Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Kinkakuji on a cloudy day

Spared the bombing by the Allies in WW2, Kyoto has a very long list of heritage attractions. If you only have time for a few,
Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion) is a highlight, though it is a fairly recent rebuild.
Nijo castle with its squeaky nightingale floors and lovely grounds is also impressive.
Kiyomizudera and Sanjuusangendo are popular as well. Check the guide books to see what appeals to you most.

If you have the time, a few hours in the Kyoto Handicraft Centre could be good, particularly if you like to shop. Each time I have visited, this centre has changed its layout and offerings, but it still draws the tourists.

Kyoto has an extensive bus system which will take you to the above attractions, Y500 for a one day pass, Y220 for individual trips. Stops are announced as well as displayed up the front. Ask for the bus map when you buy your first pass, it is very detailed.
The subway, while much faster than the bus, is of limited use to tourists. There is a combined 1 or 2 day subway/bus pass available, the Kyoto Sightseeing Card, though you would need to make a few trips for it to be worthwhile. One day cost Y1200, 2 day Y2000.
Likewise, train lines skirt around the city and are really best for day trips beyond Kyoto - eg to Nara, or Fushimi Inari (see photos -2 stops from Kyoto on the Nara bound local train), or Hikone on Lake Biwa. From Kyoto, you can take day trips on the Shinkansen bullets as well, eg to Nagoya, but westbound trips (Himeji, Hiroshima) will mostly involve a change at Shin-Osaka station for the Hikari Shinkansen, which is the one covered by the ordinary 7 day JR rail pass.
Fushimi Inari Jinja, near Kyoto

Remember, the JR West one day pass for Y2000 is valid for the Haruka airport express between Kyoto and Kansai airport. (Normal fare Y3490) You can’t reserve a seat, but if you line up on the platform for the unreserved carriages about 10 minutes before departure, you should get a seat, either at the airport end, or the Kyoto end. This pass can also be used that day for local JR services, and is extremely handy if you have an expensive 7 day JR pass that you don’t want to waste while you spend a few days exploring Kyoto by bus.

The grounds of Nijo-jo, Kyoto


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