Kyoto

Downtown Kyoto isn’t very scenic, but the parks around it certainly are. The temples, being made of wood, have a habit of burning down and having to be rebuilt over the centuries, but the gardens around them are often much older. This includes the Arashiyama garden and the golden Kinkaku-ji temple and bamboo grove at the western edge of the city.

Kyoto

More temples in Kyoto! Buildings are often simple wooden halls resting on large pillars, with elaborate roofs but very simple inside. Walls are white or rice paper, or occasionally painted with murals; there is very little furniture. Floors are covered with Tatami mats. Tatami mats are made from fine soft woven straw, and are so ubiquitous in Japan that they are used to measure floor space. You might hear of a six-mat room, which is about 23 square meters – slightly complicated by the fact that there are three slightly different standard Tatami sizes.

The gardens are often more interesting than the buildings. They are always meticuously landscaped, often working with huge moss-covered spaces and raked gravel ornaments. They are maintained with more care and attention than any English golf lawn; I have seen women with white gloves carefully picking clean moss gardens.