Title: Wallpaper City Guide: Kyoto
Publication Year: 2008
I love Kyoto. I really, really do. I don’t understand why anyone would choose to live or vacation in Tokyo. The only places worth going in Tokyo are the Maruzen above Roppongi Station and the Tsutaya/Starbucks right outside of the Hachikō exit of Shibuya Station. Other than buying beautiful books, eating strange matcha-flavored pastries, and people watching, the best thing to do if you’re ever in Tokyo is to get on a train and go to Kamakura. Seriously. To all the Americans who think they want to fly to Tokyo: Save yourself some money and fly to New York City. The fact that going to New York will save you money should give you a hint about what sort of place Tokyo is.
In any case, Kyoto is an amazing city. Many people seem to think of Kyoto as a center of traditional Japanese culture. Of course it is, but it’s not as nice as Kamakura, if that’s what you’re looking for. I would argue that the best part of Kyoto is its secret identity as an enormous college town. There are dozens of universities (many of them on par with the great universities of Tokyo) in Kyoto, and they have attracted the requisite population of intellectuals, students, hipsters, yuppies, and so on. Also, unlike Tokyo, Kyoto is a pleasant and affordable place to live, so a lot of surprisingly big-name Japanese companies have their headquarters there. As an added bonus, because of the city’s convenient location, the best beef, fish, vegetables, tea, and sake in Japan are to be found in Kyoto.
That’s why I am so happy that Phaidon published one of its Wallpaper City Guides on Kyoto. This is not a travel guide for old fogies looking for temples and gardens; this is a guide for rich young trendy hipsters and jetsetters in search of fancy bars and architourism. There are about ten pages of this guide devoted to temples and shrines, and the remaining pages are filled with the best postmodern architecture Kyoto has to offer. Cool music venues, ultra-modern hotels, fusion restaurants, and alternatives to IKEA also abound. In short, this is not the guide for students on a budget but rather for those who can afford to bring a full selection of fabulous shoes with them when they travel.
I suppose, for the rest of us, this guide is all about the amazing photography. Not only are the gorgeous lighting and subtly off-center angles worth noting, but the absence of people in any of the photos should be mind-blowing to anyone who’s visited Japan before. Everything in the guide is, without exception, full color, a fact that makes the $10 price tag seem less ridiculous for such a small guide. Also, it’s nice to flip through the guide and learn that there are a plethora of locations in Kyoto that have nothing to do with traditional culture and everything to do with a contemporary sophistication on par with that of the other great cities of the world.