Dr Rupakjyoti Borah
Kyoto is a city where time seems to stand still. I have made many trips to Kyoto and have come back feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and always wanting for more.
It was the ancient capital of Japan, till it moved to Edo or what is presently known as Tokyo. Surrounded by hills, Kyoto’s location is simply majestic. Initially, Kyoto was supposed to be on the list of targets for the atomic bombings (where Hiroshima and Nagasaki were targetted), but it was later removed from the list due to the personal intervention of the then-US Secretary of War, Henry L Stimson, who had a fond attachment towards Kyoto from his honeymoon days and official visits.
A city famed for its temples and shrines – it has nearly 1,600 Buddhist temples and around 400 Shinto shrines. Among its topmost attractions are the Kiyomizu-dera (which literally means “pure water temple”), the Kinkaku-ji (the Temple of the Golden Pavilion), Ginkaku-ji, (the Temple of the Silver Pavilion), and Ryõan-ji, which is renowned for its rock garden.
In addition, there are several other famous temples in Kyoto like the Fushimi Inari Shrine or the Fushimi Inari Taisha which is an important Shinto shrine, located in southern Kyoto. It is known for its vermillion “torii gates”. Ancient traditions like tea-ceremonies thrive in Kyoto and many tourists come to this city to sample this. The topography of Kyoto has always reminded me of my hometown, Guwahati, which is also surrounded by hills on all sides.
Kyoto is very important for the Japanese economy too, since it draws in tourists from across the world. There is a distinct laidback culture about Kyoto and this is what is so mesmerising about the city. The city has plenty of shops which rent out yukatas and kimonos (traditional Japanese clothes) to tourists.
The slow pace of Kyoto is in sharp contrast to that of the glitzy and frenetic Tokyo, which allows visitors to sample what traditional Japan may have looked like in the past. At the same time, it is well-connected to Tokyo as well as other cities in Japan by bullet trains, ordinary trains, buses, etc.
Another highlight in Kyoto is the old imperial palace. There are also many rivers which flow through Kyoto at a leisurely pace, giving an old-world charm to Kyoto which is difficult to observe in other Japanese cities.
With the Tokyo Olympics scheduled for the summer of 2021, Kyoto is likely to receive footfalls of millions of tourists. The government, both at the federal and the local level, have been trying their best to spruce up this historical city. Kyoto is also close to Osaka and Kobe – which are also important business cities in Japan. While in Kyoto, it is important to sample the traditional Japanese sweets, available in quaint little shops which line the alleyways of Kyoto. In addition, another highlight of restaurants and eateries in Kyoto is that they serve food as per the season, and hence, one can sample a wide variety of food as per the time of their visit.
Many famous movies have also been shot in Kyoto, including Memoirs of a Geisha which was based on the novel of the same name by Arthur Golden. For those who are interested in modern-day attractions, there is the Kyoto Tower, which is the tallest structure in the city of Kyoto with an observation deck, located 100 metres above the ground and offers a panoramic view of the city.
The pace of life in Kyoto has remained the same over the centuries, and hence, Kyoto gives you the feeling of time-travel. Hence, if you are someone who loves to travel back in time, Kyoto is the place to be.