Kyoto is the most beautiful city I visit during my stay in Japan. It also has a lot of places to visit which I wish I have more times for staying in Kyoto. Kyoto is also no 1 tourist destination in Japan. It’s wonderful to see how the historic places and temples can be preserved very well in the middle of modern society of Japan. It will become one of the best experience you have in your life when you travel there and you will also be amazed on the nature surrounding the historic places with the temples.
How To Get There ?
The nearest international airport to go to Kyoto is Kansai International Airport. From the airport, you can take JR Haruka express train. In the airport, you can change your exchange order for the Japan rail pass and use it directly to take JR Haruka Express to Kyoto. Total journey will takes you about 77 minutes. There is also one day JR west Kansai area pass which cost you ¥ 2000, which is cheaper ¥980 compared to regular haruka express train ticket. Other alternative is using limousine bus which stop at several hotels or stop at Kyoto station, but the journey will takes longer (90 -135 minutes). Bus ticket is ¥2500 for adult for one way (children ¥1250) and ¥4000 round trip. You can find it at bus stop #8. There is also Itami airport in Osaka, the nearest domestic airport to go to Kyoto.
For our trip, we take Hikari shinkansen using our JR pass and takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes. The train is very comfortable and fast. The train stop at Kyoto station and we take taxi to our hotel, Sun Route Kyoto hotel which not too far from the station. The hotel is a bit small compared to the Prince hotel we stay in Tokyo but it’s typical for hotel in Japan for the size. The lobby of the hotel is on the second floor, you can take elevator or stair to go there. It’s also had italian cafe on the first floor serving for both guest and non guest.
The plus of this hotel is the hotel has computer equipped with the internet in front of the lobby which you can use for free. When you check in, they also provide some nice complementary tea bags on the lobby table. You’ll also have some tea bags including the Japanese tea bag in the room as well. For stay in Sunroute hotel, it cost about 91 USD through discount booking in Agoda, much cheaper compared to booking directly or show directly in the hotel. The plus for this hotel is there is bus stop exactly in front of the hotel, so you can go back to hotel using the public bus. The hotel is located in the central, in Kawaramachi Matsubara area and nearby some interesting places from Gion, Kiyomizu Temple and shopping area.
Sun Route Hotel
406 Nanba Cho Matsubara-sagaru
Central Kyoto Phone : +81753713711
After resting for a while in hotel, it’s time for going around Kyoto. For today, we decide just go nearby the hotel. The first destination is Gion. We are looking around the Gion area to take the pictures of Geisha as Geisha as well Maiko normally go out around 16.00 – 17.30 in Gion area. The Gion area is relative close to our hotel, so we just walk around the place as well to admire the building around the Gion area. Unfortunately, we can not find Geisha and Maiko. The easiest way is you visit one of the restaurant there but it will cost you for dine there. Later at the end of my trip in Kyoto, the Gion area is much bigger than i thought and perhaps the Gion area that we roam around is not the usual place where Geisha and Maiko can be found.
While strolling around Gion area, there is one interesting place that attract us to go inside, it’s pachinko. You can find pachinko around the Japan during your trip in Japan. It’s basically arcade game or gambling machine and the players fire the small iron balls inside the machine. For the balls that you won, you can exchange with token or prizes, can not be changed with money as gambling for money is illegal in Japan. However people then later sell the prize outside for some cash. When you go inside the pachinko, you can find young people up to middle age people inside.
From there, we visit the shops around and From Takashimaya store nearby the Gion area. The interesting part of the Takashimaya is the food court below the department store, where you can find many food and cakes there, although the food there is not cheap, for one piece of cake normally cost you around ¥ 500 – 650 ( around SGD 7.7 – SGD 10 or around IDR 56 k – 73k.
Our initial plan after Takashimaya is Nishiki market, which locate nearby. However no luck as the shops in Nishiki market close early. If you want to go there, you have to visit before 18.00 PM as shops normally close at that time. It’s night already and a bit tiring as we wake up early during our stay in Tokyo to go Tsukiji Fish market as well slept so late.
In the morning, after we had our breakfast, our destination are visiting the north part of Kyoto, where Ginkakuji and Ryoanji Temple located. The bus journey to there is a bit far. Fortunately we puchase one day bus ticket, like telephone card card which can be used to take the bus unlimited. We purchase the pass from our hotel, but I think you can find this at the bus counter as well or at Kyoto station, but you can not purchase it on board. The pass is relatively cheap, only ¥500 to take the bus up to midnight of the day being used, compared to single ticket which cost you about ¥220 or even more if you take taxi. When you purchase your pass, please ask for the bus map, it’s so helpful as there is information on the buses from one bus to another place to bring you to the famous places in Kyoto.
The first place we visited in the morning is Kinkakuji. Kin means Gold and the proper name of the place is Rokuon-ji temple. This temple also named as Golden pavilion due to the colour of the pavilion in the middle of the pond, the main attraction in the area. The temple is opened from 09.00 AM – 17.00 PM. We arrive there around 08.30 AM, yet there is already people queuing infront of the entrance. The weather during that day suddenly changed, snowing compared to the day before where there is no snow during the day. Admission fee is ¥400.
You can take bus no 101 and 205 from Kyoto station for about 45 minutes or take the Karasuma subway to Kitaoji station then take the taxi or bus no 101, 102, 204 and 205 from there to Kinkakuji. Kinkakuji become one of the world heritage in 1994. You can go up to look into the golden pavilion from the top of hill on the area.
From Kinkakuji, we continue our journey to Ryoanji temple which famous for its Zen garden, the rock garden. The size of the rock garden is 25 m from east to west and 10 m from south to north with rectangular shape, with no trees seen, only 15 rocks with white gravel used in the garden. It was said that the garden was created at the end of Muromachi period (around 1500) by highly respected zen monk, Tokuho Zenketsu. During the winter time, the garden was covered by snow, however can still be enjoyed through the miniature of the garden available there.
You can find traditional tea room, Zoroku, but you can only watch from outside, can not be entered. Nearby the room you can also find Tsukubai, unique wash basin of stone used for tea room.
Other interesting place at Ryoanji temple is the Kyoyochi pond, made in late twelfth century. Kyoyochi pond also generally known as Oshidoridera, temple of mandarin duck as before many mandarin ducks were seen on the pond.
It’s lunch time now. we see one Japanese buffet nearby the Ryoanji temple and seems there are many guests go inside. It sounds interesting, then we decide to have our lunch there. The price is ¥1800/ person which include drink (ocha and water). If you want to have soft drink or beer, you have to pay more. With the price, it’s so worthed as we can try many types of Japanese food there and food normally expensive in Japan. They also have varieties of desert include tiramisu, Japanese curry, and tempura. The price is the almost the same price having Japanese buffet in Jakarta.
We will continue Kyoto guide in the next article, Kyoto, City of Temples Guide Part 2.