Kyoto, Japan

An Almost Lost Millennial Japan

Sanctuary over the forest II
The balcony of the Kiomizudera shrine overlooks the autumnal forest that surrounds Kyoto.
Shinto reverence
Two female students bow before a small shrine in the Kiomizu-dera temple.
Temple of the Golden Pavilion
Double view of Kyoto's most famous temple, the subject of Yukio Mishima's novel of the same name.
caretaker mascot
A small West Highland White Terrier at the entrance to the Garakuta cafe.
hyperbolic portal
The giant tori that marks the entrance to the Shinto domain of the Heian shrine.
Paired Restaurants
Block of bars and restaurants on the bank of the river Kamo.
kimono maid
A mannequin in traditional costume at the entrance to a restaurant in the city.
light of belief
Shinto lanterns add color to the Yasaka-jinja shrine near the Gion district.
Photographer outside a toris tunnel at Fushimi Inari shrine.
an emblematic slope
Japanese passersby on Ninen Zaka Street.
fun lighthouse
An establishment's lamp lights up the historic alley of Ponto Cho.
Sanctuary over the forest
The Kiomizu-dera wooden temple with privileged views over Kyoto's houses.
Futuristic Kyoto
The Kyoto Tower, a monument to modernity in an essentially historic city.
human taxi
Rickshaw puller prepares to lead two Japanese girls around Arashiyama.
intrigue shadows
Curious Japanese examine panels posted near the Yasaka-jinja shrine.
Light games
Visitors to the Yasaka-jinja temple admire the mosaic of Shinto lanterns.
Kyoto was on the US atomic bomb target list and it was more than a whim of fate that preserved it. Saved by an American Secretary of War in love with its historical and cultural richness and oriental sumptuousness, the city was replaced at the last minute by Nagasaki in the atrocious sacrifice of the second nuclear cataclysm.

When we disembark at Kyoto's central station, the imposing building of glass and steel, labyrinthine and futuristic architecture shuffles our expectations of millenary Japan.

We are in an eastern, Shinto and Buddhist country that is at the same time aspiring to the west, capitalist and consumerist. As the endless escalator lifts us from the ground level, we hear themes by Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and other American classics.

The diagonal movement reveals an orchestra accompanied by choirs and a gigantic amphitheater full of people that rises from the stage to the terrace at the top of the huge complex. Without ever expecting it, from this top we unveil the Yamashiro valley filled by the vast Kyoto surrounding it.

Inaugurated in September 2007, Kyoto Central Station generated mixed reactions. Certain critics have been impressed by its wide spaces and bold lines that match the rocket-like look of the Kyoto TV Tower, grounded on one of the buildings opposite.

Kyoto TV Tower, a Millennial Japan almost lost

The Kyoto Tower, a monument to modernity in an essentially historic city.

Others have not forgiven such a dissonant break with traditional architecture, sometimes millenary. This controversy is far from being exclusive to the season.

Millennial Kyoto Camouflaged in Modern Kyoto

The first streets and avenues of the city we travel through give us a sense of apparent historical insipiency reinforced by Nintendo's grim headquarters building.

This impression vanished, however, in three times against the resplendent facades of the monuments, almost always half-hidden by the cluster of the most recent houses in this millenary city.

We took the subway. We left already far from the considered center. receive us Shoji, a Japanese host in his late forties, determined to welcome guests to the maximum of countries in the world. Your project is surprising in itself. It amazes us even more when we realize that an entire traditional villa is dedicated to him.

Restaurant, Kyoto, a Millennial Japan almost lost

A mannequin in traditional costume at the entrance to a restaurant in the city.

Shoji could rent it but has long preferred contact with the gaijin (foreigners) who in this way enrich your life even if you do not master any language other than your mother tongue and only speak something worthy of record with those who have studied Japanese.

The owner of the house does his best to install us. He explains to us the tricks and secrets of the home, unfolds a map on a low table and points out the city's attractions that, in his opinion, we couldn't miss for the world.

And yet, it was a close call that the millenary Kyoto was not obliterated by the atomic bombs "Little Boy" or "fat man”, in August 1945.

Millennial Japan Almost Lost to History

The passion aroused by Kyoto in the hearts of visitors goes back a long way. By coincidence and misfortune of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the American Secretary of War of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, Henry L. Stimson, had frequented the city several times during the 20s as Governor of the Philippines.

Some historians assert that Kyoto was also the destination of their honeymoon. In any case, the dissuasive action that he carried out earned him the reputation of being ultimately responsible for his salvation.

Kyoto is Japan's most revered city. Seventeen monuments of its 1600 Buddhist temples and nearly 400 Shinto shrines are UNESCO World Heritage.

The amount of sublime monuments is such that an author from the famous travel guide publisher Lonely Planet took the trouble to warn readers “… in Kyoto, it's easy to fall victim to an overdose of temples…”.

Fushimi Inari, Kyoto, an almost lost Millennial Japan

Photographer outside a toris tunnel at Fushimi Inari shrine.

Kyoto, a City Built in the Image of the Great Asian Cities of Then

To the image of the neighbor Nara, Kyoto was erected in a grid pattern inspired by Chang'an (present-day Xi'an), the capital of the Chinese Tang dynasty.

The imitation of the most powerful China it was, at the time, an assumed form of progress. Finally, at the forefront of Japanese civilization, Kyoto hosted the Japanese imperial family. It did so from 794 to 1868, a long period in which, while Japan in general was ruled by shogunates in permanent confrontation, the city stood out on a cultural level.

Kyoto, a Millennial Japan almost lost

Visitors at the base of the Chion temple.

In the late XNUMXth century, the Meiji restoration movement – ​​aimed at consolidating imperial power – forced the move of emperors and family to Edo (later known as Tokyo) the capital of the East.

After Heyan-kyo (city of peace), Kyo Miyako (capital city), Keishi (metropolis) and, in the West, Meaco or Miako, Kyoto added another title to its already extensive collection of nomenclatures. For a time, it became Saikyo (the capital of the West).

The Overdose of Kyoto's Temples, Sanctuaries, and Other Monuments

In today's Kyoto, even the most optimistic visitors quickly come to terms with the impossibility of enjoying all that the city has to offer. It is then that they surrender to a sort of unofficial ranking of their attractions.

The river of people we see flowing in the historic areas of Ninen-zaka (Two Years Hill) and Sannen-zaka (Three Years Hill) heralds serious competitors for the popularity of the Golden Pavilion.

Golden Pavilion, Kyoto, a Millennial Japan almost lost

Double view of Kyoto's most famous temple, the subject of Yukio Mishima's novel of the same name.

There are two of the oldest streets in Kyoto, made up of long strings of machiyas (typical wooden dwellings), shops, restaurants and old tea houses.

We climb the Gojo-zaka slope, passing by Chawan-zaka (Colina do Teapot), an alley full of sweets and craft shops.

The Kiomizu-dera Temple Forest Retreat

At the top, as a reward, we come across the Kiomizu-dera temple, another of the city's heritage highlights.

Its main building extends onto a balcony supported by logs and stakes, thus detached from the hill.

Kiomizudera, Kyoto, a Millennial Japan almost lost

The balcony of the Kiomizudera shrine overlooks the autumnal forest that surrounds Kyoto.

Unsurprisingly, this temple is almost always crammed with Japanese people of all ages, among which the successive school trips stand out, identifiable by the blue uniforms: pullover, suit with tie and pants that the boys insist on matching with the more flashy sneakers that found; pullover, suit and skirt (sometimes transformed into a mini-skirt) worn by girls, no matter how cold it is.

Prayer, Kyoto, a Millennial Japan almost lost

Two female students bow before a small shrine in the Kiomizu-dera temple.

More than just extensions, Kiomizu-dera's wooden verandas are privileged lookouts for Kyoto, visible beyond the verdant forest that fills the plain to the distant mountains of Kitayama and Nishiyama.

Also in this temple, there is no lack of sacred rituals. We descend a long staircase below the balconies. At its bottom, we find the Otowa-no-Taki, a small waterfall turned into a fountain in which visitors form long lines to arm themselves with huge iron spoons and drink water from them believed to have therapeutic properties.

Kiomizu-dera Fountain, Kyoto, an almost lost Millennial Japan

Visitors and believers drink holy water at the Kiomizu-dera temple.

In the vicinity of the secondary temple of Jishu-jinja, the aim of the believers is to guarantee success to love. To do this, they must walk about eighteen meters between two stones with their eyes closed. They warn us that missing the second stone means a condemnation with no return to a life of celibacy.

The risk seems to us too much. We discard the challenge.

Ninen-zaka, Sannen-zaka and Kiomizu-dera Temple are part of the South Higashiyama route that continues along Ishibei-koji Street, past the Kodai-ji Temple entrance, through Maruyama Park and continues west to Yazaka-jinja , this a new temple complex.

And the Traditional Gion Neighborhood that Geishas Still Travel Through

There, at the end of the afternoon, when the geishas and the maikos (geisha apprentices) climb the stairs and cross the tori (portal) to walk and pray, we feel a fascinating intersection established between the religious sphere of Kyoto and its domain bohemian and nocturnal formed by the areas of Ponto-Cho and Gion.

The famous Ponto-Cho district is little more than a narrow alley parallel to the Kamo-gawa river. The “little more” has the countless restaurants and bars that, even so, welcome and the constant and mysterious passage of geishas on their way to their appointments with the danna, their patrons.

Geisha in Gion, Geisha, Kyoto, Japan

Geisha walks through an alley in the Pontocho neighborhood.

We wander through this domain when night falls and Ponto-Cho comes to life, illuminated and colored by oriental lanterns that lend the area a mystical atmosphere of classic Japan.

Next door is Gion. The neighboring district is dominated by modern architecture and, at rush hour, flooded with traffic. Still, it preserves some historical bags also worthy of the best geisha imagery.

Its main streets are Hanami-koji and Shinmonzen-dori, both bordered by more old houses, restaurants, antique shops and other tea houses. Many of the latter are actually establishments dedicated to secular geisha entertainment (gei=art + sha=person) which, despite being in a slow process of extinction, continues to take place behind so many closed city doors.

From eighty thousand geishas in the 20s, there are now between a thousand and two thousand, almost all of them in Kyoto.

Henry L. Stimson the Secretary of War Appreciator and Savior of Kyoto

If we go back in history one more time, it is easy for us to conclude that there might well be none left. And Henry L. Stimson's credit will never sound exaggerated.

In the middle of the decision process of the Japanese cities to annihilate, the Los Alamos Target Committee formed by US generals and scientists and led by Robert Oppenheimer, insisted on putting Kyoto at the top of the list.

They justified it "because Kyoto has never been bombed before, because it includes an industrial area and has a million inhabitants." They also considered its largely university population "better able to appreciate the meaning of a weapon as the device that would be used."

Restaurant windows, Kyoto, an almost lost Millennial Japan

Block of bars and restaurants on the bank of the river Kamo.

Against everything and everyone, in 1945, Secretary of War Stimson ordered that Kyoto be removed from the list. He argued that it had strong cultural importance and that it was not a military target. The military resisted. They continued to put the city back at the top of the list until the end of July 1945.

This stubbornness forced Stimson to address President Truman himself.

Stimson wrote in his diary that “Truman agreed that if they did not remove Kyoto from the list, Japanese resentment towards the USA it would be such that it would make any postwar reconciliation with the Americans impossible and, instead, it would make it possible with the Russians.” By that time, the tensions that led to the Cold War they were already making themselves felt.

Tori, Kyoto, a Millennial Japan almost lost

The giant tori that marks the entrance to the Shinto domain of the Heian shrine.

Truman was determined not to feed the communist monster, neither in Asia nor anywhere else in the world. Until weeks before the first nuclear bomb was dropped, Nagasaki was not even on the list of target cities.

Ironically, but above all, because of Henry L. Stimson's love for Kyoto, Nagasaki took her place in the ultimate sacrifice. After Hiroshima, Nagasaki succumbed to the apocalypse.

Kyoto continued to glow.

Kyoto, Japan

The Kyoto Temple Reborn from the Ashes

The Golden Pavilion has been spared destruction several times throughout history, including that of US-dropped bombs, but it did not withstand the mental disturbance of Hayashi Yoken. When we admired him, he looked like never before.
Miyajima, Japan

Shintoism and Buddhism with the Tide

Visitors to the Tori of Itsukushima admire one of the three most revered scenery in Japan. On the island of Miyajima, Japanese religiosity blends with Nature and is renewed with the flow of the Seto Inland Sea.
Nara, Japan

The Colossal Cradle of the Japanese Buddhism

Nara has long since ceased to be the capital and its Todai-ji temple has been demoted. But the Great Hall remains the largest ancient wooden building in the world. And it houses the greatest bronze Vairocana Buddha.
Takayama, Japan

From the Ancient Japan to the Medieval Hida

In three of its streets, Takayama retains traditional wooden architecture and concentrates old shops and sake producers. Around it, it approaches 100.000 inhabitants and surrenders to modernity.
Okinawa, Japan

The Little Empire of the Sun

Risen from the devastation caused by World War II, Okinawa has regained the heritage of its secular Ryukyu civilization. Today, this archipelago south of Kyushu is home to a Japan on the shore, anchored by a turquoise Pacific ocean and bathed in a peculiar Japanese tropicalism.
Ogimashi, Japan

A Village Faithful to the A

Ogimashi reveals a fascinating heritage of Japanese adaptability. Located in one of the most snowy places on Earth, this village has perfected houses with real anti-collapse structures.
Magome-Tsumago, Japan

Magome to Tsumago: The Overcrowded Path to the Medieval Japan

In 1603, the Tokugawa shogun dictated the renovation of an ancient road system. Today, the most famous stretch of the road that linked Edo to Kyoto is covered by a mob eager to escape.
Kyoto, Japan

A Combustible Faith

During the Shinto celebration of Ohitaki, prayers inscribed on tablets by the Japanese faithful are gathered at the Fushimi temple. There, while being consumed by huge bonfires, her belief is renewed.
Kyoto, Japan

Survival: The Last Geisha Art

There have been almost 100 but times have changed and geishas are on the brink of extinction. Today, the few that remain are forced to give in to Japan's less subtle and elegant modernity.
Mount Koya, Japan

Halfway to Nirvana

According to some doctrines of Buddhism, it takes several lifetimes to attain enlightenment. The shingon branch claims that you can do it in one. From Mount Koya, it can be even easier.
Tokyo, Japan

A Matchmaking Sanctuary

Tokyo's Meiji Temple was erected to honor the deified spirits of one of the most influential couples in Japanese history. Over time, it specialized in celebrating traditional weddings.
savuti, botswana, elephant-eating lions
Savuti, Botswana

Savuti's Elephant-Eating Lions

A patch of the Kalahari Desert dries up or is irrigated depending on the region's tectonic whims. In Savuti, lions have become used to depending on themselves and prey on the largest animals in the savannah.
Hikers on the Ice Lake Trail, Annapurna Circuit, Nepal
Annapurna (circuit)
Annapurna Circuit: 7th - Braga - Ice Lake, Nepal

Annapurna Circuit – The Painful Acclimatization of the Ice Lake

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Architecture & Design
Castles and Fortresses

A Defending World: Castles and Fortresses that Resist

Under threat from enemies from the end of time, the leaders of villages and nations built castles and fortresses. All over the place, military monuments like these continue to resist.
The small lighthouse at Kallur, highlighted in the capricious northern relief of the island of Kalsoy.
Kalsoy, Faroe Islands

A Lighthouse at the End of the Faroese World

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cowboys oceania, rodeo, el caballo, perth, australia
Ceremonies and Festivities
Perth, Australia

The Oceania Cowboys

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Aswan, Egypt, Nile River meets Black Africa, Elephantine Island
Aswan, Egypt

Where the Nile Welcomes the Black Africa

1200km upstream of its delta, the Nile is no longer navigable. The last of the great Egyptian cities marks the fusion between Arab and Nubian territory. Since its origins in Lake Victoria, the river has given life to countless African peoples with dark complexions.
Beverage Machines, Japan

The Beverage Machines Empire

There are more than 5 million ultra-tech light boxes spread across the country and many more exuberant cans and bottles of appealing drinks. The Japanese have long since stopped resisting them.
One against all, Sera Monastery, Sacred Debate, Tibet
Lhasa, Tibet

Sera, the Monastery of the Sacred Debate

In few places in the world a dialect is used as vehemently as in the monastery of Sera. There, hundreds of monks, in Tibetan, engage in intense and raucous debates about the teachings of the Buddha.
4th of July Fireworks-Seward, Alaska, United States
Seward, Alaska

The Longest 4th of July

The independence of the United States is celebrated, in Seward, Alaska, in a modest way. Even so, the 4th of July and its celebration seem to have no end.
Iguana in Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Yucatan, Mexico

The Sidereal Murphy's Law That Doomed the Dinosaurs

Scientists studying the crater caused by a meteorite impact 66 million years ago have come to a sweeping conclusion: it happened exactly over a section of the 13% of the Earth's surface susceptible to such devastation. It is a threshold zone on the Mexican Yucatan peninsula that a whim of the evolution of species allowed us to visit.
Resident of Dali, Yunnan, China
Dali, China

The Surrealist China of Dali

Embedded in a magical lakeside setting, the ancient capital of the Bai people has remained, until some time ago, a refuge for the backpacker community of travelers. The social and economic changes of China they fomented the invasion of Chinese to discover the southwest corner of the nation.
Portfolio, Got2Globe, Best Images, Photography, Images, Cleopatra, Dioscorides, Delos, Greece
Got2Globe Photo Portfolio
Got2Globe Portfolio

The Earthly and the Celestial

Gothic couple

Matarraña to Alcanar, Spain (España)

A Medieval Spain

Traveling through the lands of Aragon and Valencia, we come across towers and detached battlements of houses that fill the slopes. Mile after kilometer, these visions prove to be as anachronistic as they are fascinating.

Sun and coconut trees, São Nicolau, Cape Verde
São Nicolau, Cape Verde

São Nicolau: Pilgrimage to Terra di Sodade

Forced matches like those that inspired the famous morna “soda” made the pain of having to leave the islands of Cape Verde very strong. Discovering saninclau, between enchantment and wonder, we pursue the genesis of song and melancholy.
Passengers on the frozen surface of the Gulf of Bothnia, at the base of the "Sampo" icebreaker, Finland
Winter White
Kemi, Finland

It's No "Love Boat". Breaks the Ice since 1961

Built to maintain waterways through the most extreme arctic winter, the icebreaker Sampo” fulfilled its mission between Finland and Sweden for 30 years. In 1988, he reformed and dedicated himself to shorter trips that allow passengers to float in a newly opened channel in the Gulf of Bothnia, in clothes that, more than special, seem spacey.
View from the top of Mount Vaea and the tomb, Vailima village, Robert Louis Stevenson, Upolu, Samoa
Upolu, Samoa

Stevenson's Treasure Island

At age 30, the Scottish writer began looking for a place to save him from his cursed body. In Upolu and the Samoans, he found a welcoming refuge to which he gave his heart and soul.
Horseshoe Bend
Navajo nation, USA

The Navajo Nation Lands

From Kayenta to Page, passing through Marble Canyon, we explore the southern Colorado Plateau. Dramatic and desert, the scenery of this indigenous domain, cut out in Arizona, reveals itself to be splendid.
Sheki, Autumn in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, Autumn Homes
Sheki, Azerbaijan

autumn in the caucasus

Lost among the snowy mountains that separate Europe from Asia, Sheki is one of Azerbaijan's most iconic towns. Its largely silky history includes periods of great harshness. When we visited it, autumn pastels added color to a peculiar post-Soviet and Muslim life.
Soufrière and Pitons, Saint Luci
Natural Parks
Soufriere, Saint Lucia

The Great Pyramids of the Antilles

Perched above a lush coastline, the twin peaks Pitons are the hallmark of Saint Lucia. They have become so iconic that they have a place in the highest notes of East Caribbean Dollars. Right next door, residents of the former capital Soufrière know how precious their sight is.
Cathedral of Santa Ana, Vegueta, Las Palmas, Gran Canaria
UNESCO World Heritage
Vegueta, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

Around the Heart of the Royal Canaries

The old and majestic Vegueta de Las Palmas district stands out in the long and complex Hispanization of the Canaries. After a long period of noble expeditions, the final conquest of Gran Canaria and the remaining islands of the archipelago began there, under the command of the monarchs of Castile and Aragon.
In elevator kimono, Osaka, Japan
Osaka, Japan

In the Company of Mayu

Japanese nightlife is a multi-faceted, multi-billion business. In Osaka, an enigmatic couchsurfing hostess welcomes us, somewhere between the geisha and the luxury escort.
Sesimbra, Vila, Portugal, View from the top
Sesimbra, Portugal

A Village Touched by Midas

It's not just Praia da California and Praia do Ouro that close it to the south. Sheltered from the furies of the West Atlantic, gifted with other immaculate coves and endowed with centuries-old fortifications, Sesimbra is today a precious fishing and bathing haven.
Detail of the Kamakhya temple in Guwahati, Assam, India.
Guwahati, India

The City that Worships Kamakhya and the Fertility

Guwahati is the largest city in the state of Assam and in North East India. It is also one of the fastest growing in the world. For Hindus and devout believers in Tantra, it will be no coincidence that Kamakhya, the mother goddess of creation, is worshiped there.
Train Kuranda train, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
On Rails
Cairns-Kuranda, Australia

Train to the Middle of the Jungle

Built out of Cairns to save miners isolated in the rainforest from starvation by flooding, the Kuranda Railway eventually became the livelihood of hundreds of alternative Aussies.
Tombola, street bingo-Campeche, Mexico
Campeche, Mexico

A Bingo so playful that you play with puppets

On Friday nights, a group of ladies occupy tables at Independencia Park and bet on trifles. The tiniest prizes come out to them in combinations of cats, hearts, comets, maracas and other icons.
Women with long hair from Huang Luo, Guangxi, China
Daily life
Longsheng, China

Huang Luo: the Chinese Village of the Longest Hairs

In a multi-ethnic region covered with terraced rice paddies, the women of Huang Luo have surrendered to the same hairy obsession. They let the longest hair in the world grow, years on end, to an average length of 170 to 200 cm. Oddly enough, to keep them beautiful and shiny, they only use water and rice.
female and cub, grizzly footsteps, katmai national park, alaska
PN Katmai, Alaska

In the Footsteps of the Grizzly Man

Timothy Treadwell spent summers on end with the bears of Katmai. Traveling through Alaska, we followed some of its trails, but unlike the species' crazy protector, we never went too far.
The Sounds, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
Scenic Flights
Fiordland, New Zealand

The Fjords of the Antipodes

A geological quirk made the Fiordland region the rawest and most imposing in New Zealand. Year after year, many thousands of visitors worship the sub-domain slashed between Te Anau and Milford Sound.