Explore Kyoto, Japan: A Virtual and Accessible Tour
This week we are heading to Japan to explore one of its cultural capitals: Kyoto. Kyoto is full of a variety of tourist destinations, with classical temples, bamboo forests, markets, and more. Its beauty and fascinating sites are renowned across the world. Join us on a virtual, accessible tour of this great city!
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Visit the Attractions and Sites
As stated above, Kyoto is famous for its ancient temples and shrines. One is the Fushimi Inari Taisha, which was founded in 711, making it one of the oldest shrines in Kyoto. With its iconic vermilion Torii gates and its spiritual legends, the Fushimi Inari Taisha is an attraction worth visiting. A blog by JRPass that explores the shrine can be accessed here.
Another famed religious site is Kinkaku-ji, or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion. A breathtaking temple adorned with gold, Kinkaku-ji dates back to the 14th century A.D. and is currently considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more information about this beautiful tourist attraction, watch the video linked here, which includes captions. You can also read a blog on the subject linked here. Both sources give a comprehensive overview of what makes Kinkaku-ji so special.
Yet another popular temple is the Kiyomizu-dera Temple, which sits by the Otowa Waterfall that filters through the temple complex. Breathtaking views and rich cultural artifacts make up the nature of the temple. A video linked here provides a tour of the main parts of Kiyomizu-dera Temple, and includes captions. For more information about the history of the temple and its components, read this blog by Nerd Nomads here.
Nijō castle is another treasure of Kyoto, hosting architecture with incredibly intricate detail and ornament. The castle was completed in 1603 at the beginning of the Edo period, and served as the residence of the Shogun whenever he visited Kyoto. To experience a walking tour of Nijō castle, watch the video linked here, which has automated captions. A blog by Nerd Nomads that goes into detail about important sites to see at the castle can be found here.
Finally, Nishiki market provides the perfect opportunity to experience the street cuisine of Kyoto. Originally a fish market, the space expanded to feature a variety of food stuffs and souvenirs for the benefit of both tourists and locals. To experience a walk along the market, watch the video linked here, which has captions. For a general overview of the shops and market as a whole, read this blog by Sakura House, which can be accessed here.
Tune in to Shows and Movies About Kyoto and Japan
There are many shows and movies set in Kyoto and Japan overall. Accessible films and TV shows on Kyoto specifically were difficult to find, so we turned our attention more broadly to Japan.
“A Journey in Japan” by Karl Watson is a docuseries on YouTube that follows the experience of two friends as they journey through Japan. They visit various sites, stay at hostels, and try the delicious foods that Japan has to offer. To watch the series, click the link here. The series comes with automated captions.
For a thrilling action show set in feudal Japan, turn to “Age of Samurai: Battle for Japan.” Several powerful warlords bring the country to war as they attempt to become the absolute ruler of all. It is important to note that the series is more dramatized retellings of moments in history rather than an accurate depiction of events. The series is available on Netflix and can be accessed here, and has subtitles.
“Midnight Diner” is a charming show that centers around a shinya shokudo, or a tiny restaurant that is open from 12 am to 7 am. Each episode of the show tells a different story about people making profound connections with each other in the diner. To watch the show, you can click the link here, and it comes with English subtitles.
A popular, incredibly well-made movie is “A Silent Voice”, which is an animated drama about a former bully trying to make amends with a girl that they used to torment in school. “A Silent Voice” can be found on Netflix and is linked here, and includes English audio and subtitles.
Another drama is “The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum” which was released in 1939. The film follows the path of an actor trying to follow in the footsteps of his father, who is a famous kabuki actor. He faces many trials and tribulations, but finds support from his wet nurse and her willingness to tell the truth. The movie can be found on YouTube via the link here, and includes English subtitles.
An exciting documentary, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” follows famed 85-year-old Japanese sushi chef Jiro Ono and his award-winning 10-seat restaurant in a Tokyo subway station. Jiro Ono’s work ethic and devotion to the culinary artistry behind sushi making is remarkable to watch. “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” is available to watch for free on Youtube through the link here, and it comes with closed captions.
“The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness” is another exciting documentary, centering around Toshio Suzuki, Isao Takahata, and Hayao Miyazaki, leaders of Studio Ghibli. Over the span of two years, the film follows the process of Studio Ghibli as it prepares to release two films. The film is available on HBO Max with a subscription. It comes with English subtitles and can be accessed here.
Get Lost in Books About Kyoto
Kyoto and Japan have inspired many authors, both as subject matters and as places for their characters to experience the world in.
In “Cutting Back: My Apprenticeship in the Gardens of Kyoto”, author Leslie Buck made the decision to fly to Kyoto and pursue her passion of gardening as an apprentice at one of the most highly regarded landscaping companies in the city. The book holds the revelations she had on her journey and what she learned from the experience. To access the book, click the link here. The book is available on Kindle and has an audiobook version.
“Lonely Planet Kyoto” provides a useful travel guide on the best sites to see in Kyoto, what to skip, and the hidden discoveries that await travelers. The book can be accessed here, and has a Kindle version.
A glimpse into the fascinating cultural practices of Japanese geishas, autobiography “Geisha, a Life” follows one of the most successful geishas of her generation, Mineko Iwasaki. Though the art form is fading away, Iwasaki is able to shine a light on its beauty and life through her own story. To access the book, please click the link here. There is a Kindle and audiobook version available.
For more stories about contemporary life in Japan, turn to “Kitchen” by Banana Yoshimoto. “Kitchen” is a highly original take on the themes of love, loss, mothers, and the power of the kitchen in Japan. To read this interesting book, click on the link here. There is a Kindle and audiobook version available.
“The Woman in the Dunes” by Kobo Abe is a surreal yet captivating story. An amateur entomologist, with no other companion than a strange young woman, is tasked to shovel sand dunes that are advancing on and threaten to destroy a village. To access the book, click on the link here, and there is a Kindle and audiobook version available.
A lively and detailed account of Japanese court life, “The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon”' is chock full of gossip, witty observations, and impressions of court members at the end of the 10th century. Written by a lady of the court, the book offers a remarkable view of the height of Heian culture. The book can be accessed through the link here, and there is a Kindle and audiobook version available.
Bring Kyoto to Your Kitchen
Besides beautiful attractions and incredible artifacts, Kyoto is known for its delectable cuisine. We have found a few recipes that are tasty and inclusive of vegans and those who cannot eat gluten.
Ramen is a quintessential Japanese dish that consists of broth, noodles, and toppings, and is perfect for a cold winter day or a comfort meal. For a delicious vegan and gluten free ramen recipe, click the link here.
For a Kyoto specific tofu and shimeji creation, look no further than the recipe linked here. Often, Kyoto cuisine has subtler flavors, usually flavored with dashi stock and soy sauce. This recipe makes good use of both ingredients, culminating in a mouth watering, light dish.
As far as desserts go, Japan has many popular dishes, one of the most famed being mochi. This vegan and gluten free version –– linked here –– is incredibly worth it to try, and can be used to make mochi ice cream as well.
Where to Next?
Thanks for wandering Kyoto with us virtually. Join us next time as we explore Mumbai, India.