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Kyoto Posted by on Sep 15, 2011 in Culture

Kyoto (京都) is a beautiful city with strong links to traditional Japanese architecture and culture. When people think of Kyoto, the image of Pontochō (先斗町) is probably one of the first images that spark the imagination. Pontochō is a well-known geisha district where traditional Japanese theatre, dance and song are still alive and entertaining the masses. In addition even some of the buildings in Pontochō have been preserved and are still used as tea or geisha houses.

When tourism agencies advertise the city of Kyoto, the most commonly used icon is the five-story pagoda of Tōji (東寺). Tōji is the name of a Buddhist temple that is famous for its 55 meter high pagoda. The pagoda is the tallest in Japan and is only open a few days out of the year for visitors who want go gain an entrance into the pagoda. Tōji is a historic monument that dates as far back to 796 or the Heian Period. However, the pagoda was built much later in the Edo Period.

The Iwatayama Monkey Park (山モンキーパーク) is where visitors can see and feed wild macaque monkeys. To enter the park, visitor must pay an entrance fee. This fee is separate from the purchase of food that can be used to feed the monkeys. There are certain rules that all visitors are required to obey when interacting with the macaque monkeys. One rule is that touching the monkeys is not allowed. Touching them may transfer illnesses from the monkey to the human and vice versa.

The Shugakuin Imperial Villa (修学院離宮) is popular for its beautiful gardens. The gardens of the Shugakuin Imperial Villa are examples of top-notch Japanese gardening and are touted as cultural treasures. To an effort to preserve the beauty of the gardens the number of visitors are carefully controlled. Visitors may only view the gardens by appointment and with the permission of the Imperial Household Agency, which is the agency that administers the gardens.

Nijō Castle (二条城) is a large castle in Kyoto that contains two palaces, other miscellaneous buildings, gardens and ponds. Before Nijō Castle became a tourist attraction, it was a fortification site surrounded by moat. Since Nijō Castle was a defensive site, there is a guard tower and several rooms for the Shogun’s bodyguards. The outer rooms were where low ranking guests were received and the inner chambers were where high ranking guests could enter.

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