ACCESS 360° World Heritage: Kyoto

Video highlights from Panasonic Presents: Access 360° World Heritage

Learn some facts about Kyoto!

1. Kyoto was the Japanese Imperial capital for over 1000 years, under the name Heiankyo. In Japan, the capital is where the Emperor lives, and the city lost its status in 1868 when the Emperor Meiji moved to Edo, which was renamed Tokyo, the "Eastern Capital."

2. Kyoto, which boasts 17 World Heritage sites in and around the city, is the birthplace of world-famous cultural traditions such as tea ceremony, flower arrangement, and kabuki. ?

3. Japanese flower arranging, or ikebana, originated in Kyoto where it was the pursuit of monks, who arranged flowers to offer to the Buddha. The practice gradually spread to the aristocracy and other parts of society, as a way of decorating the home.


4. Kyoto is not only the traditional center of Japan. It is also the birthplace and current headquarters of the international gaming giant, Nintendo.?

5. Kyoto, a city that boasts a rich cultural heritage, is twinned with other illustrious historic and cultural capitals of the world, including Paris, Florence, and Xi’an.

??6. Kyoto is famous for its refined cuisine, and boasts more Michelin stars per resident than any other city in the world.


7. Kyoto was chosen as the site for the ancient Japanese capital because of its auspicious geography. Its placement features the shinjin, the four directional guardian gods. To the east is the blue dragon (Kamo River); to the west the white tiger (Sanyo Road); to the south the scarlet bird (Ogura Pond); and to the north the black turtle (Mount Funaoka).

8. The northeast was a sinister direction to the ancient Japanese—called the kimon, or “demon’s gate”, it was held to be the source of harmful influences. In 788, Kyoto was given protection against this supernatural threat by the founding of Enryaku Temple, which was built on Mount Hiei to the city’s northeast.


9. Kyoto’s Nijo Castle, a World Heritage site, constituted a high-security base for the country’s ruling Shogun. Bodyguards were stationed in hidden alcoves, and only women were allowed in the Shogun’s private quarters. As a further defense against invading assassins, a hallway at the castle features “nightingale floors”. When someone walks on them, the floorboards rub against hidden metal hinges to emit a squeaking sound, much like the call of a songbird. ??

10. Geisha, literally “person of the arts,” are trained from the age of 16 to become a master of the arts, ranging from playing music to dancing, as well as flower arranging and tea ceremony.

11. It is the trainee geisha, or maiko, who regularly wear the iconic, snow-white makeup most associated with geisha. Mature geisha wear less makeup, except on special occasions, and usually stop wearing the makeup at about the age of thirty.?

12. Kyoto’s traditional machiya houses are deemed “at risk” by the World Monument Fund. They are disappearing at a rate of roughly 1,000 a year, and if this continues, they will be completely lost in under three decades.


13. Kyoto's traditional machiya houses were all made to the same dimensions. When a family moved house, they typically took all moveable fixtures with them, including the tatami mat flooring and shoji screens. 

??14. Kyoto’s biggest foe is fire, the city having burned down many times during its long history. Public awareness of the threat is such that many keep a bucket of water outside their house. These buckets are more a cautionary symbol for residents to be vigilant, than as an actual measure to combat fires.

15. Kyoto was spared the bombing that many Japanese cities underwent during WWII. In 1945, however, it came under the shadow of a greater threat—the city was added to the list of targets for the atom bomb. It was later removed, however, in recognition of its historical significance, and Nagasaki added in its place.

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