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Kyoto

Kyoto Imperial Palace

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The beautiful and spectacular Kyoto Imperial Palace lies in a huge park north of downtown Kyoto. It was the residence of the Imperial Family before the capital was relocated to Tokyo in 1868. The palace itself is closed to the public but the park is open all year round and is a very famous and popular spot for family picnics, especially at weekends.

The park features many historical sites including ancient temples and visitors can join an English-language tour to the Imperial Palace which can only be viewed from the outside. The tour operates several times per day with advance booking only.

The entire palace complex is encircled by an earthen wall and covers 27 acres. It has five gates with the southern gate as the main entrance to the grounds. The palace itself was destroyed by fire a few times and the current palace was rebuilt in 1855 using timber and cypress-bark roofing as main materials in keeping with traditional methods. The most important building of the palace is the Shishinden Imperial state chamber which was used for important ceremonies including enthronement ceremonies. The stunning gardens still follow the original design.

The English tour runs during the week only at 10:00 and 14:00 and does not operate on national holidays. To book the tour, contact the Imperial Household Agency at the Kyoto Office. For busy times of year like spring and autumn, you might need to book the tour a couple months in advance while at other times you might just be able to book it on the morning of the visiting day.

  • Opening Hours: 09:00 - 15:30; Closed on Sat, Sun and National Holidays
  • Location: 3 Kyoto Gyoen Kamigyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 211 1215
  • How to get there: Karasuma Subway Line, Imadegawa station
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Kitano Tenman-gū

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This Shinto shrine was built in 947 to conciliate the spirit of Sugawara no Michizane, a famous scholar, poet and official. The temple grounds are very scenic, overflowing with Michizane’s favourite red and white plum blossom trees. Annually on the 25th February, to commemorate his death, the Plum Blossom Festival is held here and geiko and maiko host open-air tea ceremonies.

  • Opening Hours: 09:00-17:00
  • Location: Bakuro-cho Kamigyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 461 0005
  • How to get there: City Bus Stop Kitano-Tenmangu-mae / Train: Keifuku Railway Hakubai-cho Station
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Seimei Shrine

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Over 1000 years old, this temple was commissioned by Emperor Ichijo in memory of Abe no Seimei on the site of house after he died in 1007. It contains a famous well that is believed to have magical water. The symbol of a pentacle is found in many areas of the temple representing the five Chinese elements and at the rear there is a bridge that is whispered to be the gateway to the spiritual world.

  • Opening Hours: 09:00 - 18:00
  • Location: Horikawa-dori Ichijo- agaru, Kamigyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 441 6460
  • How to get there: City Bus to Horikawa-Imadegawa
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Nishijin Textile Center

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If you have always wanted to try on a kimono the Nishijin Textile Centre is the place to go. Dress up in an apprentice geisha, twelve-layered ceremonial kimono and have your photo taken of course! This textile museum has wonderful exhibits of Japanese clothing and cloth, ancient textiles and demonstrations of hand looms by master craftspeople. Free kimono fashion shows are staged at regular times throughout the day.

  • Opening Hours: 09:00 - 17:00
  • Location: Horikawa- Imadegawa Minami-iru, Kamigyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 451 9231
  • How to get there: City Bus Stop Horikawa-Imadegawa
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Kyoto Prefectural Office

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This former main building of the Kyoto Prefectural Office is designated an Important Cultural Property and still looks the way it did when it was built in 1904. The neo-renaissance architecture of the building is matched to the beautiful tree-lined boulevard on which the office sits. During the spring and autumn the building is open to the public.

  • Opening Hours: Spring and Autumn
  • Location: Yabunouchi-cho, Kamigyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 451 8111
  • How to get there: Karasuma Subway Line, Marutamachi Station
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WAK JAPAN

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WAK JAPAN is an excellent centre of traditional Japanese arts where visitors can partake in study courses or observe masterful demonstrations by some of Kyoto’s most expert craftspeople. WAK JAPAN founder Michi Ogawa aims to promote grass-root level international culture exchange as well as offering Japan’s highly skilled housewives an arena to demonstrate their talents. Tea ceremony, flower arrangement, calligraphy, origami, taiko drum beating, Japanese cooking, Japanese dance, Kimono wearing, sake tasting are among the traditional arts that are included. Bookings in advance are recommended for inclusion in daily classes.

  • Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00
  • Location: 506-412 Iseya-cho, Kawaramachi Marutamachi sagaru, Kamigyo-ku
  • Tel: +81 (0)75 212 9993
  • How to get there: Karasuma Subway line, Marutamachi Station
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