Walk down the small street of...
Walk down the small street of Pontocho. It is on the west side of the Kamogawa river in East Kyoto and the closest station is Shijo on the Keihan line. This little street comes alive at sundown(most places don't open till then) and with it's narrowness, it's traditional restaurants and bars with their lanterns, which surprisingly look good mixed with the neon signs, the street has a lovely atmosphere and is like a hidden street as it is placed between a busy street and the river and it is only for pedestrians. We sat and had a beer in a bay window over looking the river as the sun set and then walked further down and ate in a cheap Okonomiyaki restaurant.
Rent a bike
Its easy to get around cheap by renting a bike, and you see a lot.
We drove all the way to nearest lake, "biwa-ku" it was like 15km.
Hardest part was going over the hills. Or actually getting back, between busy traffic. But we avoided the rush while its easy to pass car lanes or bicycle.
Reason we did this was because our hotel had bikes for hotel quests to use. One had to try them. Biwa-ku lake was beautiful and pure to take a swim.
From Tokyo:for 3hours by Super...
From Tokyo:for 3hours by Super Express(Shinkansen).It costs about 13000yen(one-way).
West Japan Railway;http://www.westjr.co.jp/english/global.html
East Japan Railway;http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/index.html
From Osaka:for 30min.-1 hour.
From Kansai Intl. airport:It takes 2 hours(by bus) and costs 2300yen.You can also take train, but I recommend to take a bus.
The best way to get around Kyoto is to take a bus.Kyoyo city bus and subway guide;http://www.city.kyoto.jp/kotsu/english/e_guide.htmascii
Eat the artisan's breads and pastries
If you get tired of eating Japanese food already and you wanted to taste a different food, go to Shinshindo's. They have pastries, artisan breads, pastries, croissants, sandwiches and all other western food. They also have Americal style breakfast, lunch and dinner.
You will love this restaurant. It has seven branches in Kyoto alone.
Here's the history of Shinshindo per the advertising of the restaurant in their official website:
"Shinshindo was founded in 1913 in Kyoto Japan. The founder was Hitoshi Tsuzuki who is known as the first Japanese baker to visit Paris France to learn authentic French baking in 1924.He traveled around France and other European Nations for about 6 month and brought back the real European recipes and tastes to Kyoto. The European bread which Hitoshi started baking was enthusiastically welcomed by cultural and academic oriented people of Kyoto.
Since then, Shinshindo's bakeries and bakery restaurants have been serving for and loved by the people of Kyoto as well as the tourists who visit Kyoto from all over world. Our wish is to share with people the joy of life through baking the best bread in the world." American Breakfast with Yuzu Tea
Scrambled eggs plate
with Bread basket
& choice of drink.
Gion Festival! (Gion Matsuri) JULY
The Gion Festival is one of the biggest festivals in Japan! You shouldn't miss it! It runs for the whole month of July, but the highlight is on the 17th when many men pull large floats through the main streets of Kyoto. The part that all the Japanese people enjoy the best is when the floats have to turn the corner! Many bamboo sticks are put under the wheels of the float and it is turned slowly. I guess it is rather exciting because the floats are so tall and precarious, and there are many young boys sitting in the top playing music. Expect many crowds when you get there, but just take it easy and stop for a cool drink or two, the procession is very slow, so you don't need to rush :-)
If you have time, you should go into Kyoto city (around the Gion area, and Shijo-dori, Kawaramachi-dori) on the 15th & 16th of July at night. The night will be warm and there is a 'festive' air, as many young people are out dressed in their Yukata (summer kimono - for women and men). It is colorful, and lanterns glow from the shopping areas. Walk down to the Yasaka Shrine (everyone is headed this way so just follow the crowd!!) and in the shrine are many glowing night stalls selling frozen pineapple-on-a-stick, shaved-ice, sausages, and Japanese snacks, and trinkets. And you can put a small donation into a wooden box and ring the Shrine's bell to make a wish to the gods. It's just a really nice athmosphere, if you want to see what the Japanese are doing to celebrate the festival. Also, on Fri,Sat, and Sun nights along the Kamo River, many young people play with fireworks, it's especially charming to see young girls in kimono playing with sparklers along the river.