Southeast Asia and Japan / Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms
Southeast Asia and Japan / Bamboo Forest, Kyoto
Bamboo Forest, Kyoto
Southeast Asia and Japan / Heian Shrine, Kyoto
Heian Shrine, Kyoto
Southeast Asia and Japan / The Golden Pavilion, Kyoto
The Golden Pavilion, Kyoto
Southeast Asia and Japan / Street Scene, Kyoto
Street Scene, Kyoto

Nara and Kyoto

Modeled on the capital of Tang China, Chang’an (Xi’an today), Nara was established as the first capital of Japan in 710 AD. The city became famous for its architecture and Buddhist art. Although the structures remaining in Nara today were built in later centuries, many were constructed on sites dating to earlier years.

Main highlights include Todaiji Temple, the largest wooden structure on earth, and the Great Buddha Hall. The temple also features Shosoin, the Imperial Repository, and Kaidan-in Hall, which holds statues of the four Deva Kings. While enjoying peaceful Nara Park you can see deer grazing on grass. One of the most beautiful spots is Sarusawa Pond, with its reflection of the Goju-no-to Pagoda offering a great opportunity to capture a memory of your trip.

Kyoto became the capital of Japan in the 8th century. It flourished as the center for Japanese politics, economy and culture for some 1,100 years, until the capital functions were transferred to Tokyo in the mid-19th century. There remain many temples and shrines in Kyoto that were built during this long period. Seventeen historic sites including, Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Nijo Castle, are inscribed as World Cultural Heritage Sites.

You may meet some 'maiko,' young dancing entertainers, who walk in long hanging-sleeved kimono in the Gion district, see the townscape characterized with popular 19th century style latticework, and visit the Nishijin where they weave traditional 'Nishijin-ori' textiles with vividly colored threads. The festivals in Kyoto are famous worldwide. The three major festivals of Kyoto are the Aoi-matsuri Festival in early summer, the Gion-matsuri Festival in mid-summer and the Jidai-matsuri Festival in fall. There is also the Gozan-no-Okuribi, more commonly known as Daimonji-yaki, held on the night of Urabon (August 16th). During this festival numerous torches are ignited on the five mountains surrounding Kyoto.

Antipodes recommends

Hyatt Regency Kyoto
Tawaraya Ryokan