Category: Kyoto

Kyoto‘s Must-see World Heritage Sites

byodo-in

Sixty nine years ago, Kyoto was identified by the United States as one of four A-bomb targets, along with Hiroshima, Yokohama, and Kokura (part of present-day Kitakyushu). The then US Secretary of War Henry Stimson lobbied for the removal of Kyoto from the list, citing the city’s immense cultural significance. He also had a personal connection to the city, having reportedly been to Kyoto on honeymoon two decades prior. Kyoto was removed from the potential targets and the rest, as they say, is history.

Fast forward to the present day, the former imperial capital is home to roughly 2,000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Kyoto and neighboring Otsu and Uji cities host a high concentration of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, collectively inscribed on the heritage list as the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto”. On a trip to Kyoto, it’s almost a given that an average visitor will check out at least one of these World Heritage Sites. After four visits to Kyoto, I only managed to see 7 out of 17 of these sites so far.


Is Kyoto Doable in One Day?

Kiyomizu-dera's Main Hall

Imperial capital for more than a thousand years from 794 to 1868, Kyoto epitomizes traditional Japan. In autumn, trees on the grounds of centuries-old temples and shrines of the ancient capital turn colors and attract hordes of Japanese for the annual koyo, or autumn leaf, viewing. As I would only be staying in Japan for a year, I only had one chance to visit Kyoto in autumn. Autumn hues in Kyoto usually peak around mid to late November. It was already the 2nd week of November when I decided to go with the trip the following weekend. I did not have enough time to book for a place to stay, so my plan was to take a night bus from Yokohama before midnight on Friday, arrive in Kyoto early Saturday, embark on a quickie tour of Kyoto until early evening, take a bus to Tokyo before midnight, and be back in Tokyo early Sunday.