Stunning nature, history and Japanese culture passed down over 1,200 years
Photo © Kyoto Media Support Center
Why visit Kyoto
Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, is located in a basin surrounded by mountains on three sides. Through its long history of more than 1,200 years, Kyoto has blended diverse cultures and has been the spiritual home of Japanese people.
In central Kyoto, streets and alleys run east-west and north-south, forming a grid pattern set out in ancient times. It is known as a home to more than 2,000 shrines and temples, featuring 14 UNESCO world Heritage Sites including Nijo-jo castle.
Kyoto is also rich in nature. Mountains and forests account for roughly three-quarters of the municipal area, which extends longitudinally. The remaining quarter of the land area comprises the urban district, centered on the lmperial Palace.
Due to a climate specific to the basin, Kyoto undergoes drastic temperature changes between day and night, and between the hottest and coldest season of the year. This is why Kyoto is renowned for the beauty of its distinct seasons.
Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan, is located in a basin surrounded by mountains on three sides. Through its long history spanning more than 1,200 years, Kyoto has blended diverse cultures and has been the spiritual home of Japanese people.
Culture & Local Life
Kyoto is an ancient capital with a history going back more than a thousand years. It also features great scenic beauty. Ever since the Heian Period (from 794 to 1185), people in Kyoto have enjoyed experiencing the changing seasons and the city’s distinct customs, culture, cuisine and annual events.
Festivals are one of the most important annual events in Kyoto. There are various traditional festivals held at different locations, ranging from small ones held in each local community such as “jizobon” (a local festival for children), to large ones involving many people from the entire city, such as the Gion festival. These local festivals, going beyond the framework of religious events, play an important role in bringing communities together and strengthening ties among residents.
Photo © Kyoto Media Support Center
A green trip to Kyoto is very convenient. Kyoto is easily accessible from Tokyo and other tourist destinations in Japan. By Shinkansen, it takes only a few hours to get to Kyoto!
The City of Kyoto has a well-developed public transportation system, with a municipal subway and buses, as well as railways and buses run by private companies. The city bus can take you everywhere you want to go. It is also the main form of transport used by locals.
There are many ways to move around the city. To make travel smooth and comfortable, use different types of transportation and take a bus where there is no train. Tourists using public transport can buy reasonably priced passes and IC cards.
Nature & Wildlife
Getting out of the city center, you will discover why Kyoto is a green holiday destination. It is a city that has developed with nature. The city’s world heritage sites, art, food, culture and much more are all inspired by nature. Try running, cycling, trekking, trail running – or whatever suits you – to enjoy what Kyoto can offer.
Kyoto is the perfect place to experience the different Japanese seasons, all in one location. You can enjoy the beautiful scenery of each season, such as cherry blossoms in spring, autumn leaves in fall and snow covered scenery in winter. You will discover different charms in each of the four seasons.
Photo © Kyoto Media Support Center
In December 1997, Kyoto hosted the Third Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate (COP3), at which the Kyoto Protocol was adopted. The Kyoto Protocol set the greenhouse gas emission reduction rates to be achieved by advanced countries.
Through cooperation with citizens, businesses, civic organizations and tourists, Kyoto City leads the world in implementing advanced approaches to global warming prevention. As the city where the Kyoto Protocol was born, it always respects the history and tradition of Japan, which has evolved in harmony with nature.
Health & Safety
Kyoto City Tourism Association (DMO KYOTO), in collaboration with 23 industry organizations involved in Kyoto tourism, has developed the guidelines to take preventive measures against COVID-19 in order to ensure everyone’s safety and health.
The guidelines provide six policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The businesses that have made the commitment to the guidelines and implemented measures have stickers to show they are clean and safe, so that visitors to Kyoto can be reassured.
Good Practice Story
Kyoto had been concerned with congestion in the spring and the fall, the busiest tourist seasons. To address this imbalance between seasons, we have been developing tourist attractions in the off-season (summer and winter) and improving the environment to attract international travellers.
As a result, the number of tourists in the busy seasons has decreased and the number of tourists in the off-season increased, reducing the gap between the busy and quiet seasons.
Travel tips from our editors
Kyoto has many world-famous tourist areas such as Higashiyama, Gion and Arashiyama. However, there are also many other attractive sites around the city, such as Fushimi, Ohara, Takao, Yamashina, Saikyo and Keihoku, not yet known as tourist sites. In the area around the city, you can enjoy “Hidden Gems of Kyoto”. In addition to undiscovered attractions, you can find new information and local events that do not feature in the guidebooks.
Kyo-ryori (Kyoto cuisine)
Kyoto cuisine’s colourful appearance provides a feast for the eyes. It is an art created by superb cooking ingredients and techniques. Kyoto cuisine mainly uses Kyo-yasai (Kyoto vegetables), which have been traditionally cultivated in the city, together with other selected foodstuffs in season. These ingredients are prepared and cooked to maximize their natural flavors.
Hike around Kyoto
We have established hiking routes (the trail around Kyoto) where you can walk in the mountains while experiencing nature, history and culture. It consists of two courses. One is an 83.3 km trail from Fushimi-Momoyama in the southeast of Kyoto through Hieizan, Ohara and Kurama, to Takao, Arashiyama and Kokedera, and the other is a 48.7 km trail around the north of Kyoto, which is blessed with rich forests, clear streams and rural scenery.
Sightsee also at night
If you want to experience “everyday Kyoto”, visit in the morning. Sample the fresh morning air, the stone-paved streets lit up by the morning sun and the quiet gardens. Seeing Kyoto from a different angle, you will discover new charms. In early morning, it is easier to get around and popular tourist spots are less crowded.
If you want to immerse yourself in the tranquil atmosphere of the ancient capital, we recommend you visit at night. You can see the streets under the moonlight and the mysterious cherry blossoms and autumn leaves. The charm of Kyoto emerges when you are surrounded by the night breeze and the darkness.
Kyoto is a perfect location for cycling because most of main tourist sites are located within a 10km square area in the center of the city. The central part of Kyoto is almost flat. Although there are some hills, you can ride a bicycle without much difficulty.
Kyoto is surrounded by mountains to the north, east and west and the roads run in a grid pattern. If you remember that the east side is for Gion and the west side is for Arashiyama, it is easy to know which direction you are going in. Even if you get lost, if you get to the main street you can find your location by the signposts and modify your route.
Kyoto was selected in the both the 2020 and 2021 Top 100 Destination Sustainability Stories.
The city of Kyoto has been selected as one of the Top 100 Green Destinations in 2020 and 2021. This is for Kyoto's emphasis on "the harmony between citizens' life and tourism" and its efforts to improve citizens' life, while increasing tourist satisfaction by linking tourism to promoting the local economy and regional development.
What does it mean?
- They have shown at least 60% compliance with the Green Destinations Core Criteria. Check out their scorecard to see their performance on each criterion.
- They have submitted a story that was selected to the list for its innovative, effective and / or transferable good management practice.
Kyoto City Good Practice Story
Kyoto City submitted Good Practice Story’s. It was about Implementing measures and rules for a safer tourism during the pandemic. Read the full story here.