Tokyo is a great place with lots to see, but sometimes it is good to see something different. We had guests this week, so one of our activities with them was a short trip to Kyoto.
Kyoto is an easy trip from Tokyo. Getting Shinkansen tickets is the biggest challenge. Not that they’re hard to find. Just go to any JR train station. But my wife found that the Shinkansen person’s English proficiency was about on par with her Japanese capability. The tickets got purchased…but the process wasn’t exactly smooth.
The trip to Kyoto from Tokyo is an easy ride on the train. Smooth, fast, comfortable. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Fuji as the Shinkansen speeds past.
When we arrived, our ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel) was a short walk from the train station. We chose the ryokan Ohanabo. The staff was very friendly, helpful, and spoke good English. There is a traditional Japanese bath (separate for men and women). Our room was large and comfortable, with a shared toilet just down the hall. All in all, a place we would really recommend, although there are a multitude of western-style hotels in the area.
We spent much of two days in Kyoto. That’s enough to see some highlights, but it would take much longer to see all the attractions. During our trip, we went to Fushimi Inari Shrine – a short JR Nara line trip from Kyoto station to Inari Station. There are over 10,000 Torii gates leading up the mountain, and a multitude of shrines. Historic, dating back 1300 years. Good bit of walking, but an interesting place. Plan to spend at least two hours here… and be willing to climb stairs… lots of stairs.
During our short trip, we also saw Nijo-jo Castle, with its Nightingale floors, Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion), the Gion area (shopping and restaurants), Nishiki Market, and HigashiHonganji Temple (huge, just down the street from Kyoto station). We bought the Kyoto bus day pass – 500 yen for all day access to the bus system.
Our short trip came too soon to an end, but one more surprise awaited us at Kyoto Station. If you take the escalators up, there is a rooftop garden, with an amazing lighted staircase to the top. Huge station… at least 6 long escalators to the rooftop garden!
Two days is a feasible time for a trip to Kyoto from Tokyo. But in two days, you really just touch the surface of this fascinating city. We look forward to another trip back in the fall when it is cooler, and when we can enjoy the colors of the turning leaves.