October 29, 2019 4 min read

 

A JOURNEY TO JAPAN'S CULTURAL CAPITAL, KYOTO 

Kyoto, which served as Japan's capital for more than a millenium, is a beloved place for tourists from all around the world, eager to take in the majestic atmosphere and acquire cultural knowledge. It is located on the island of Honshu, and has a population of 1.47 million people. 

 

The city is particularly beautiful during the season of autumn leaves, which is a special time in Japan.  

 

Kyoto is regarded as Japan's cultural capital due to its incredibly rich historical heritage. Traditional Japanese drama originated here as well the geisha (known as “geiko” in Kyoto) who are cultural icons of Japanese entertainment. 

 

Tourists can often see geisha walking around the Gion district,
Kyoto’s center for traditional arts. 

 

 

LIFE GIVES BIRTH TO ART: FAMOUS LANDMARKS DEPICTED IN UKIYO-E PRINTS

Kyoto's rich historical heritage and stunning sights have inspired some of Japan’s greatest artists to create iconic pieces of art.

 

1. Amanohashidate Sandbar

This naturally created sandbar, whose shape resembles a climbing dragon, stretches along the length of Miyazu Bay, northern Kyoto Prefecture, for 3.6 kilometers, and is covered in more than 7000 pine trees. The name can be translated as “Bridge in Heaven”. It has been voted as one of Japan’s top 3 most scenic views.

 

 

The panorama from Amanohashidate View Land (Miyazu)

 

Kawase Hasui, one of the most famous Japanese print designers, known for his incredibly beautiful landscapes, often created sketches based on places he’s travelled to. In 1921 he went on a 6-month trip around the western part of the country, which eventually took him further up north and resulted in 22 print series in total.

"Snow at Amanohashidate" - Hasui, 1921

 

Muneshige Narazaki, an art historian who studied the ukiyo-e genre, wrote this about the print “An unrelenting snow blankets the entire landscape. The illustration of the indigo blue water and the grey clouds is perhaps an effort to create an extremely decorative feel. Amanohashidate has been depicted variously since olden times, but its handling in this work is different again. The printing technique used for the snow is very delicate and skillful. It can be seen as a perfect example of the traditional woodblock printing technique."

 

 2. Kinkaki-ji (“Temple of the Golden Pavillion”)

Kinkaji-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto and one of the most recognizable buildings in all of Japan. Its official name is Rokuon-ji or “Deer Garden Temple”. An extremely popular tourist spot, it is a National Historic Site, National Special Landscape and one of 17 landmarks which comprise the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto. 

 

 

 A view of Kinkaki-ji Temple, Kyoto

 

Utagawa Hiroshige, a master ukiyo-e artist, created several series dedicated to exquisite sights specifically from Kyoto, the two most well-known being "Famous Places in Kyoto" (Kyoto meisho no uchi) and "Scenes of Famous Places along the Tokaido Road" (Tokaido meisho fukei).

 

Kinkaki-ji Temple's magnificent gilded facade shines brightly, complemented by the calm waters of the surrounding pond in Hiroshige's print paying homage to the iconic structure. 

"Temple of the Golden Pavilion" - Hiroshige, 1834

  

The beautiful temple has also been depicted by Hasui in one of his winter landscape prints as well as by Tsukuoka Yoshitoshi, the last great master of the ukiyo-e genre.

"The Golden Pavillion in Snow" - Hasui, 1922

 

"The Golden Pavillion" - Yoshitoshi, 1879

 

 

3. Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera (“Pure Water Temple”) derives its poetic name from the pure waters of the Otowa waterfall where it was built in the year 780. It is a Buddhist temple located in eastern Kyoto and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its most memorable feature is the massive wooden terrace, a favourite spot for visitors to walk around and glance at the gorgeous scenery from atop, especially in springtime when cherry blossoms bloom. It is depicted by Hiroshige as part of his Kyoto-themed series.

 

A view of Kiyomizu Temple

 

"Kiyomizu Temple" - Hiroshige, 1835

 

"Kiyomizu Temple" - Hiroshige, 1863

  

"Spring Snow at Kiyomizu Temple"- Hasui, 1832

 

 

 4. Arashiyama District

Arashiayama is the second most important sightseeing district in Kyoto. Situated on the west outskirts of the city, it is filled with temples and shrines, which makes it a must-see for visitors. The area has been a popular destination for centuries, going as far back as the Heian Period of imperial Japan (794 -1185), when nobles enjoyed the breath-taking landscape.

 

Togetsukyo Bridge in spring

 

Hiroshige portrays the crystal clear waters of the river and the adjacent coastal path adorned with blossoming trees in his beloved art works “Cherry Blossoms in Full Bloom at Arashiyama” and “Kyoto: Arashiyama”. 

"Cherry Blossoms at Arashiyama" - Hiroshige, 1834

  

Kyoto: Arashiyama - Hiroshige, 1863

 

 

5. Shimabara District

Shimabara (“Pleasure Quarter”) was the first licensed entertainment area in Kyoto, which served as red-light district until 1958. In modern day tourists can visit the numerous beautifully decorated gardens, geisha tea houses and the now public museum, Sumiya, formerly a pleasure house with a luxurious salon where the Japanese elite gathered. 

 

Shimabara District and Sumiya, Kyoto

 

The ukiyo-e art work below, depicting a scene set in Shimabara District, was made by Utagawa Yoshihiko, a Japanese printmaker and illustrator. 

 

Famous Places in Kyoto: Shimabara - Yoshihiko, 1863

 

6. Yasaka Shrine

On the east end of Kyoto’s Fourth Avenue, the thriving commercial center, Shijo Street, stands Yasaka Shrine. It is the host shrine of the most famous festival in all of Japan, Gion Matsuri, which takes place every summer in July and has done for a thousand years!

 

The iconic, brightly coloured landmark is also a popular place to celebrate New Year’s Eve. 

Yasaka  (Gion) Shrine at night

 

One of Hiroshige’s most famous and beautiful snowy landscapes pays homage to this fascinating place.

"Gion Shrine in Snow" - Hiroshige, 1834 

 

Explore our brand new collection of Kyoto-themed prints here! Bring a touch of Kyoto and Japan’s timeless beauty to your home!


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