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Kyoto
Kyoto (京都市, Kyōto-shi) - A city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.

Kyoto was located in a valley, part of the Yamashiro (or Kyoto) Basin, in the eastern part of the mountainous region known as the Tamba highlands. The Yamashiro Basin is surrounded on three sides by mountains known as Higashiyama, Kitayama and Nishiyama, with a height just above 1000 meters above sea level. This interior positioning results in hot summers and cold winters. There are three rivers in the basin, the Ujigawa to the south, the Katsuragawa to the west, and the Kamogawa to the east. Kyoto City takes up 1.9% of the land in the prefecture with an area of 827.9 km².

The original city was arranged in accordance with traditional Chinese geomancy following the model of the ancient Chinese capital of Chang'an (present-day Xi'an). The Imperial Palace faced south, resulting in Ukyō (the right sector of the capital) being on the west while Sakyō (the left sector) is on the east. The streets in the modern-day wards of Nakagyō, Shimogyō, and Kamigyō still follow a grid pattern.

Today, the main business district is located to the south of the old Imperial Palace, with the less-populated northern area retaining a far greener feel. Surrounding areas do not follow the same grid pattern as the center of the city, though streets throughout Kyoto share the distinction of having names.

Kyoto sits atop a large natural water table that provides the city with ample freshwater wells. Due to large scale urbanization, the amount of rain draining into the table is dwindling and wells across the area are drying at an increasing rate.

Although ravaged by wars, fires, and earthquakes during its eleven centuries as the imperial capital, Kyoto was spared from the firebombing of World War II. With its 2000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, as well as palaces, gardens and architecture intact, it is one of the best preserved cities in Japan. Among the most famous temples in Japan are Kiyomizu-dera, a magnificent wooden temple supported by pillars off the slope of a mountain; Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion; Ginkaku-ji, the Temple of the Silver Pavilion; and Ryōan-ji, famous for its rock garden. The Heian Jingū is a Shinto shrine, built in 1895, celebrating the Imperial family and commemorating the first and last emperors to reside in Kyoto. Three special sites have connections to the imperial family: the Kyoto Gyoen area including the Kyoto Imperial Palace and Sento Imperial Palace, homes of the Emperors of Japan for many centuries; Katsura Imperial Villa, one of the nation's finest architectural treasures; and Shugaku-in Imperial Villa, one of its best Japanese gardens.

Other notable sites in Kyoto include Arashiyama and its picturesque lake, the Gion and Pontochō geisha quarters, the Philosopher's Walk, and the canals which line some of the older streets.

The "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto" are listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. These include the Kamo Shrines (Kami and Shimo), Kyō-ō-Gokokuji (Tō-ji), Kiyomizu-dera, Daigo-ji, Ninna-ji, Saihō-ji (Kokedera), Tenryū-ji, Rokuon-ji (Kinkaku-ji), Jishō-ji (Ginkaku-ji), Ryōan-ji, Hongan-ji, Kōzan-ji and the Nijo Castle, primarily built by the Tokugawa shoguns. Other sites outside the city are also on the list.

Kyoto is renowned for its abundance of delicious Japanese foods and cuisine. The special circumstances of Kyoto as a city away from the sea and home to many Buddhist temples resulted in the development of a variety of vegetables peculiar to the Kyoto area (kyōyasai 京野菜).

Japan's television and film industry has its center in Kyoto. Many jidaigeki, action films featuring samurai, were shot at Toei Uzumasa Eigamura. A film set and theme park in one, Eigamura features replicas of traditional Japanese buildings which are used for jidaigeki. Among the sets are a replica of the old Nihonbashi (the bridge at the entry to Edo), a traditional courthouse, a Meiji Period police box and part of the former Yoshiwara red-light district. Actual film shooting takes place occasionally, and visitors are welcome to observe the action.

The Kyoto International Manga Museum is also situated in Kyoto. For an entrance fee visitors are able to view exhibitions and read as much manga as they desire. It is trying to acquire every manga ever published and so far houses approximately 200,000 titles.

Information source: “Kyoto.” wikipedia.org. Article date: 4 Feb. 2008. Retrieved: Wikipedia. 4 Feb. 2008 <Kyoto>.

Video - The following is a JR commercial showing Kyoto.
 
 

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