To really discover the beauty and grace of Japan you need to visit the ancient imperial capital Kyoto. Originally Heian-kyo, capital of peace and tranquility, Kyoto was modeled after the Tang Chinese city of Chang-an in a simple checkerboard design. Kyoto is bordered on three sides by mountain ranges and bisected by the gentle flow of the Kamo River, cobble-stone streets and centuries-old buildings in the eastern quarters complete the historic scenery.
Culturally, Kyoto remains the richest part of the country and the local people cherish their sophisticated cuisine, sensitivity to the seasons and ancient traditions. In the famous Gion district it is not uncommon to see real geisha heading off to their tea house engagements in the early evenings and many local people still dress in traditional kimono fashion.
The city is home to two extensive imperial complexes, more than 1650 Buddhist temples and over 400 Shinto shrines. Many of these historic buildings have been rebuilt up to a dozen times as the city fell victim to earthquakes, fires and civil wars. Nowadays quite a few are protected as UNESCO World Heritage sites. In addition to important architectural and religious sites, Kyoto is famous for its stunning Japanese gardens many with beautiful restaurants that serve traditional Kyo-ryori, the cuisine of the tea ceremony.