History of Kyoto



After a long war, the Japanese individual states united under the ruler Himiko to form the Yamatai Empire. The Yamatai Empire did not yet encompass the entire country.  


Queen Himiko sends a delegation to the Wei Dynasty in Luoyang to learn from the progressive Chinese. Japan adopts the Chinese script, Buddhism, Chinese culture, philosophy and architecture. Korea was then part of China and Japan, which is only 200 km away from Korea, came under the influence of China.   


After the fall of the Wei Dynasty, a war broke out in Korea, which Japan used to establish a small colony in the southern part of the peninsula.


The " Taika reforms" are introduced under Nakatomi no Kamatari. This means that all property comes under the control of the emperor, the land is measured, the population is counted and a tax system is introduced.


Fujiwara-kyo becomes the capital of Japan after Asuka-kyo. It is the first city in Japan to be built based on the Chinese model. The Chinese capital Changan (today's Xi'an) served as a blueprint with its rectangular floor plan and strict street grid. Fujiwara-kyo remained the seat of the Tenno for only 16 years. After the emperor's death, the old palace was considered unclean and a new palace was built. As a result, the capital changed with almost every new Tenno.   


Nara becomes the new capital of Japan. The city was called by then Gemmei or Heijo-kyo. During the Nara period, the emperor's power was consolidated and a central administration was introduced.    


The Enryakuji Temple is founded at Hiei-zan in what is now Kyoto Province. It is the center of Tendai Buddhism based on the Lotus Sutra. The Japanese " Tendai " school is based on the teachings of the Chinese Tiantai Zong School, which originated on the Tiantai Mountains near Shanghai.   


The capital of Japan is relocated from Nara to Heian-kyo (Kyoto) to break the power of the Buddhist monks. Kyoto will remain the country's capital for 1,000 years. Nara remains the center of Japanese Buddhism. Heiankyo means "Capital of Peace".  


A few years after Heian-kyo was founded already 500,000 people lived in the new capital.


In the struggle for power, the Taira clan defeated the Minamoto. But instead of killing the defeated enemy, they released the Minamoto again.


At the Battle of Dannoura, the Minamoto destroyed the Taira clan. The end of the Heian era had come. Shogun Yoritomo Minamoto moves his residence to Kamakura.         


The Kamakura Shogunate is founded, Yorimoto rules his land from there. The Emperor has lost control of this part of the country. Kamakura rises to become the most important city in Japan. This epoch is also called the Kamakura period.


The first Mongolian attempt of an invasion of Japan fails because many ships between Korea and Japan are sunk by a storm.


The Mongols try again to conquer Japan. But there ships are sunk again by the "kamikaze" (divine wind) at Fukuoka.


With the victory of the imperial allies against Hojo, the "Kamakura period" ends. The new ruler builds his residence in Muromachi, a district of Kyoto. The new epoch is called " Muromachi Period". The ruling family comes from the Ashikaga clan. The old emperor Go-Daigo leaves Kyoto and founds his own southern empire.


The emperor of the southern empire gives up his claim to power. Japan is reunited under Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and Kyoto is flourishing.


Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu resigns and expands the Kitayama Palace into his retirement home. The Kinkaku-ji "Golden Pavilion" is built.


Kyoto was attacked several times during the Onin Wars (1467-1477). Many temples are destroyed in the civil war and bitter fighting takes place in the streets of Kyoto. The Ashikaga War of Succession was particularly severe in northern Kyoto. After the war, Kyoto was devastated and the country was without leadership. Japan broke up into small states that are at war with one another.  


The first ship from Portugal with raw silk from China lands at Nagasaki. Merchants from Kyoto buy the silk, enabling the textile industry in the Nishijin district to rise. There was also direct trade with China through the port of Sakai (Osaka).   


Oda Nobunaga conquers Kyoto and drives the Ashikaga shogun out of the city. Japan was in a phase of the civil war " Sengoku-jidai " in which the empire had slipped from power. Nobunaga was able to conquer several provinces and so subdue large parts of the country by force. However, he did not succeed in conquering all of Japan.


Nobunaga is murdered by his comrade Akechi. Another ally Toyotomi Hideyoshi makes peace with the unconquered part of Honshu and kills Akechi. He finally succeeds in uniting Japan.   


Under Hideyoshi, Japan conquered the Korean Peninsula. The Japanese armed forces are stopped at the border river to China and involved in costly fighting. After the death of the emperor, Japan withdraws from Korea. 


Emperor Hideyoshi dies and Tokugawa Ieyasu tries to take power.


Tokugawa Ieyasu conquered Osaka Castle, where the descendants of Hideyoshi had entrenched. Tokugawa moves the seat of government to Edo (Tokyo). Kyoto remains in the seat of the emperor, but he no longer has any power.  


The construction of the Katsura Imperial Villa begins. The disempowered emperor receives a "golden prison".  


The population of Kyoto rises to 580,000 residents. 


Tokyo becomes the new capital of Japan.  


The main train station is built, the first train connection was built to Kobe. 


The city administration is founded. 


The first Daimaru and Mitsukoshi department stores open in Kyoto. 


Kyoto was on the list of cities to be destroyed with an atomic bomb, but was removed because of its beauty. Nagasaki and Hiroshima were less fortunate. Kyoto was even spared conventional bombardment. 


Kyoto is connected to the Shinkansen bullet train network. 


The first subway line goes into operation. 


Kyoto is awarded the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site


The world climate conference takes place in Kyoto (Kyoto Protocol). 


Around 1,500,000 people live in Kyoto.





Kyoto, Japan