Destinations

Two thousand temples tell Kyoto's history

The former capital of Japan is sprinkled with history, having survived almost unscathed to World War II.

And it is in the outcome of this history that events around the world intend to leave their footprint.

In Kyoto there is a magical mountain that rises through thousands of red porticoes, the ideal setting for thousands of photo opportunities. The scale and grandeur of this place, the Fushimi Inari temple, is a good indicator of the city's relevance in the history of Japan, having been its capital for about a thousand years until it was replaced by Tokyo in the nineteenth century. Nowadays it is the seventh largest city in the country of the rising sun.

But this "demotion" did not diminish Kyoto's appeal. There are more than two thousand temples to visit, a well-preserved medieval castle, restaurants to suit all tastes, zen gardens, wide avenues and old quarters, with wooden houses, two or three stories high. In one of these neighbourhoods, Gion, from 6pm you travel in time, geishas go out into the streets and enter the tea houses where they have appointments, to entertain dinners, parties and events. In a hurry, they try to avoid curious bystanders who chase them through the streets.

The city became the most important in Japan in the eighth century and went through several historical periods, with power struggles and devastating fires, but also for monumental building heights that are still evident today in the city, with countless Buddhist and Shintoists temples and shrines. Kyoto's fame is such that it was spared by the allied bombings of the Second World War, which helped it maintain many historic structures and streets.

Located in the Kansai region of central Japan, Kyoto is a "must see" on any trip to the country and is a good reason to experience the "shinkansen", the futuristic bullet train that travels across the territory and brings the visitors to the modern architecture of "Kyoto Station", which Lonely Planet has chosen as one of the attractions not to miss.

The city is served by Osaka airport, one hour by bus away. And it is a good base to visit several famous sites in the country of the rising sun: the impressing Himeji castle, the city of Nara, the first capital of Japan with its deer loose on the streets and impressive monuments, or even Mount Koya, a place inhabited by Buddhist monks, with a graveyard that is a world curiosity, Okunoin, site of Kobo Daishi mausoleum, where he founded Shingon Buddhism.

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Environment and good food

In addition to geishas and temples, Kyoto has its name forever associated with environment protection. It was here that, in 1997, the famous current protocol for reducing the greenhouse effect on planet Earth was signed. A large-scale event that clearly shows what this region has to offer.

With 17 World Heritage sites , Kyoto is an unforgettable place to hold an event or congress. The city is well equipped, has many modern and traditional accommodation, such as the famous ryokan, traditional inns, where your whole stay follows typically Japanese rituals. Kyoto has more than 18 thousand hotel rooms and exceeds 14 thousand in these ryokan.

Anywhere in Japan, gastronomy is an experience that can not be missed. The city has restaurants for every budget, from the most exquisite, with astronomical prices, to cheap "sushi trains", where some pieces of this typical food cost just over 100 yen (less than one euro) each. And, for those who like ramen, there is no shortage of establishments to taste this Asian delicacy. A stroll through the Pontocho area, a narrow street that is part of the geisha district, shows well the diversity and quality of Japanese restaurants. After all, the country has several restaurants with three Michelin stars, including in Kyoto.

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A dinner at Edo Castle

The Edo period was one of the greatest in Japan history. It was about 300 years of a feudal government domination, which pacified the country, but also increased isolation. It was with the help of an American expedition in the nineteenth century that the samurai country opened to the world once more, resulting in the end of xogums and opening the way to strengthening the Emperor's power. One of the most valuable relics of this period is the well-preserved Nijo Castle in Kyoto, with its zen gardens and room walls painted with tigers and leopards.

In the 21st century, the castle, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has gained a new life. With the capacity to receive 400 people in both indoor and outdoor events, this is an unforgettable venue for any meeting. In total, Kyoto has 29 venues in historical or world heritage sites.

Another unexpected site that anyone who wants to hold an event in Kyoto can not fail to consider is the Daigoji temple, one of the most emblematic images of the city and whose gardens change colour according to the time of year.

Temples, historical sites and other venues available for events in Kyoto can be found at https://meetkyoto.jp/en/.

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Landscaped Conference Centre

The Kyoto International Conference Center has 50 years of history and is an obvious choice for larger congresses, up to 7,000 participants. Among this venue's attractions are the garden receptions, in the good Japanese way. Myakomesse can host large-scale exhibitions near the city centre and Gion. And Kyoto Trade Fair Centre (Kyoto Pulse Plaza) is used to hosting all kinds of conventions and meetings. The city also has large-scale hotels accustomed to receiving events, museums, parks and other infrastructure.

For those organising an event in Kyoto, Japanese culture is a pole of attraction no one is indifferent to. Theatre, dance, music are among the arts the city offers with refinement and elegance. Kabuki, for example, is a dramatic show in which only male actors participate and it is still represented on seventeenth century stages.

For wealthier pockets, a defining experience would be visiting a tea house, for dinner or a show with geishas. Dinner for two with one of these professionals (or a Maiko, geisha apprentice) can cost more than 50 thousand yen (about 400 euros), not to mention the cost of the dinner itself, in any exclusive place in the city. Having money to spend is not even a guarantee to access these shows, in which geishas show a little of Japan's tradition, serving tea, playing music, dancing and performing other arts. It is always necessary to have an invitation from someone who already attends the tea house where the geisha works.

Throughout the year, however, it is possible to see them, at more affordable prices, at various events and festivals taking place in Kyoto. In April, geishas are the stars at the Myiako Odori dance festival. In May, they perform at the Kamogawa Odori festival and in Gion there is a cultural centre in which Maiko dance Kyomai, a type of traditional dance. In any case, no visit to Kyoto is completed without a glimpse of a geisha, most likely at the end of the day. These Japanese women, trained since young girls in a quasi-military regime, have other challenges ahead in the 21st century: hordes of tourists chasing them through the streets to take a picture. Although the interest is understandable, some respect and distance are advised.

Tags: Kyoto, Destinations, Japan

23-11-2017