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From 794 to 1868 Kyoto served as Japan’s capital city before moving to Tokyo under the charge of Emperor Meiji in 1869. Since then, it has been destroyed and rebuilt countless times, penance for refusing to be lost under the siege of war-torn centuries. Its modern face smiles upon visitors from across the globe, but its soul remains vested in the foundations of temples, shrines and other historically significant structures that make it hard to forget exactly what she’s made of. Familiarize yourself with Arashiyama, a scenic little district on the western outskirts of Kyoto that’s notable for its ravishing landscapes or wander through thousands of vermillion colored torii gates that make tunnels out of Fushimi Inari. Visit the 132,000 square mile site of Kinkaku-Ji, a temple dedicated to the practice of zazen, and be greeted by babbling brooks and bonsais that litter the garden in a blaze of blue and green. It’s this radiant glow of infrastructure, Kyoto’s ever-changing canopy, which preserves the feeling of reverential awe sowed hundreds of years in the past.

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