If you’re a history buff, or time traveler, this could come in handy.
With all apologies to Nara, nowhere in Japan can match Kyoto’s reverent connection to its history. The city served as the seat of imperial power for centuries, most gloriously during the Heian period of the 9th to 12th centuries.
Walking along the city’s streets can sometimes feel like taking a trip into the past, and if that’s where you’re going, you’ll want a period-accurate map, like the interactive one developed by Kyoto’s Ritsumeikan University.
Called the Heiankyo Overlay Map, the clever navigational tool (which can be found here) works with Google map’s data for the city. For example, here we see the area directly north of modern-day Kyoto Station.
But by dragging the slider at the top right corner of the map, you can place or remove an overlay of what the corresponding area looked like in the Heian era.
▼ The slider, indicated by a red arrow
Now hundreds of years in the past, we can see that before the Kyoto Station area was filled with tourists and commuters, it was a gathering point for the religious faithful, as indicated by the large numbers of temples (which bear the kanji 院 on the map).
Of course, some temples have held onto their lands. The Higashi Honganji Temple (東本願寺), for instance, has been an influential and important institution for generations, and was as prominent a fixture of the old Kyoto cityscape as it is the new.
▼ Then (top) and now (bottom)
As a matter of fact, comparing certain addresses shows that Kyoto has even gained a few cultural properties through the years. Nijo Castle, one of the country’s best-loved fortresses, wasn’t built until 1626, and so it doesn’t appear on the Heian period map.
▼ Where’d you go, Nijo?
And sometimes the Heiankyo Overlay Map reveals some unexpected parallels between the past and present. In the area now known as the Kawaramachi entertainment district, sliding the slider to the Heian period map shows a Buddhist temple and Shinto shrine in close proximity, two technically competing yet coexisting providers of the same service.
▼ Shinto shrine circled in red, Buddhist temple in blue
And what do we find just a stone’s throw away in the present day?
▼ A McDonald’s and a Mos Burger
Truly, the more things change, the more they stay the same.