Kyoto has a reputation as Japan's most beautiful city, with more World Heritage sites per square inch than any other. Kyoto was Japan's capital and the emperor's residence from 794 until the Meiji Restoration of 1868. It is now Japanís seventh largest city with a population of 2.6 million people. Kyoto is considered the center of Japanese culture and is famous for its 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines.
Highlights of Kyoto include NijŰ Castle with its ornate reception rooms and "nightingale floors", which make bird-like squeaking sounds when stepped on as a result of nail placement in the floor joists. This was a warning system signaling an intruder to the shogunís guards. The Imperial Park is a large, peaceful area in the centre of Kyoto, centered around the Imperial Palace. The Palace itself is only open for pre-booked guided tours. The Temple of the Golden Pavilion is the most popular tourist attraction in Kyoto. Originally built as a retirement villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu in the late 12th century, it was converted into a temple by his son. Rebuilt after a deliberate fire, it has been embellished with extra layers of gold leaf and fairly blazes in the sunlight.