Kyoto trip with the fam
April 27, 2007 8:58 AM   Subscribe

Family comming to visit me in Japan. I live in Yokohama, would like to spend one or two days in Tokyo, and 5-7 days in Kyoto. I've only been down there briefly for buisness and have no contacts and no solid idea where to stay and what to see. Check to see

I realize there is so much already out there, but I would love some personal stories of favorite locations visited and places stayed. Money is an issue and we have no problem with backbackers lodgings, Onsens are a plus, are the available down there?? Ok, Domo.
posted by nintendo to Travel & Transportation around Kyoto, Japan (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 5-7 days in Kyoto? Consecutively? I think that you are pushing it and are going to be really templed out. There's definitely more than 7 days worth of stuff to see and do and eat in Kyoto, but I wouldn't want to try to do it in one seven day period. It's all kindof the same stuff really, so I think that you are al going to get sick of it, before you even manage to cover the major sights.

I have been responsible for planning my school's yearly student trip to Kyoto, and we have broken the students up into 6 groups who will spend a few days exploring one particular aspect or section of Kyoto, and then report back to everyone, because it's impossible to do it all without your head exploding. So one group will do the Arashiyama area, one will do the Kinkakuji area, one will do the Kiyomizudera area, one will do the Nijojo area, and so on. All of this areas are highly recommended, and are brimming with historical stuff, but as even this list is far from exhaustive, I really don't recommend trying to fit it all into one trip, no matter how much time you have. There's a lot more to see in Tokyo, and even Yokohama. If you have that much time, at least take a day trip to Nara, which is less than an hour away by train, and check out Horyuji and the Giant Buddha at Todai ji. Also recommended: Go to Ohara (about an hour north of Kyoto city) and climb the mountains there until you can see Kyoto on one side, and lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan, on the other.

By the way, if your family is anything like you, they may be interested in visiting the Nintendo World Headquarters in Kyoto. It's not really open to the public, but may be an interesting pilgrimage nonetheless.
posted by donkeymon at 9:24 AM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Beautiful, thanks so much, I'll look into all these places you mentioned.
posted by nintendo at 9:58 AM on April 27, 2007

I'd personally swap the Tokyo and Kyoto time. Three days will about do it unless your family is elderly and needs to take it slow. 1 day in Tokyo is enough to... what? See Tokyo Tower and Sensoji?

I know you say money is a concern, but if you're going to spend that much time in Kyoto I would take a day trip down to Hiroshima. (If the fam gets a rail pass before they go it can be super cheap.) It's beautiful sobering and inspiring in a totally different way than anything else I've seen in Japan.

It would be helpful to know more about what kind of stuff your family would like to do. Or at least how many and general ages. you want more theme parks or gardens? Night clubs or hiking?
posted by Ookseer at 11:17 AM on April 27, 2007

Personal story as requested: There's a noodle shop my wife and I happened upon, I wish I could tell you what corner it's on, owned by a Mr. Nakamura, who speaks about four words of English. If you stop and look at the plastic food in his window, and look Western, he will come out and practically drag you in. ("You like? Come in!") Then, after you're settled and have ordered, he will bring out his scrap book of testimonials from Western customers, many of whom have sent back prints of pictures taken of him and with him, etc. One wrote, "If you're reading this, you've been Shanghaied into this restaurant by Mr. Nakamura ..." So his method is pretty consistent. The noodles are fine, the prices are cheap, and the hospitality is fantastic. If I can find his card at home I'll post the location.
posted by beagle at 11:22 AM on April 27, 2007

How about taking a day trip to Osaka? It's only about 30 minutes away by train (15 minutes by Shinkansen). The Kaiyukan (Aquarium) is a great place to spend most of the day - go whale shark!
posted by Gortuk at 1:01 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I second the recommendation of Nara if you'll be in Kyoto that long. Also, you must go to Gion, the geisha district of Kyoto. It's not like a red light district, more like a historical district with tiny streets and houses like it was back in the day.
posted by snofoam at 1:04 PM on April 27, 2007

but there are some geisha and maiko walking around, too.
posted by snofoam at 1:05 PM on April 27, 2007

Please tell us more about your family - what do they want to do?

Others have suggested more time in Tokyo. But when we visited Japan, we split our time between Kyoto and Tokyo - and wound up wishing we had spent more time in Kyoto. It turns out I have an unquenchable desire to visit temple gardens, and was less into the Tokyo urban thing.

We stayed in K's House in Kyoto and were happy with it. Being able to rent bikes and cycle around was great for us.

My temple reviews: of the places we visited, the best gardens were at Nanzenji, and Ryoanji, Daitokuji (esp Daisen-in). Kinkakuji was OK, Sanjusangendo was interesting. In case your family includes garden freaks.
posted by medusa at 1:47 PM on April 27, 2007

Here's the noodle shop scoop:

Kyoto, Higashiyama, Sanjo, Kado
TEL (075) 771-5286

If it's still there, stop in. You won't regret it.

And, I would agree with more time in Kyoto than Tokyo. The Imperial Palace (which takes a little rigmarole for foreign visitors to get tickets for, via the Imperial Household Agency) has an incredible garden.
posted by beagle at 3:25 PM on April 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

There is also an amazing flea market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine on the 25th of every month, so if that coincides with your trip, I highly recommend it.
posted by ikahime at 4:20 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I lived in Kyoto for a bit more than 2 years so will be biased in saying that 5-7 days is not too much for Kyoto - especially if you decide to include a day in Nara, Osaka or Kobe into the mix.

There are obviously tons of temples and old buildings and donkeymon's list is good.

If your family is active then there are lots of nice places they can hike (Kurama to Kibune, Mt. Atago, Mt. Daimonji, Mt. Hiei [which also has a cable car in case they don't feel like hiking] and you'll get some nice views out of them as well.

For shopping the Teramachi and Shinkyogoku arcades will offer lots of souvenirs, and they both connect to the Nishiki arcade where you can see some really fresh food and perhaps buy some as well. Other places to shop would be Shijo, the Kyoto station area and Kitayama. If you're into electronics at all and don't plan on going to Akihabara in Tokyo or Denden town in Osaka then if you go on Teramachi south of Shijo you'll end up at a few electronic shops. But if you're into electronics then a trip to one of the other places would be much more rewarding.

For food, my advice is not to get anything that isn't Japanese. The foreign food in Kyoto isn't all that good (except for this one amazing Chinese restaurant on the north side of Sanjo street between Kawabata and Higashiyama).

Sadly, there isn't (or wasn't when I was there) a useful tourist office for non-Japanese speakers - there used to be a great one across from Kyoto station but it closed in 2004. However there is a monthly free magazine/newspaper called the Kyoto visitor's guide that will give you all the info on whatever cultural events are happening. You need to get a copy of this. You can get it from Kyoto station (on the 7th or 8th floor). The webpage is here:

It is definitely easy to get templed out. I am immune, but I know that others have felt this way. One thing to do is to make a day out of each temple/area. Stop at the shops, take a break for an ice cream and go slowly. DO NOT be influenced by the tourists (especially the Japanese) who will be seeing everything in a rush, but instead take your time. If you go to a temple on the outskirts of town (like Kibune) then you get to go on a fantastic train ride - I think Ohara is a bus ride, which isn't quite as fun a ride, but still nice.

One last thing. I feel that Kyoto is best experienced by foot. Even if you don't agree, a lot of things you'll want to see are within short distances of each other that make walking the most convenient way of getting around. Make sure you're all wearing comfortable footwear and dress for the weather. It gets hot and humid in the summer - more so than much of the rest of the country and there is every chance it will rain all of June.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:11 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I was in Kyoto a few weeks ago, it was brilliant!

We went on an excellent walking tour with Johnnie Hillwalker - for 2000 yen and 6 hours of fun. He's a great guide and rather funny. A good introduction to Kyoto without being rushed.
(And he showed us the Ninentdo Headquarters, totally surprising us geeks!)

We stayed at the Tomiya Ryokan which . It was a good location for us - opposite Kyoto Station, where all the buses are. The people there were really friendly, I would definitely stay there again. We booked through Japanese Guesthouses, as reccomended by other Mefis.
posted by teststrip at 8:09 PM on April 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

There's a decent list of places added by people on Asoboo too.
posted by ejoey at 8:38 AM on April 29, 2007

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