April 20, 2019
by Noa Murakami,Masashi Morishita and Kaho Imamura
Where can you find ancient Japan? Most people will say it is Kyoto. Indeed, the cityscape of Kyoto is very old-fashioned and is famous worldwide. There are many historic buildings in Kyoto. Buildings have strict regulations to protect their traditional feel. in order to protect them and maintain the traditional atmosphere of the cityscape, the shape, color, and appearance of buildings in Kyoto are highly restricted.
History of Kyoto City
During the Nara period (710-794) the capital city was placed in Kyoto. We call the next era when the capital was changed to Kyoto the Heian period. Kana letters, yamato pictures and stories became popular in the Heian period. Many of the structures built in that era were houses with gardens. Also, the famous Byodo-in Temple, Chuson-ji Temple, and Konjiki-do were built. The original culture of ancient Japan was called kokufu culture. Kokufu were the capitals of the historical provinces of Japan. Since Kyoto was the capital during the Heian period, and many of its buildings were preserved, it now offers visitors a historic cityscape from over 1,300 years. Foreigners like the old cityscape of Kyoto.
Currently Kyoto is working to maintain this historic atmosphere of the cityscape. In January 2006, Kyoto City decided on the maximum height limit allowed for buildings in each area of the city. Currently many tourists – both domestic and foreign - come to Kyoto for sightseeing. And it is people’s desire to maintain its old-fashioned landscape that makes Kyoto such a special place.
Keikanho – Landscape Laws
Keikanho are Japanese laws designed to create and maintain a pleasant scenery in Japanese cities and rural areas. The goals of keikanho is to develop beautiful and stately land, to create rich and comfortable circumstances of life, to improve the economy, and finally to contribute to the development of communal society in Japan. The original keikanho were made in order to protect the loss of tradition because a lot of modern houses, buildings and factories were being built that did not have any relation to tradtional Japanese culture. This caused degradation of tradition and local characteristics, which disturbed the harmony between the townscape and the natural landscape. Therefore, keikanho was put forth in June of 2004 and actually became an enforceable law by June 1st, 2005. As a result, the Japanese government has been able to regulate the way buildings are designed and how they look, including shape, size, materials, and color. In fact, Kyoto now has the strictest keikanho regulations in all of Japan. In this way, the scenery of Kyoto has been protected.
Examples of Keikanho in Action
There are many ways that keikanho have affected the way buildings look in Kyoto. For example, in the famous Gion shopping street, the design of all the signboards of stores in the area are unified, creating a traditional atmosphere.
Another example is post office boxes. Everyone knows that post office boxes in Japan are red and shaped like a square box. However, in Kyoto there are still old post office boxes in the form of cylinders. These can be found on Hanamikoji-dori street in Gion, for example.
There is also an AED box that is so unique, few have ever seen one. The meaning of this kanji is “be careful about fire”.
Also, convenience stores often use different colors in Kyoto than what is the norm in other cities in Japan. For example, Lawson is usually blue, but there are some Kyoto-based branches that use brown.
This same phenomenon can also be found in Kyoto-based restaurants, like McDonald’s, Nagasaki Champon, Freshness Burger, and so on. When compared with their counterparts in other Japanese cities, they are different in Kyoto from the color you usually see. The signboards of all these shops are brown. This is one way to protect the landscape in Kyoto.
Unique Buildings in Kyoto
One unique building with an interesting appearance in Kyoto is an okonomiyaki shop called Issen Yoshoku, which is near Gion-Shijo Station. The name of this shop means ‘Western food’, but its appearance looks traditionally Japanese. Once you enter the restaurant, you can see many wooden plaques on the wall, called ema. Japanese people write their hopes and wishes on the boards and typically hang them in shrines for the Gods to receive. It is very beautiful, so you should go and see it.
Like most major cities in the world, you don’t need to look far to find a Starbucks. And as you might imagine, some of the Starbucks cafes in Kyoto have unique appearances. For example, there is one near Kawaramachi Station in an old wooden building of Kyoto. And not only do they sell items from their normal menu, but they also offer powdered green tea, which is popular with customers. Once inside, you may look at the beautiful courtyard. And one of the highlights of this Starbucks is that they have a tatami room. So you can drink your coffee or tea on a Japanese traditional tatami mat. This is the only Starbucks in the world where you can do this. Therefore, a lot of foreign tourists come here every day.
You can see a lot of old-fashioned, traditional buildings just by strolling around Kyoto on foot. You can meet a lot of people wearing kimonos as well. Kyoto is a fun city with old-fashioned shopping streets and shops. Kyoto is both lively and refined at the same time. Foreign tourists can enjoy the strange landscape. It is a calm space for us Japanese. Kyoto is a town in which you will never get bored. When entering one alley, it may be like a totally different world for you. Everyone, please try walking around Kyoto city.
You can go to Issen Yoshoku about 3 minutes on foot from Keihan line Gion-shijo stati
Adress:238 Gion-cho kitagawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, Japan.
Opening hours:Monday to Friday AM11:00-AM3:00
Weekends and holiday AM10:30-PM10:00
Starbucks in Ninenzaka Yasaka-Chayaten
You can go to Starbucks in Ninenzaka yasaka-chayaten about 18 minutes on foot from Keihan line Gion shijo station exit1.
If you use the bus, you get off bus at Higashiyama-yasui and can go to the shop about 10 minutes on foot.
Adress:349 Shimogawara-Higashiirumasuya-cho, Minamimon-dori, Kodaiji,
Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto, Japan.
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday AM8:00-PM8:00