Japan’s former capital can still make a claim to be its cultural soul. With 400 Shinto shrines and 1600 Buddhist temples, 17 Unesco World Heritage sites, and a highly sophisticated cuisine and art scene, it’s the city that best embodies what most visitors are thinking of when they imagine a classic Japanese city – right down to the kimono-clad geishas and cherry blossom trees.
This isn’t to say that Kyoto, with a population of around 1,500,000, is perfect. The city has suffered the same plight of most larger Japanese cities, where rampant development has trumped sensitive conservation. In the past few years, however, the local government has managed to curtail insensitive construction. Because of the city’s relatively small population (for Japan), excellent infrastructure, and pleasant gardens, it’s often considered one of the most liveable cities in the world.