10 Fascinating Facts About Kyoto’s Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka

Nestled in the heart of Kyoto, Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka are two sloping streets that provide a magical gateway to the past. With origins dating back over a thousand years, these lanes allow visitors to immerse themselves in the history and culture of old Kyoto. Here are a few fascinating facts about Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka.

Ancient Origins

Ninen-zaka and Sannen-zaka date back to the Heian Period (794-1185), making them over a thousand years old. Their history is deeply intertwined with the development of Kyoto itself.

A Step into the Past

Walking down these streets is like time travel. The preservation of traditional wooden machiya houses gives a glimpse into old Kyoto, and it’s easy to imagine geishas hurrying along these paths in years gone by.

Sannen-zaka’s Name Mystery

The name ‘Sannen-zaka’ translates to ‘Three-Year Hill’. Legend has it that if you fall while walking on this slope, you’ll face three years of bad luck. It’s a quirky bit of folklore that adds to the charm of the place.

Ninen-zaka’s Name and its Legend

Similarly, ‘Ninen-zaka’ means ‘Two-Year Hill’. The legend here suggests two years of misfortune for a tumble. Visitors often tread carefully to avoid tempting fate!

Preservation Efforts

Both streets are part of a preservation district for groups of historic buildings. This status helps maintain the authentic feel and architectural integrity of the area.

A Magnet for Movie Directors

The streets have been a favorite for filmmakers, serving as a perfect backdrop for historical films and dramas. Their unchanged appearance gives an authentic touch to any period piece.

The Famous Yasaka Pagoda

At the end of Sannen-zaka stands the Yasaka Pagoda, one of Kyoto’s most iconic landmarks. The streets lead directly to this five-story marvel, offering a breathtaking view.

Teahouses and Tradition

These lanes are lined with traditional teahouses where visitors can experience a genuine Japanese tea ceremony, a practice deeply rooted in Japanese culture and history.

The Birthplace of Kiyomizu Ware

The area is known for Kiyomizu ware, a type of Kyoto pottery. Many shops along these streets sell this unique pottery, characterized by its intricate designs and bright colors.

A Hub for Festivals and Celebrations

Throughout the year, various festivals and seasonal celebrations take place here, offering glimpses into Japan’s rich cultural heritage and the local community’s way of life.

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