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For people who visit a lot of tourist spots, this may go without saying, but I'll remind you any way. Prices close to major tourist spots, especially shrines and temples, are considerably higher than the prices for the same goods elsewhere in the city. For example a "soft cream" (soft-serve ice cream) costs about 300 yen in the tourist shops in front of Ginkakuji; the same soft cream is 120 yen at the bottom of the hill, about a kilometer from the temple.
Unique Suggestions: Buy softdrinks, bottled water, bento, etc. in downtown areas such as shijo and carry them with you to the tourist areas such as Yasaka Jinja or Nanzenji. Those sights are eminently worth seeing (and entry to the shrines is free!), but are not the best places to buy lunch.
Written Jul 13, 2006
OK. I first heard about a guesthouse called Toji-an from a tip on VT. Then I saw the website - very cheap and looks nice. But when we arrived there, it was not like what I saw on the website...
First impression: the noren (the cloth hung up in front of the door) was torn and dirty. The toilet stinks and the smell reached the hallway where the rooms are located. There is no key, so the room cannot be locked. When we entered "our" room, there is a used towel on the hanger. The bed wasn't made and the blanket was not neatly folded--I think they didn't clean the room and changed the sheets and blankets; they didn't even removed the used towel.
The guesthouse was a small wooden house and the rooms were seperated by thin wooden walls so we could hear the people in the next room giggling...
In their web site they said they had free shower. What they meant was: they didn't have any shower, so guests must go to a public bath nearby, pay 100 yen and they will reimburse.
Anyway, we never spent a night there.
Unique Suggestions: So you were still curious and checked in????
(Should I say "I told you"?)
Always have a list of alternetives. Do as we did. With your mobile phone, call other accommodations that have good ratings or that are listed in your guide book.
If you cannot find an available room yet or you don't have any functioning mobile phone:
* Prepare your day pack with clothes for the night and the next day, leave your big packs if you can't endure carrying them any longer (for the sake of your shoulder and waist) but don't leave any valuables, because the room cannot be locked.
* Walk 2 blocks North to JR Kyoto Station--it will be your base. Find a public phone, open your guide book and try to call the accommodations listed there, book a room.
(If money is not a problem, there is Granvia Hotel upstairs JR Kyoto Station.)
* Have a good sleep at the other accommodation.
* The next morning, go back to Tojian, get your other bags and check out.
Fun Alternatives: Find accommodations with acceptable guest ratings. All accommodations we stayed at in Japan were listed and rated in sites such as Rakuten and Hostelworld, except Tojian (we only saw their website without checking other sites for ratings).... and look what we got.
Updated Dec 22, 2005
Kyoto station could easily become a tourist trap due to its overwhelming size and for the fact that for a novice navigating around the station can be pretty confusing. Almost everything that is written in Japanese is also written in English, Chinese, and Korean, but its still hard to find people who speak your language in a pinch. Just take it easy, don't rush, and you'll find your way around Kyoto Station.
Unique Suggestions: If you need help find one of many tourist booths set up to help the wayward traveller.
Written Jan 9, 2005
Arashiyama has many great hikes and so much beautiful scenery. Monkey Mountain is a short and easy walk up a small mountain. At the top there is a rest station where the monkes hang! You go inside and the monkey's gather around the outside. You can buy small treats to feed the monkes.
On your way down there is a long slide that monkeys and humans alike want to play on. you may have to wait your turn while the monkey babies have their fun!
Unique Suggestions: Watch the locals... They are afraid of the monkeys... and check out the great view!
Fun Alternatives: As I said. Arashiyama is full of great hikes. You may still see some monkeys and these ones will not have been so domesticated by all of the visitors.
Updated Jul 6, 2004
There are many famous temples in Kyoto, however, if you don't have any sense about japaness history, you would probably lose the interest very soon.
Unique Suggestions: All the temples have its own historical value, so my suggestion is do some homeworks before you go.
Written Jan 28, 2004
Many guidebooks and travel sites talked about the Philosopher's Walk from Ginkakuji to Nyakuzutsuji, 2 kms away. It was named after Nishida Kitaro, a Japanese philosopher who walked the route daily engrossed in deep philosophical thoughts surrounded by lovely cherry blossoms in spring and the natural stream (or canal?) running alongside.
I was there in the summer, and decided to try walking this renowned path from Nanzenji. After walking 1/2 the distance, and having my view of anything lovely blocked by rows and rows of parked cars, I have to say this "so-called" attraction is a disappointment. There is nothing romantic or lovely about walking 2 kms seeing nothing but cars and cafes lining the tiny road beside it.
Unique Suggestions: There are many hidden gems along the route of the Philosopher's Walk - namely shrines and temples. With less crowds and more peaceful surroundings, do pay them a visit as that could be well worth your time.
There will be wooden signboards indicating whenever there is a temple/shrine in the vicinity.....just follow that direction and explore.
Fun Alternatives: You can either visit all the Big 5 temples in Kyoto, or visit lesser known but equally beautiful temples like Sanzen-in Temple, Chion-in Temple, or Tofukji Temple.
Updated Jan 23, 2004
Kyoto Imperial Palace
Not a tourist trap, but only moderately interesting inside the walls of the inner Palace. No admittance to any of the buildings or through the beautiful garden around the pond.
Unique Suggestions: The grounds outside the central Palace walls are similar to Central Park in New York City - a huge landscaped area located in the center of the city. Good spot for lunch.
Fun Alternatives: Go to Katsura (Rikyu) Imperial Villa instead (see "Must see actiitvies")
Updated Jun 15, 2003
The famous Rock Garden at Ryoanji Temple lacks that zen tranquility due to overcrowding.
Unique Suggestions: The walking paths and the lake are very beautiful. The atmosphere and food at the "Seven Herb Tofu Restauraunt" is sublime (and prolongs life). [Restaurant is 3/4 of the way around the lake]
Fun Alternatives: See the dragons on the sliding doors in the Temple. Throw a coin in the "Tsukubai" stone wash basin. Buy postcards and save the film.
Updated Jun 15, 2003
When deciding to visit Japan try to not come during long holiday periods. It is during these few periods that everyone (no exaggeration) travels. The trains are packed, accommodation prices are hiked, and things are even more expensive then the expensive norm. The end of the school year (mid-April), Golden Week (start of May), and o-bon (end of Aug.), and Year end/start..
Written Sep 8, 2002
Taketo krasne domcuriky lemuju historicke ulicky v meste. Jedinou neprijemnostou pre nas bol sustavny dazd, ktory si od mojho pobytu v krajine, budem spajat s Japonskom tak ako si spajame od skolskych cias, hmlu s Britskymi ostrovmi.
Written Aug 26, 2002
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