Kyoto is definitely open for business. It was untouched by the 2011 earthquakes and tsunamis.
Kyoto is an exquisite destination with temples, gardens, parks, onsens, and traditional ryokans (Japanese inns) that really capture the essence of Japan's history.
From Kabuki theater at The Minamiza Theatre, Japan's first kabuki theater built in 1615 to Noh at the Heian Jingu Shrine, there are many opportunities to experience traditional arts and culture in Kyoto.
Residential Area in the Mountains
In the spring, the Gozan no Okuribi festival in the summer, and the Kurama Fire Festival in the fall.
In Kyoto, event and meeting planners will find many special event venues and much to delight participants. For conference planners, there are convention facilities and many attractions and historical places for tour itineraries.
Palaces & Castles
- Nijo Castle
The Tokugawa clan ruled Japan from 1603 until 1868. Nijo Castle, which was completed in 1626, was the official residence of the Shogun.
The grand exterior features an imposing roof. There is a moat and there are gardens, and ponds on the grounds.
The "nightingale floors" from the entrance to the interior were deliberately constructed to squeak and alert residents if intruders were approaching.
The interior consists of private residences for the Shogun, his family and attendants, as well as a series of elaborately decorated reception chambers with wood carvings, gold leaf, and paintings.
- Kyoto Imperial Palace
The Kyoto Imperial Palace, which was re-built in 1855, was the official residence of the Emperor until 1869. (The palace was located at this site since the 12th century but, it was destroyed and re-constructed about 8 times.) Through the Imperial Household Agency, groups are welcome to arrange tours of the ponds, gardens and building exteriors on the palace grounds.
Temples & Shrines
Built in 1895, Heian-jingu Shrine commemorated Kyoto’s 100th anniversary as the capital of Japan. The extensive landscaping includes ponds and traditional Japanese gardens.
Another UNESCO World Heritage site, Kiyomizu-dera Temple, was established in 778 AD on the site of the Otowa Waterfall. Kiyomizu (meaning "pure water") is the source of the temple's name. It is said that the water has curative properties and brings good luck.
Buildings date back to the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The temple has a large 3 tiered pagoda and the famous Kiyomizu Stage from which worshippers used to jump hoping for good luck. This is forbidden today.
As an added attraction, the laneway leading up to the Temple is a bee-hive of activities with refreshment and souvenir shoppes. I was very surprised to find stores that specialized in authentic Jamaican and reggae souvenirs. Apparently, they are very popular with Japanese visitors to the shrine.
A UNESCO World Heritage site (known as The Golden Pavilion in English), Kinkakuji is a national treasure and one of Kyoto’s most recognizable landmarks.
There are gardens and rock gardens throughout the richly landscaped grounds.
A Shinto shrine adjacent to Maruyama Park and the historical Gion district, Yasaka Shrine was built in 656 AD. It is the central venue for the annual Gion Matsuri festival.
Parks and Gardens
Kyoto Prefectural Botanical Garden
Since 1924 when it first opened, this botanical garden has grown into the home of over 20,000 plants and flowers.
In 1643, Ishikawa Jozan was commissioned by Sennyo Shonin to design and plant the original garden. In the late 800s, the site originally belonged to Prince Minamoto no Toru (one of the Emperor's sons). After they were destroyed by fire, the reconstruction of the buildings, gardens and ponds began in 1865.
We discussed this last week as one of the best locations in Kyoto for viewing cherry blossoms during the Sakura Matsuri. It is a place for relaxation throughout the year.
In this historical district tea houses, traditional Japanese restaurants, and geisha and Maiko entertainment are accessible. Stroll along the Philosophers' Path, down the alleyways and along cobblestone streets and your guests will really feel that they have traveled back in time.
With its narrow laneways sloping down from the mountains and centuries old shoppes and residences, Higashiyama is another area that captures the historical essence of Kyoto.
There is so much to see and do in Kyoto that corporate event planners would be advised to negotiate contracts that make it possible for participants to extend their stay after business conferences.
Photo Credits: Japan Incentive Travel, Executive Oasis International