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Exploring Kyoto: On Foot in the Ancient Capital Paperback – Apr 1 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Stone Bridge Press (April 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933330643
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933330648
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2 x 17.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #195,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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What began as the author's translation of Japanese-language Kyoto street and informational signs grew into a bountiful little book complete with superstitions, legends, history, and popular culture. The map key foretells the natural details used to guide the visitor through 27 walking tours of this beautiful, ancient city. Pagodas, gates, and shrines are marked, along with waterfalls, springs, cherry trees, plum trees, and lotus flowers. Romantic names such as "Sound of Feathers Waterfall," "Moon-Crossing Bridge" and "Teahouse of Clear Rippling Waves" intimate how highly the Japanese regard the natural world. On each clearly written tour, the author reveals fascinating facts about the city: the lattice-windowed wooden townhouses are called eel houses because of their depth and narrowness, and norens are the split curtains that help distinguish businesses from homes, hanging in the doorways of open shops and restaurants to announce the name of the business and the nature of its trade. Whether or not you're planning a trip to Kyoto, this is a fascinating glimpse into the culture of Japan. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Judith Clancy has lived in Kyoto since 1970, and her interest in the traditions of the ancient capital has led her to study and write about traditional music, the tea ceremony, and Ikebana. While acting as the guide and interpreter for various groups, she established ties with many dedicated traditional artists and teachers.

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I recently used this book as a guide for about 2/3 of my destinations during a 3 week trip to Kyoto - the choice of temples, gardens and historical sites is excellent. (I also recommend just wandering about, using a Kyoto City map with temples and World Heritage Sites marked.) The sites/sights chosen are varied, including the different types of gardens -- stroll, Chinese-style lakeview, dry landscape, zen rock etc -- Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, a castle, some World Heritage Sites (there are so many!) and are well-described; those that require a bit of physical fitness (the 88 Shrine walk, upper Daigo, Fushimi Inari etc) are duly noted (if you are reasonably fit, nothing is onerous; the 'mountains' are only about a 600 - 1000' climb.) Entry prices were accurate.
If you simply chose destinations from this book for your trip, you would have an incredible experience.
(NB This book does not deal with where to stay or to eat - it is truly a guide to exploration.
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Format: Paperback
The author does not try and hide her distaste for the modern aspects of Japanese cities, her focus is on the historical background of the sights and the tone of her writing is dry and almost textbook. If you are the type of person who reads all of the written information available on the plaques in museums and you love to learn about the history of the places you visit you will enjoy reading this book. The information has much more depth than what you will find in a typical tour book but not all of the major sights are covered.
My problem with 'Exploring Kyoto' is that it is tries to be a collection of walking tours that you would carry and use as a guide but it does not work well in that way. For one the book is cumbersome and not organised in a way that is easy to follow on the fly. The maps are poor and the descriptions of the routes are not always clear. Sometimes it is not even clear where you need to start the walk. The text is more suitable to reading in a comfortable location before or after you head out.
On the positive side, I had a really great time exploring the western outskirts of Kyoto with this book, and it gave me a look at the Goin district that was richer than I found elsewhere. It covers some of the 'must see' sights of Kyoto but I found its' strength to be in the lesser known sights in the outskirts of the city. If you plan to be in Kyoto only a couple of days this book may be unnecessary, there is a free pamphlet available at the tourist office called 'Kyoto Walks' that covers the main sights. If you will be in Kyoto a week or longer and want to visit some lesser known, historically fascinating sights, 'Exploring Kyoto' may be of value to you.
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Format: Paperback
Having just attended both the Jidai Matsuri (Festival of Ages)in Kyoto Imperial Park and Fire Festival in Kurama I wish I brought this book along. I missed some great opportunities to visit some interesting places mentioned in this book! Great on background, history and ancient sites in the Kyoto region! What the book lacks is information on Modern Kyoto which is also is facinating and offers plenty of eye candy too! Perhaps that is asking too much? But Kyoto does offer more historical sites than other cities in Japan due to the Allied forces not bombing this city as other cities in Japan were not so fortunate as Kyoto. And this book certainly does an excellent job in providing self guided walking tours of all of the historical and some modern sites in Kyoto! I would recommend bringing this book along with a modern guide as well but I have yet to find a excellent one.
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