Books set in Kyoto start with the classics…

Murasaki Shikibu – The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari) (c.1000-21)
Sei Shonagon – The Pillow Book (Makura no Sōshi) (1002)
Kamo no Chomei – An Account of a Ten Foot Square Hut (Hojoki) (1212)
anon – Ōkagami (the Great Mirror) date unknown
anon – The Tales of the Heike (Heike Monogatari) mid-13th century
Yoshida Kenko – Essays in Idleness (Tsurezuregusa) (c.1330-1332)

Also many collections of poetry have originated in Kyoto, three of the most celebrated being:

ed. Ki no Tsurayuki et al Kokinshu (Collection of Old and New) c. 905
anon  Tales of Ise (Ise Monogatari) 10c
ed. Fujiwara Teika – Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets) (early 13c)

Amongst modern Japanese classics the following in particular stand out:

Akutagawa Ryunosuke – ‘Rashomon’ (1915)
Ogai Mori – ‘Boat on the River Takase’ (‘Takasebune’) (1916)
Mishima Yukio – The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) (1956)
Enchi Fumiko – Masks (Onna men) (1958)
Kawabata Yasunari – The Old Capital (Koto) (1962); House of the Sleeping Beauties (Nemureru Bijou) (1961)
Tanizaki Junichiro – The Key (Kagi) (1956); also ‘The Bridge of Dreams’ (in Seven Japanese Tales, 1963)

Foreign authors of note include the following:

John Haylock – One Hot Summer in Kyoto (1980)
Pico Iyer – The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto (1991)
Arthur Golden – Memoirs of a Geisha (1997)
Liza Dalby – The Tale of Murasaki (2000)
David Zoppetti – Ichigensan: The Newcomer (2011)

Foreign poets to have treated the city in their poetry include:

Gary Snyder  – The Back Country, 1968
Cid Corman – various
Harold Stewart – By the Old Walls of Kyoto, 1981
Edith Shiffert – various, including Kyoto: The Forest within the Gate,  2014
Margaret Chula – Grinding My Ink, 1994
Robert Brady – Further on this Floating Bridge of Dreams, 1990
Philip Whalen – Scenes of Life at the Capital, 1970

Guidebooks to the city:

Gouverneur Mosher Kyoto: A Contemplative Guide (1964)
Diane Durston  Old Kyoto: A Guide to Traditional Shops, Restaurants and Inns (1986; updated)
Diane Durston Kyoto: Seven Paths to the Heart of the City (1987; 2014)
John H. and Phyllis G. Martin Kyoto: A Cultural Guide to Japan’s Ancient Imperial City (1994)
Christopher Rowthorn Lonely Planet Kyoto (2015)

Walks in Kyoto

Judith Clancy Exploring Kyoto: On Foot in the Ancient Capital (2008)
John H. and Phyllis G. Martin Kyoto: 29 Walks in Japan’s Ancient Capital (2014)
ed. Michael Lambe and Ted Taylor Deep Kyoto: Walks (2014)

Kyoto Gardens:

Marc Treib and Ron Herman A Guide to the Gardens of Kyoto (2003)
Thomas Daniell and Akihiko Seki Houses and Gardens of Kyoto (2010)
Judith Clancy and Ben Simmons Kyoto Gardens: Masterworks of the Japanese Gardener’s Art (2015)
Marc Keane et al –


John Dougill  Kyoto: A Cultural History (2006)
Richard Ponsonby-Fane  Kyoto: The Old Capital of Japan, 794-1869 (1956)
Matthew Stavros  Kyoto: An Urban History of Japan’s Premodern Capital (2014)
Herbert E. Plutschow Historical Kyoto (1983)
Fosco Maraini – Kyoto in the Fifties (1995)

Other notable works:

Alex Kerr – Another Kyoto (2016)
Ivan Morris – The World of the Shining Prince (1964)
Iwasaki Mineko – Geisha of Gion (2002)
John Einarsen – Zen and Kyoto (2004)
Isabel Stirling – Zen Pioneer: The Life and Works of Ruth Fuller Sasaki (2007)

Kyoto sections in larger works

Fosco Maraini Meeting with Japan (1959)  150 pages, 4 chapters, devoted to Kyoto by a keen observer
Isabella Bird  Unbeaten Tracks in Japan (1880) Kyoto chapters by the intrepid explorer largely omitted from the published book. See p.224 of
George Sansom A History of Japan to 1334 (1958) Large portion is about Kyoto, by a historian who’s a joy to read


Literary Tour
Cycle Kyoto has a very useful page on a four-hour tour of the city to visit places with a literary association. The sites cover the following authors: Murasaki Shikibu, Sei Shonagon, Matsuo Basho, Tanizaki Junichiro, Kawabata Yasunari, Mishima Yukio, and the Beat poet Gary Snyder.  For details, please click here.

Other listings
For an exhaustive list of historical novels and mysteries set in Japan in general, scroll down to the Japan section at this link.

There’s an eccentric list of books set in Kyoto which looks like it might have been selected by computer here.  Similarly goodreads has a rather odd listing here.

Wikipedia has a list of films set in Kyoto.

For a listing of recent anime set in Kyoto, see this link.