Many people consider that spring is the best time to visit Japan. Why? Because of the cherry blossom. And where best to see it? Kyoto.
Not only does Kyoto have wonderful gardens to see the blossom at its best but, during the whole of April, It hosts the Cherry Dance (Miyako Odori) at the Gion Kobu Kaburenjo Theatre which is as it sounds – a celebration of this time of year.
But while you’re there you will want to make the most of your trip, and Kyoto is best suited amongst Japanese cities to provide an all-round holiday. For a start it has a heritage that is hard to beat. It was the imperial capital of Japan for over a thousand years up until as recently as 1868. The imperial palace and its grounds- which cover over two square kilometres- is centrally located and within walking distance of most hotels. As you might expect in Japan there is an extensive bus and underground network though that – compared to London, is much cheaper. Given that there is so much to see a daily or two-daily pass may be a better solution.
Kyoto still claims to be the cultural heart of Japan and it’s a claim hard to disagree with. There are 17 UNESCO world heritage sites in the city – more than any other city has. There are over 1,600 Buddhist temples within the area and over 250 Shinto shrines. Don’t miss the Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine just outside Kyoto. Founded thirteen hundred years ago, it has 10,000 red Torii gates that were all donated by worshippers and which guide you through the shrine. Or the Higashi-Honganji Temple, the largest wooden building in the city. Or the Sanjusangendo Temple with its astonishing 1,001 statues of the Goddess of Mercy. Or the Kinkaku -ji Temple – the Golden Pavilion – which is a modern replica of the fifteenth century building. Or… You get the point. There is so much that you shouldn’t miss. Yet you will have to unless you plan on living in the city for years!
It would take books rather than a brief article to explain what is there to see. So a brief list of what is available should be enough to tempt you. There are 10 museums which, apart from the type of museum you might expect to see, includes the International Manga Museum and the Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum. There are four imperial castles and palaces and eight parks and gardens including the zoo and the Arashiyama Monkey Park.
Two final thoughts on the city. It is from this area that the world famous Nishijin silk comes and there is daily free admission to the textile centre where the silks can be seen.Everyone has heard of the Japanese tea ceremony, but were you aware that Kyoto was the first place in the country where tea was drunk? A tip to Kyoto would not be complete without experiencing this. And after all, we Brits are known for tea drinking.
Images © Kyoto Prefecture