Kyoto

The capital of Japan for nearly a thousand years, Kyoto remains the spiritual center of Japanese culture and history. Visiting Kyoto is like stepping into a movie or a dream, where bullet trains and modernist buildings vye with over a thousand pagodas, shrines and shining pavilions for attention. Kyoto is one of our favorite places in the world, and a must see for anyone venturing through Japan. The books we've selected reflect Kyoto's nature as an estuary where the best of Japan's past and present flow together.

Literary Fiction

The Old Capital

Yasunari Kawabata

Yasunari Kawabata was the first of two Japanese writers to win the Nobel Prize, and this novel was one of three cited in the Nobel Committee's citation for the award. The Old Capital is a brief, wistful and moving ode to Kawabata's hometown, Kyoto. Famous landmarks are scattered liberally throughout the novel, and the story as a whole is representative of the understated, elegiac style that characterizes Kawabata's work -- and to a large extent, the classic Japanese aesthetic as a whole. With beautiful characters and vivid descriptions of Kyoto's temples and iconic festivals, this novel is a must-read for anyone headed to Kyoto.

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Literary Fiction

The Teahouse Fire

Ellis Avery

This is an incredible tale of two women as metaphor for a fascinating time in Japan's history -- the cultural clash and transformation after Japan first opens itself to the West.

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Literary Fiction

The Temple Of The Golden Pavillion

Yukio Mishima

A short, tragic and moving novel by the famous Japanese author and failed revolutionary Yukio Mishima. The protagonist is a misfit who falls in love with one of Kyoto's most famous landmarks -- too deeply in love.

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Memoir

Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojurn In Kyoto

Victoria Abbott Riccardi

The story of a young woman who leaves her life in New York City behind to study the art of kaiseki, or cooking for the tea ceremony in Kyoto. Reading this book provides a glimpse into the cultural significance of the tea ceremony and the other traditions that make Kyoto special.

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