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.