#1 Shrine City – Kyoto, Japan

KYOTO, JAPAN
Travel dates: 17 – 18 May 2009

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Kinkakuji

Kyoto is well-known for its sheer amount of beautiful and magnificent ancient shrines and temples, boasting of spectacular Japanese architecture and remnants of olden-day opulence. I was in Kyoto for 2 days with my friend, which was perfect for purchasing the Kyoto City Tour 2-Day pass for the bus. We travelled nearly 7 hours by bus from Tokyo since we disembarked at Narita Airport. The bus ride cost us 2800 yen (one way) each and it was not comfortable at all, though it is much cheaper than taking the renowned Shinkansen (bullet train). Most of the booking sites are written ENTIRELY in Japanese (with no or very poor English translation), so unless you have a Japanese friend to translate and help you, this option is not feasible.

Transport within Kyoto is relatively convenient, just like most modern cities, it is well-equipped with an efficient public transport system, with public bus and subway. (Check out this website for more on Kyoto’s public transport.)

Tip: They have two kinds of subway just like in Tokyo, but don’t be tempted to purchase the day pass that includes subway rides! Because the pass usually only covers the lines from only one or the other subway company, and makes it extremely inconvenient if you ended up at a subway station that you cannot gain entry to with the pass you already bought. I highly recommend just getting the pass for the city tour bus, since they have pre-planned tourist routes that travel to all the popular tourist destinations, like the Kinkakuji (Golden Pavillion Shrine) and Gion.

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Kyoto International Manga Museum

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Nijo Castle

A few must-go places in Kyoto are of course the Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji (Silver Pavillion Shrine), Fushimi Inari (possibly one of the most impressive and biggest Inari shrines — with a beautiful and huuuuge torii gate — in Japan!), Nijo Castle and perhaps a day trip to Arayashima! There are really so many shrines and temples in Kyoto that it was impossible for me to finish seeing even half of them after the two days! Some require admission fee and some don’t, so pick and choose the ones you want to go wisely. For the budget-conscious, the shrines with free entry do not necessaily pale in comparison to the ones you need to pay to visit.

If you are a fan of Japanese shrine architecture, do consider spending more than 3 days in Kyoto to slowly enjoy (and not gorge on) the lovely structures and peaceful atmosphere surrounding the splendid and well-maintained shrines.

When you’re sick of the shrines (and yes, trust me, you will!), head over to Kyoto’s International Museum of Manga…which is really an interesting place to explore, and a true haven for manga fans! Although their collection of manga books are not entirely exhaustive and especially extensive since it is meant to be more of a display museum than a repository, the books they have there are enough to wow your socks off. There are also permanent and special manga exhibitions for visitors to enjoy. You can also sit there to read some of them if you have time to spare. I was more fascinated with the insanely vast volume and variety of manga books they own, than interested in actually perusing the books. It costs ¥500 to enter, but I think it is pretty worth it. :)

Extra tip: Drop by the Kyoto Tourist Office (opens at 8.30am) located within Kyoto Main Station (follow the map directions), to grab some free (!) Kyoto maps and find out what activities and places are worth seeing.

ACCOMMODATION
Backpacker hostel – K’s House Kyoto                                                                  ¥2,300 (dormitory); ¥3,500 (single)
15-minute bus ride and 25-minute walk to Kyoto station
– 3-minute walk to Shichi jo Subway; 5-minute walk to various bus stops

TRANSPORT
Kyoto Travel Two-Day Pass                                                                                    ¥2,000 (Adult); ¥600 (Child) 
(For : City Bus, Municipal Subway Line or Kyoto Bus)    

RAKU City Bus                                                                                                              ¥220 (flat rate)
Goes to most of the popular tourist sites around Kyoto
– If I’m not wrong you can use the two-day pass on the RAKU Bus as well
– This bus is the fool-proof way if you don’t want to struggle with public transport. :)
– For more information, visit the
official Kyoto Transport website

FOOD
– In general, everything is cheaper than in Tokyo.
A simple restaurant meal for two                                                                           ¥1,200-1,500

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