The Nature and History of Kyoto

Known as the ancient capital city of Japan, Kyoto is home to a wealth of culture and beautiful gardens. Within this stunning melting pot of culture, you will have the opportunity to explore 2,000 temples and shrines, as well as 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites. It also holds the title of the 1,000-year capital, as it was thought to be the largest city in Japan up until the 16th century when it was surpassed by Osaka and Tokyo. Although it may now be the 9th largest city in Japan, Kyoto certainly has an extensive wealth of history and culture to offer visitors.

Kinkakuji Temple

Kinkakuji Temple

The glistening golden exterior of this iconic landmark is reflected in the surrounding pond, which is also known as Kyoko-chi (Mirror Pond). Upon seeing the Kinkaku-Ji Temple, you will be truly astounded by the sheer beauty and Buddhist culture held within the three tiers of this stunning wonder. A journey across a series of bridges through the beautiful plants will lead you to the entrance. Although you can’t actually go inside, just being able to get a photo of the temple sitting atop of the gentle pond will take your breath away.

Kinkaku-Ji temple dates back to the 14th century AD but, sadly, it was burnt to the ground by a crazed monk in 1950. It was later rebuilt in all its glory and there is significance held behind each of the three tiers. The top two tiers have been decorated with gold leaf, with the very top tier representing Zen and the tier below representing the spirit of the samurai warrior. The bottom tier represents the Heian period – a division of classical Japanese history which ran from 794 to 1185AD.

Ryoanji Temple

Ryoanji Temple

Otherwise known as the Temple of Dragon at Peace, Ryoan-Ji Temple is a Zen landmark located in northwest Kyoto. Surrounded by a peacefully still pond and eclectic range of flowers and plants, this temple holds the gateway to one of Japan’s most famous landmarks. The curved roof tier sits above an archway which leads to the Ryōan-ji Zen rock garden, which is thought to have been built in the late 15th century.

Within this garden, there are 15 individually placed rocks, each of which sits within a flat garden of small and carefully selected polished river rocks. There are no hills or ponds within this garden, which is thought to contribute to the stunning simplicity and harmony of Zen meditation. Despite its rise to fame, no one is sure of the designer of the garden or any explanation behind it.

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Towering thin stalks of green bamboo surround a narrow path to create a truly remarkable sight that is almost impossible to encapsulate in any photograph. Despite this, it is one of the most photographed sights in all of Kyoto and a journey to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove will enable you to see why.  Walking through this bamboo forest is like taking a stroll into a natural area unlike anywhere else on earth.

At the entrance to the bamboo forest, you will find another of Kyoto’s renowned temples, Tenryu-Ji. This is one of Kyoto’s UNESCO World Heritage sites and its location at the entrance to the forest is certainly no coincidence. The forest is thought to have been viewed as a way of warding off evil, whilst bamboo itself is considered to be a symbol of strength.


If you would like to experience the historic temples of Kyoto for yourself, as well as Japan’s many other fantastic cities and landmarks, we can offer a fantastic range of insightful tours. For more information, contact us via the freephone number above or via the online form.

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