Kyoto (kyōˈtō) [key], city (1990 pop. 1,461,140), capital of Kyoto prefecture, S Honshu, Japan, on the Kamo River. Yodo is its port. Kyoto is one of Japan's largest cities and an important cultural and spiritual center. It is a key city in Japan's transportation system, and it is a major center of tourism. Industries, which are mainly traditional, include machines, chemicals, textiles, and food processing. The city is famous for its cloisonné, bronzes, damascene work, porcelain, and lacquer ware, and its renowned silk industry dates from 794. Founded in the 8th cent. as Uda and named Heian-kyo when it became Japan's capital in 794, the city was popularly called Miyako or Kyoto (sometimes Kioto). After 1192 it lost its political power to Tokyo; but since 1868, when the latter became the official capital, Kyoto has often been referred to as Saikyo [western capital]. For centuries it has been the cultural heart of Japan; it contains magnificent art treasures and is the seat of Kyoto Univ., Doshisha Univ. (founded in 1873 as an American mission college), and other higher educational institutions. The Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, the Kyoto National Museum, and an excellent concert hall are also there. Rich in historic interest, Kyoto is the site of the tombs of many famous Japanese; the old imperial palace as well as Nijo Castle (former palace of the shoguns), with their fine parks and gardens, are also in the city. In addition, Kyoto is a religious center, noted especially for its ancient Buddhist temples, its Heian shrine (a Shinto holy place), and its 59-ft (18-m) statue ( daibutsu ) of Buddha.
Kyoto prefecture (1990 pop. 2,602,520), 1,784 sq mi (4,621 sq km), is covered predominantly by the Tamba Mountains, and is centered principally in the region of the city of Kyoto. It had the largest industrial production of any prefecture in Japan until World War II. Other important cities include Uji, Fukuchiyama, and Maizuru.