Japan’s Center of Cultural Contrasts
Words: Thea Brissing Sørensen
Photos: Christian Scholl
Places can be iconic as well as people and designs. A true iconic place is fascinating Kyoto, Japan – and it is not difficult to see why. Until the mid-19th century Kyoto flourished as the capital of Japan for more than a millennium, which left the area with a valuable cultural inheritance including several shrines. When speaking of valued assets, Kyoto consists of a wide variety of scenic natural sites from majestic bamboo forests to traditional Japanese Zen gardens. Yet, Kyoto is more than fascinating history and scenic nature. Kyoto is a place of contrasts where holiness is unified with everyday life; In Kyoto, holy shrines are situated side by side with noodle stands where the locals go to get their daily meals.
One of the most legendary sights in Kyoto is the Fushimi Inari-Taisha shrine, located in the southeast part of the city and dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice. The seemingly endless path of thousands orange torii gates that wind through the hills behind Fushimi Inari-taisha shrine makes it a memorable sight worth exploring. Due to its popularity, it is recommended to come really early in the morning before the masses roll in.
Kyoto is home to several World Heritage Sites listed by UNESCO. 17 to be exact. One of them is the historical Kiyomizu-dera Temple, that was founded more than 1200 years ago on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the hills east of Kyoto. Continually the Kiyomizu-dera Temple functions as a peaceful escape from the vivacious city, where visitors come to pay their respects to Kannon, a deity of great mercy and compassion.
Although the area surrounding Kyoto is known for its historical shrines and scenic nature, Kyoto is also home to individuals living ordinary lives. Gion quarter is an area, where everyday life is lived, yet it is one of the most famous geisha districts in Kyoto. As a traditional entertainment district Gion has a unique atmosphere with its many quaint wooden buildings, traditional geishas and small teahouses. The best way to explore the magic of the Gion quarter is with an evening stroll in the atmospheric streets lit up with colorful lanterns.
Kyoto is known as Japan’s cultural treasury for a great deal of reasons. It is historical, atmospheric and it is beautiful in all four seasons. The most common season to visit Kyoto is in the Cherry Blossom Season from late March to the middle of April, when nature is covered in a characteristic pink color. But in Kyoto, Autumn is known as one of the most stunning seasons due to the fall foliage where leaves burst into a fiery red. So, whenever you plan to visit Kyoto, a beautiful and remarkable adventure will be ahead of you.