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Kyoto/Matsumoto/??: New Year period

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Kyoto/Matsumoto/??: New Year period

We are having a 3 week holiday in Japan from December 16 until January 4. Plans are concrete until December 29 when we leave Nozawa Onsen...then looking at options for our last 5 days.

My thoughts at the moment include some days in Kyoto or maybe in Matsumoto where there is a "castle gate opening ceremony" on 2 January - anyone ever been to this? We have had a flying 2 day stay in Kyoto on a past trip (saw Nijo, Arishayama and Nara) but would like to see a bit more of it. Plans are being confused by the public holidays and warnings about transport etc. Although I've been focussing on the Nagano area, with a JR pass, our options are quite open.

Anyone got any suggestions? Need to be back at Narita by afternoon of the 4th. (Travelling as family of four, kids are 11 and 14)

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1. Re: Kyoto/Matsumoto/??: New Year period

I'd recommend a new year in Kyoto or Nara as people would be celebrating at temples and shrines - although they will be busy, it's a rare opportunity to see how things are celebrated. Go ring a bell in the NY eve in a Buddhist Temple and be offered a celebration sake in a Shinto Shrine. If you are firm on visiting Nagano Prefecture during the New Year instead, I'd recommend going to Zenkoji Temple in NYE. Shinto shrines like Miyajima's Itsukushima Shrine, Nara's Kasuga Taisha, Tokyo's Meiji Shrine will be busy, too.

Edited: 11:18 am, July 21, 2012
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2. Re: Kyoto/Matsumoto/??: New Year period

Thanks, Yobeekool. Perhaps we could stay 2nights in Kyoto, leaving there afternoon of the 1st...then last three nights in Matsumoto. That way, can catch both New Year in Kyoto and gate ceremony in Matsumoto, plus some other sightseeing there. Or maybe we should just base ourselves for the whole five nights in Kyoto and do side trips. Hmmmm. Decisions, decisions. I would probably leave it up in the air, but am thinking it would be risky not to have accommodation booked at that time of the year.

Wonder what it will be like travelling from Matsumoto to Narita airport on the 4th.

Tokyo and California
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3. Re: Kyoto/Matsumoto/??: New Year period

I've never heard of the castle gate opening ceremony at Matsumoto castle, so I did a bit of research. According to the official site, it'll be on January 3rd next year. It doesn't look like a big deal at all to me. Personally, I wouldn't bother with it. In addition, you're not allowed to go into the castle keep on this day:

…nagano.jp/miryoku/siro/event/12gatsu.html

In any case, don't leave your plan up in the air. Not having accommodations booked around New Year's is beyond risky. I strongly advise having a solid plan and book accommodations way in advance. You'll also need to reserve train seats as soon as you get to Japan.

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4. Re: Kyoto/Matsumoto/??: New Year period

Thanks heaps, Shibuyakko. We'll do that. Usually chance it re the train seats but that's great advice considering the time of year. Would be an expensive inconvenience if we couldn't get back to the airport on time to fly out.

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5. Re: Kyoto/Matsumoto/??: New Year period

If you haven't been to Matsumoto then an overnight visit will be fun. Regular limited express connections to Shinjuku offers an easy link to the Narita Express.

The castle, the small heritage street area and the Timepiece Museum are close together while the city is attractive and visitor friendly. Look for goldfish in the street drains.

We have stayed at two business hotels in the central area during visits. Both were fine for family stays provided you are OK with smallish rooms.

A small place called Isshin is a great place to eat if you like Izakaya, local style noodles and Kirin beer. However there are many eating places that are fun and street stalls are good too.

Edited: 9:54 pm, July 23, 2012
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6. Re: Kyoto/Matsumoto/??: New Year period

Thanks, Ken. Do you remember where you stayed in Matsumoto? I'm keen to book the Richmond Hotel but am not getting any response to my online enquiry and can't book through the system that far in advance.

Am thinking that perhaps we'll stay in Kyoto 29, 30 and 31 December then travel to Matsumoto on afternoon of the 1st, stay there 1, 2 and 3 Jan, enabling us to catch the castle gate opening ceremony (it will be closed in the preceding days anyway due to the holidays). Then would be travelling back to airport from Matsumoto on the 4th.

Anyone got any suggestions re where our family could stay in Kyoto. Last time we were there, we stayed close to the station - Budget Inn. Was great accommodation wise for us, but a bit inconvenient for Gion (which we'd like to explore a little more).

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7. Re: Kyoto/Matsumoto/??: New Year period

How about a ryokan in Gion, like Hatanaka?

www.thehatanaka.co.jp/english/index.html

Kyoto Station is not bad as a starting point for Gion (800 yen or so by taxi, frequent buses, 20 minutes walk).

Edited: 3:08 am, July 27, 2012
Tokyo, Japan
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8. Re: Kyoto/Matsumoto/??: New Year period

If you prefer to stay at hotels, Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyoto Sanjo or Hearton Hotel Kyoto in Karasuma Oike should provide easier and more pleasant access to Gion.

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9. Re: Kyoto/Matsumoto/??: New Year period

Quick reply, Yobeekool! Thanks. :-)

Mitsui Garden is a bit expensive but Hearton looks good for us. Have sent off an email to them because it appears from the website that a room is not available for our dates! Am starting to think that being in Japan over this Dec/Jan holiday period may have been a bad move. :-/

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10. Re: Kyoto/Matsumoto/??: New Year period

For a budget hotel option, Super Hotel Kyoto Shijo Kawaramachi shouldn't be so bad. I like Super Hotel chains more than Toyoko Inn (as SH chain usually has a soft bed).

Hanakyoka should be a reasonable ryokan option near Kiyomizu Temple in Higashiyama area. Nice that it has a pool as well as a large common bath with sauna.

http://www.oyadonet.com/hanakyoka/about.html

At the station area, Dormy Inn Premium has genuine onsen and not far away from Sanju Sangendo. Hotel Vista has small rooms but modern decor and just across the street from the Shinkansen platforms. Hotel Kintetsu Kyoto is right above the Kintetsu tracks (noise proofed) and virtually inside the station. It's convenient but the issue is whether you want to stay at the station complex when Kyoto is so much nicer in the old neighborhood quarters.