Are you planning to visit Kyoto but don’t know what the city is known for? It is a famous city in Japan and is home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. If you want to go away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Kyoto is your place.
Kyoto City is the third most visited city in Japan after Tokyo and Osaka, and it is for a very good reason. Kyoto is full of charm that can transport you back in time with its historical castles, Buddhist temples, and towering torii gates. Aside from these iconic landmarks, Kyoto is also known for its food and culture.
With so many things to do and places to see in Kyoto, it can be overwhelming to plan a trip. In this article, we will talk about some of the things Kyoto is known for so you can plan your trip accordingly. If you are visiting Kyoto for the first time, read until the end!
Japan’s Old Capital
Tokyo was not the capital city of Japan. Before Tokyo, Kyoto was the capital city of Japan for over 1,000 years. The capital city was only turned into Tokyo after the Edo period ended in 1868. Kyoto was the residence of the Emperor of the Edo period and the city has a rural charm compared to the now-capital, Tokyo. Kyoto is also one of the most visited cities in Japan (the third-most!) and Kyoto is definitely worth the visit.
Kyoto Imperial Palace
Being Japan’s ancient capital city, Kyoto is also where you can visit the Kyoto Imperial Palace, located in Central Kyoto. This palace was the residence of the Imperial family from 1331 until 1868. The palace is open year-round and admission is free but, you cannot enter any of the buildings. The Kyoto Imperial Park has large grounds where you can explore the surrounding areas and take in the beauty of what once was the residence of the emperors.
When you think of geishas, Japan is most likely the first country that will pop into your head. While geishas are everywhere in Japan, there are more working 000000000000000.
Geishas are skilled entertainers and they typically perform at high-end dinners and private parties in the city. Before being a geisha, a young Japanese lady trained for about 6 years in the art of dance, music, tea ceremony, and other skills that are required to become a geisha. The apprenticeship typically starts between the ages of 15 to 20. The young ladies training to be geishas is called “maikos”.
After 5 years of successful training, a maiko is chosen by the headmaster of the house to become a geisha (geiko in Kyoto dialect). Geikos in Kyoto are usually seen in Gion Higashi, Gion Kobu, Ponchoto, Miyagawacho, and Kamishichiken. These areas in Kyoto are called Kyoto’s five hanamachi or geisha districts. You can find traditional tea houses in these areas where tea ceremonies are performed
One of the things Kyoto is known for is its tea ceremony and it is actually an important part of the Japanese culture. As we mentioned earlier, geikos are known for being highly skilled performers. When you book a tea ceremony in Kyoto, it will either be performed by a maiko or geiko. For a full experience of the tea ceremony in Kyoto, you can book a tea ceremony with Maikoya if you want the option of wearing a real kimono during the ceremony.
Castles, Temples, And Shrines
When in Kyoto, you won’t miss the castles, temples, and shrines as you explore the city. Kyoto has over 1600 temples and 400 shrines and you will most likely visit 2 to 4 of them during your visit. Here are some of the castles, temples, and shrines that Kyoto is famous for.
Niko Castle is one of the most famous spots in Kyoto and it is about a 20-minute walk from Kyoto Imperial Palace. Niko Castle is known for housing the Ninomaru Palace, the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns. The Ninomaru Castle has nightingale floors that are designed to alert the palace of invaders. The Nijo Castle is situated in a large castle ground with beautiful gardens and structures.
Fushimi Inari Taisha
One of the most iconic shrines in Kyoto is the Fushimi Inari-Taisha and this Shinto shrine has 1000 red torii gates, known as Senbon Torii. You can hike the shrine all the way up to its summit and it will take you about 2 to 3 hours there and back. You will find a lot of stone fox statues and several altars along the trail. The shrine is open year-round and admission is free. If you want to avoid the crowd, going early is your best option.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest
Another landmark that Kyoto is known for is the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. This bamboo forest lives up to its name with bamboo stalks soaring up to 92 feet high. Walking along the path in the grove can make you feel transported into the past as you won’t see any modern structures past the bamboo stalks. The bamboo grove does get very crowded so it might get hard to take decent pictures. If you want to experience the bamboo grove with fewer tourists, catch the very first train to Arashiyama.
Kinkaku-ji Temple, or the Golden Pavilion, is also one of the main attractions of Kyoto and the temple’s iconic gold-plated exterior is the reason people visit the temple. The three-story temple is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a very recognizable structure in Kyoto. Like many other famous landmarks in Kyoto, many tourists visit this temple. But, if it is your first time visiting Kyoto, visiting these iconic landmarks is worth it.
If you are a food lover, you must try Kaiseki cuisine, a Japanese haute cuisine that is typically served in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), or a high-end restaurant. Kaiseki typically includes seafood, shellfish, vegetables, and rice which are staples in Japanese traditional cuisine. Kaiseki can have anywhere between 6 to 15 courses and can be an expensive experience. But, it can be worth it if you want to experience dining at a high-end Japanese restaurant.
What is Kyoto known for, you ask? Kyoto is a beautiful city known for its history, culture, historical landmarks, and food. A trip to Kyoto is definitely a must if you visit Japan. With historic castles, iconic shrines, and more, a trip to Kyoto will make you want to never leave the city.
We have talked about some of the reasons why Kyoto is famous among tourists and there are other sites such as the Kyoto Railway Museum and the Kyoto Station itself. if you plan on visiting Kyoto for the first time, you can add the places we have included in this article to your itinerary. If you have any questions, let us know!