Why you should visit Japan’s cultural capital during the next World Cup


The observant among you will notice that Kyoto is an anagram of Tokyo. That’s because they both translate to ‘capital city’. While Tokyo is the current capital of Japan, Kyoto is the country’s cultural and historical centre – although you can travel there in the most modern way!

The bullet train – Shinkansen – takes less than three hours to transport you between the two cities and while there are no matches taking place in Kyoto during the next World Cup, it should be on most tourists’ must-see lists. It’s the symbolism and tradition of the city that has seen Kyoto chosen to host the pool draw for Japan 2019 next May – and there is certainly plenty to explore.

Bullet train

Fast lane: The bullet train is a great way to travel in Japan. Photo: Getty Images

There are thousands of temples and shrines in Kyoto, many tucked away amidst the more modern, urban buildings, and here are a few highlights from Rugby World’s visit to the city.

The Kinkaku-ji Temple, also known as the Golden Pavilion, is arguably the most famous temple in Japan. The building itself was built in 1955 after the original 15th century structure burnt down in 1950, but it’s an exact replica. It’s a beautiful sight, with the gold façade reflecting in the pond, while the surrounding gardens are also well worth a look around.

Kiyomizu-dera is another of the country’s most famous temples and it’s incredible to think that there are no nails used in the building, particularly when looking at the veranda on the hillside. You can take in stunning views of the city while there is also a three-channel waterfall where visitors can make wishes. The walk up to the temple is also interesting because of all the ceramic and gift shops en route.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Impressive: The Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto. Photo: Getty Images

Sanjusangendo Temple houses 1,001 golden statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, in Japan’s longest wooden structure. The centrepiece is a huge wooden stature of Kannon and either side there are 500 Kannon statues, around human size. It’s quite a sight to behold.

This temple is close to the Hyatt Regency so if you’re visiting around lunchtime or at the end of the day, try the hotel’s Touzan restaurant, which offers an extensive Japanese menu.

It’s not all temples and shrines in Kyoto, though. Stroll through Nishiki Market to sample local foods or a drop of sake. The art on display by Ito Jakuchu adds to the experience while we’d also recommend trying nama yatsuhashi. It’s a triangle of soft dough filled with a sweet bean paste and there are flavours ranging from green tea to mango, chocolate to apple. They’re delicious!

Another top attraction is the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. Now this is on the outskirts of the city so can take a while to get there – but the trip is worth it. The path is flanked by tall bamboo trees and is a total escape from the bustle of the streets.

So if you’re planning a trip to RWC 2019, try to fit a visit to Kyoto into your itinerary.

Rugby World travelled with InsideJapan Tours and stayed at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto.

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