Takafumi Kawakami spent a brief amount of time in Texas and Arizona before boomeranging back to his native Kyoto determined to follow his family’s tradition of becoming a Zen buddhist. Nowadays, he runs the zen meditation program at the Shunkoin Temple and serves as a fellow through the United States-Japan Foundation.

A natural tour guide, Takafumi appreciates how his city’s ancient history and cutting-edge dynamism meet in the middle to create a fascinating, world-class destination. “In Kyoto, I can easily reconnect with the past,” he says. “But at the same time, I can meet so many creative minds.” Here are a few of Takafumi’s favorite things about the city he’s proud to call home.

Kyoto Is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is to my temple, where they can learn how to incorporate Japanese traditions into their everyday lives while enjoying the art and gardens.

Early summer is the best time to visit my city because that’s peak season for flowers such as azaleas, wisterias, and irises. Tip: Visit Heian Shrine to admire the colors.

You can see my city best from Shogunzuka Mound.

Locals know to skip Kiyomizu-dera Temple and check out Daitoku-ji Temple instead. 

Picture of bamboo forest in Arashiyama Kyoto Japan (Photograph by mr_stru, flickr)
A visit to the bamboo forest in Arashiyama, Kyoto, is like entering another world. (Photograph by mr_stru, flickr)

Kaikado, maker of traditional tea caddies, is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs. 

In the past, notable people like philosopher Kitaro Nishida, theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate Hideki Yukawa, and painter Itō Jakuchū have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is the Kyoto National Museum because it houses one of the best collections of Japanese art in the world.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that Kyoto’s bus (Read more...)

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