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Kyoto, Japan  City Info
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Nestled among mountains in Western Honshu, Kyoto has a reputation worldwide as Japan's most beautiful city, boasting more World Heritage sites per square inch than any other. However, most visitors' first impressions will be of the vast urban development of central Kyoto, which stretches in all directions from its hub at the ultra-modern glass-and-steel railway station.


Kyoto does not have an airport, but it has the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo, which glides almost silently between the two cities in only 2 hours and 14 minutes.  For connections to points along the way, travelers can take the private Hankyu or Keihan lines to Osaka, or the Kintetsu line to Nara.


Kyoto was Japan's capital and the emperor's residence from 794 until the Meiji Restoration of 1868 when the capital was moved to Tokyo. It is the country's seventh largest city with a population of 2.6 million people. Kyoto is still considered the center of Japanese culture and is a city of revered temples and serene gardens most of which were built for emperors, shoguns, geishas, and monks during the period of imperial power.


Over the centuries, Kyoto was destroyed by many wars and fires, but due to its historic value, the city was not chosen as a target of air raids during World War II.


Kyoto is in the Kansai region of Japan, located near Osaka and Kobe. It is famous for its 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines. Kyoto features the famous Ryoan-ji temple's zen garden and is the place where the Kyoto protocol was developed. (In 1997, Kyoto hosted the international conference that bears the city's name, which resulted in issuance of the protocol on the limiting worldwide of environmentally harmful greenhouse gas emissions.)


Highlights of Kyoto include Nijo Castle with its series of ornately-decorated reception rooms within the Ninomaru complex and its "nightingale floors" : wooden flooring which makes bird-like squeaking sounds when stepped on as a result of nail placement in the floor joists. This was a warning system signaling an intruder to the resident shogun's guards. From the donjon of the inner castle, visitors enjoy panoramic views of the castle layout, and of the entire city.


The Imperial Park is a large, peaceful area in the centre of Kyoto, circling the Imperial Palace. The Palace itself is only open to visitors on pre-booked guided tours. Rianji Temple is known for its Zen garden, which is considered to be one of the most notable examples of the "dry-landscape" style. Surrounded by low walls, an arrangement of fifteen rocks sits on a bed of white gravel and is designed to inspire contemplation and inner peace.


The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, formally known as Rokuonji is the most popular tourist attraction in Kyoto. The pavilion was originally built as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in the late 12th century, and converted into a temple by his son. Rebuilt after a deliberate fire, it has been embellished with extra layers of gold leaf and fairly blazes in the sunlight. Visitors follow a path through the moss garden surrounding the pavilion.


The history of Kyoto extends over 1200 years, and during this time various traditional crafts have developed. Today, these traditional crafts continue to be produced by hand and are being appreciated and passed on to the next generation. Among these treasured crafts is the construction of the Kyo-Ningyo, the Kyoto doll, Kiyomizu pottery, Tegaki Yuzen, hand dyeing, and Kyo-shikki, Kyoto lacquerware.


Kyoto has earned a well deserved reputation as a truly vibrant city recognized and appreciated throughout Japan and the rest of the world.

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