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Travel Guide to Kyoto

August 02, 2018

Travel Guide to Kyoto

Japan fires up the imagination of many people; some are inspired by its efficiency, modernity and work ethic; others, for its culture and ancient traditions. Kyoto, the former imperial capital (A.D. 794 to 1868) offers visitors both these worlds.

Kyoto hosts headquarters of modern companies like Kyocera and Nintendo and is also the cultural center of Japan and its art and education.

Fushimi Inari Shrine is just one of the 400 Shinto shrines in Kyoto and dates back to the 8th century. Most Japanese visitors come here for the 10,000 Torii gates that line the path leading to the shrine. These red and orange lacquered wooden gates are quite large and engraved with the names of their donors.

Gion is a well preserved quaint neighborhood of Kyoto. Here you will find classical Japanese haute-cuisine, traditional tea houses, shops selling local crafts and antiques. But the main attraction of Gion is its Geishas, the extravagantly dressed women that link Japan to its past. If you see a Geisha strolling by, do not photograph without explicit permission.

Ryoanji Temple is a Zen Buddhist temple famous for its rock garden. The garden is made up of pebbly white stones with 15 rocks jutting out. At any one time, one or more rock is always hidden from view. The garden dates back to 1392-1573 AD. The temple also has a 1000 years old lily pond, walking trails and a restaurant serving a Kyoto specialty known as Yudofu.

Nijo Castle was built by samurai lord Tokugawa Ieyasu who unified Japan’s many warring clans in the 17th century. In 1603, he has proclaimed Shogun and to commemorate the event built Nijo Castle. The castle was built for show and not defense but it does have nightingale floors (they sing) to warn of anyone approaching. The palace gardens are designed by Kobori Enshu, a famous tea master, and landscaper.

Kyoto International Manga Museum as the name says has a massive collection of Manga Comics. There’s everything from Astro Boy to unknown non-Japanese artists. Unfortunately, most are in Japanese except for one wall-sized rack in English.

Sanjusangendo Hall (400ft.) is the longest wooden structure in Japan and every January, archery contests are held here. Its entire length is lined with 1001 human-sized wooden statues of Kannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. These cypress wood statues were carved in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Arashiyama is a great place to relax or not; depends on you. Surrounded by trees and mountains on the western edge of Kyoto, it has the iconic Togetsukyo Bridge. There are restaurants and shops on either side of the bridge and trails where you can unwind. Alternately, you could rent a bicycle (from near rail station) or a paddle boat.

Tourists can learn a lot about conservation and keep traditions alive from Kyoto. Keep in mind to book early so as to avail discounts and early bird offers. EbixCash World Money’s  Multi-Currency card will serve you well when you decide to visit. The card comes with pin/chip security and 24x7 customer support.

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