(Kyoto and Central Japan)(Travel)(Travel)2023-09-05

Guide to Kyoto and Central Japan

We explore the imperial city of Kyoto hosting everything from historical Mingei movement ateliers, gilded temples and anthropomorphic buildings. With Kyoto as our base, we travel around the region exploring architectural gems around Kobe, Osaka and Awaji Island

Inside the studio of Mingei Movement advocate, Kanjiro Kawai's home and atelier | Photo by Kristen de La Valliere
Inside the studio of Mingei Movement advocate, Kanjiro Kawai's home and atelier | Photo by Kristen de La Valliere

Kyoto, the ancient imperial capital dating back to 794 AD, is more or less on the top of every person's bucket list, no? From traditional ryokans with outdoor baths, gilded temples, contemplative rock gardens, tea ceremonies and a mecca for traditional Japanese culture – this is a must-visit for anyone visiting Japan.

The Heian period (794-1185) saw Japanese culture blossom and flourish in the realms of poetry, architecture, art, and religion in the temple-laden, moss-clad city. From Kyoto, major cities such as Osaka, Kobe, and Awaji, as well as some lesser-known spots hosting some of Japan's (if not the world's) most interesting contemporary architecture, are just a stone's throw away. With Kyoto as our base, we set out to explore the history of design and architecture within its grid as well as on day trips around the region.

The Site of Reversible Destiny at Yoro Park | Photo by Kristen de La Valliere
The Site of Reversible Destiny at Yoro Park | Photo by Kristen de La Valliere
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Kanjiro Kawai's House

In Eastern Kyoto, on the otherside of this home’s weathered wooden doors — you’ll find the perfectly preserved home and workshop of prolific potter and advocate of the ‘Mingei Movement’, Kanjiro Kawai.

Face House

In Kyoto, this 1970s anthromorphic building by Japanese architect Yamashita Kazumasa not only brightens up this dreary residential street but has fully functional architectural facial features.

Osaka Prefectural Sayamaike Museum

The museum in Osaka, designed by Tadao Ando was built to house relics from the local archaeological site and to showcase ancient Japanese techniques of engineering.

Osaka Prefecture Chikatsu Asuka Museum

Osaka Prefectural Chikatsu Asuka Museum, designed by Tadao Ando, is a prefectural museum in Kanan, Osaka Prefecture, Japan, dedicated to the area of Chikatsu Asuka during the Kofun and Asuka periods.

Yodokō Geihinkan

The Yodokō Guest House is a private home turned museum built in 1924 by Frank Lloyd Wright for prominent sake brewer Tazaemon Yamamura. The building features carved geometric patterns and comprises one- and two-story sections overlapping each other like a staircase along the hill’s incline.

Site of Reversible Destiny – Yoro Park

Arakawa and Gins’ Site of Reversible Destiny—Yoro Park, is a created landscape containing a series of pavilions, undulating planes, shifting colors, and disorienting spaces that the artists presented to visitors as a place of purposeful experimentation.

Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art

The Hyōgo Prefectural Museum of Art is a purpose built municipal art gallery in Nada-ku, Kobe, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan designed by Tadao Ando

Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum

The Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum is a museum of carpentry tools in Kobe, Japan conserving ancient tools as an example of Japanese cultural heritage.

Zenbo Seinei by Shigeru Ban

An open-air platform for meditation is elevated above the treetops at Zenbo Seinei, a wooden retreat that Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban on Awaji Island in Japan

Awaji Yume Butai by Tadao Ando

Awaji Yumebutai, or Dream Stage, is designed to feel as many natural elements as possible, such as water, wind, light, shade, mountains, the sky, and the ocean, which might be missed in daily life.

Chapel Cappella di Mare by Tadao Ando

A slit in the ceiling projects a cross on the silk-concrete walls of this wedding chapel by Tadao Ando on Awaji Island in Japan.