May 13, 2018
By Takumi Abe
If you have interest in Japan, you may know that Kyoto was the ancient capital for many centureis. Many tourists come to Kyoto to see the traditional temples and shrines, or Japanese houses built from wood. However, if you spend any time in Kyoto, you will also find some contemporary architecture. For example, when you walk along Sanjo street, you will encounter many modern buildings. Furthermore, there are more modern buildings in Kyoto than you probably expect. These structures are completely different from traditional Japanese-style houses. Do you know why such structures as these exist in the old city Kyoto? On this page, you can find another Kyoto.
Modern Buildings on Sanjo
When you walk down on Sanjo street, you will discover several modern buildings. Many date from the Meiji and Taisho eras (1868-1926). The most famous structure is the former branch of the Bank of Japan. Now it is used as the Museum of Kyoto. This building is covered with red tiles, so you feel like you are in Europe. It was built during the Meiji period when Japan brought in many things from the Western cultures in Europe and America.
Another building that resembles the museum is the central post office. This post office was built in 1902 and it has been used ever since then. The roof and the exterior walls have been preserved.
The SACRA building was used to be the branch of a bank. The building reflects some Renaissance-style architecture. It was built in 1916.
In this building there are beautifully designed arches that appear on the façade. This building was built in 1890 and is the oldest building that was privately built in Western-style commercial construction.
The1928 Building was built in 1928, and it was used as a branch office for the English edition of the Mainichi Daily newspaper. Nowadays this building is home to a gallery, restaurant and free space.
At the Sanjo-Rougaemachi intersection stands another modern building that is registered as an important cultural property. This building is a wooden western-style building. It contains shops such as a kimono boutique, a restaurant and cosmetic store.
On temple grounds
In the back of Nanzenji temple, you will discover an elevated aqueduct built of red bricks. You might feel strange when you see this because it looks out of place on the temple grounds. You can see the traditional temple and Roman style architecture. This aqueduct has been in use since it was built in 1888.
What you can see from modern buildings
Now the Japanese capital is Tokyo. However, before that, the capital of Japan was Kyoto. It was capital for about 1000 years. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), Japan tried to be like Western countries. That’s why there are many modern buildings in Kyoto. Moreover, when the capital was moved, Kyoto was on the edge of a cliff. The emperor moved, the nobility moved, the artisans that made things for the Imperial family moved. Kyoto had to find new life. Therefore, Kyoto people made Kyoto great without the emperor. Kyoto city residents made a plan to become great again by embracing the new scientific innovations that were invented in the late 1800s, including gas lighting and the introduction of water- powered electricity. The aqueduct at Nanzenji was but one part of this large plan to modernize the city. You can see from these modern buildings the efforts and strength of Kyoto residents and the city government of Kyoto. From Kiyomizudera temple and Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine, you can see the ancient Japanese faith. However, if you stand in front of a modern building, you may change your previous ideas about Kyoto.