World's Best Cities 2015
Travel + Leisure showcases the World's Best Cities - as voted by you. Browse the top cities in the world.
Hello again, it's your fellow friend Rikka, reporting at the Hacarus Work in Japan blog. I've written several articles on working in Japan and working in Hacarus, but I haven't written much about why you'd want to specifically be in Kyoto.
Why Kyoto, anyway?
Recently, I've been finding myself increasingly attracted to Kyoto for the following reasons...
Quite honestly, this part should probably be an entire post on its own!
I've mentioned before that being in Kyoto (the ancient capital of Japan) would mean you'd be able to capture exactly what is traditional Japan. In fact, Kyoto people hold their city to quite a high regard. Based on what I've come to understand about the surface value of Kyoto is that its symbolic for temples and geisha.
But I believe that when it comes down to understanding Japan and Japanese art to a much deeper level, starting here would be the best option you'd have. Kyoto flourishes with artisans who craft and perfect their work. These art styles are traditionally Japanese as well. Interestingly enough, you'll find many people coming from abroad to come to Japan for its art and particularly to Kyoto, allured by its aesthetics. In addition to being the ancient city of Japan, with its vast degree of historical landmarks and world heritages, there's a multitude of art styles that exist here in Kyoto. These art styles inspired many artists abroad to come to Kyoto. I've recently come to recognize that Kyoto might just be the Japanese city you'd want to be in to explore or be an artist. Many people work full-time as an teacher and pursue different arts and learn about art in Kyoto.
You can experience these crafts yourselves by reserving workshops!
There is an abundance of nature in Kyoto. Because of this, it may make Kyoto the best prefecture for Kansai travel (Kansai encompasses these seven prefectures of Japan: Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Mie, Wakayama, Hyogo and Shiga; I think living in Kansai itself is pretty great).
Here are some photos I took during my climb up mountains in Kyoto
There is a lot to discover to Kyoto. If you take a look at some magazines at the conbini, go to a cafe with a bookshelf, or head to the bookstore (BookOff in particular if you also like cheap deals!), you'll find a LOT of travel guides on Kyoto. These travel guides go from books to magazines and cover a variety of topics like cafes in Kyoto, hiking in Kyoto, off-the-beaten-path Kyoto, 1 day Kyoto travel, temples in Kyoto, UNESCO World Heritages in Kyoto, walking in streets Kyoto, being alone in Kyoto, etc.
Kyoto travel guide books at a cafe
Kyoto, one of the world's top garden cities.
Visiting Kyoto gives one a myriad of opportunities to stumble upon Japanese gardens. Gardens in Kyoto have been part of Japanese culture dating back to the Nara period (possibly the Asuka period?) and is packed with gardens ranging from shrines and temples, to machiya (traditional wooden houses) where small gardens are located in its courtyards. Japanese gardens deeply reflects the its surroundings and cultural aspects of the era in which it was built. Today, many Japanese gardens still maintain its beauty thanks to the careful nurturing by generations of caretakers. (Ueyakato Landscape)
Japanese gardens at a temple (Tofuku-ji)
The streets of Kyoto are great to walk through. Kyoto itself is relatively minimalistic and not terribly crowded. In fact, there are policies in place that aim to preserve the ancient capital. Architecture in Japan varies and many of these architectural designs have a rich historical background or are designed in a certain historical architectural style (such as shoin style, sukiya style, or kyo-machiya style architecture).
Kyoto city landscape policy states that Kyoto landscape features must conform to coordinating harmony between traditional culture and modern landscaping, maintaining Kyoto-like features. Keeping in mind building heights, scenic views, historical streets, building designs, and restricting outdoor advertisements are all vital parts of maintaining parts of the ancient capital.
Street in Kyoto by Ginkakuji
It doesn't come off as a surprise to say that as the ancient capital, Kyoto is the best place to be to see just about everything related to Japanese culture and tradition. The feeling of "this is Japan!" comes from Kyoto- where traditional architecture, festivals, temples, geisha, machiya and world heritages can be found. Strolling about along shijo-dori or sanjo-dori (near Gion), it isn't entirely rare at all to sight a maiko or geiko walking along the pedestrial walkway. In the bus or station, you may encounter a monk. During certain times of the year, you can attend festivals like the Jidai Matsuri or Gion Matsuri (Kyoto largest and most famed annual event), where you can see traditional performances and ancient customary wear.
Jidai Matsuri, October 2018
You'll see a lot of souvenir shops in Kyoto that cover coin purses, chopsticks, kanzashi (Japanese hair ornament), pottery, furoshiki (a square shaped cloth used to cover and transport items), wagashi (Japanese confectionary, Kyoto's specialty is called yatsuhashi), green tea, pickled vegetables, and more! Many of the fabric used for cloth material souvenirs have really lovely patterns (like for coin purses and furoshiki)!
Pickled vegetables that can be packed as a souvenir and on the right, my very own coin purse
Although machiya can be found throughout Japan, machiya are largely represented as a significant feature of Kyoto. From the outside, a machiya is generally long and narrow and essentially, is made of wood. A machiya's inward appearance basically consists of tatami mat, sliding doors, some ornaments or wooden furniture, and tsuboniwa (Japanese courtyard). You can find many machiya still remaining in Kyoto, sometimes along a nice street with other traditional architecture or machiya.
Machiya street and room
On many travel sites, you'll find that Kyoto is often titled as a beautiful and photogenic city. For a consecutive 2 years (2014 and 2015), a U.S. travel magazine, Travel + Leisure, named Kyoto as one of the world's best cities to travel.
The Japanese diet consists of a lot of variety with many colors of food incorporated into a meal with a variety of nutrition. In Japanese teishoku, a meal would often consist of protein (meat or fish), a salad, pickles, soup (more often than not, miso), boiled vegetables, tofu, and of course, rice. Vegan and vegetarian options are not difficult to make at home. However, at restaurants, much of the time ingredients containing fish (such as in sauces or miso soup, like dashi) is difficult to avoid. Because Kyoto is well-known for their kyoyasai, it may not be too difficult to find vegetable-focused dishes or vegetarian/vegan restaurants. Halal food is even more difficult to come across in Kyoto, let alone in all of Japan. Halal products and meat can be found at Gyomu Supermarket.
A vegan restaurant in Omiya
Finding Halal food and free spaces for praying in Japan can be a struggle.
In Kyoto, support for Muslims is available and information about free praying spaces and halal food can be found below:
See our latest activities below!
Tea Ceremony with Hacarus