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Central Kyōto 洛中

The centre of Kyōto (rakuchū) — in the layout as we know the city today — is the former Imperial Palace (京都御所) and its surrounding park. Seen from the Emperor’s throne, the eastern part of the city is the “left side” (Sakyō 左京区), the west the “right side” (Ukyō 右京区). Central Kyōto, then, is the downtown area, with the Imperial Palace sitting in its northern centre, today divided into the upper, middle, and lower capital (Kamigyō  上京区, Nakagyō 中京区 and Shimogyō下京区).


This division, however, itself is a product of modernity. Prior, central Kyōto was Kyōto — the capital city — and areas such as Yase, Ichijōji, Higashiyama, Fushimi or Arashiyama lay beyond the city’s borders. More interestingly still, the contemporary location of the Imperial Palace dates back only some 400 years. Prior to that, Senbon Str. was largely the center of Kyōto. But as with the city as a whole, the disastrous Ōnin War (1467–77) has left the city and its buildings destroyed completely. The layout of Kyōto as we know and see it today is a product of reforms carried out under Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s reign (1582–98).

Most of the city’s most-celebrated gardens and temples are located on the historical city’s outskirts. Most of central Kyōto, on the other hand, is where people live and work. Yet, in this area, among others, the Teranouchi District (寺之内) contains several Nichiren branch temples. Near Kyōto Sta. are the two Hongan-ji (東・西本願寺), head temples of Reformed Pure Land Buddhism. Other sights include Kitano Tenman-gū (北野天満宮) and its plum blossoms, Hōrin-ji (法輪寺) and its Daruma sculptures, or Suika Tenman-gū (水火天満宮) and its weeping cherry tree. Finally, Shōkoku-ji (相国寺), one of the six major Rinzai Zen temples, is located to the north of the Imperial Palace.


Spring in the Teranouchi Area.

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