Kyoto as a center of the old arts and culture and of various accomplishments and elegant tastes, comes largely, if not entirely, under the head of Buddhist Kyoto. Until Buddhism came into Japan there had not been much to boast of in the so-called fine arts.
"All that can be classed under the name of art in Japan was either introduced or developed by Buddhism; and the same may be said regarding nearly all Japanese literature possessing real quality, -- excepting some Shinto rituals, and some fragments of archaic poetry. It was a civilizing power in the highest sense of the word, for it introduced drama, the highest forms of poetical composition and fiction; history, philosophy, architecture, painting, sculpture, engraving, printing, landscape gardening--in short, every art and industry that held to make life beautiful. All the refinements of Japanese life were of Buddhist introduction, and at least a majority of its diversions and pleasures. Perhaps the briefest way of stating the range of such indebtedness, is simply to say that Buddhism brought the whole of Chinese civilization into Japan, and thereafter patiently modified and reshaped it to Japanese requirements. The older civilization was not merely superimposed upon the social structure, but fitted carefully into it, combined with it so perfectly that the marks of the welding, the lines of the juncture, almost totally disappeared."
This is slightly overstating the case, especially in view of the many revelations now being made, thanks to the increasing study of the ancient classics, concerning the native geniuses of the pre-Buddhist times. For all that, it is substantially true to say that Japanese civilization is largely Buddhist, just as the European civilization is Christian. Therefore, to understand and appreciate the arts and culture of old Japan one can hardly do better than to view old Buddhist temples and study the works of art they embody or keep in store. To facilitate such study there are several useful institutions, of which the best is the Kyoto Municipal Museum, which was donated by the Imperial Household. Its exhibits, divided into the three classes of history, fine arts and art industry, afford us a comprehensive view of the vast range of artistic productions of the past centuries from the Heian to the Tokugawa period. The Museum will also point to the various storehouses of treasures, scattered all over Kyoto, where more unwieldy objects of art may be seen in their appropriate settings.
As for the present-day industry of Kyoto, of which the world speaks in such high terms, it is needless to say that a good standard is zealously maintained in all its branches. It is the pride, nay, the life of Kyoto, and naturally both the local enthusiasts and craftsmen themselves make it almost a matter of religious devotion to live up to the best traditions and fame of the city.
The Nishijin silk industry stands pre-eminent among Kyoto's beauty products. The limpid waters of the Kamo are believed to be "soft," best adapted to the treatment of the dyes. The origin of these industries is lost in the haze of mythology, but they never cease to command the best markets of the Empire, and of the world, in an ever-increasing degree. Kyoto has a proverb that there are two places which never know what "hard times" mean -- the pleasure quarter of Gion and the Nishijin weaving district.
After the silk goods come the porcelain, lacquer, bamboo wares, dolls, fans, damascene, cloisonné, etc. For all of these there are special stores and factories which will be only too glad to let visitors enter so that they may view the process of making, as well as the finished goods on show. It is a liberal education in art industry to make an inspection trip among the shops and factories of these beauty wares.