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Temples, shrines, and gardens can't be taken home with you. You can, however, pack up a few omiyage (mementos) for which this city is famous. The ancient craftspeople of Kyoto served the Imperial Court for more than 1,000 years, and the prefix kyo- before a craft is synonymous with fine craftsmanship.
Kyo-ningyo, exquisite display dolls, have been made in Kyoto since the 9th century. Constructed of wood coated with white shell paste and clothed in elaborate, miniature patterned-silk brocades, Kyoto dolls are considered the finest in Japan. Kyoto is also known for fine ceramic dolls and Kyo-gangu, its local varieties of folk toys.
Kyo-sensu are embellished folding fans used as accoutrements in Noh theater, tea ceremonies, and Japanese dance. They also have a practical use—to keep you cool. Unlike other Japanese crafts, which have their origin in Tang Dynasty China, the folding fan originated in Kyoto.
Kyo-shikki refers to Kyoto lacquerware, which also has its roots in the 9th century. The making of lacquerware, adopted from the Chinese, is a delicate process requiring patience and skill. Finished lacquerware products range from furniture to spoons and bowls, which are carved from cypress, cedar, or horse-chestnut wood. These pieces have a brilliant luster; some designs are decorated with gold leaf and inlaid mother-of-pearl.
Kyo-yaki is the general term applied to ceramics made in local kilns; the most popular ware is from Kyoto's Kiyomizu district. Often colorfully hand-painted in blue, red, and green on white, these elegantly shaped teacups, bowls, and vases are thrown on potters' wheels located in the Kiyomizu district and in Kiyomizu-danchi in Yamashina. Streets leading up to Kiyomizu-dera—Chawan-zaka, Sannen-zaka, and Ninen-zaka—are sprinkled with kyo-yaki shops.
Kyo-yuzen is a paste-resist silk-dyeing technique developed by 17th-century dyer Yuzen Miyazaki. Fantastic designs are created on plain white silk pieces through the process of either tegaki yuzen (hand-painting) or kata yuzen (stenciling).
Nishijin-ori is the weaving of silk. Nishijin refers to a Kyoto district producing the best silk textiles in all Japan, which are used to make kimonos. Walk along the narrow backstreets of Nishijin and listen to the persistently rhythmic looms.
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