• Registration Year


  • Registered Sector

    Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities)

  • Historical Function

    Politics, religion and culture.

  • Administrative Status

    Capital of the Kansai region.

Location and site

Kyoto, situated in the south of Japan's principal island, Honshu, occupies a plain. The city is surrounded on three sides by mountains and crossed by the Katsura and Kamo Rivers, which join downriver to form the Yodo River.

Urban Morphology

The grouping of 17 cultural properties making up this protected site occupies the plain and the surrounding piedmont where the cities of Uji and Osu are situated today. The plan of Old Kyoto was based on an adapted plan of Ch'ang-an, the Tang capital of China. It is based on rigourous symmetrical order. A central north-south axis links the imperial palace with the Rasho Gate, which has since disappeared. This axis is the centre of a grid-like layout.

All but one of the 17 cultural properties are used for religious purposes (Shinto, Buddhism or Zen). Most of them are situated on the piedmont rather than in the centre of the city. They consist of groups of buildings and gardens (with plants or stones), 210 in all, which are closely linked to natural landscape elements. These wood constructions, with their roofs of shingles or cyprus bark, reflect the political, religious and artistic roles of Kyoto between the 10th and 19th centuries.


Registration Criteria

"Kyoto was the main centre of evolution of religious and secular architecture and of garden design between the 8th and 17th centuries, and as such it played a decisive role in the creation of Japanese cultural traditions which, in the case of gardens in particular, had a profound influence on the rest of the world from the 19th century onwards." (II) "The assemblage of architecture and garden design in the surviving monuments of Kyoto is the highest expression of this aspect of Japanese material culture in the pre-Modern period." (IV)

Historical Reference

  • Founded by Emperor Kammu as the capital of Japan in 794 under the name of Heian-Kyo, Kyoto retained its status as the imperial capital city until the restoration of the Meiji in 1868. The brilliant Heian period (794-1185) witnessed urban growth. Buddhist temples were erected at the periphery of the city.
  • With the advent of the feudal State and the Shoguns, the government was relocated to Kamakura (1185-1333), but the imperial residence and the centre of Japanese culture remained in Kyoto.
  • During the Shogun era of the Muromachi (1333-1573), Kyoto was once again named the capital city in 1338. In and around the city, a number of temples devoted to the Rinzai-Zen sect were erected and Zen gardens were created.
  • During the Onin Civil War (1467-1477), Kyoto was devastated. A new urban class of merchants ensured its reconstruction, but it was destroyed by a fire in 1788.
  • With the establishment of the Shogun Dynasty of the Tokugawa (1603-1868), the government was established at Edo (now Tokyo) in 1603. At the heart of Kyoto, the new Shogun erected the Nijo Castle as well as imperial villas. The city became a pilgrimage centre.
  • Following the restoration of the Meiji in 1868, the imperial court moved to Tokyo, along with the seat of the government; the latter had briefly returned to Kyoto between 1863 and 1868.
Mr. Daisaku Kadokawa
Kyoto City Hall
488 Teramachi-Oike, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto-shi
Kyoto, Japan