Even though the main focus of our study tour was Zen and tea aesthetics of the Japanese tradition, we took the time to stroll several neighbourhoods where we could experience traditional urban patterns of living. Also, wherever convenient, we tried to pass some of Kyoto's not too many pieces of good or for other reasons interesting examples of modern architecture. Thus below is a list of neighbourhoods and urban districts with mentioning of some of the pieces of modern architecture, we passed on the way.
Ponto-cho preservation area *
Ponto-cho is a geisha district along the west side of the Kamo river. It's many small restaurants and tea houses make a fascinating urban structure. And strolling Ponto-cho around 6 o'clock in the evening, you still have a fair chance to meet a geisha or maiko on the way to work. Along the main street, which is only a couple of meter wide, you find Shin Takamatsu's Pontocho Ochaya. And just to the north of Ponto-cho, you find Tadao Ando's Times I & II. Especially Ando's Times, facing the Takase river, is a good example of contemporary urban architecture.
Gion * and the Shirakawa preservation area *
Gion is a geisha district to the east of the Kamo river, which developed during the Edo period around Gion shrine. In the southern part of Gion (South of Shijo-dori) still many of the traditional tea houses remain. Central parts of Gion have almost been taken over by modern entertainment culture and its colourful mix of restaurants, drinking places, pachinko parlours and night clubs. And here you find examples of remarkable "bubble architecture" like Hiroyuki Wakabayashi's Freak Building * and Shin Takamatsu's Station MK * & Maruto IV. *
In the northern part of Gion you find a small area around the Shirakawa river, where many of the traditional tea houses still exist. This little Shirakawa enclave is now under preservation law, and the contrast to the noisy entertainment district architecture that has taken over major parts of post-war Gion is alarming.
Ninenizaka * and Sanneizaka * preservation districts
The walk in the Higashiyama district along Ninenizaka * & Sanneizaka * preservation districts from Gion to Kiyomizudera is another good walk. It leads through charming neighbourhoods, and on the way you can pass Kennin-ji, * Kodai-ji * and the Yasaka-to pagoda. * Unfortunately, it seems that the establishing of preservation areas and tourist interests are closely interwoven - or that these areas are the only ones where agreement on preservation can be achieved. But it makes the area around Kiyomizudera excellent for purchasing the obligatory omiyage, presents. Between the many gift shops, you still find pottery shops with decent selections.
Nishijin, The Western Camp, traces its history back to the Onin wars (1467-77), where Kyoto for a decade was transformed into a battleground. Nishijin quickly became Kyoto's textile district, and in some parts of Nishijin traditional machiya are still the majority of the houses. Also in Nishijin you find Shin Takamatsu's new headquarters buildings for the textile company Hinaya (see list above) Origin I, II and III.
Between Shugaku-in and Shisen-do *
This walk leads through former villages that are now part of charming suburban settlements, but still vegetable gardens and rice fields blend into the scenery. Approximately midway, you pass Manshu-in. *
Tetsugaku-no-michi, the Path of Philosophers *
This charming path leads along a small water channel and is lined with sakura trees. It brings you from Ginkaku-ji and Honen-in in the north to Nanzen-ji in the south passing on the way Kano Shoju-an.
Fashion Street *
Kitayama-dori, often nicknamed Fashion Street, has its selection of modern fashionable architecture within short walking distance. Here for instance you can find Tadao Ando's Garden of Fine Arts * (see list above) and B-lock Kitayama, * Kyoto Concert Hall by Arata Isozaki, and some four projects by Shin Takamatsu including Syntax * and Week. * Access by the north-south subway line is easy.
Further examples of modern architecture
Nakagawa Photo Gallery by Toru Murakami * (near Kuramaguchi subway station)
JR Kyoto Station by Hiroshi Hara *
Kansai International Airport by Renzo Piano *
Life Inn Kyoto by Hiroyuki Wakabayashi
Kyoyen Restaurant by Hiroyuki Wakabayashi
Oyamazaki Village Museum by Tadao Ando (near Tai-an at Myoki-an)
Ark Dental Clinic by Shin Takamatsu
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