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T+L's Guide to Kyoto, Japan

A dish from a multicourse kaiseki meal at Kinmata Ryokan.

Photo: Courtesy of Kinmata Ryokan

While the megalopolis of tokyo catapults itself into the future, Kyoto—renowned for its temples, shrines, and vibrant geisha culture—has grown cautiously. Two years ago, the government banned rooftop and flashing ads and put a cap on building height to preserve the centuries-old landscape. Now, a surprisingly modern city is emerging as stylish restaurants, shops, and inns pop up in 19th-century machiya, or wooden merchants’ houses. Read on to learn more about the new Kyoto.

1. Scene

For a glimpse of the city’s spiritual heritage, head north along the Kamo River to Daitoku-ji, a 685-year-old Zen monastery with 24 temples, and to Okochi-Sanso, the five-acre residential gardens of the late samurai film star Denjiro Okochi. Then fast-forward to the present at the new Iyemon Salon Kyoto, on the lower floors of a kimono company, with a contemporary crafts shop, chic café, and steel-and-glass gallery exhibiting 450-year-old embroidered kimonos. At night, taste rare brews at Sake Bar Yoramu, a low-key bar run by an Israeli expat.

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