Little Kyoto – Small cities and towns similar to Kyoto

Kyoto was the capital city of Japan from 794 to 1868.

To the south of Kyoto Imperial Palace where successive Emperors lived, grid of streets and avenues was set up and the city was constructed.
In the city, there are many Buddhist temples and are some areas with old folk houses.

And Kyoto created many Japanese cultures such as Kabuki, Japanese tea ceremony, flower arrangement, Japanese cuisine, Nishijin weaving for Kimono, etc.

Several historic buildings are designated a World Heritage Site and over 50 million tourists visit Kyoto from home and abroad.

By the way, there are several cities and towns called “Little Kyoto”.
Each of them has a long history, the scenery or atmosphere similar to Kyoto, and traditional culture.
Many Japanese tourists love Kyoto, but they also love Little Kyoto.

Please add the plan to visit such Little Kyoto when you visit Japan.

Here are most popular Little Kyoto by Japanese tourists.


1. Kanazawa


Kanazawa is a city positioned roughly in the center of the Sea of Japan side.
This city has a population of about 500 thousand people, and has been the central city in this area since Edo Period (1603-1868).

Many cities in Japan were destroyed in air raids during World War II, but Kanazawa didn’t get bombed.
Therefore, Kanazawa has remains of old houses along the street.

Kenrokuen garden in Kanazawa Castle ruin is famous.
This area has produced some traditional artifacts such as Kaga-Yuzen dyeing, Kanazawa Lacquerware, Kutani porcelain.

In March of 2015, the new line of Shinkansen is open.
We can visit Kanazawa within 2.5 hours from Tokyo.

2. Hagi


Hagi is a small city located on the Sea of Japan side near west end of Honshu Island.
It is a little castle town since Edo Period.

Toward the end of the Edo period, many samurais who wanted to learn the Western politics and social systems gathered this city.
Then, some of them overthrew the feudal samurai government and established the new modern government by parliamentary system.
The city has remains of their houses and school.

The turbulent days when they were active interest Japanese people.
But, for foreigner tourists without such historical knowledge, the city may be uninviting.

3. Onomichi


Onomichi is a city facing Seto Inland Sea between Honshu Island and Shikoku Island.
It is located about 60 km east of Hiroshima.

Old town is on the slope of the mountains and many Buddhist temples are in the town.
Of course, most streets are sloping and narrow. But it is an attractive point of the city.

Several Japanese films took place in this city and some recent animation works are set on this city.

4. Takayama

TakayamaTakayama is a city located in the heart of Honshu Island.
It was a castle city on a small basin surrounded by mountains, and has been the central town in this mountainous area.

We can see the relaxing scenery of traditional houses in the city.
There are some Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples and Takayama Festivals in spring and autumn are famous.
The events such as Morning market held every day and Sake breweries tour in winter are well-known.

In addition, Historic Village of Shirakawa-go with A-frame houses is about one-hour drive from Takayama.

5. Tsuwano


Tsuwano is a small town located 40 km east of Hagi city.
It is situated in the mountains and has remains of old houses in the town.
From early on, this town has been called Little Kyoto.

In the 19th century, Christians from Nagasaki who were clamped down by the government were martyred for their faith in this town. Therefore, there is a cathedral for them.

6. Toono


Toono is a small town in a basin located in the northern area of Honshu Island.
In winter, this area is very cold.

The town has little atmosphere of Kyoto.

But many folk tales in this area had been collected since the 19th century and we can listen to the tales by the storyteller.
(Of course, in Japanese)

7. Kakunodate


Kakunodate is a town located in a mountain area in northern part of Honshu Island.
It was built as a castle town in the 17th century.
It has remains of old houses along the street, and some of them are old samurai residences.
We can enjoy the atmosphere of samurai period.

In addition, there are many cherry trees in the town and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom in late April.

8. Gujo-Hachiman


Gujo-Hachiman is a town located about 60 km southwest of Takayama city.
It is a castle town in mountain area and Nagara River flows near the town.
Because the water of the river is very clean, the old system leading the water into the town is set up.
The residents still use the system for daily life water.

The all-night Bon dance festival from August 13th to 16th is famous.

9. Hirosaki


Hirosaki is a city with a population of about 300 thousand.
It is located in the north part of Honshu Island, and the surrounding area is a major production area of apple.

In the center of the city, there is beautiful Hirosaki Castle built in 1810.
Around the castle, there are many cherry trees and it is one of most famous cherry-blossom viewing spots in Japan.
And Neputa Festival in August is famous.

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