprawling parks spread across the urban space that are the real, picturesque reminders of the city's rich cultural heritage.
Because of the many centuries of priceless architectural heritage in Kyoto, this city was dropped from the list of targets for the atomic bomb and was spared from World War II air raids. This means visitors today can still enjoy the abundance of ancient shrines and temples still standing throughout the city.
A great way to begin your discovery of Kyoto is to venture out on the Philosopher’s Walk. This walking trail follows the path that famous 20th century Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro used to walk every day, while meditating over the deep meaning of life. The walk will take you past three of the major landmark temples of Kyoto and the cherry-tree lined canal, which is at its most spectacular during April, when you can see an abundance of beautiful pink blooms.
During your trip to Kyoto, you can also visit the Arashiyama Monkey Park, where you can see wild monkeys playing, interacting, swinging through the trees and even eating out of your hand. The Eikando Temple is another interesting attraction, especially in the autumn when the gardens are decorated with sparkling lights. This is a wonderfully peaceful place to stroll or sit in the quiet and meditative atmosphere of the ponds and moss gardens.
Another truly impressive architectural spectacle is the Katsura Imperial Villa, which was built by Prince Toshihito in order to recreate the setting described in his favourite book – the famous 11th century novel The Tale of Genji. Then, of course, there the famous attraction of The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, with its glittering gold leaf surface which can be seen sparkling in the sunlight.
Indeed, Kyoto encapsulates the romantic Japanese image in our imagination of peaceful temples, quiet bamboo forests and contemplative rock gardens. There are 17 different UNESCO World Heritage Sites in this historic city, as well as over 400 Shinto shrines and 1,600 Buddhist temples. The best time of the year to enjoy the city's divine gardens and tree-lined pathways is in the spring or the autumn, when these ancient attractions are set against a backdrop of lush pink floral blossoms or vibrant orange leaves.