Kyoto History

Kyoto was Japan’s political and cultural capital for more than a millennium before the dawn of the modern era. Throughout most of that period, it was home and ritual center to the emperor and the civil aristocracy, the focal point of both sectarian and warrior politics, and the seat of the country’s most successful industries. As an imperial city planned according to Chinese geomantic models and embedded with status-specific architectural codes, the cityscape itself can be read as a text rich in information on politics, religion, and daily life.

Understanding the built environment reveals a great deal about the structures of power and social organization in early Japan. Through a synthesis of textual, pictorial, and archeological sources, the research featured on this site explores that environment with the aim of opening up new vistas for thinking about key aspects of Japanese history.

Matthew Stavros, The University of Sydney

The Book

Kyoto: An Urban History of Japan’s Premodern Capital (University of Hawai'i Press, 2014) explores Kyoto’s urban landscape across eight centuries, beginning with the city’s foundation in 794 and concluding at the dawn of the early modern era in about 1600. Richly illustrated with original maps and diagrams, this panoramic examination of space and architecture narrates a history... [more]

Kyoto Research Projects

The Shōkokuji Pagoda

Monuments & Mandalas in Medieval Kyoto

Muromachi & Kitano

From Java to Kyoto: Hindu-Buddhist Symbols of Kingship