This is a blog series about our travels to Japan in late 2013 and early 2014. To avoid a long post, we’ve decided to break this trip down to several series consist of the following.
The Quick and Dirty:
Location – Tokyo, Hirmoshima and Kyoto
Travel Duration: 2 weeks
Visa needed for US Citizens?: No
Vaccination needed for Americans: None
Japanese necessary for traveling: No, it’s not necessary to know how to speak Japanese, however, it’s important to understand most people (even in Tokyo) do not speak English. While it’s relatively easy to get around with the public transportation in Japan, you need to get creative with sign language if you need to ask directions. It’s also really important to do research to understand the Japanese culture before you visit to avoid accidentally offending someone.
Type of trip: sight seeing, historical sites, city/urban trekking and museums
Top reasons for visiting Japan: safe destination (low crime rate), convenient public transportation, fascinating culture and delicious food
After hiking the Fushimi Inari Shrine, the group worked up an appetite for lunch. We decided to try another Kyoto cuisine, tofu! Since the JR line does not extend to the Gion district, we decided to take a taxi to the restaurant and spend the rest of the day exploring Gion.
For our last day in Kyoto, I wanted to visit Fushimi Inari Shrine in southern Kyoto. The beautiful orange colors of the torri gates in the midst of the bamboo forest really caught my attention when I first started reading about traveling in Kyoto. I was also eager to spend sometime outside hiking after almost one week of walking around in the city.
The orange gates of Fushimi Inari
We had two days to spend in Kyoto, on the first day we brought a daily bus ticket for $5 to get around the city. First stop was the Golden Pavilion or Kinkaku-ji, it’s about 8 km from the Kyoto train station but it takes about an hour to get there, it is definitely not the most efficient way to move such a distance but it was the cheapest.The entry fee to the Golden Pavilion is $5 per person, it is a short walk around the garden with a beautiful but crowded view on the pavilion. The top two stories of the pavilion is covered in gold-leaf coating, although this is not the original structure, it is almost the exact replica before the 1950 arson incident that destroyed most of the building. The garden is small and takes about 30 minutes to walk through.
The most entertaining part of the park was not the place itself but conversing to the elementary school students from Northern Japan about their English assignment. Their task of the day was to practice English with tourists, their eagerness to learn was adorable. Continue reading
We woke up in Tokyo the next day and had a big breakfast before taking the JR train to Kyoto. The weather took a turn for the worse and it began raining hard early in the morning. Thankfully, the weather got better by the time we arrived in Kyoto.
The train ride from Shinagawa to Kyoto is a little over 2 hours. We are staying at Hotel Keihan Kyoto. It is a modest hotel at about $80 per night and it is within walking distance from the Kyoto station. We left our bags with the front desk and ventured out the a Kyoto for a place to eat lunch since we arrived much earlier than the check in time. We discovered a line of restaurants at the basement of the hotel we are staying at and each enjoyed a steamy bowl of udon for lunch, it was perfect rainy day food.