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Trip to Kyoto


Martijn Meerts

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Martijn Meerts

So, I'm looking at heading over to Kyoto during the 2016 cherry blossom season. My boss it picking up a good chunk of the expenses as a bonus for having worked for him for 5 years now.

 

It's my first trip to Japan, so I figured I'd see if anyway has some good tips for hotels.

 

I won't be doing a lot of travelling outside Kyoto itself, it's not a railfanning trip, but more a trip to just relax. Something in the city center would be nice though, don't want to have to go find a hotel in the middle of nowhere during my first trip to Japan ;)

 

Looking at staying about 1.5 to 2 weeks probably. Not sure which dates yet, but I'm guessing end of March, beginning of April is the time to go for the cherry blossoms. I'll also be going by myself.

 

 

(I've been thinking of going to Tokyo instead of Kyoto, so any recommendations for Tokyo would be welcome as well. There are some things in/near Tokyo I'd like to see, but overall Kyoto just interests me more)

 

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Hmm, Kyoto, cherry blossom season, relaxing? Pick any two, I suspect. Book early and learn the Chinese for "excuse me, please stop blocking the escalator/pavement" ;). Or time travel back to 2011 or 2012. Kyoto is a bit overrated, IMHO - unless there's something you particularly want to see, I recommend Nara for temples'n'stuff (and there's a whacking great park which is relatively free of people) and Hikone for a nice genuine castle not too overrun by tourists. Otsu - just outside Kyoto - is a nice place to stay, and much less industrial (!). YMMV. The good thing about the Kansai area is that it's relatively compact so it's pretty easy to base yourself somewhere and do day-trips to places of interest.

 

Tokyo - depends on what you want to see where.

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Martijn,

 

I agree with the squid, Kyoto is a bit over blown and full to the brim with tourists, especially during cherry blossom I'm sure! It's not a mellow city really and temple areas are really crowded.

 

Our last trip to Japan I was amazed how much mellower Tokyo actually felt! There is such a variety of things in Tokyo you can do a lot as well as find different interesting places tomjustmhang out. Also a few day trips to get castles, temples and shrines could get your fix of that w.o being in the middle of a tourist mob...

 

Jeff

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Reiah Hotel Otsu Ishiyama.  150m walk from Ishiyama and Keihan-Ishiyama stations.  Half the price of hotels in Kyoto, but only 12 minutes ride on a lovely 321 series EMU to access Kyoto Station.  You can also ride the Sakamoto-Ishiyama Line to interesting spots also:- Miidera temple, Oni jingu shirne, Hiyoshi Taisha, and cable car up to Enryakuji.

 

All interesting Kyoto/Osaka/Kansai points of interest can be accessed from Kyoto station.  Arashiyama by train. Golden Pavilion by bus etc.  Most of the eastern Kyoto temples/shrines can be accessed from the subway, which has through services from the Otsu line using Keihan 800 series. Shoren-in, Yasaka etc.

 

As for Tokyo, I haven't stayed in but found alot of cheaper hotels in the Chuo ward area.  Last visit I when to Shinjuku, and most hotels were pricey.  Chuo ward isn't know for it tourism, so it seems to be a little cheaper than other places bordering the Yamanote line.  It also has the Sobu line go through it, so direct access to Narita Int if required.

 

As for were to stay in Tokyo.  I don't think it matters.  The train network is awesome, and you can get anywhere.  Just look on booking sights to locate a hotel you like.  then check if they have the own in-house booking facilities, as sometimes they are cheaper.  If you are prepared to walk 700m to a Yamanote station, you'll save about 25%-50%.

 

The Yamanote line is a big circle, and any hotel within 500m knows you wanna book there.  So any hotel outside the 500m radius tends to be a lot cheaper.

 

If you are there for 10-14 days, you could do both easily.  4-5 in Kansai and 7-8 Kanto regions.

Edited by katoftw
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I suspect that at that time of year, you will not have much to choose from as far as hotels go. And it will be really expensive.

 

I think Kyoto's worth going to, but I agree with what the others have said about tourists and crowds, especially at certain "special" times of year like that. It has a much higher concentration of tourists than Tokyo, where they are a lot more spread out. But, you can see things in Kyoto that you can't see in Tokyo. Tokyo's temples and shrines just aren't very impressive in comparison, and Kyoto still has a real operating geisha system that Tokyo really doesn't, to my knowledge. (Most of what you see referred to as "geishas" in Tokyo are just bar hostesses wearing a costume.) The geisha and maiko in Kyoto do have shows and tea ceremonies and things like that that regular tourists can partake in.

 

I stayed at the New Miyako in Kyoto, which has an amazing view of the shinkansen tracks and Kyoto Station, and is literally across the street. That's really convenient, because in Kyoto the buses (which are the primary mode of transportation) pretty much all run from the train station as well. That said, the hotel rooms are a little dated now, but they're nice enough. Still, whenever I've looked at this hotel thinking I might go back, its rates are like $350 a night like every other hotel in Kyoto at the times of year a person might actually want to go.

Edited by spacecadet
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Congrats on your first trip!

 

Please allow me to share a little.

 

1.5 -2 weeks at one place? Wow... You could explore all of Kyoto like that!  :)

 

Would you be considering getting a rail pass? You mentioned that it is not a railfanning trip, so perhaps you could also take the chance to ride the Shinkansen since it is your first trip there. The experience is truly as remarkable as they filmed on all the documentaries we have watched ~ :)  Many tour agencies will say: What's a Japan trip without the Shinkansen ride?

 

Can I suggest using the 1.5 - 2 weeks you have to visit both metropolitan cities, Tokyo and Kyoto? They are also 2 of the top places that tourist usually visit on their first trip, with Osaka thrown in as a bonus for staying near Kyoto.

 

As for hotels, it would be more expensive than usual as it is the cherry blossom and high likely near if not in the Golden week season, and also Kyoto hotels generally tend to be a little more expensive than Osaka ones. I used Osaka as a base for visiting Kyoto, only 20-25 mins away. If you don't mind some travelling, I find the last Osaka hotel I stayed in, the Keihan Hotel at Kyobashi station, very convenient with a large shopping mall and supermarket connected at its ground levels and nice scenery of the overall city, with Keihan train spotting thrown in as a bonus ~ I attached a picture out of the hotel room for your reference ~  :)

 

Have fun planning! Half the fun in Japan is planning the trip and the another is when the excitement and anxiety builds up towards it!

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If you want Kyōto and some relaxation, I'd suggest you go to Kanazawa. The cherries bloom a little bit later there and Kanazawa has the nickname of 'Little Kyōto'. It's not too far away from Kyōto, as well as Nagoya, plus it just had the Hokuriku Shinkansen constructed, so a direct connection to Tokyo (if you feel the need to go) is also there.

 

Next to that, if you want to go train spotting and riding, there are a lot of interesting railway companies and lines in the vicinity.

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1.5 -2 weeks at one place? Wow... You could explore all of Kyoto like that!  :)

 

I missed that it was that long in the first post. I agree that's too long to really spend in Kyoto. I'd give Kyoto 3 or 4 days tops. It's really a place known for its temples and shrines and its history, but I honestly think there's only so much of that that most people really want. There are some temples that are really unique and worth seeing (everyone's gotta see Kiyomizu), but after 3 or 4 temples you're going to start feeling "temple fatigue". I mean they all have the same basic features, and the same collection of souvenir, food and junk stands on the roads leading up to them.

 

Beyond the history, I don't think there's really much you can do in Kyoto that you can't do in Tokyo. And Tokyo has a lot more variety beyond that. I don't know if you've ever been to the US, but Kyoto vs. Tokyo is kind of like Boston vs. New York. Or maybe Colonial Williamsburg vs. New York.

 

I'd spend a few days in Kyoto and use Tokyo as a base for the rest. If you fly to Osaka at the start at then take the shinkansen later to Tokyo, you don't need a rail pass unless you want the freedom to take day trips whenever you want.

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Martijn Meerts

Thanks for the suggestions so far ..

 

To be honest, I don't know much about the sights in Japan at all. If I knew any Japanese at all I'd probably have opted to stay at a small mountain village in the middle of nowhere ;)

 

 

The reason Kyoto interests me is because it is  generally considered a bit more of a traditional city, although I guess it really depends on how you look at it. I haven't really looked at what I want to see, other than visit the Gion district and some temples, especially sanjusangendo. Although, I'm also considering going to Kyoto at a later time and not during any sort of special event/holiday/season.

 

With regards to Tokyo, there's 2 things I would definitely want to see there. The Ghibli museum obviously, and the Cafe Eorzea (which is a cafe based on a location in a online Final Fantasy game I play quite often). I'm sure there's MUCH more to see, but I just haven't really looked at any detail. I did check the prices for hotels in Tokyo, and they are indeed quite a bit cheaper than in Kyoto.

 

 

As I said, I'm not going railfanning or train watching whatsoever. A train museum would be fun to visit, and maybe seeing the Enoden could be fun considering I'm planning on doing some T-Trak modules based on that. Of course, I definitely want to do a trip on a shinkansen (if I opt for Tokyo, I could grab the shinkansen to Kyoto and spend a day there)

 

I'm not looking at the cheapest hotels, but more at decent comfort/location. As I said, work is picking up a good part of the expenses. E6 suggested the Citadines hotels, which look really comfortable to me. They're more like mini-apartments rather than hotel rooms, which is nice because I might very well feel like just staying inside for a day.

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, if I go for Tokyo, I can hire Toni to be my personal guide for a few yen per hour :D

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Das Steinkopf

I would certainly suggest Otsu which is situated on Lake Biwa about twenty minutes train trip from Kyoto, the Toyoko Inn there is decent priced and the place is clean, it is a short walk to the Keihan Keishin Kamisakaemachi station or about a ten minute walk to the JR Otsu station, you can also walk down to the Keihan station at Hamaotsu where the Keihan Keishin terminates as well as meets up with the Keihan Ishiyama Sakamoto line. Otsu is pretty laid back compared to Kyoto and doesn't seem to be overly busy, you can also use it as a base to do day trips to places such as Osaka, Himeji and Hiroshima as well as seeing the tourist sites around Kyoto, we are planning on going back in a few years time and will be staying in Otsu again for a decent part of the trip. I would strongly suggest getting a JR Railpass prior to going over there to use for JR sevices as well as ICOCA Card when you are over there for using on the private lines.

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I haven't really looked at what I want to see, other than visit the Gion district and some temples, especially sanjusangendo.

Sanjusangendo is the other one I would have suggested; it and Kiyomizu are probably the two most famous, and they're about as different from each other as two buddhist temples can be.

 

With regards to Tokyo, there's 2 things I would definitely want to see there. The Ghibli museum obviously, and the Cafe Eorzea (which is a cafe based on a location in a online Final Fantasy game I play quite often). I'm sure there's MUCH more to see, but I just haven't really looked at any detail.

It sounds like you're into some pop culture stuff; there is a *lot* to do in Tokyo in that case. Often as you go to things you know you want to do, you will find other things you will want to do either at the same time or that you'll come back for later. The Eorzea Cafe, for example, is in Akihabara, very close to the Gundam Cafe, the AKB48 Cafe (if you're into that sort of thing), tons of electronics, anime, game and train stores, and lots of other stuff. Often when I'm planning trips to Tokyo - and I'm about to go on one too - when I find one thing I want to do, 10 more will pop up as a direct result of researching and planning that thing. That's just how Tokyo is.

 

I'm not looking at the cheapest hotels, but more at decent comfort/location. As I said, work is picking up a good part of the expenses. E6 suggested the Citadines hotels, which look really comfortable to me. They're more like mini-apartments rather than hotel rooms, which is nice because I might very well feel like just staying inside for a day.

Also look at Oakwood if you like that style; these actually *are* apartments that you can rent daily. So they have washer/dryers, full kitchens, etc. and they're not expensive because unlike regular hotels, they don't have a full staff. You're kind of just living there like any Japanese person for however long you're there.

 

I stayed in an Oakwood in Shinjuku at one point but I think that one closed. For my upcoming trip, we're staying at the Oakwood Ariake in Odaiba, which is a place I've always wanted to stay, and it's only about $160 per night for a 1 bedroom apartment with a balcony, which is cheap by Tokyo standards. That's equivalent to a suite in most hotels, which is usually about $350 and up, and you don't get a washer/dryer or kitchen in a regular hotel.

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Hello Martijn,

 

I agree that Citadines is an excellent choice.  My suggestion would be to avoid the rail pass as you're looking for a relaxing holiday.  

 

You will find that you can only really enjoy a couple of temples in a morning.  Of course, you could fit 3 or 4 in a rush but clearly that is not the point of your holiday. 

 

I think using one hotel in Kyoto as a base is an excellent idea.  Around Kyoto you will want to get the two day bus pass.  Just pay for trains as you need them.

 

One suggestion: an afternoon trip to Osaka to visit the aquarium.  Take the Shinkansen one way and the Thunderbird the other way.

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Martijn Meerts

Okay, after some consideration, it's more than likely going to be Tokyo after all. There's a few things around Tokyo I would really like to see, and I'm not sure when I'll be visiting Japan again. So the idea is to grab a Citadines mini apartment thingy in Tokyo for about 2 weeks and see what I'll do from there. 

 

What I definitely want to do is visit the Ghibli Museum, the Cafe Eorzea and do a day trip to Kyoto by Shinkansen. Other than that, visit some history museums and temples of course, as well as take a trip to visit the Enoden. A train museum would be nice as well, just haven't looked into what's around the Tokyo area much. I basically just want to get the hotel and flight booked (since work is likely paying for those), and then plan from there once I know the exact dates.

 

Other than that I think I'll just end up exploring, and maybe meet up with some people from the forum who are in/around Tokyo.

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A train museum would be nice as well, just haven't looked into what's around the Tokyo area much.

 

Obvious candidate - the JR Railway Museum up near Omiya, slightly outside Tokyo but you can combine it with a visit to the Tomix World near Omiya station. There are other smaller museums around like the Tokyo Metro and Tobu ones as well.

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One thing to keep in mind, JR West's reopening of Umekoji with the expanded building is scheduled for around this time.  Looks like it'll be awesome :)

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JR West's reopening of Umekoji with the expanded building is scheduled for around this time

 

Yes, but better visit on a weekday either in the AM or a couple of hours before closing, the weekends will be chaotic with legions of screaming children running amok, I guarantee.

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Obvious candidate - the JR Railway Museum up near Omiya, slightly outside Tokyo but you can combine it with a visit to the Tomix World near Omiya station. There are other smaller museums around like the Tokyo Metro and Tobu ones as well.

 

Almost every self respecting company has a museum, or at least some events going on. If you know the exact dates you're coming, we can probably look for potential events (open depot days, family events, model train meetings/shows, etc.) to visit if you like.

 

Tōkyū and Keiō also have their little museums going on. I know a lot of people are anticipating an Odakyū museum, as they have quite a lot of historical trains stored all around the place, but so far no word on it... :(

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Martijn Meerts

Umekoji steam locomotive museum would of course be nice to visit if it's reopened by then.

 

 

Toni, I may need a bit of assistance once I get there. The Cafe Eorzea for example isn't necessarily easy to get a reservation at (and you do need reservations), considering the staff there doesn't speak much English according to all the reviews :)

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Good call... What's Japan without visiting Tokyo right?  :)

 

It's also a good base for a day trip to Hakone. The views are breath-taking and of course a ride on the famed Romance Car VSE50000 is a must~

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U could also consider Tobu World Square, with miniatures of world renowned landmarks (& of course taking a ride there on the Tobu Spacia~):

 

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Eorzea Café... Interesting... A final Fantasy Café!

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Chocobo rice anyone?

 

Wouldn't you want to visit the Ginza Panorama at Shinjuku too?

 

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It's also the place where the Railway Journal is usually filmed ~~

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Martijn,

 

Hey that sounds like a much better plan. You can do an overnight to Kyoto! Lots of easy trips from Tokyo and lots and lots to do in Tokyo! It's a big city but still walkable with all the public transport. Plus probably the best plac to meetup with other JNS folks.

 

So glad you are doing this! You are going to have great fun!

 

Cheers

 

Jeff

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Ghibli Museum is well worth visiting, of course.

Elsewhere in Tokyo, there's the "World Luggage Museum" in Asakusa, near the terminus of the Ginza Line. There's also a drum museum in Asakusa, as well as Hanayashiki -- the oldest theme park in Asia (with the oldest roller-coaster in Japan -- it goes over the top of and through the buildings on the theme park's boundaries).

In Kyoto, if you're there on May 15, take a look at the Aoi Matsuri. This annual festival has been going for about 1,500 years and its parade is truly an impressive sight.

I personally like to take a walk along the Shirakawa River from the large Heian-Jingu Shrine (you'll recognise it by its massive gate that can be seen from miles away) through Gion to the Kamo River. Along the way, down an obscure side-street, you'll find the head-mound (grave) of Akechi Mitsuhide, who was one of Oda Nobunaga's most trusted generals when he rebelled, killing Oda and becoming the "Shogun" for all of 13 days. Basically, Mitsuhide was a real-life Macbeth, but without Lady Macbeth.

Also take a walk along the Takase River in central Kyoto. The Takase River is the only river I know of that has its source in the garden of a restaurant. It was excavated as a canal in the early 1600s to enable freight to be floated between Osaka and Kyoto, and it carried its last cargo shipment in 1920. At its headwaters you will find monuments to two political assassinations in the 1860s, whilst in the rooms of one of its ryokans -- Ikumatsu -- the successful plot to overthrow the Tokugawa Shogunate and restore the Meiji Emporer to political power was hatched.

Whilst walking along the Takase, detours to Pontocho (to the east) and the Nishiki Market (to the west) are recommended.

And half-way between Kyoto and Nara is a glorious and historic town called Uji, where the local bridge has its own resident Goddess (who is responsible for protecting the bridge and divorcees), guarded by the oldest tea-shop in the world (established 1160AD, and has been owned by the same family in all that time) where you will find on display the now-800-year-old bucket used to draw water for the very first Japanese tea ceremonies. Around the corner from the tea shop is a museum dedicated to the oldest novel in the world -- "The Tale of Genji", written in about 1004AD, of which the last third is set in Uji, partly in two historic buildings that still exist.

One of those buildings is a Shinto Shrine that is just over the hill from the museum, while the other -- the Byodo-in temple --is across the river and is depicted on Japan's 10 Yen coins. The temple was converted in 1053 from a stately home that belonged to the most powerful man in Japan and is the only major building to survive from the Heian era.

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Martijn Meerts

Those are some very interesting things to do, all the older stuff is more my thing than just going trainspotting really =)

 

That said, the trip is probably going to be during the autumn this year instead. Some unexpected expenses started popping up (my kitchen is starting to fall apart for example, and I will probably need a new one sometime this year), and while I don't have to pay for the trip and hotel, it wouldn't be much fun going to Japan with not much spending money. I really don't feel like living on instant noodles for the 2 weeks there.

 

Looking at going around late October, see if I can be there for the Jidai Matsuri in Kyoto.

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Martijn Meerts

Okay, so ... Plans have changed again. I was aiming to go in October, but due to work being busy I never got around to actually booking anything. Then I went on holiday, then other people at work went on holiday, and well, I just ran out of time.

 

 

However, due to the new delay, I have now found some friends who are willing and capable of coming along, so that I don't have to go alone. So the new plan is to go to Tokyo around the last 2 weeks of February. It might not be the greatest time to visit, but sakura season would be too expensive and it seems schools in Japan have spring break then as well. And during late February it seems the plum trees start blossoming, so that's a good consolation prize.

 

It's NOT going to be a trainspotting trip, in fact, I haven't even planned visiting a railroad museum. I might go for a trip towards Hase to see the buddha statue there, and take a trip on the Enoden though.

 

I may need some help from someone living in Tokyo at some point. The people coming along I met though the online game Final Fantasy 14, so all of us are rather interested in visiting the Cafe Eorzea in Akihabara (restaurant themed around the game). However, apparently getting reservations there is really difficult since from what I've heard, no one on their staff speaks English, and neither of us speaks Japanese :)

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