24 Hours in Kyoto, Japan’s Quaintest City

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The last stop on the Asian leg of our Semester at Sea voyage was in Japan. We docked in Kobe, but SVV and I immediately hopped a train from there for 24 hours in Kyoto (about $10 each and a 45-minute ride).

News flash: Japan is expensive, y’all. While a few of our ship friends stayed in guest houses around the country (marginally cheaper), we didn’t decide to go to Kyoto until a couple days before we docked and, by then, all the prices I found on Hotels.com were exorbitant. So, to save our travel funds, we forked over some more of our coveted Gold Passport points to stay at the Hyatt Regency Kyoto for free. Hmmm…$650 a night or 18,000 points—I think we got the better deal in that equation.

We checked into the hotel, and seeing as the skies were heavy with rain, caught up on all of our Internetting until they cleared. (It was the first time we’d had a speedy connection since leaving the United States in August.) Unfortunately, this wasn’t until 4pm, and being the start of winter, the sun set not long after that.

Still, as soon as the rain stopped coming down, we hit the pavement and took a walk out to Kiyomizu-dera, one of the most well-known temples in Kyoto. Fact: The city has 1,600 temples and 400 shrines, so even if the weather had been in our favor, we wouldn’t have made it to even a fraction of them.

The temple was just about a 20-minute walk from our hotel; however, even while following the map, we found ourselves on a side road surrounding by cemeteries.

The road was steep and we knew it led up to the vicinity of Kiyomizu-dera, but the further we walked, the more tombstones we encountered. It was a bit eerie—particularly, as we never passed another pedestrian during our walk—but quite the sight.

By the time we finally found the temple, we’d nearly lost all the light.

Plus, the place was closing down so we didn’t even get to go inside (which was actually fine by me as I’ve seen a whole lot of temples and other religious sites in my travels).

It was a worthwhile endeavor nonetheless, though, as we looked out and saw all of Kyoto lit up at dusk.

After that, we wandered down the main touristy stretch on our way home. I didn’t have a phone the whole time we were traveling around the world, so for once, I wasn’t readily accessible by Twitter and email at all hours of the day. Thus, imagine my surprise when I got back to our hotel and had a Tweet that one of my followers had seen us at the temple in Kyoto. “I recognized you on the shopping street, but I couldn’t figure out where I knew you from!” This wasn’t a first occurrence, though: It was actually the third time this happened to me at various points of the voyage—I guess it’s just illustrative of how small social media makes the world! You can be on the opposite side of the globe from where you hail and still run into someone who “knows” you.

COMMENTS
  • December 30, 2011

    LOVE this post! ๐Ÿ˜€ Kyoto definitely is a magical place.

    • December 30, 2011
      Kristin

      I can’t wait to go back and see more of it–if I can ever afford to explore Japan again, that is!

  • December 30, 2011

    wow! $650 per night! I guess we made the right decision to plan a South Korea trip next summer instead of Japan. As much as I would love to visit Japan one day, we need more saving. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • December 30, 2011
      Kristin

      It is SO expensive. We stayed with my friend for five nights in Tokyo + used points for the one night in Kyoto, and we still spent big bucks during our week there. I would love to spend a few weeks in Japan, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to afford to!

  • December 30, 2011

    $650 a night is Awful! That’s a lot to pay for internet, a bed and a toilet. The cemetery with endless rows of unusual headstones is a bit creepy. And what a view.

    • December 30, 2011
      Kristin

      Yep…I consider $150 on a hotel a splurge (and balk at doing so)!

  • December 30, 2011

    Gorgeous pictures as always! Happy New Year!

    • December 30, 2011
      Kristin

      And to you, too!

  • December 31, 2011

    Kyoto is one of my most favorite places! I hope you will get to return for a longer stay and if you do, I highly recommend a side trip to Koya-san..truly a sacred and magical place where you can stay in a temple for much, much cheaper than your recent Kyoto stay ๐Ÿ™‚

    Happy New Year! May 2012 bring you continued adventures and lots of magic!

    • December 31, 2011
      Kristin

      I’ve never even heard of Koya-san! But I will note that down for my return trip to Japan…whenever that may be =)

  • December 31, 2011

    What are the little notes tied around the post and the boards above them? They look fascinating!

    • January 1, 2012
      SVV

      I understand them to be like flipping coins into the fountain. But in this case, people have written wishes on the coins (twists of paper).

  • December 31, 2011

    You guys sure know how to work that 10 20! Beautiful shots!
    Random question: what kind of camera bag do you use for sightseeing? How many lenses you carry? We have a combo diaper/camera backpack snd it is HEAVY. wondering if you have any tips!

    • January 1, 2012
      Kristin

      Haha, yep–it’s our favorite! Honestly, when exploring cities, these days it’s often the only lens we take if we don’t want to carry a lot of stuff.

      But typically, we tote two Canon bodies, plus three lenses (17-85mm, 24-105mm, 10-20mm)–sometimes four if we need the 70-300mm for wildlife–the GoPro, and all the odds and ends (batteries, memory cards, etc.). It’s heavy, but on our road trip last summer, we switched to this full-on backpack from Canon (link: http://tinyurl.com/89qw8mf), which is much more bearable than the one-shoulder slingback we used before. And usually the one of us not carrying the bag (er, usually me) has one camera slung around his/her neck, so it makes it a bit lighter.

  • January 1, 2012

    Wow, beautiful photos. I’m starting to catch the Japan travel bug for the first time!

    • January 1, 2012
      Kristin

      It truly is amazing. I would love to spend several weeks there, exploring the countryside and all the tiny townsโ€“itโ€™s just so damn pricey!!

  • January 1, 2012

    Gorgeous, as always.

    xox

  • January 2, 2012

    Particularly enjoyed the shots from the temple and cemetery …
    I’ve always been fascinated by world cultures, history and religions

    Thanks for sharing

  • January 2, 2012

    Wow Gorgeous Photos and amazing hotel. I love Kyoto, and really need to go back!

    • January 2, 2012
      Kristin

      Thank you! I feel like we cheated a bit only going there for one day–I just had no idea there was going to be so much to see!

      • January 3, 2012

        I was in Kyoto over 5 years ago now that I recall, for a weekend on my first trip through Japan. It’s amazing how little of the place I saw as well. I didn’t get a chance to see Kiyomizu-dera either, I hadn’t even heard about it at that point. I always think my places to see go down as I visit places, but then I realize that it just ends up being added to the places I need to visit again.

  • January 3, 2012
    Haidang

    i loved how you both just hopped on a train to go to K. you knew what you wanted and you knew how to get it ๐Ÿ˜‰ i love it!

    • January 13, 2012
      Kristin

      It’s so ridiculously easy to travel spontaneously in countries with efficient train systems. Though I wasn’t expecting such a huge language barrier in Japan–I thought everyone there spoke at least a little English!

      • January 13, 2012
        Haidang

        they dont speak English eฤฑther when you went to Vietnam right?

        • January 13, 2012
          Kristin

          I think many of the people we met in Vietnam at least spoke a little English. It seemed easier to communicate there and Cambodia than in Japan surprisingly!

          • January 14, 2012
            Haidang

            that’s definitely interesting!!!! and it’s a wealthy country too so you would assume that they are learning English in school…but i guess not. but that’s what traveling is for right?? to learn new things such as this ๐Ÿ˜‰ remember dublin? haha. i had a japanese friend who told me that japanese people actually go to America to get an education and then they return back to their country. this was so interesting to me since it’s usually the opposite.

  • January 3, 2012

    The cemetery photos are amazing. I’m somewhat fascinated by burial practices in other countries (I’m a weirdo, I know).

  • January 5, 2012

    Amazing Post. I like it and i want to go Kyoto. Thanx for sharing Gorgeous Picture here.

  • January 6, 2012

    i’m so insanely jealous of your japan trip.

    • January 13, 2012
      Kristin

      You guys would LOVE it there–if for nothing else, all the photography potential.

  • January 6, 2012

    Gorgeous pics! I’m itching to get back to Japan!!!

  • January 10, 2012

    Wow those are some fantastic shots you’ve got there! Makes me want to crack up Air’s “Lost in Kyoto” and dream of one day touching down and experiencing all this for myself.

    • January 13, 2012
      Kristin

      And you just introduced me to a new song. Thanks for that =)

  • January 13, 2012

    Wonderful shots! I like the view of all the tombstones from the mountain. I was never overly interested in Japan, but it’s starting to grow on me. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • January 13, 2012
      Kristin

      Same for me…I’ve never had an overwhelming interest in that part of Asia, but our short time in Japan definitely changed that for me!

  • January 17, 2012

    I don’t see many posts about Kyoto and if I ever make it to Japan this is a must stop for me. Question for you- do you think Japan is a good place to go solo female? I’m dying to go, never been but nervous about the communication barrier. I’m not worried about the isolation- I’m not going to make friends but do you think I’ll be able to get around without tearing my hair out?

  • January 30, 2012

    Kyoto is a place where I would really love to visit. I had no idea it was so expensive! My brother and his wife visited Kyoto and Tokyo a couple of years ago and said it was the trip of a lifetime.

  • November 4, 2016

    Great article. Fun reading it. Will definitely go Japan. Thank you for sharing it.

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