Tuesday, May 28, 2013

West Japan: A Practical 7 Day Travel Guide for Kansai Area - Day 1 - West Kyoto

Day 1 - West Kyoto

After some cleanup at the airport washrooms (Japanese toilets are another story), we started our journey by getting our travel passes from Kansai Airport train station.

We headed for Kyoto main Station. The 75 min journey via JR trains allowed us some rest from a restless airport night. The trains travel around 100km per hour and slices through the city and country side

From Kyoto station, we changed to the local subway and headed for Shijo station. The first thing we noticed is that the train attendant bowing to every customer! Japanese treatment!

The hotel we chose was Kyoto Oaks on the corner of Shijo and Nishinotoin dori (Dori means road).
Nice affordable place with in room wifi, and 5 mins walk from Shijo station. Try exit 26. Dropping our luggages at the hotel, we had a quick lunch at local Japanese cafes.

To our dismay, it was raining! That did not dampen our spirits as we travelled to Arashiyama and the Golden Pavilion.

Along Kyoto, you will find an array of small shops. For newbies, here's how you can order your food if you happen to find yourself in one of  these Japanese outlets.
Step One, look for the vending machine and choose your meal. Step two, pay with Japanese yen and get your receipt.
Step three, pass your  receipt to the waiter - note, there is only one waiter and one chef!!!
In a matter of moments, you meal will magically appear! Anyway, here's the first proper Japanese meal in Kyoto! Salmon and beef!
The meals were reasonably priced, something like what you would find in a typical KL restaurant. around 580 yen for a proper meal with rice, soup and drink and condiments.
From Kyoto, take the train to Arashiyama station. Note that there are two stations which are quite far apart. We took the further one so that we could have a walk across the river.
The further train station takes you past a local market where street vendors sell local delicacies and Japanese school kids gather for their meals.
The park itself is called Arashiyamagashi Park. The main attraction is its horse carriage wide paths flanked with 30 feet tall bamboo forests, neatly groomed into a natural work of art.
Here, tourists can still get ferried in hand carriages through the vast forest. Btw, the weather here in spring is around 24 degrees and I would say it was just perfect for a trip.
Next stop, the Golden Pavilion. From Arashiyama Station, we boarded the train to Kitanohakubaicho station.Once out of the station, it was a 15 min walk north to the temple.
Japan is full of shines and temples, which dates back many centuries. the fact the buildings are mostly wood and still standing today is a marvel in itself
The rain did not dampen the mood, as it brought a very welcome peace to the area.
 There was no feeling of urgency, or people rushing as the tourists and locals alike sat down by the pavilion  to enjoy the sound of raindrops and the colours of nature.
We had to get tickets to enter the vicinity, plus the tickets make really unique souvenirs.
Finally, after an afternoon of walking, we finally got a glimpse of the Kinkaku-Ji,the Golden Pavilion.

There we candles with wishes on them. You can donate some money to burn these good luck candles to wish for good health, good results, long lasting relationships etc.

Among the other things, you can write your own wish on paper and tie them up next to the temple and pray that they are answered.

In the evening, it was back to Kyoto station. At night, the station glows in its unique glass shell.
See, the place is huge and is sort of a mini labyrinth with its own mazes of shopping malls and shops.
The sheer amount of space here is reminiscent of Japanese videogames with the bright colour of shops and stalls all  around.
That was where we got our dinner and drink by one of the path side shops selling pastries and hot drinks.
The other thing to note is Japan is home to some of the most peculiar of signs. Note the do not feed the pigeon sign in the shop there..
Great start to a Japan adventure!

Here's the rest of the trip and pictures for each day!

Day 1 - West Kyoto - Arashiyama and the Golden Pavilion


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