Kyoto-the city of the Japanese Emperors
the central part of the island of Honshu is the ancient capital of Japan-Kyoto. This city has been the cultural and religious center of the country for several centuries.
In the historical chronicle of Japan, the year 794 is a special year. It is of great importance to the inhabitants of the Land of the Rising Sun. Then the Japanese, who, by the way, were actively helped by Korean immigrants, founded a new capital and the residence of their emperor Kammu. At that time, Japan was not very calm, aristocratic clans shared power among themselves — internecine strife arose with regular regularity and claimed many lives. In addition, there was a threat of a “Buddhist coup” in the country — so the capital was moved from Nara to another place. At first, it was called Heian – “the city of peace and tranquility” – but the city gained world fame a little later, when it became the cultural and religious center of Japan. And it was called differently – Kyoto.
Modern Kyoto from a bird’s-eye view.
The new imperial city was created by analogy with the Chinese Forbidden City – in the form of a rectangle. Its length was 5 kilometers, and its width was 4.5 kilometers. Initially, the various districts of the city were built according to the rules of absolute symmetry. All the streets and alleys that were inside the city moat formed regular corners. However, over time, these strict architectural proportions were blurred. the richness and sophistication of the old Japanese architectural style, which for several centuries became a kind of hallmark of Kyoto. Gradually, the city turned into a unique example of everything truly Japanese.
The imperial family, having moved to the new capital from Nara, lived in Kyoto until the XII century, when the samurai dictatorship of Taira was established in Japan. And in the XV century in the country once again there was a great turmoil — at that time, right in the city there were fierce battles of aristocratic clans that were at war with each other, sharing power. As a result, almost all the buildings were burned. Historical chronicles report that everything burned down — monasteries, houses of samurai and aristocrats.
Only in the XVII century, the ruined capital, which was in complete decline and oblivion, began to recover. This happened already during the reign of the regional ruler Oda Nobunaga, who began to restore the capital. It was he who rebuilt the Imperial Palace and Nijo Castle. And he did many other useful things for the city.
Pagoda in Kyoto.
Nobunaga’s followers continued to rebuild the city, but in the early 17th century, after the founding of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603, Kyoto again lost its role as the political center of Japan. He moved to the city of Edo, although the city itself still continued to be the capital of Japan and the residence of the emperor. To make Kyoto less vulnerable militarily, castles and monasteries were built in its vicinity. Until the early 19th century, Kyoto was considered one of the richest cities in Japan — and the third largest after Edo and Osaka.
An interesting fact: when the Americans in 1945 were just planning to subject Japanese cities to atomic bombing, they considered Kyoto as an object for striking. Then, however, it was removed from the list of bombing targets, replacing it with Nagasaki. They say that the main role in this was played by the banal human factor — something, as they say, oiknul in the soul of US Secretary of War Stimson, who previously spent a honeymoon in Kyoto, so he has good memories of the city – the cultural center of Japan was not erased from the face of the earth.
The park architecture of Kyoto has its own unique style.
Indeed, this Japanese city is unique in its own way-even though the architecture of its temple buildings, including the Imperial Palace, was strongly influenced by Sino-Buddhist culture. During construction, preference was given to light, soaring roofs. Moreover, in the architectural style, the “religious component” was taken into account: it was believed that the roofs should be built curved in such a way that the demon who entered the living room from heaven did not stay on the ground, but again “went” back to where he came from.
The Imperial palace, built in ancient times in the northern part of the city, completely burned down in 1228. Then it was rebuilt several times and moved to another place. The one that has survived to this day is also made in the old Japanese architectural style. It was built relatively recently — in 1855. Along with the Niyo Palace, this architectural monument recalls the brilliant and warlike past of Japan during the feudal era.
Today, Kyoto is a fairly large metropolis, which is home to more than one and a half million people. Even the residential areas of the city are so filled with medieval temples and palaces that sometimes you get the feeling that you are in the heart of a grand open-air museum. The oldest surviving sacred structure is the Chion-in Temple , the main temple of the Jodo-shu Buddhist school. It was founded in the XII century by the monk Honen. Currently, Jodo-shu is considered one of the most influential Buddhist sects in Japan.
The Tiong-in Temple was built in the first half of the 13th century by a disciple of Honen. It is noteworthy that this temple has very creaky floorboards — they were made deliberately, this was a common security measure in medieval Japan. And in this temple there is a mighty bell that weighs 74 tons. It takes the efforts of 17 monks to make it “cry out”.
Imported from China, Buddhism quickly took root in Japan. This religious teaching found its architectural embodiment primarily in Kyoto. A striking example of Buddhist architecture is the Sanjusangen-do Temple-a temple of 33 niches. It is currently the longest wooden building in the country. It was built in the XII century, but then burned several times and was restored again. The main object of worship in this temple is the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, or thousand-armed Kannon. And the religious building is known for the fact that every year in May, archery competitions are held there, which attract many fans of these competitions.
In Kyoto, there are quite a few notable Buddhist temples — for example, Nishi-Honganyi and Hingashi-Honganyi.
The cult of simplicity, which, by the way, supports the traditional style of the Japanese tea ceremony, reached its highest expression in the classic villa Katsura, built in the XVII century. This structure is an incomparable example of the traditional Japanese sein style with its minimalism and natural refinement of forms. In the construction of the tatami became the main attribute of all the rooms for the architects. Indeed, during the tea ceremony, it is traditionally more convenient for the Japanese to contemplate the moon on the tatami, rather than on a bench. There is also a special platform for moon viewing in this temple.
In the old palace city of Kyoto, you can see outstanding examples of Japanese garden art. Under the influence of Zen masters, miniature rock gardens were built here. They were not intended for walking, they are a kind of ink drawings made with the help of stones and ornamental plants, which are perceived as particularly successful symbols of artificially created nature.
The Japanese call the old Imperial city in Kyoto with its more than 1.5 thousand Buddhist religious buildings, gardens and parks the greatest treasure of the country. The Imperial Court was located in Kyoto until 1868, when Tokyo became the new capital and residence of the Heavenly Emperor.