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A Brief History Of Japan’s Aacient Capital

  The city of Kyoto began to take shape in the 8th century when some of its earliest residents, the  Hata family, invited the Emperor to make his home on their hunting grounds. Under the most rigorous dictates of geomancy, planners created a grid of roads patterned after the western Chinese city of  Xi’an, terminus of the Silk Road.
  Rich with game, traversed by rivers and sheltered on three sides by mountains, Kyoto began its transformation into one of the great cities of the 9th century. By the late 800s, the network of avenues and byways had become the new Imperial Capital. Workers who lived in rough huts helped build a palace and estates for the nobility. A political court thrived on ritual, bureaucratic intrigue, poetry and the newly introduced spiritual practices of Buddhism, a faith introduced to the former court in Nara.
  Molded by deep religious beliefs and rent by warring factions, Kyoto began its journey through history, not only as an imperial stronghold but also as a vibrant residential city, with enclaves of astute merchants, gifted artisans and hardworking commoners who lived alongside the temples, shrines and gardens that even today stand as tributes to the skills and ancient aesthetics of their creators. But as much as Kyoto is rich with remnants of a remarkable past, it is a forward looking city, as embodied in the architecturally stunning and massive Kyoto Station.
  Kyoto is also a city festooned with ugly electric wires and burdened with lumpish apartment buildings, intrusive sidewalk notices and gaudy neon signs. Discarded bicycles lie in gnarled mounds. For while Kyoto residents are truly proud of their city and its historic artistic legacy, some have perfected enough selective vision to overlook aesthetic insults.
  Some would say that it was a series of historical accidents that allowed Kyoto to become one of the world’s metropolitan jewels.  Other would argue that it could have been no other way. In 1868, after the Meiji Restoration, the Emperor and his court, as well as the heads of prestigious families, moved from Kyoto to the new capital of Tokyo, then a collection of rural towns known as Edo. Despite fear that losing its status as the capital would pitch Kyoto into decline, it thrived. The city is not only a stronghold of tradition but early on embraced progress. In 1890, it built one of the country’s first large scale engineering feats, a canal that allowed rice from the agricultural prefecture of Shiga to be shipped efficiently into the city. Kyoto also quickly established hydroelectric power, realigned streets to allow construction of a railroad station and boasted the country’s first tramcar.
  The members of the oldest families who remained behind founded Nintendo, Kyocera, Murata Manufacturing and Shimadzu Corporation, now among some of the world’s leading companies, while Kyoto University boasts of Nobel Prize recipients in chemistry and physics.