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Introducing Kyoto

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© Lonely Planet Publications

I NTRO DUCI N G K YOTO

political life and the topic of many of the conversations you’ll hear in restaurants and bars. It’s
certainly the most pressing problem facing Kyoto today.
Fortunately, many people now realise that these two demands aren’t as contradictory as
they might first appear. Kyotoites are coming to understand that preserving something of the
traditional aspects of the city will benefit everyone, not just those directly involved with tourism.
As a result, the city leaders have made some excellent moves recently.
In order to protect the Kyoto cityscape, the city government recently enacted a law that
places height restrictions on new buildings. It has also placed restrictions on large and intrusive
billboards and neon signs (something you will surely appreciate if you’ve seen what parts of
Tokyo look like).
Better still, the city government has been experimenting with turning parts of the Downtown
Kyoto district into a pedestrian-only area in the evenings. One can only hope it pursues this
to the obvious conclusion and turns the entire central downtown grid into a pedestrian-only
zone both day and night.
The city has also been having a lot of fun with its image as the ‘most Japanese’ part of
Japan. From time to time, the local bus company allows anyone wearing a kimono to ride the
buses for free. The result is an increasing number of Japanese couples who explore the city
in traditional outfits.
The most welcome trend in the city is the so-called machiya boom, in which traditional
Kyoto town houses are being converted into extremely atmospheric restaurants, cafés, bars
and shops. There is hope that if these machiya businesses succeed, it will stem the loss of the
lovely traditional structures, a few of which are carted away each day in the back of a truck to
be dumped into a landfill on the outskirts of the city.
Perhaps the most exciting trend is this: the world is waking up to the fact Japan is not that
expensive! As a result, travellers are streaming into the city and one can hear Italian, French
and German in the cafés and restaurants downtown. Similarly, you’re just as likely to hear
Mandarin as English spoken by the tourist next to you as you wait in line for a sip of holy water
at Kiyomizu-dera’s famous spring.
All in all, it’s a great time to visit Kyoto!

Temple visitors can sip the sacred and therapeutic spring water at Kiyomizu-dera (p63)

Kyoto is a city of secrets. Thousands of secrets. Hidden
behind ...
2 3
political life and the topic of many of the conversations you’ll hear in restaurants and bars. It’s
certainly the most pressing problem facing Kyoto today.
Fortunately, many people now realise that these two demands aren’t as contradictory as
they might first appear. Kyotoites are coming to understand that preserving something of the
traditional aspects of the city will benefit everyone, not just those directly involved with tourism.
As a result, the city leaders have made some excellent moves recently.
In order to protect the Kyoto cityscape, the city government recently enacted a law that
places height restrictions on new buildings. It has also placed restrictions on large and intrusive
billboards and neon signs (something you will surely appreciate if you’ve seen what parts of
Tokyo look like).
Better still, the city government has been experimenting with turning parts of the Downtown
Kyoto district into a pedestrian-only area in the evenings. One can only hope it pursues this
to the obvious conclusion and turns the entire central downtown grid into a pedestrian-only
zone both day and night.
The city has also been having a lot of fun with its image as the ‘most Japanese’ part of
Japan. From time to time, the local bus company allows anyone wearing a kimono to ride the
buses for free. The result is an increasing number of Japanese couples who explore the city
in traditional outfits.
The most welcome trend in the city is the so-called machiya boom, in which traditional
Kyoto town houses are being converted into extremely atmospheric restaurants, cafés, bars
and shops. There is hope that if these machiya businesses succeed, it will stem the loss of the
lovely traditional structures, a few of which are carted away each day in the back of a truck to
be dumped into a landfill on the outskirts of the city.
Perhaps the most exciting trend is this: the world is waking up to the fact Japan is not that
expensive! As a result, travellers are streaming into the city and one can hear Italian, French
and German in the cafés and restaurants downtown. Similarly, you’re just as likely to hear
Mandarin as English spoken by the tourist next to you as you wait in line for a sip of holy water
at Kiyomizu-dera’s famous spring.
All in all, it’s a great time to visit Kyoto!
Kyoto’s traditional neighbourhoods are at their most atmospheric by night
Kyoto is a city of secrets. Thousands of secrets. Hidden
behind ancient walls, down tiny alleyways, under lay-
ers of gesture and artifice. Myriad pockets of incredible
beauty that reveal themselves to those willing to see
and discover.
The joy of travelling in Kyoto is the quest, the pleasure of uncovering that perfect Zen garden,
or happening upon a quiet temple at dawn and catching the monks chanting. Of mustering
the courage to slide open the door to an unfamiliar restaurant and being rewarded with the
perfect bowl of noodles.
It’s not hyperbole to claim that Kyoto is the most beautiful city in Asia. Of course, you will not
believe this when you step out of Kyoto Station and see the bustling business district around the
station. You will think you’ve been had. And then you’ll catch your first hint of Kyoto beauty –
maybe the gentle curve of a temple roofline in the distance. And so it begins…
KYOTO LIFE
Everyone wants something different from Kyoto. Residents would love to turn the place into a
modern city with all the conveniences of Tokyo or Osaka. Japanese and foreign tourists would
prefer Kyoto remain a kind of living museum for Japan’s incredibly rich cultural heritage. Just
how the city responds to these seemingly contradictory demands is a central issue of Kyoto
INTRODUCING KYOTO
Temple visitors can sip the sacred and therapeutic spring water at Kiyomizu-dera (p63)
© Lonely Planet Publications
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