Only in Kyoto

Kyoto, the thousand year capital of Japan, is filled with historic charm and numerous historic buildings. You can clearly see reminders of Japan’s long history in throughout the city. Kyoto is blessed with a unique geography as well as four very distinct seasons. These factors, combined with the city’s exceedingly long history, make for some occurrences that are particular to Kyoto.


Temples outnumber convenience stores

According to a census conducted by the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs in 2015, there are approximately 3000 temples and other Buddhist structures in Kyoto. Meanwhile, it was listed on a prefectural data website as of March of 2016 that the number of convenience stores in Kyoto prefecture only ranked in in at about 1070 shops. , In short, this means that there are more temples than convenience stores in Kyoto. Actually, the prefecture with the most temples is actually Aichi prefectures (with approximately 4600). Kyoto may not technically have the most, but it has a large number of very famous religious structures.

Founded over 100 years ago? No big deal.

With Kyoto’s long history there are countless establishments that were founded over a century ago. Therefore, no one bats an eye about hearing that a shop or restaurant was started over 100 years in the past. According to data collected by credit research company Tokyo Shoko in 2016, the number of companies that will reach or have passed the 100 year mark during 2017 is as many as 1259. Not only do these companies that have overcome many hardships and survived this long have a historic significance, the great entrepreneurial spirit that helped these companies last into the modern era can be thought of as cultural treasure of Kyoto in itself.

Difficult place names abound

The names of locations often have a relationship with history, geography, and language. The ancient capital Kyoto is no different and has a plethora of difficult place names. By nature, kanji characters have designated readings. However many places in Kyoto do not use the standard readings and even challenge native Japanese speakers. For example, in Southern Kyoto is a place written with two very simple kanji. “一口” Taken at face value, these characters would normally be read as “hitokuchi” or even possibly as “ikkou” but you would be mistaken. The reading is “imoarai” which when heard aloud, sounds like “washing potatoes”. What gives?!

Sometimes the difficult place names make traveling in Kyoto challenging, but the interesting place names are a reflection of Kyoto’s amazing history and have a special charm all their own.

The summers are hot to Okinawans and cold to people from Hokkaido

Kyoto is surrounded by mountains all around. Due to the mountains wind does not cool the city in the summer and it gets very humid in the Kyoto basin. In midsummer the temperatures routinely reach over 30 degrees Celsius. The record temperature for the year 2016 was 37.9℃. In winter, because the city is at a lower elevation than the surrounding mountains, cold air gets trapped in the city. This causes the ground to freeze and makes you shiver from your toes up. If you plan on visiting Kyoto in the winter, make sure you dress your bottom half very warmly.

A loooooooooooooooong relationship with The Bank of Kyoto

“Nagaaaaaaaaaaaaaaai otsukiai, Kyoto Ginkou,” is the catchphrase of the Bank of Kyoto’s commercials. These commercials emphasize the looooooooooooong partnership that clients can rely on the Bank of Kyoto for. Everyone who has grown up in Kyoto has been hearing this catchphrase repeated in commercials since they were small. The length of the word nagai (long) in the commercials makes these television spots very memorable.

While this may not have much to do with history, I have included it because it’s funny.

Collection of Bank of Kyoto commercials:

There are many things in Kyoto that are distinct and unique to the city. I hope you can also search for your own “Only in Kyoto” moments. By knowing more about the locals and their history you can be sure to enjoy your time in Kyoto even more!

庄 子誠/Sho Shisei
庄 子誠/Sho Shisei

中国出身/同志社大学 グローバルコミュニケーション学部/私は歴史や異文化交流が好きです。歴史や異文化交流が好きな人は是非友達になってください。ーーーFrom: Chine / Doshisha University・majoring in global communication / I like studying history and communicating with the people with different culture background/ If you are similar to me let us be friend. / Facebook: Sho ShiSei