Life in Kyoto

This section introduces basic information about Kyoto and customs and practices that have been handed down over the past 1200 years.

Basic Information on Kyoto

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Kyoto Prefecture is long from north to south. It looks like a dinosaur with its limbs folded. The area of Kyoto Prefecture is 4,612 km², and the area of Kyoto city is 827.9 km². Both Kyoto Prefecture and Kyoto City tend to have a higher population in the south than in the north.

The weather in the Kyoto city area is characterized by an "inland basin climate" with large differences in temperature due to the topographical features of being surrounded by mountains on all three sides. Due to the basin topography, the wind is weak throughout the year. Kyoto's summer heat is described as "oily weather", and winter's cold is expressed as "cold bottom". This is also thought to be due to the weak wind and immobile air.

There are 38 universities and junior colleges in Kyoto City (2017), and the number of students is equivalent to about 10% of the population, the highest ratio in any major city nationwide. In addition, 70% of the students are from other prefectures, so they interact and stimulate each other.

Bicycles are the most convenient and economical way to transport, besides steep slopes are rare in the center of Kyoto. Even if it looks flat, the altitude is gradually increasing toward the north, Kitayama-dori and Toji's Five-storied Pagoda are about the same height. J-STAY also offers free bicycle rental.

There are 17 traditional crafts designated by the country. Dyeing and weaving (Nishijin weaving, kyoka squeezing, kyo yuzen, kyo komon, kyo kumihimo, kyo embroidery, kyo kuromon with dye), crafts (Kyoto stone crafts, Kyoto tableware, Kyoto doll).

Kyoto Prefecture has 378 shrines and 2446 temples. By the way, comparing with the whole nation in terms of population ratio, Shimane Prefecture has the highest number of shrines, and Shiga Prefecture has the highest number of temples.

Manners & Customs in Kyoto

In 951, a serious epidemic swept through Kyoto. In an effort to relieve the suffering, Buddhist priest Kuya distributed tea to those in need. It has been said that to share in these virtues, Emperor Murakami ushered in the New Year with a special cup of tea. Since then, it has become a Japanese tradition to drink Obukucha (literally, Good Fortune Tea) during the New Year's season.

It's famous that Gion Festival is a festival of Yasaka Shrine, but why is it named "Gion"? This is because Yasaka Shrine was called "Gion-sha" by 1868. Gion-sha stands for Gion Syousha (Jetavana Monastery in India) where Buddha is said to have lived and taught during the rainy season for the last twenty-five years of his life.

The emblem of Yasaka Shrine is similar to the cross section of a sliced cucumber. That's why, in July, when the Gion Festival is held, people involved in the Gion Festival and their ladies do not eat cucumber. On the other hand, stalls you can see at the Gion Festival sell pickled cucumbers ^^;

Many people may think of food when they hear "Chimaki," but Chimaki sold during the Gion Festival is not a food but a bamboo leaf amulet made of bamboo leaves. In Kyoto, many people buy this and decorate it at the entrance for one year. There is nothing inside.

You may see the small stone statue called Jizo in Kyoto. Jizo said to be a guardian for kids, Jizo-bon festival is usually held by each district on the 3rd weekend of every August, for kids who are living in its district. It's a paradise for children because a lot of toy and sweet is given away. They can play all day, and may realize they are loved and guarded.

The alleys in Kyoto are tidy, but the width is so narrow that it is difficult to drive by car, and frequent accidents occur, such as a car rubbing a wall. For this reason, the self-defense method of protecting the house by placing a stone in the corner of the house seems to have spread. It is not seen near boulevards or tourist spots, but may still be found in one-direction residential areas in the center.

As the weather gets warmer, more and more people are sitting on the banks of the Kamogawa River. It is well-known that couples are sitting side by side, but for some reason there is a phenomenon in which the spacing between couples and groups standing on the riverbank naturally becomes equal. Please watch carefully when you go to Kamogawa.

Honne is your real feelings and Tatemae is the façade or the face we show in public. It is well-known that Kyoto people often use these two aspects. For example, if you are invited by someone, you have to refuse to visit at least twice. If you are still invited, he/she really wants you to come home, so let's get on.

Where is the nearest beach from Kyoto? The northern side of Kyoto borders the Sea of Japan, but people living in the southern part of Kyoto often go outside the prefecture. In particular, Omi-maiko in Shiga has a beautiful water quality and beach. Many people visit there in summer.

It's hard to see what is under your nose. To avoid congestion, locals do not go visit tourist attractions. Often tourists are more familiar with sightseeing spots in Kyoto. Many people have said that they have never been to Kinkakuji (Golden Temple) or Kiyomizudera since they were taken as children.