Another Kyoto: Modern Buildings in the Ancient Capital

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.


Sanjo Moderns

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.


the Museum of Kyoto


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 Nakagyo post office


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.

Modern building stands at the Sanjo-Ryougaemachi intersection



On temple grounds

Nanzenji temple

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.

Non-verbal Performance GEAR

by Kanako Murakami and Ayane Yoshikura


GEAR is non-verbal performance group from Kyoto, Japan. 5 performances, ballet, juggling, pantomime, magic and break dance make up this show. In addition it uses projection mapping and laser as direction of light. The show is performed on a realistic stage that moves. It is excellent and enjoyable performance art.

The story we saw is as follows. Four Roboroids working at a disused factory meet a doll that has a human heart. The doll has a miraculous power and gradually, the Roboroids have a human heart too. You will be amazed that someone can represent these feelings so strong and delicately non-verbally.

The show is held at Sanjyo Gokomachikado, Nakagyouku, Kyoto city, Kyoto. The 1928 building has historic value. It was chosen for its cultural properties in 1983. You can see this orange building has a star design at the exterior and peculiar balcony, called “art deco”.

Art Complex 1928

Art Complex 1928

You can choose 3 prices of tickets. To purchase tickets, you can buy the tickets from internet or telephone. GEAR’s website is written in 4 languages, Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean so everyone can buy the tickets. In fact, a lot of foreign tourists visit GEAR.

If the day that you visit GEAR is your birthday month, you can get the ticket cheaper than the usual price. And after the show, you can get the special present from the GEAR.




GEAR has many attractions. First of all, it’s non-verbal performance so anyone can enjoy it. Young and old of both sexes can be amused by the excellent performances, music, and projection mapping.

The theater is very small, so the cast is extremely close to you. The performance is not only on the stage but also beside your seat. So you can become a member of the performance and it is very powerful. There are many places where you can go sightseeing in the evening in Kyoto, and GEAR can also be enjoyed in the evening.

a cast list

a cast list

Because the cast changes depending on the day, GEAR is fun no matter how many times you see it. And there are cushions with each seats, baskets to put own baggage under the seats and goggles to protect your eyes from confetti. That attention to detail let the fun happen again and again. GEAR considers that the stage director is the guest. That’s why the guest’s opinions actively have been incorporated in the performance. In addition, all casts and staff of GEAR hold an evaluation meeting each time they have finished the performance.

I think you can schedule to go to GEAR easily because it’s held three or four times a week. Even people working on the weekend can go.

GEAR does many events in a year. In January, “KIMONO DE GEAR” where the guests who wear a kimono are given some privileges. In February, Valentine’s plan is often held. This year, “GEAR NO WA DAISAKUSENN”, Every time a guest bought chocolate sold at the theater, a ticket was presented to children who live in Kyoto.This is to offer a chance of real stage enjoyment to children. In December, a Christmas special performance was held at the underground mall in Kyoto station. This was a free event. The events are full of warmth and love, so there is no doubt that you leave there with a big smile.




GEAR exceeded 60,000 guests in May, 2015. And the number of performances exceeded 1,000 times in 1st of June, 2015. This is extraordinary at such a little theater. In the same year, GEAR was given “Certificate of Excellence” by Trip-Adviser that is one of the world’s largest sites of trip. Certificate of Excellence is an award given to the excellent tourist attraction. And GEAR is on nineteenth at the ranking of popular tourist attraction in 2015 at the same site.

GEAR has been introduced on TV many times. And GEAR often participates in events that are held in other countries, like, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.



Everyone can enjoy GEAR’s performance regardless of age and sex. GEAR’s goal is holding their show in New York. I think that their dream isn’t so far away. GEAR has various social networking services, for example, Facebook, twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. People all over the world can get their information. Whenever you come GEAR, you can find new pleasures. GEAR will reach 1,000 shows this coming June 19, 2015. GEAR keeps developing now and forever.

L’architettura moderna di stile occidentale

Haruyuki Kambe

A Kyoto ci sono tante opere di architettura in stile occidentale, costruite nei primi decenni dell’epoca della modernizzazione del Giappone. Tuttora conservano l’aspetto di una volta, perché Kyoto non ha subito bombardamenti durante la seconda guerra mondiale.

Ancora oggi questi edifici vengono utilizzati come banche, supermercati, biblioteche, negozi e teatri. Soprattutto lungo la strada Sanjo-dori ci sono tante opere di architettura in stile occidentale. Fin dal passato Sanjo-dori è stato un punto importante di viabilità.

Vi presento alcuni edifici tipici delle epoche Meiji, Taisho e Showa.

1. Museo culturale di Kyoto

(in precedenza sede della Banca del Giappone,  succursale di Kyoto )  1906  (Meiji 39)


Costruzione:  Edificio in mattoni

Architetti:  Tatsuno Kingo, Nagano Uhei

È stato edificato da Tatsuno Kingo, celebre architetto giapponese che ha progettato anche la Stazione di Tokyo. Ha adottato una forma tipicamente inglese, sviluppandola in modo originale.

Tatsuno ha lasciato numerosi esempi di architettura in questo stile di mattoni rossi fasciati di bianco, tipico degli edifici all’occidentale di epoca Meiji.

2. Shimpukan

(in precedenza Società telefonica centrale di Kyoto) 1926 (Taisho 15)


Costruzione: Cemento armato

Architetto: Yoshida Tetsuro

È stato costruito in era Taisho come edificio della Società telefonica.  Nel  periodoTaisho si utilizzava spesso il cemento, quindi questo è un esempio tipico.

Restaurato conservando il muro esterno, adesso è diventato un centro commerciale.

3. Museo civico d’arte di Kyoto

1933 (Showa 8)


Costruzione:  Cemento armato

Architetto:  Maeda Kenjiro, sezione di Kyoto

Questo palazzo è stato costruito nella forma di una combinazione di stile tradizionale giapponese e architettura occidentale, inserendo elementi in stile giapponese, come il soffitto e l’illuminazione, e, in particolare, un tetto giapponese posto in cima alla struttura in cemento. Lo “stile corona imperiale” era popolare nei primi anni Showa. Una forma che combina l’unicità del Giappone a un modernismo che pone l’enfasi sulla funzionalità.

Come arrivarci:

Edifici 1 e 2:   Stazione Karasuma-Oike

Linea Karasuma o Tozai  (metropolitana di Kyoto)

Edificio 3:   Stazione Higashiyama

Linea Tozai  (metropolitana di Kyoto)

(Tutte le foto sono mie.)

Testo di riferimento: Rakutabi bunko, Kyoto-no kindai kenchiku, Kotokoto, 2008.

Yojiya Cafes

Maya Inoue & Chihiro Kitagawa

Yojiya’ is well known as a brand of cosmetics from Kyoto. However, lately, Yojiya has also come to be associated with a certain kind of café chic.

Here we will introduce ‘Yojiya Cafés’

Yojiya cafes are located mainly in Kyoto.  We went to the one on Sanjo street, just five minutes walk from Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae (Kyoto City Hall) subway station.

the red sofa

the red sofas

From the outside, it looks very simple and calm, but actually, when we went there after school at around 7.00 pm, there were many customers, and almost all of them were women, lounging on trendy red sofas.

the logo

the logo

This café has the kind of atmosphere that welcomes the lone visitor, and there is a Yojiya Cosmetics store right next door.  This is the logo for Yojiya café … pretty cool!!

Also, in the café, there are many café goods. For example, mugs, tumblers, glasses, T-shirts, pens, bags, and so on ….all of them are very cute, and we wanted to buy them.

Pizza at Yojiya

We were pretty hungry, so we ordered some pizza and dessert.  It was really yummy!
Also on the menu, there is spaghetti, salad, parfait, floats, cappuccino, cakes, monaka, etc.  In the morning there is a special breakfast menu offering, for example, toast and bread with coffee.


The staff here are very professional and kind, and the red apron  they wear as a uniform is kind of cute.  I asked a staff member what the concept of this café is, and she told us that it is that people both young and old can come here and feel at ease.

In Kyoto, there are three Yoyija cafes in very different locations:  Sanjo, Ginkaku Temple and SaganoArashiyama.  There are also two cafes in Tokyo, but these have different menus.  The great thing is, you can enjoy a lot of different things in each Yojiya cafe!  For example, in the Sanjo cafe, you can eat their special apple pie.  We didn’t eat it, but it looked very delicious.

In addition, in the Sanjo café there is a handy information desk, which gives out info about the store, the cosmetic range, as well as useful sightseeing tips for Kyoto visitors.  To be honest, the prices here are a little high for students like us,  but the food and drinks taste so good it is worth paying a little more to eat here.


Finally, we will introduce the locations and opening times of the three Kyoto cafes.

1 YOJIYA cafe Sagano-Arashiyama
Open 10:00 ~ 1800 (last order 17:30)
No regular holiday.
The nearest station is the Randen Railway Arashiyama station.

2 YOJIYA cafe Sanjo
Open 10:00 ~ 2200 (last order 21:30)
No regular holiday.
The nearest station is Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae (Kyoto City Hall) subway station.

3 YOJIYA cafe Ginkaku Temple
Open 10.00 ~ 18.00 (last order 17.30)
Closed on Tuesdays.

This is the cappuccino. The cafe staff make it specially to order! It looked so nice, I hesitated to drink it.


This is the apple pie.  It is very sweet, and only available in the Sanjo cafe.

apple pie

This is the outside of the Yojiya Sanjo cafe.  The look is really modern and fashionable.  The cafe is also next to the Yojiya Cosmetics store, so it’s very convenient.

go to the cafe!

In Kyoto, there are a lot of cafes and shops to choose from, so it is hard to pick the best. So a lot of people get confused about where is good and how best to enjoy their time.  We recommend this café, as we think it can be enjoyed by everyone;  children, couples, families, elderly people and also foreigners!
Why not give it a try!

A Avenida Sanjo

by Kazuki Ueda, Takuya Tsuji

Sabe onde fica a Avenida Sanjo? A Sanjo-dori, seu nome em japonês, fica mesmo no centro de Quioto, atravessando a cidade de leste a oeste. No extremo leste fica “Yonnomiya” e a oeste fica a ponte de “Togetsu-kyo”, em Arashiyama ou “Saga-tenryuji”, num total de aproximadamente vinte quilómetros. Como há muito tempo era usada pelos habitantes de Quioto, aqui nasceram várias histórias. Passando por aqui, podemos sentir um pouco da História de Quioto.

Sabe que esta avenida é famosa como um destino para os jovens? Aqui encontra muitas lojas famosas, por isso os jovens têm interesse por este local. Desde a Ponte Sanjo (Sanjo-ohashi) até à Avenida de Horikawa, podemos ver duas passagens: uma moderna e outra antiga. Desde antigamente, toda esta rua é de madeira. Muitos viajantes pernoitavam nas inúmeras estalagens desta zona.

A oeste da Ponte Sanjo, tem uma loja que se chama “Ikedaya”. Essa loja é muita conhecida por causa de uma batalha, a “Ikedaya-Jiken”. Nessa época existiam dois grupos polticos rivais:  um era o “Joi-shishi”, que queria fazer uma revolução e outro era “Shinsen-gumi”. Em 1864, quando o “Joi-shishi” estava fazendo uma reunião, o “Shinsen-gumi” atacou. Os dois gurpos batalharam e, embora tenham perecido muitas pessoas de ambos os lados, o “Shinsen-gumi” venceu. Apesar desta batalha, o “Joi-shishi” conseguiu fazer a revolução que pretendia.



Ponte Sanjo


Depois de “Ikedaya”, tem uma rua comercial, a “Sanjo-Meiten-Shotengai”, que é a mais antiga artéria comercial da rua Sanjo. Fica entre a Avenida Horikawa e a rua Senbon. Com mais ou menos 800 metros, é de tipo arcada (com o telhado em cima de rua). Aqui há doçarias, minimercados, bares, restaurantes e outras lojas. Por isso, muitas pessoas aqui vêm visitar as mais de 180 lojas desta rua. Em todas as estações do ano há vários eventos. Por exemplo, o Festival do Sake de Quioto, concertos de música japonesa e outros eventos.




Depois da rua comercial, há um lugar cujo nome é “zona de Quioto nova”. Aqui há muitas lojas de marca, lojas de roupa usada, cafés e outras lojas. As pessoas visitam com namoradas e namorados, família ou amigos. Pode-se dizer que aqui se vê as novas tendências da moda em Quioto. Muitos edifícios são de estilo ocidental, resultado de uma política de modernização da cidade. Assim, muitos edifícios de estilo ocidental foram construídos no centro da cidade. Alguns destes edifícios são os Correios de Nakagyo, o Museu Cultural de Quioto, o SACRA, o Nihon Seimei Kyoto-Sanjyo Building, o Kyoto Damashin Company, etc. Estes edifícios já fazem parte do património cultural da cidade. No Museu Cultural de Quioto, há sempre muitas exposições.

Nihon Seimei Kyoto-Sanjyo Building

Kyoto Damashin Company


Na rua Sanjo, podemos também encontrar dois importantes destinos turísticos.

Um deles é o templo xintoísta de Hidashisanjou-Taishogun-Jinja, que fica a leste. É considerado uma das entradas de Quioto. É considerado importante para defender a cidade da entrada de espíritos malignos. As árvores centenárias deste local ficam lindas na época das folhas vermelhas do outono.

O outro local famoso é o sítio da pedra de Benkei. Dizem que o monge-guerreiro Benkei lançou esta pedra da ponte Gojo (Gojo-ohashi), e que ele a usava como treino físico. Este monge lendário era conhecido como grande guerreiro e, após perder um duelo com Minamoto Yoshitsune, ficou ao serviço deste, defendendo-o com bravura até ao fim da dinastia Heike.

Pedra de Benkei

A rua Sanjo é uma das artérias principais de Quioto. Aqui o visitante poderá descobrir sempre coisas novas.