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Overwhelmed with city choices. Kyoto: clearly, but also...

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Mountain View...
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Overwhelmed with city choices. Kyoto: clearly, but also...

Hi there,

I fly into Osaka at 4:25pm Wed Sep 26, and must be in Tokyo for work the following Tue or Wed (Oct 2 or 3). Other than that, I'm on my own (literally! traveling solo).

The only Japanese city I've visited (briefly) in the past was Tokyo, and I loved my time in Japan. But now I'd like to spend some peaceful days away from blaring billboards.

It seems Kyoto should be the centerpiece of my free days, but for my ~6 days, I'm wondering:

1) Is it worth spending much time in Osaka? Maybe just the one night I arrive?

2) To experience a greater diversity of aspects in Japan, should I venture beyond Kyoto to Nara or Miyajima, or...? (Hiroshima would likely be fascinating, but seems fairly big-city-like).

3) To experience different living styles in Japan, what types of accommodations should I include beyond ryokans? Homestays? B&Bs? Hostels? Or are the categories increasingly meaningless?

Some more info to help you help me... :-D

- I'm in good shape, so I'm happy walking a lot. I also am patient with public transit.

- I'm on a "moderate budget" overall; that means I'm fine splurging on a nice ryokan for a night or two, paying for a railpass, etc... but not up for paying 30K yen for lodging every night :o.

- I love nature, gardens, parks, but I don't want to camp.

- I enjoy photographing nature, cities, people.

- I'm eager to learn more about Japanese culture and traditions... to experience onsen, eat authentic Japanese food, and ideally not get sucked into crowded tourist traps.

I have already read through some of the itinerary advice threads here, and I hope I'm not imposing by adding to the din. Thanks in advance for your suggestions :-)

P.S. -- I have discovered japanguesthouses and japanguide, and am still making my way through these amazing sites!

Tokyo, Japan
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1. Re: Overwhelmed with city choices. Kyoto: clearly, but also...

1) up to you.

2) Yes. That's a good idea.

3) I recommend you to ride a train for 20 mins in the direction to suburbs. You will find apartments and houses, shopping malls and supermarkets. That's the real life of Japan. I also recommend some budget hotel chain, Toyoko-inn, Sunroute, Super hotel etc. 5 star hotel is the same anywhere is the world. Budget one is not.

Mountain View...
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2. Re: Overwhelmed with city choices. Kyoto: clearly, but also...

Nao, thank you so much for your quick and helpful reply! I especially like your observation about 5 star hotels vs. budget ones. I have indeed stayed in the 5 star ones in Tokyo, Seoul, etc... and -- except for better service -- they're pretty much like the 5 star ones in America :D. In contrast, I will never forget the inexpensive hostels I've stayed in around the world, including a mega-sized one in Seoul!

And about the suburbs: One time when I was in Rome, I stupidly relied on a McDonald's free map (okay, stop laughing)... and I walked for hours in the *wrong direction* (away from the Coliseum). But... I saw real neighborhoods, houses, children playing ball, schools. It was one of the highlights of my time in Italy!

Anyway, thank you again for your post :).

Tokyo, Japan
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3. Re: Overwhelmed with city choices. Kyoto: clearly, but also...

Kyoto has always been a big city but you'll probably enjoy it.

Wed Sep 26 Arrival KIX 16:25, take the JR Haruka train (consider JR Haruka plus ICOCA option) to Kyoto. You might stay somewhere in Gion, Gojo,or around Shijo-Kawaramachi.

Thu Sep 27 See Sanju-sangendo, Kiyomizu, Chion-In. Gion in the evevning, Fushimi Inari after that.

Fri Sep 28 Kinkakuji-Ryoanji-Kitano Tenmangu-Nijo Castle-Nishiki Marktet-Pontocho.

Sat Sep 29 Nara Todaiji-Nigatsudo-Wakakusa Hills-Kofukuji. Take train before 14:30 to Horyuji, take taxi to the temple. After Horyuji visit, take JR to Osaka Tennoji (enjoy the Spa World there and relax). Walk around Dotombori in the evening. Take the JR train back to Kyoto just before midnight.

Sun Sep 30 Shiga Prefecture tour. Visit Hikone Castle by JR, see the museum, the old castle town, and Lake Biwa. You might then baktrack but from Kusatsu, take the train to Konan for the historic Ninja House (or Koga for the Ninja Village). The reason why you might head out from Kyoto on Sat/Sun is because Kyoto can be flooded by tourists.

Mon Sep 31 Nanzenji-Eikando-Ginkakuji-Shimogamo Shrine (perhaps also Kamigamo Shrine).

Mon Sep 31 Shinkansen to Hiroshima. See the Museum, the Park, and A-bomb Dome. After lunch at the Okonomiyaki village, take the Hiroden tram to Miyajima-guchi, From there, ferry to Itsukushima Shrine. After afternoon and evening stroll there, get to Hiroshima Station about 20:00 and go back to Kyoto. It's all open on Mondays.

Tue Oct 1 Arashiyama day. Perhaps even do Takao's temple (throw the dishes and dump your bad luck away). See Otagi / Adashino Nembutsuji, Toriimoto on your way back. Tenryuji Temple and Bamboo bushes in the afternoon. Get back to reality for the next day...

Tokyo, Japan
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4. Re: Overwhelmed with city choices. Kyoto: clearly, but also...

The above are just my personal suggestions.

Ryokans could mean anything from a temporary shelter for the semi-homeless people to a gorgeous five star establishment, as it means hotel in Japanese.

The traditional tourist ryokans are better if you stay at, say, Miyajima, or Kinosaki, with onsen. Kyoto is a bit built up and unless you stay at a real plush places, you might not enjoy it. Homestays as business is virtually unheard-of.

But whereever you go I recommend a place with onsen bath. Even in Kyoto- Dormy Inn Premium Kyoto has it. There are a few rokans with onsen in Arashiyama.

It should be better if you bring a good guidebook on Kyoto. If you don't, I suppose you could check out the Maruzen Bookstore in Laque Shijo-Karasuma store 3rd floor on Shijo-Karasuma Crossing

〒600-8009 京都市下京区四条通室町東入函谷鉾町101


Happy travels.

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5. Re: Overwhelmed with city choices. Kyoto: clearly, but also...

Yeah I'd stay in Osaka the first night - somewhere around Namba - lively & lots of food options.

Then go to Kyoto, I agree with all the suggestions above - there dozens more options in Kyoto, so much to keep you returning for years to come. Night-time walk the little alleys around Pontocho & Gion.

If you had the time I recommend a daytrip up Mt Kurama on the outskirts of Kyoto, really easy to reach by train from the city & it'll take you into another world so close to Kyoto, forest covered mountains, temple & shrines at the top, (cable car to take you up) paths to walk or longer hiking if you wish. It's also home to the Tengu - who fly around there - so watch out! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tengu

Hiroshima & Miyajima are unmissable - a night on the sacred island of Miyajima if you had the time to do this.

Yes, I got lost in Venice once and a whole other world opened up away from the tourist areas.

Of course at least one night in a traditional ryokan is a must - Kyoto has some wonderful inns - varying budgets - remember price quoted includes elaborate dinner & breakfast

Japanican has a good search function but doesn't list everything http://www.japanican.com/hotels/List.aspx?sn=1&rn=1&pn=2&prto=No+limit&ar=A41&hp=s2&&so=cd

Las Vegas, Nevada
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6. Re: Overwhelmed with city choices. Kyoto: clearly, but also...

I agree with Elly, definitely try to get to Miyajima. I stayed for a few nights on the island in a ryokan, but I cannot remember the name of it. Most of the island is walkable and there is also Mt. Misen which has some nice walking paths or you can take the cable car.

I did a bicycle tour of Kyoto and I loved it. It's a great way to see the main sights and to get some of the countryside as well. It was the Kyoto Cycling Tour Project I think. We called them and set up our own style of tour (we had time constraints due to a work thing in the evening) and they were very accommodating.

7. Re: Overwhelmed with city choices. Kyoto: clearly, but also...

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