Kyoto and Nara


The two ancient capitals home to treasures invaluable and traditions unsurpassed have remained unchanged over many centuries. Time-honored temples and traditionally serene streets evoke nothing less than the image of “Japan” you’ve long dreamed of.

Kyoto was Japan’s capital over 1,000 years, and during that time became the repository of much of the best of Japanese art, culture, religion, and thought. Kyoto can be reached in 2 hrs. 40 min by Shinkansen super express from Tokyo and 1 hr. 15 min. from the Kansai International Airport near Osaka.
In the center of Kyoto you find the Kyoto Imperial Palace, renowned as a pinnacle for its simplicity of Japanese architecture. (Note : You must apply for a permit with your passport, 20 min. before the 10 a.m or 2 p.m. tour.) Nearby is the more lavishly appointed Nijo Castle, home of the Tokugawa shogun on his rare visits to the city.

The Gion Corner near Shijo-Kawaramachi is an excellent place to view traditional arts and traditional theater. Rows of tastefully designed old-style restaurants add to the distinctly refined atmosphere. In the Higashiyama area, Sanjusangedo Temple is noted for its 1,0001 gilded wooden statues of Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. Kiyomizu Temple is famous for its wide wooden veranda jutting out over an exquisite valley that extends to a panoramic view of the city. Ginkakuji Temple, or the Silver Pavilion, is renowned both for its exquisite architecture and the beauty of its understated landscape gardens.
The Katsura Imperial Villa, located in western Kyoto, is considered to be one of the finest examples of traditional Japanese architecture and garden landscaping. The Shugakuin Imperial Villa was built in the 17th century by the Tokugawa shogunate as a retreat for Emperor Go-Mizuno. Permission must be obtained from the Imperial Household Agency to visit these sites. Apply for a permit as many days in advance as possible.
The Arashiyama district, only 20 min. by train from central Kyoto, is dotted with many celebrated temples and shops. The area can be easily enjoyed on foot or bicycle, offering a superb walking experience especially on those fine weather days.

Western Kyoto contains musts for the tourist Kinkakuji and Ryoanji Temples. The brilliant Kinkakuji, or Golden Pavilion, is in excellent contrast to Ryoanji famed for its stone garden which is simplicity itself designed with only rocks and white sand.
Nara, 42 km. (28 mi.) south of Kyoto, is an older capital of Japan, and was also a major cradle of Japan’s arts, crafts, literature, and culture not to mention industry.

The major tourist attractions are clustered around attractions are clustered around Nara Sta. Nara Park is popularly known as Deer Park for its resident tame deer.
To the west lies Kofukuji Temple, founded in 710. Many valuable Buddhist statues are exhibited in the National Treasure House, and nearby is a five-storied pagoda which is mirrored in the Sarusawa Pond.

The Nara National Museum contains a collection of Buddhist art with pieces from every period.
But perhaps the ,most famous of Nara’s many ancient attractions is Todaiji Temple, where the Great Buddha of Nara sits. The Daibutsuden, where the great Buddha is housed, is claimed to be the world’s largest wooden structure.

Another attraction is the colorful Kasuga Grand Shrine erected in 768 – one of the most famous Shinto shrines in Japan. The vermilion –lacquered buildings create a beautiful contrast to the surrounding greenery. Some 1.800 stone lanterns stand in the shrines precincts and 1.000 metal lanterns are suspended from the eaves of its corridors.

Horyuji Temple, 45 min. by rail from Nara Sta., is not only superbly beautiful but one of the most important temples in Japan, was founded in 607. Around 40 buildings make up the complex, and are said to be the world’s oldest wooden structures.
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