Kyoto - Final Station on the Tokaido

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Kyoto: Our view looks across the Sanjo Bridge and the Kamo River to Mt. Higashi, the last barrier travelers crossed on their journey from Tokyo.  On the hill to the right is Kiyomizudera, one of the most famous temples in Kyoto, a city with over a thousand temples and shrines, many dating back to the 8th and 9th centuries.  Kyoto was the capital of Japan from 794 until 1185 when the first shogun, Minamoto Yoritoma, moved the government to Kamakura.  Until the Edo period, Kyoto was the artistic center of the country - the home of the greatest painters, sculptors, calligraphers, potters, poets and authors.  During the Edo period, Kyoto remained dignified, rarefied and refined; the daimyo and elite samurai adopted the styles of the imperial court.  Tokyo on the other hand was brash, bold, and innovative, setting the artistic styles for the merchants, tradesmen and craftsmen who built the manufacturing power of the country.\n\nImage Copyright: Minneapolis Institute of Art You can only see Kiyomizudera from Sanjo Bridge if you get at just the right spot to see it between modern buildings.  Hiroshige's print also celebrated the colorful parade of visitors and city dwellers who crowded the thoroughfare.  It's still the place to see and be seen.  I was startled when these skateboarders rumbled through the traffic. Just wait a few minutes and a whole new cast of characters comes into view - college students, courting couples and office workers. Japanese women still prize fair skin and protect their complexions with unbrellas against the sun.  If you look closely at Hiroshige's print, you'll see that they are following an old tradition.  Our cell phone chatting executive shows we're in modern Kyoto. High on Higashiyama, Kiyomizudera commands a sweeping view of Kyoto.  Each year the temple complex draws millions of visitors from around the world.  The mighty wooden supports are one of its most recognizable architectural wonders. The temple was founded in the 8th century on the site of a sacred spring.  It is now diverted into three streams where visitors can sip the cooling water and gain the blessings of the guardian god, Fudo. Silent Buddhist monks can still be seen, quietly praying and offering their cup for donations.  This monk stood in a shady area not far from the main entrance to Kiyomizudera.