Kyoto (Japanese: 京都市; Kyōto-shi) is a city in Japan that has a population of 1.5 million and time zone of UTC + 9 hours. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major city of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area. An obsolete spelling for the city's name is Kioto; it was formerly known to the West as Meaco (Japanese: 都; miyako "capital"). Most English speakers pronounce Kyoto in three groups of sounds (key-oh-toe), however the Japanese pronunciation has a different three, kyo, oh and to.
Though archaeological evidence places the first human settlement on the islands of Japan to approximately 10,000 BC, the Kyoto area was not settled until the 7th century by the Hata clan from Korea. During the 8th century, when the powerful Buddhist clergy became meddlesome in the affairs of the Imperial government, the Emperor chose to relocate the capital to a region far from the Buddhist influence.
The Pagoda of Toji
Temple - a symbol of the city, and the tallest pagoda
The new city, Heiankyō ("Heian capital") became the seat of Japan's imperial court in 794. Later, the city was renamed to Kyoto ("capital city"). Kyoto remained Japan's capital until the transfer of the government to Edo in 1868 at the time of the Imperial Restoration. (Some believe that it is still the legal capital: see Capital of Japan debate.) After Edo was renamed to Tokyo (meaning "Eastern Capital"), Kyoto was known for a short time as Saikyo (西京 Saikyō, meaning "Western Capital").
Although there was some consideration by the United States of targeting Kyoto with the atomic bomb at the end of World War II, in the end it was decided to remove the city from the list of targets. (See Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki)
Kyoto is the only large Japanese city that still has an abundance of prewar buildings, such as machiya (traditional townhouses). However, modernization is continually breaking down the traditional Kyoto in favor of newer architecture, such as the controversial Kyoto Station complex.
The city was designated on September 1, 1956 by government ordinance. In 1997, Kyoto was the site of the Kyoto conference that resulted in the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions.
Kyoto is located on the middle-western portion of the island of Honshu. Due to the surrounding mountains on all sides, Kyoto is famous for its stifling summer nights with no air movement.
The city is laid out in a grid pattern in accordance with traditional Chinese geomancy. Today, the main business district is located in the south and center of town, with the less populated northern area retaining a far greener feel.
Kyoto has 11 wards (ku):
As of 2003, the city has an estimated population of 1,466,163 and the density of 2,402.68 persons per km². The total area is 610.22 km².
Kyoto is renowned for its abundance of delicious ethnic foods and cuisine. Unlike the volcanic Kanto region, the rich soil of Kyoto allows for the cultivation of a variety of vegetables, and the various bodies of water provide ample fishing.
Kyoto is considered the cultural center of Japan. During World War II when firebombing was conducted throughout the country, Kyoto and its 1600 Buddhist temples, 400 Shinto shrines, palaces, gardens and architecture were spared, leaving it one of the best preserved cities in Japan. The Kyoto area has some of the most famous temples and shrines in Japan, including:
Other notable sites in and around Kyoto include Arashiyama and its picturesque lake, the Gion area, formerly a geisha quarter, the Philosopher's Walk, and the canals which line some of the older streets.
The "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto" are listed by the UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. These include the Kamo Shrines (Kami and Shimo), Kyo-O-Gokokuji (Toji), Kiyomizu-dera, Daigoji, Ninnaji, Saihoji (the Moss Temple), Tenryuji, Rokuonji (Kinkaku-ji), Jishoji (Ginkaku-ji), Ryoan-ji, Honganji, Kozan-ji and the Nijo Castle. Other sites outside the city are also on the list.
Kyoto natives also speak a Japanese dialect called Kyoto-ben, a variation on the Kansai dialect spoken throughout western Japan.One typicall example is the word "ookini," meaning "thank you."
Tourism forms a large base of Kyoto's economy. The city's cultural heritages are constantly visited by school groups from across Japan, and many foreign tourists also stop in Kyoto.
The city's industry is mainly comprised of small plants, most of which are run by artisans who produce traditional Japanese crafts. Kyoto's kimono weavers are particularly renowned, and the city remains the premier center of kimono manufacturing. Such businesses, vibrant in past centuries, have declined in recent years as sales of traditional goods stagnate.
Kyoto's only sizable heavy industry is electronics: the city is home to the headquarters of Nintendo and Nintendo of Japan, as well as the headquarters of OMRON Corporation, Kyocera (Kyoto Ceramic) Corporation, and Murata Manufacturing. The apparel giant Wacoal Corporation also operates in Kyoto. However, the growth of high-tech industry has not outpaced the decline in traditional industry, and as a result, Kyoto's total output has declined relative to other cities in Japan.
Colleges and universities
Kyoto is known as one of the academic centers of the country, and is home to thirty-seven institutions of higher education. The three largest and best-known local universities are Doshisha University, Kyoto University, and Ritsumeikan University. Among them, Kyoto University is considered to be one of the top universities in Japan, with several Nobel laureates such as Yukawa Hideki.
Kyoto also has a unique higher education network called the Consortium of Universities in Kyoto, which consists of three national, five public (prefectural and municipal), and 41 private universities, as well as the city and four other organizations. The consortium does not offer a degree; hence is not a federal body like University of London, but offers the courses as part of a degree at participating universities.
Kansai International Airport is 72 minutes from Kyoto by train (the Haruka Express). Many foreign visitors to Kyoto arrive by Shinkansen from Tokyo, which takes just over two hours. There are also regular JR, Keihan Railway , Hankyu Railway, and Kintetsu services to other cities in the Kansai region.
The subway and bus systems (see Kyoto Municipal Transportation Bureau) are fairly extensive. Most tourist points in the city, however, are fairly easy to reach on foot.
Buses within the city cost 220 Yen per ride. The most cost effective way to travel in Kyoto by bus is to purchase a 500 Yen one day pass which allows unlimited rides.
Kawaramachi district during Gion Festival
In football (soccer), Kyoto is represented by Kyoto Purple Sanga in the J. League's Division 2 or J2 . With the popularity of the nearby Hanshin Tigers, Kyoto has never had a team in NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball), though the Tigers play several neutral-site games at the Nishi Kyogoku stadium every year.
Additionally, Kyoto's high school baseball teams are strong, with Heian and Toba in particular making strong showings recently at the annual tournament held in Koshien Stadium, Nishinomiya, near Osaka.
Kyoto has sister city arrangements with:
Last updated: 08-16-2005 01:33:58