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Geisha and schoolgirls in Gion, Kyoto

Geisha and schoolgirls in Gion, Kyoto

Nestled among mountains in Western Honshu, Kyoto has a reputation worldwide as Japan's most beautiful city, boasting more World Heritage Sites per square inch than any other city. However, visitors will be surprised how much work they will have to do to see its beautiful side. Most visitors' first impressions will be of the urban sprawl of central Kyoto, around the ultra-modern glass-and-steel train station.

Nonetheless, the persistent tourist will soon discover Kyoto's hidden beauty in the temples and parks which ring the city centre, and find that the city has even more than meets the eye.

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Currently, Kyoto is enjoying even more popularity than usual with Japanese tourists due to the success of Japanese TV broadcaster NHK's series 'Shinsengumi' (新選組), a historic drama following a group of samurai who kept peace in the city in the 1860s. Consequently, among the most popular souvenirs from the city at the moment are the distinctive blue and white happi (shirts) worn by this group.

More traditional souvenirs from Kyoto include parasols and carved wooden dolls.

A more unconventional but colourful (and relatively cheap) souvenir are the wooden votive tablets produced by temples, which bear an image relevant to the temple on the reverse. Visitors to the temples write their prayers on the tablets, and hang them up within the temple.

Manga and anime enthusiasts should visit Teramachi Street, a covered shopping street off the main Shijo-dori, which boasts a large manga store on two floors, as well as a two-storey branch of Gamers (a chain of anime stores), and a small two-storey anime and collectables store.




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