Kyoto Cultural Snapshot

Population 1.8 million
Cuisine Kyoto cuisine (kyo-ryori)
Signature dishes Seasonal multi-course meal (kaiseki) , vegetarian temple food (shojin ryori) such as boiled tofu (yo-dofu) or soy milk skin (yuba) , pickled raw fish pressed over vinegared rice (Kyoto-style sushi) , seasonal side dishes of fish and vegetables (obanzai) .
Wine culture Developing wine market with potential for growth
Wine duty Approximately US$1.50 per bottle plus 5% consumption tax

Kyoto is a modern city situation in the central part of Honshu island and nestled in the valley amidst the picturesque Higashiyama mountains. Once the imperial capital of Japan—from 794 to 1868—the city still retains much of its historic charm with numerous temples and shrines dotting the landscape, narrow stone-paved winding streets, and centuries-old wooden machi-ya townhouses.

Unlike larger Japanese cities such as Tokyo, the pace of life in Kyoto is unhurried with an emphasis on tradition, elegance and refinement. It is fairly common to see younger women in kimonos on the street or to catch a glimpse of a geisha gently clattering her way down the street in Gion historical district—a reminder of the city’s connection to its cultural legacy.

The city also has a high concentration of old culinary establishments; some have been passed down through multiple generations from the late seventeenth century, even predating the advent of the restaurant trade in Japan. Because of its prominence as a cultural and culinary centre, Kyoto is considered the wellspring of Japanese cuisine and boasts an incomparable, highly mannered kaiseki culture.

The elaborate and extravagant kaiseki experience caters primarily to Kyoto’s many tourists—both domestic and international. However, the large student population brings a vibrancy and youthful energy that balances out the more traditional aspects of the city.