Welcome to Kyoto!

Unfortunately, at present there are few English explanations for many of the displays, and very few guides who can provide precise explanations in English. Therefore, the Audio Kyoto Sightseeing Guide (BraryNavi), is helpful for those wishing to have more information in English.
The Japanese version of this guide has proved to be very popular. In Japanese, brarynavi means being able to wander leisurely through the places one wants to see, while at the same time being able to listen to the explanations that one needs. This allows people to successfully navigate their way through sightseeing spots.

The History of Kyoto

Modern-day Kyoto was once called Heian. The history of Kyoto as a capital city began with the transfer of the capital from Nara to Heian in the year 794. The new capital was called Heian-kyo (capital of peace and tranquility). In Europe, this was the age of the Carolingian Renaissance and Charlemagne.

In the olden days of Japan, the Imperial palace was relocated with every ascension to the throne of a new emperor. Therefore, in the area once known as Yamato-now named the Nara Basin-there are many remnants of ancient castles.

In 694, exactly one hundred years before the capital was moved to Heian, the capital was moved to Fujiwara-kyo. (presently Kashihara City in Nara Prefecture). Emperor Jitou was on the throne, and Japan learned the Chinese system of establishing capitals and castles. After Fujiwara-kyo was chosen as the capital, it became custom to decide the location of the capital regardless of changes to the emperor's throne. However, Fujiwara-kyo lasted as a capital for only 15 years.

In 710, the capital moved to Heijo-kyo (modern day Nara City), an area to the north of Fujiwara-kyo. Heijo-kyo remained the capital for about 80 years--excluding the blank of several years during the Emperor Shomu era, which was famous for the treasures of Shoso-in (the Imperial Repository). However, Emperor Kammu, who was concerned about political corruption, moved the capital to a new location. By this move, Emperor Kammu aimed to achieve political reform.

At first, Nagaoka-kyo (presently Nagaokakyo City in Kyoto Prefecture) was chosen to be the new capital. However, because of political intrigues and natural disasters that plagued the city shortly afterward, the emperor halted construction of the capital while it was still underway. Subsequently, Heian-kyo, presently Kyoto City, was chosen as the new capital. Heian-kyo became the capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years, until the capital was moved to Tokyo in 1869 (year 2 of the Meiji period).

With Suzaku-Oji (presently Senbon-dori) as its center, Heian-kyo stretched 4.5 kilometers from east to west and 5.3 kilometers from north to south. The imperial palace, called Daidairi, was located in the northern part of the city's center. Political affairs were carried out there. However, this system collapsed in the middle of the 9th century, and Nishi-kyo, the western part of the capital, declined. The hustle and bustle of the capital spread toward the east, to the vicinity of Higashiyama, which was the political center during the Political, Heike, and Kamakura periods.

In addition, many detached palaces and aristocratic residences were built in the suburbs of the city. Many of the shrines and temples in these areas remain today. In 1994, seventeen temples, shrines, and a castle were selected by UNESCO's World Heritage as "Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto."

What's New

Rakuto Course (Eastern Kyoto)
Rakuchu Course (Central Kyoto)
Rakusai Course (Western Kyoto)
Strolling in Sagano