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Great for a change of pace and mood, seek out Nishiki Market!
This surprising calm and sedate market located along the street is housed under a single roofed arcade.
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.
The present buildings are a 1800s reconstruction; the original 8th-century Imperial Palace was destroyed in one of Kyoto's fires which ravaged the previous buildings.
As you pass through the Seishomon Gate on the western side you will enter the Shishinden ceremonial hall. Here emperors are enthroned this is a privilege retained by the city of Kyoto even after the move to Tokyo, and it is where New Year's audiences are also held.
Temmangu shrines around the Japan are most often statues of cows and bulls in the seated position (and not because it's about to rain!) These statues are thought to have healing properties.
There are also thousands of plum trees and these draw the Japanese crowds just before the annual cherry blossom frenzy. They are coming for the deep pink blooms.
Kitano Temmangu hosts its nationally famous flea market on the 25th of each month, when you'll really see massive hordes of visitors; they come for the items on sale and for rubbing the statues. It is believed that if you rub the same place as a troublesome area on the cow you may get relief from this infirmity or stress.
People travel from afar to sift through the offerings of used kimono, antique furniture and ceramics, antique scrolls, crafts, food, household items, and countless other categories of bric-a-brac and sundries, paying prices ranging from the reasonable to the outrageous.
There is a lot to see here in Nishi-Honganji. This is one of the best examples Buddhist monumental architecture in Japan; it combines a heroic, dramatic silhouette and with lavish decoration.
These 17th-century buildings were constructed with materials brought from Fushimi Castle which was the property of Hideyoshi. This was originally on the southern side of Kyoto and was dismantled by a Tokugawa shogun in the 1630s.
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.
Select your home currency from the drop down to compare it to the currency in use in Japan.
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Graphic showing average weather in Nijo Castle Ninomaru palace in Celcius and Centimeters (Change to Farenheit and Inches)
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