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Kyoto is without doubt the main attraction to visitors to the Kansai Region. Surrounded on three sides by mountains, the city was founded in 794 AD to replace Nara as the country’s capital as part of a spiritual cleansing. Kyoto retains its position as Japan’s foremost historical centre and is the cradle of what is seen as the nation’s cultural identity -the Japanese refer to it as Nihon no Furusato - ’The Heart of Japan’.

Today it is a city awash with culture and religious architecture. The 2,000 shrines and temples, many gardens and numerous palaces are a magnet for the 30 million-plus visitors that come each year.

Kyoto is a sightseer’s paradise. It is virtually a living museum of Japan’s great artistic heritage. To explore it on foot, at least within each of its districts, will be an immensly intriguing and rewarding experience. Furthermore, sightseeing is actually facilitated by the original basic grid pattern in which the city was first laid out. But whichever way you choose to view the treasures of Kyoto, (such as Tofoku-ji Temple - above) you will never see enough - and never be disappointed.

Kyoto was Japan’s capital between 794 and 1868 and much exists today to remind the visitor of the city’s imperial past. The city’s rich and colourful history, with a very unique blend of tradition, culture, and industry makes it a popular tourist destination not only for foreign visitors, but for Japanese sightseers as well. During the springtime cherry-blossom and the autumn maple-leaf viewing seasons, the city and its rural outskirts provide an irresistible attraction for lovers of nature .

Kyoto was laid out in a grid pattern with the Imperial Palace located at its centre. The city was modeled on Chang-an (modern-day Xian), the capital of the Tang Dynasty of China. The surrounding areas are named according to their positions relative to the Imperial Palace: Rakuchu for central Kyoto, Kitayama for northern Kyoto, Higashiyama for eastern Kyoto, and Nishiyama for western Kyoto.

The Kamo River  (pictured left at Gion and top of page) which flows from north-south through the middle of the city serves as a useful reference point. The areas alongside the river bank have been developed into parks, walking trails, and playing fields. Thus, the riverside is a favourite spot of both citizens and visitors to relax within the city.


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