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Tuesday, 8th July 2014
In Japan Travel News,

Kyoto acclaimed as best travel destination

Readers of a major US travel magazine have voted Kyoto as the top travel destination in the world, making it the first time a Japanese city has led the annual poll.

Travel and Leisure, which is published monthly and sells around one million copies, releases a list of cities every year that have been selected by readers. The poll supposedly has quite a large influence on tourism.

Kyoto took the top spot, with its culture, scenery and restaurants doing particularly well. The publishers noted that Japanese cuisine and food culture has recently been placed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Traditional Japan

So what makes Kyoto special? For a start, the city enjoyed a status as Japan's capital for more than 1,000 years. It was originally selected as a target for the nuclear bomb during the Second World War, but was saved when its history and culture were taken into consideration. Here, you'll find a city that retains its pride and traditions with a ferocity that is rarely found anywhere else.

The neighbourhood of Gion is a particularly special place if you want to see Kyoto's historical side. This is where the geiko, or geishas, live, in the beautiful houses made of red and black wood. Get into the right bar and you may see groups of businessmen being entertained by them.

Tourist attractions

Kyoto has undoubtedly got some of the best tourists attractions in the country, including numerous temples and dozens of shrines. Kinkaku-ji is particularly well known - this golden pavilion is located across a stunningly picturesque lake and is a major tourist attraction. However, there is little to do here besides strolling around the garden - for a more authentic temple experience, you're better off exploring Sanj?sangen-d?, which features 1,000 standing statues of the Senju Kannon. They're utterly remarkable and it's a very impressive sight. Alternatively, the Inari Shrine at the base of Mount Inari allows for spectacular views across Kyoto and a maze formed of beautiful red toji gates. It takes around two hours to reach the top of this temple, which belongs to the Japanese royal family.


If you can, try and time your visit to Kyoto for Obon, the Festival of the Dead, or the Gion Matsuri. These are considered  two of Japan's greatest cultural events - the first sees the enormous Kanji symbols carved into the surrounding mountains illuminated by hundreds of bonfires. For the second, the geiko take to the streets alongside extravagant floats. Both offer an atmosphere of joy and excitement.

Language barrier

It's worth remembering that Kyoto and neighbouring Osaka have a very different dialect to the rest of Japan - a dialect that was once the standard across the country. While people will understand if you use Tokyo-based phrases, it's worth trying out a few words in the kansai equivalent. For example, instead of saying 'arigatou gozaimasu' for 'thank you', try using 'ohkini'. It will result in a smile from pretty much everyone.

Related news stories:
Koike: Japan's first female PM? (3rd September 2008)
Mayor of Kyoto outlines plans for tourism (22nd September 2014)
Kyoto named world's best city by Travel + Leisure for second consecutive year (8th July 2015)
New drive to save Kyoto's historic narrow homes (8th December 2014)