A little about Kyoto...
Kyoto is a city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.
Kyoto is the only large Japanese city that still has an abundance of prewar buildings, such as the traditional townhouses known as machiya. However, modernization is continually breaking down the traditional Kyoto in favor of newer architecture, such as the Kyoto Station complex.
Kyoto became a city designated by government ordinance on September 1, 1956. In 1997, Kyoto hosted the conference that resulted in the protocol on greenhouse gas emissions that bears the city's name.
Today, the main business district is located to the south of the old Imperial Palace, with the less-populated northern area retaining a far greener feel. Surrounding areas do not follow the same grid pattern as the center of the city, though streets throughout Kyoto share the distinction of having names.
Kyoto sits atop a large natural water table that provides the city with ample freshwater wells. Due to large scale urbanization, the amount of rain draining into the table is dwindling and wells across the area are drying at an increasing rate.
Colleges & Universities:
Home to thirty-seven institutions of higher education, Kyoto is one of the academic centers of the country. The three largest and best-known local universities are Doshisha, Kyoto, and Ritsumeikan Universities. Among them, Kyoto University is considered to be one of the top universities in Japan, with several Nobel laureates, for example Yukawa Hideki. The Kyoto Institute of Technology is also among the most famous universities in Japan, and is considered to be one of the best universities for architecture and design in the country.
Kyoto also has a unique higher education network called the Consortium of Universities in Kyoto, which consists of three national, five public (prefectural and municipal), and 41 private universities, as well as the city and four other organizations. The consortium dœs not offer a degree, but offers the courses as part of a degree at participating universities.
As well as more than 30 Japanese universities and colleges, American universities also find the city as an important city of education and research. Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies (KCJS) is a consortium of 14 American universities that sponsors a rigorous, two-semester academic program for undergraduates who wish to do advanced work in Japanese language and cultural studies. In addition, Stanford University has its own Japan Center in Kyoto.
Kyoto Station is the center for transportation in the city. The second-largest in Japan, it houses a shopping mall, hotel, movie theater, Isetan department store, and several local government facilities under one fifteen-story roof. The Tōkaidō Shinkansen Line as well as all local rail lines connect here.
Kyoto's municipal bus network and subway system are extensive. Private carriers also operate within the city. Many tourists join commuters on the public buses, or take taxis or tour buses. Buses operating on routes within the city, the region, and the nation stop at Kyoto Station. Kyoto's buses have announcements in English and electronic signs with stops written in the Latin alphabet.
Most city buses have a fixed fare, but a one-day bus pass and a combined unlimited train and bus pass are also available. These are especially useful for visiting many different points of interest within Kyoto. The bus information center just outside the central station handles tickets and passes. The municipal transport company publishes a very useful leaflet called "Bus Navi." It contains a route map for the bus lines to most sights and fare information. This too is available at the information center in front of the main station.
The Tōkaidō Shinkansen provides passenger rail service linking Kyoto with Nagoya and Tokyo (in one direction) and with nearby Osaka and points west (in the other direction). The trip from Tokyo takes just over two hours. Another way to access Kyoto is via Kansai International Airport. The Haruka Express carries passengers from the airport to Kyoto Station in 72 minutes. There are also frequent services on JR West, Keihan, Hankyu, Kintetsu, and other lines to other cities in the Kansai region.
Cycling forms a very important form of personal transportation in the city, to an extent that bicycle culture forms a part of Kyoto's urban identity. The geography and scale of the city are such that the city may be easily navigated on a bicycle.
Festivals: Major festivals punctuate Kyoto's calendar. The first is the Aoi Matsuri on May 15. Two months later (July 14 to 17) is the Gion Matsuri, culminating in a massive parade. Kyoto marks the Bon Festival with the Gozan Okuribi, lighting fires on mountains to guide the spirits home (August 16). The October 22 Jidai Matsuri, Festival of the Ages, celebrates Kyoto's illustrious past.