Kyoto/ Cultural Preservation/Essence of ancient Kyoto within the Cityscape

Changes are inevitable to a city as time passes by. Though Kyoto was not affected as much as other cities such as Tokyo by modernization and westernization, some changes still need to be adopted in order to ensure the city is able to pass on the essence of ancient Kyoto. The following writing focuses on the Kyoto landscape policy during the time period from 2007 to present.

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This is the present landscape regulation map that is divided into eight main landscape districts: six of them are for the purpose of aesthetics, while the other two are for the purpose of promotion due to their regional characteristics.

Sagano, Kamo River, Kitayama Mountain, kyo-machiya, and the two world heritage sites, Nijo Castle and Kiyomizudera Temple are some of the famous landscapes and historical buildings in Kyoto. Starting from 1930 to 2003, there were various policies set to protect these historical buildings and landscapes.

1930: Scenic landscape districts were to be designated

1966: Ancient capitals preservation law was established

1967: Special preservation areas were designated under the ancient capitals preservation law

1972: City ordinances on urban landscape were established (they were the first established ones in Japan)

1973: A height zone was set for most of the city (for central area, the maximum building height is 45m)

1995: City ordinances on the urban landscape improvement were established

1996: The expansion of landscape restriction districts, the reinforcements on outdoor advertisement measures and building height control

2003: The 3-point set rule for commercial-residential coexisted districts introduced (the reinforcement on city center building height control districts, special use districts designated, and the expansion on aesthetic landscape districts)


However, these policies are no longer effective enough due to societal changes in values and lifestyle and economical reasons and purpose of efficiency, several negative consequences indeed become the threats of killing the essence of Kyoto culture: the loss of historical buildings, the degradation of landscapes, maladaptation of modern buildings to surround the cityscape. Therefore, a new set of policies would need to be implemented in order to maintain the essence, and the changes were made in 2007.

The new set of landscape policies was consisted of five main elements: 1. the building height. 2. the design of the buildings. 3. surrounding landscape and perspective view. 4.outdoor advertisements. 5. historical streets. Here’s the basic explanation of each main element in the following respectively. Firstly, the buildings within the business centered city are based on a certain height, and so the maximum height from the center would gradually decreases towards the mountain regions. Secondly, the standards for design of the buildings will be varied according to different regions. Thirdly, different landscape preservation views are categorized into three zones: from perspective view, to close view, and then to distant view. Fourthly, there will be restrictions on outdoor advertisements in order to ensure the scenery could be seen within the city. Lastly, repair and improvement will be conducted for the historical townscape, meanwhile single structure designation will also be implemented to beautify the existing buildings. With the new policies, they are not merely to preserve the essence of Kyoto culture, but to continue the “heartbeat” of the city and help the city to move forward.



Kyoto City Landscape Policy (2014)  [Online] Available from:  [Accessed: 28th Dec 2014].


1 Comment on “Kyoto/ Cultural Preservation/Essence of ancient Kyoto within the Cityscape

  1. Compare to the city i researched on, Beijing, Kyoto has done a much better preservation in both architecture and cultural aspect. Even the capital has moved to Tokyo, with careful conservation, Kyoto has now became Japan’s historical heart and remains a lot of cultural values, a lot of parts of the city seem timeless.

    It has always been a struggle for city planner to decide between preservation and modernization. Most developing countries have chosen the latter and demolished a lot of valuable old buildings. Which Kyoto could be an example to show how an old city can represent the culture and history.

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