Tourist Information Center
I would strongly recommend stopping into the Tourist Information Center as soon as you step off the train! It is directly across the street from the JR Kyoto Station. They have more information there than you'll ever need!
I came into Kyoto with no hotel reservation. At the Info Center, several very nice people were staffing the desk. They all spoke fluent English. I told them how much I wanted to pay per night for accomodation, and they showed me several options from a binder they keep. The woman helping me then called up to find out if they had vacancies, and she booked me into a fantastic ryokan that was about a 5 minute walk away.
She also supplied me with maps, bus info, and info about different sites in the city and showed me how to get there on the map.
I also booked a city tour for the next day that was 1/2 day in Kyoto and 1/2 day in Nara. My fondest memory was hiking up the hill through the Gion district, seeing Geishas in training, and ending at Kiyomizu temple to watch the sun set over the city.
funniest, fascinating stone sculptures
Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, beautiful buddhist stone sculptures.
In Arashiyama, go to Adashino Nenbutsu-ji, where one can walk the bamboo grove. pass this temple, follow the walking path north,till one reaches the orange torri, walk through it and continue walking for another 10 mins. the Otagi temple is on your left side, hill slope.
the Otagi Nenbutsu-ji looks very ordinary, but the treasures are inside !
The statues here are special because most of them were carved by amateur carvers.
a famous sculptor, Kocho Nishimura taught hundreds of sculptors, amateur and professional alike how to carve statues from stones, the result is a delightful mix of serene, somber, silly and bizarre. Try to find the two tipplers, two doing different handstand, a photographer, a saxophone player and a surfing disciple ?
a donation of 300 yen is requested for the upkeep of the ground.
How to get there
By Japan Railways (JR)
The fastest access from Kyoto Station to Arashiyama is provided by the JR Sagano Line (also known as JR Sanin Line). The one way ride from Kyoto Station to Saga-Arashiyama Station takes 15 minutes and costs 230 Yen.
From Saga-Arashiyama Station, central Arashiyama can be reached in a 5-10 minute walk.
By Hankyu Railways
From Kawaramachi or Karasuma Station in central Kyoto (Shijo Street), take the Hankyu Main Line to Katsura Station and transfer to the Hankyu Arashiyama Line for Arashiyama. The one way trip takes about 20 minutes and costs 220 Yen.
Hankyu Arashiyama Station is located on the opposite side of the river, about a 5-10 minute walk from central Arashiyama.
Bus lines connect Arashiyama with several parts of Kyoto, however, it is recommended to access Arashiyama by train to avoid the risk of getting stuck in traffic jams.
By Car / taxi
tell the taxi driver to take you to the Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, the temple is on your left side, hill side. before the road enters the tunnel.
Use the bus!
There are several companies at the bus station offering city tours, to us they appeared very expensive. An alternative, we found, was to use the local busses. The destinations are clearly marked (English too) and stops announced inside the bus. easy to work out which one to get on too. Don't forget to take a ticket from the machine as you get on - then pay the machine at the front as you get off. Small change is handy, but is usually available from a machine or the driver.
Cafe Veloce is a modern and western style coffee shop with fast and self services as you have around all over Europe, North America and else where. In Kyoto is just across the main station and a good place to have your caffe latte is you need one :)
Once again, Wow........
It amazes me how different the Japanese do things to the rest of the world, check out the Heian Shrine in Kyoto and look at the architecture and bright colours it has built over 100 years ago in the late 1800`s.