With seventeen UNESCO World Heritage sites, Kyoto is a treasure trove of art, culture, and history. On our four-part virtual journey, we'll tour eight of these places, learn about their significance and meaning in Japanese culture, and practical tips on navigating a visit.
Kyoto is world-famous for its rich history and fascinating culture. Widely considered the heart of traditional Japan, Kyoto has an astonishing 17 UNESCO World Heritage listings that range from gardens and temples to Shinto shrines and castles.
This multi-part series provides an overview to some of the most important and popular, focusing on their historical background and what they tell us about traditional Japanese life and culture. Each session introduces two sites, explains their historical and cultural significance, and offers practical tips on visiting these and other nearby sites.
Led by an expert on Kyoto's history and traditional culture, this four-part series introduces over half of the city's UNESCO World Heritage sites and puts these remarkable places into a historical and cultural context. This series is the perfect introduction for those planning (or dreaming of) a trip to Kyoto.
Lecture 1: City of Power–Nijo Castle and Tenryūji
The only secular site in Kyoto’s UNESCO listings, Nijo Castle offers an unparalleled glimpse into the splendor of shogunal power. Tenryūji, a Buddhist temple built by another shogun, lets us explore the cooperation between Buddhism and secular power.
Lecture 2: Gardens–Ryōanji and Saihōji
Perhaps nothing symbolizes Kyoto better than its matchless gardens. We’ll explore two exquisite examples -- one of moss and one of stone -- to better understand and appreciate Zen gardens.
Lecture 3: Creating Japanese Style–Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji
Built by members of the Ashikaga shogunal family, these two sites (beloved Golden and Silver Kyoto temples) explore competing impulses within Japanese aesthetics: one toward extravagance, the other toward subtlety.
Lecture 4: Land of the Gods–Kamigamo Shrine and Shimogamo Shrine
We will explore the Shinto side of Kyoto by examining two ancient sites of kami worship, delving into their rites and rituals.
Gavin received a Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and came to Kyoto in 2001. He is a Ph.D. professor of history at Doshisha University. His teaching and research revolve around Japan's cultural encounters with the West, particularly during the Edo, Meiji, Taisho and early Showa periods (1600-1940), and he has published on the history of foreign tourism and of Protestant missionaries in Japan. To further explore Japan's global cultural encounters, he is currently writing a book on the history of Japanese menswear from the 1600s through the early 20th century. He is also an expert on Kyoto geisha culture and a frequent participant in geisha entertainment.
How does it work?
This is a four-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.
Is there a reading list in advance?
Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.
How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.
How much is the course?
The course is $140 for four lectures.
Is a recording available?
Yes. If you need to miss a lecture, you will be sent a recording after the event.
This conversation is suitable for all ages.
90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.