Kyoto City Bus & Subway Guide

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While there’s still over a month till we go back to Kyoto for the sakura season, I’d like to share this with you.

If you are new to Kyoto, you might find this useful.  The Kyoto City has launched a Kyoto City Bus and Subway Guide.  You may access this information via your smart phone.  You may find tips on how to take the bus/subway, fare and ways to pay, free wifi, bus and subway time table, and how to search for nearby bus stop and subway stations.

Even though The Kyoto Bus and Subway network are considered simple when compared to those in Tokyo, you might still find this information handy.

 

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Free luggage storage service in Kyoto Station (with JCB card)

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One of the cons of staying at Airbnb is that, after checking out (usually around 10a or 11a), you need to figure out a place to store the luggage before you head to the airport.  What we used to do were finding lockers at Kyoto Station.  The small size lockers are 300 yen while the large one that fits a check-in luggage is 700 yen.  Most of the time the lockers are taken.  You may also goto level B1.  There are baggage rooms that takes any size luggage for 500 yen each.

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Baggage room in B1.

Recently we found a free luggage storage service in Kyoto Station.  If you have a JCB credit card, you may goto the JCB Plaza.  It is located on the ground floor inside the Kyoto Theater.

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Kyoto Theater 京都劇場.  JCB Plaza located inside to the right.

Hours are 10a – 6p.  Besides free same day luggage storage service (up to 3 luggages per card), you get free drinks and free wifi.  They can also help you book hotels/restaurants/tours.  We just applied for the Mitsuwa JCB card.  Hopefully we get the card before my next trip, so we can save couple thousand yen on luggage storage.

There are no overnight luggage storage service at Kyoto Station.  Be sure to check the closing time of each facility!

 

 

 

Door to door shuttle service between Kyoto and Kansai Airport (KIX)

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There are many ways to access the Kansai Airport (KIX).  As much as we love the convenience of the JR network, it was quite a hassle to drag the luggage around the crowded JR station.  Even if you manage to get to Kyoto Station via JR, you would probably need to take a taxi to your final destination.  Taking a taxi in Kyoto is a disaster.  Taxi is small and its almost impossible to fit 2 luggages and 2 passengers.  Kyoto taxi drivers are not familiar with places and they refuse to use the GPS (At first I thought it was our bad luck but even the locals say so too).

After learning our lessons the hard way, we tried the door to door shuttle and were completely satisfied with their service.  You can choose from MK Taxi or Yasaka Taxi.  We tried the Yasaka Taxi on our last trip.  We booked the shuttle online and you get a discount if you book rountrip service.  They have an English website and they accept credit card payment.  It’s a shared shuttle service and they take up to 8 passengers at one time. I love the hassle free experience 🙂

 

Japan Trusted Traveler Program

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Great news for frequent travelers to Japan!  If you travel to Japan for more than 2 times a year, please read on.  From November 1, Foreign nationals, who are registered users enrolled in the Trusted Traveler Program, do not have to wait to undergo a face-to-face immigration examination at the immigration booth from an immigration inspector and will be able to quickly conclude the immigration examination procedures using the automated gates by using their registered user card.  The automated gates are available at Narita Airport (T1 & 2), Haneda Airport, Chubu Airport and Kansai Airport.

To find out if you are eligible, check out the requirements page.  It gives you detailed instructions on how to register.  If you are enrolled in Global Entry Program, you may skip a few supporting documents.   You will need to upload a current photo, passport and the Global entry card to apply.

This program is so popular!  I registered on November 2 and are already number 900 on the list!  I doubt if I can take advantage of this program on our coming trip next week!

Hoshinoya Kyoto 星のや京都

Arashiyama (嵐山) is one of my favorite places in Kyoto.  And along the riverside stands the amazing Hoshinoya Kyoto (星のや京都).  I was so spoiled that I got to celebrate my birthday there in 2015.

The check-in experience was quite unique.  We were met at the dock by a concierge who then summoned a boat to take us up the Hozu-gawa to our retreat.  Upon our arrival we were welcomed by live zen music.

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Exquisite Kyoto delicacies were awaiting us at the guest room.  The guest rooms are located in a renovated ryokan inn that was built 100 years ago on the former premises of Kyoto business tycoon Suminokura Ryoi’s private residence. It was modernized just enough to ensure a pleasant stay without sacrificing the heart of traditional Japanese architecture.

This is exactly what I love about Kyoto, the perfect mix of old and new Japan.  And Hoshinoya made the best interpretation.

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Enjoying sakura tea in front of sakura tree.  Bliss.

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I cherished the quiet and serene moments fostered by shakyo (写経)

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Day perfecting his tree pose at the Zen rock garden.

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Kaiseki (懐石) dinner was like an art show.

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Every dish was so beautifully presented.

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Enjoying a sip of tea, looking up at the star-smeared sky, and getting lost in the midst of time~

What’s better than ending the day with an in-room shiatsu massage?  Sorry I didn’t manage to take a picture of it 😉

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The in-room breakfast was a feast on its own.  Only the freshest and seasonal ingredients were used to prepare the 若竹と桜鯛の香春鍋.  

It was such a wonderful experience at Hoshinoya Kyoto.  We would definitely be back, during the momiji season!

In fact, we are planning to goto Hoshinoya Karuizawa 星のや軽井沢 in Fall 2017.  Stay tuned.

 

Learning Japanese

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One needs to learn the language in order to get a better understanding of the culture.  Ever since we dreamed of retiring in Kyoto, we started learning Japanese using an app called Memrise.  By setting a goal to take a 5 to 10-minute lesson a day, we are slowly building our vocabulary.

I also recommend Tae Kim’s guide to learning Japanese.  Tae Kim is an engineer so his class is very systematic.

If you read Chinese, I recommend 音速語言學習日語.  The instructor passed the N1 exam after 2 years of self study!

And if you like to hear how the words are pronounced by native Japanese, check out Forvo.

Recently we discovered free Japanese lessons at Zensuji.  We love it since we get a chance to practice conversational Japanese and got to meet people with the same passion!

It is quite a wonderful feeling if you start to recognize a few phrases when watching Japanese drama.  We were ecstatic when we were able to order food with our broken Japanese on our last trip to Tokyo 🙂

If you are also learning Japanese, please share your experience with us!  どうぞよろしくお願いします。