Kyoto/ Cultural preservation/ Ordinances

In illustrating the cultural preservation of Kyoto, I would like to firstly annotate from the aspect of the preservation laws.

Kyoto was the city in Japan that spared from massive destruction during WWII, it became a museum exhibiting traditional Japanese culture and townscape. In history, preservation law in Kyoto expanded from protecting individual object to space to place.  The practice developed from a strict implementation of preservation ordinances to a silent consensus of the entire city on heritages protection to a cultural preservation as it transformed.


The first systematic law was the 1897 Ancient Temples and Shrines Preservation Law. Protection law was applied merely to individual objects of historic art and architecture. Cultural assets would be recognized nationally.


Urban infrastructure in the form of rectangular grid layout of its street and its overall placement into nature were left from the original Heian-kyo. With the implementation of a city ordinance creating scenic areas in 1930, historical urban artefact was preserved. The protection contributed to the remains of street grid and preserve the natural scenery.

First of all, implementation of revised ordinances protected and preserved natural character and curb urban sprawl. This made natural mountains commonplace within visual field of urban Kyoto. Proximity of nature within built environment was guaranteed. The preservation in this sense reinforced the prestigious setting of Kyoto as surrounded by horseshoe layout of natural mountains.

On the other hand, it is noted that internal settings at the same time accounted for the historic perspective of Kyoto. Heritages ranges from man-made or manipulated historic landscape of prominent historic spots, to ancient palaces, temples, shrines, they all played distinctive parts of Kyoto’s cultural ambience.


The amendment on preservation law through time reveals the change of perception on cultural asset of Kyoto. The recognition to city of Kyoto as an artifacts of preservation importance gradually became apparent. The highlight on machinam (traditional row houses), in 1972 Visual Townscape Preservation Ordinance, displayed the comprehensiveness as to preserve urban scenes as a collective instead of piecemeal independent objects. We can thereby interpret this in a wider sense as a preservation of urban streetscapes. In this period of history, a prevailing conservation act was the preservation of parts of the city, specifically, the designation of them as “aesthetic areas”. This act announced architectural identities of neighbourhoods. Even more, it appears as an imposition of a city image. The pronounced cultural significance was the reinforcement of capital Kyoto as the headquarters of Buddhist and important arts and crafts industries. As a consequence, local crafts were preserved as valuable national assets.



A sense of place-Urban preservation and renewal in Kyoto, Guenter Nitschke, Insights from Kyoto-Japan-Asia Kyoto journal


Cultural properties of Japan, Wikipedia


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.