Last week, we have visited for the first time Kyoto, Japan’s old capital. Since we were working at university, we did not have time for a lot of sightseeing, but it was enough for a first flavor. And enough to know that we have to go back.
Kyoto is very different in character from Tokyo. Where Tokyo impresses by its sheer sprawling size, Kyoto is much more manageable. Located in and surrounded by hills, one can easily oversee all of it from one of these hills. The wooded hills lend it a special attraction which Tokyo, located in the plane, misses completely. Looking at the lush vegetation of the surrounding woods, one also feels much closer to nature, of which not a trace can be found in Tokyo (and also a long way out of Tokyo).
The city itself gives a much more upscale impression than Tokyo and breathes a calm elegance. Many people call Kyoto the most beautiful city in Japan, and this matches with my experience so far. Kyoto also encourages the picturesque traditional Japanese lifestyle. People dressed in Kimono get things for free or for cheaper.
Apart from all this, Kyoto is packed with UNESCO World Heritage temples and the most beautiful Japanese gardens. Of these, we have only seen a small fraction, but we were very impressed. Most temples are located in the hills, and their fantastic gardens seem to continue seamlessly into the surrounding thickets of the woods. The beauty and calm of these places are out of reach for anything that can be found close to Tokyo.
Spending a few days there thaught us one thing: Kyoto is a place one can go back to any number of times. We’ll do our best to go often.