Kyōto, city, seat of Kyōto fu (urban prefecture), west-central Honshu island, Japan. It is located some 30 miles (50 km) northeast of the industrial city of Ōsaka and about the same distance from Nara, another ancient centre of Japanese culture. Gently sloping downward from north to south, the city averages 180 feet (55 metres) above sea level. Kyōto fu is at the centre of Kinki chihō (region). The city is one of the centres (with nearby Ōsaka and Kōbe) of the Keihanshin Industrial Zone, the second largest urban and industrial agglomeration in Japan.
The capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years (from 794 to 1868), Kyōto (literally, “Capital City”) has been called a variety of names through the centuries—Heian-kyō (“Capital of Peace and Tranquillity”), Miyako (“The Capital”), and Saikyō (“Western Capital”), its name after the Meiji Restoration (1868) when the imperial household moved to Tokyo. The contemporary phrase sekai no Kyōto (“the world’s Kyōto”) reflects the reception of Japanese culture abroad and Kyōto’s own attempt to keep up with the times.
Nevertheless, Kyōto is the centre of traditional Japanese culture and of Buddhism, as well as of fine textiles and other Japanese products. The deep feeling of the Japanese people for their culture and heritage is represented in their special relationship with Kyōto—all Japanese try to go there at least once in their lives, with almost a third of the country’s population visiting the city annually. Several of the historic temples and gardens of Kyōto were collectively added as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. Area 320 square miles (828 square km). Pop. (2015) 1,475,183.