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Higashiyama's Gion district is Kyoto's main historical center of traditional theater, arts, and (now) antiques. It is also known as the last training center for geishas.
This is the place to wander and soak up the sights and sounds of Kyoto's lone quarter still dedicated to traditional arts and entertainment. Your curiosity and patience will inevitably reward you with a glimpse of a genuine geisha or maiko (apprentice geisha), the copious layers of her opulent—and unimaginably heavy—silk kimono rustling as she hurries to an appointment or a training session.
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National Museum of Modern Art is, despite its name, mainly devoted to 19th- and 20th-century ceramics.
So well know is the name Kyoto that it conjures up images of the exotic foreign for millions around the world.
True: as here you will discover temples, shrines and pagodas: many magnificent and exquisite Zen gardens; enjoy sumptuous traditional feasts; and, of course, that most alluring and misunderstood of earthly creatures: the kimono-clad geisha.
Kyoto is the national center for such traditional disciplines as cha-do (tea ceremony) and ikebana (flower arranging), the birthplace of kabuki, and the leading center of calligraphy, painting, and sculpture.
The city has a unique place in the Japanese national identity, and one-third of Japan's entire population is estimated to visit the city each year. Despite this, in many ways Kyoto is a surprisingly typical modern Japanese city with the usual nondescript concrete buildings along with the remarkable pockets of culture and beauty.
For a thousand years, Kyoto served as the cultural and spiritual capital of Japanese civilization, the home of its revered emperors after the Nara period from the end of the 8th century up to the Meiji Restoration in the late-19th century. The imperial rulers moved the capital to Kyoto originally to escape from the growing domination of the Buddhist authorities of Nara. In the new capital the building of Buddhist temples was actually briefly banned—ironic in a city now universally renowned for its temples.
Kyoto simply means "Capital City," though it was originally known as Heian-kyo ("Capital of Peace"), the name given to the golden Heian era between the tenth and 12th centuries. During this time Kyoto thrived as Japan's cultural and creative heartland. But the city's fortunes turned during the Warring States period (1467-1568), which was finally ended by the unifying warlords Nobunaga and Hideyoshi in the mid-6th century.
In many ways the city has never recovered from Hideyoshi's subsequent decision to move the national capital from Kyoto to Edo (now Tokyo) in the early 1600s—a blow compounded by the young Emperor Meiji shifting the imperial household to Tokyo in 1868. But Kyoto has nevertheless remained the repository of the nation's noblest cultural pursuits and architectural legacy.
Nishiki Market is ideal if you looking to for a change of pace and frame of mind.
This surprising calm and sedate market located along the street is housed under a single roofed arcade.
Exchange rate fluctuations can have a considerable impact on your trip budget. If your home currency has appreciated in value in the recent term over the currency of your destination you are likely to find the place inexpensive.
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Graphic showing average weather in Gionmachi Kitagawa in Celcius and Centimeters (Change to Farenheit and Inches)
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