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Kyoto, Japan's capital until it was moved to Tokyo in 1868, is considered by many to be Japan's most beautiful city. Only Rome lays claim to more designated Unesco World Heritage Sites than this city nestled amongst the mountains of Western Honshu. The magnificent array of temples and shrines include famous names like the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaju and the Ryoanji zen garden. Kyoto is a sightseers paradise and much can be taken in on foot, although don't expect it to be the first impression you get of the city on arrival. Urban sprawl and ultra modern buildings like the glass and steel main train station, show signs of a city embracing modern times despite it's deeply traditional roots. But once you do find yourself in areas like Old Kyoto wandering down alleys of traditional narrow, wooden houses you will learn to appreciate the great artistic heritage that defined Kyoto for over a thousand years.
Shinto is the state religion in Japan. However, it is not like a religion in a traditional sense, there is no founder, canon or holy book. It is more of a state of mind and way of life. Some important shrines in Kyoto are:
Ryōan-ji Zen Garden is one of the finest examples of a Zen garden anywhere in the world. 15 stones are placed in the garden in 5 groups. Gravel surrounds these 15 stones and is carefully raked each day by the temple's monks. The only vegetation you'll find here is some moss around the stones. The garden is designed to be viewed while sitting on the veranda. The stones are arranged in such a way that it is not possible to see all 15 stones at once (apart from aerially). It is said that only those that are enlightened would be able to see all 15 stones at once.
There are several other gardens at the temple also, including a water garden and tea garden. The temple and its gardens are part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, which are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Japan has countless traditional festivals and holidays. Then when you add the local festivals that number just grows and grows. Here is a list of the few major national traditional festivals.
Kyoto has a subtropical humid climate with warm, wet summers and drier but mild winters. Summers last from June to September when average highs are mostly between 28 and 34 °C and nights are between 19 and 24 °C. Winters from December to February see highs of 9-11 °C and lows of 0-2 °C. Most of the annual rain falls between March and October, while winters are relatively dry and there is a chance of snow from December to March, with 3-5cm a month on average.
As Kyoto doesn't have its own airport, Kansai International Airport (KIX) and Osaka Airport (ITM) are the gateways to Kyoto (and Osaka/Kansai for that matter). The latter only serves domestic destinations. There is an excellent road and railway network between the two cities.
Most visitors arrive at JR Kyoto Station by Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo. Nozomi trains take approximately 2.15 hrs. to Kyoto and cost ¥13520 one-way. Travel agencies in Tokyo and Kyoto sell nozomi tickets with ¥700-1,000 discount. If you buy a ticket in an agency, it is "open date" - you can board any train as long as it is not full. All you have to do is show up at the train station, register your agency ticket and then you will be reserved a seat. The trains are equipped with vending machines and attendants selling snacks. Hikari trains, which run less frequently and make a few more stops, cover the trip in around 2.45 hours, but only the Hikari and the Kodama trains can be used by Japan Rail Pass holders at no charge.
Kyoto is easily reached by car via the Meishin Expressway between Nagoya and Osaka, but you'll definitely want to park your car on the outskirts of the city and use public transport to get around. Most attractions are in places built well before the existence of automobiles, and the availability of parking varies between extremely limited and non-existent. Furthermore, what little parking is available might be outrageously expensive.
As Kyoto is a major city, there are many day and overnight buses which run between Kyoto and other locations throughout Japan, which can be a cheaper alternative than shinkansen fares. As the cultural center of Japan, Kyoto's bus connections are almost as numerous as Tokyo's. There are bus operators with night buses from Yamagata, Sendai, Koriyama, Fukushima, Tochigi, Utsunomiya, Saitama (Omiya), Yokohama, Niigata, Karuizawa, Toyama, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Numazu, Mishima, Matsue, Izumo, Tokuyama, Yamaguchi, Imabari, Matsuyama, Kochi, Fukuoka (Hakata), Takeo, Sasebo (Huis Ten Bosch). Same-day highway buses depart from Tsu, Yokkaichi, Nagoya, Toyokawa, Toyohashi, Takayama, Okayama, Kurashiki, Tsuyama, Fukuyama, Onomichi, and Hiroshima.
There are two subway lines which only serve a rather small part of the city. The north-south running Karasuma Line runs under Kyoto Station, and the west-east running Tozai Line links up with it near the city center. Both are useful for travel in the city center but not really suitable for temple-hopping. The Tozai Line does connect with the Keihan Line, however, which runs parallel to the Kamo-gawa, and is convenient for reaching Gion and southern Kyoto; it also gets you within a short walk of many of the sights in eastern Kyoto. A one-day pass for the subway costs ¥ 600.
Kyoto is criss-crossed by several train lines, all of which are clearly sign-posted in English. Although the lines are run independently and prices vary slightly between them, transfers can be purchased at most of the ticket machines. The Keihan train line can be useful for traveling in eastern Kyoto, while the two Keifuku tram lines are an attractive way of traveling in the northwest. Across the street from the northern terminus of the Keihan Line is the Eidan Eizan line, which runs to Mount Hiei and Kurama. The Hankyu Line starts at Shijo-Kawaramachi downtown, and connects to the Karasuma Line one stop later at Karasuma. It's useful for reaching Arashiyama and the Katsura Rikyu; it runs all the way to Osaka and Kobe. JR lines run from Kyoto station to the northwest (JR Sagano line), to the southwest (JR Kyoto line) and to the southeast (JR Nara line). There are local and express trains so check if they stop at your station before you get on.
The bus network is the only practical way of reaching some attractions, particularly those in north-western Kyoto. Fortunately the system is geared toward tourists, with destinations electronically displayed/announced in English as well as Japanese. Unlike other Japanese cities, a tourist probably is advised to use the buses here.
Confusingly however, there are two different bus companies in Kyoto, which occasionally even have overlapping line numbers. Green-and-white Kyoto City Buses (市バス shi-basu) travel within the city, and are the most useful for visitors; unless otherwise noted, all buses listed in this guide are city buses. Red-and-white Kyoto Buses travel to the suburbs and are generally much less useful.
Many buses depart from Kyoto Station, but there are well-served bus stations closer to the city center at Sanjō-Kawabata just outside the Sanjō Keihan subway line, and in the northern part of the city at the Kitaōji subway station. Most city buses have a fixed fare of ¥230, but you can also purchase a one day pass (¥500 for adults and ¥250 for children under 12) with which you can ride an unlimited number of times within a one day period. The day passes can be bought from the bus drivers or from the bus information center just outside Kyoto Station. This is especially useful if you plan on visiting many different points of interest within Kyoto. You can also buy a combined unlimited subway and bus pass for ¥1200.
Particularly in spring and fall, but at any time of year, getting around by bicycle is an excellent option. Cycling forms a major form of personal transport year-round for locals. The city's grid layout makes navigation easy. The city is essentially flat, excepting a few places in the lower parts of the surrounding hills where you may have to climb a bit or park you bike to visit on foot. You can rent bicycles in many places in Japan for a reasonable price. During the peak tourist seasons, when roads are busy and buses tend to be crammed beyond capacity, bicycles are probably the best way to navigate Kyoto.
Kyoto's wide, straight roads make for heavy traffic in many parts of the city, but it is possible to find back alleys that are quieter and offer better chances to happen upon all sorts of sightseeing/cultural gems. Riding on major roads is OK, especially if you are confident and used to riding with traffic on the road, rather than on the sidewalk and especially again if you are used to riding/driving on the LEFT-HAND side of the road.
Be aware that it is forbidden to park your bike where it is not explicitly authorized, in which case it could get towed and you would have to pay a fine to get it back. So you will have to find a legal bike park near the place you want to visit and pay for it. It will not be the preferred transportation mean if you have planned to go to a district and visit it by foot along a non-circular route (like the Philosopher's Path in Higashiyama).
Kyoto and the nearby city of Uji are well known for matcha (抹茶 maccha) or green tea, but visitors don't just come to drink the tea; there are a wide variety of matcha-flavored treats. Matcha ice cream is particularly popular, and most places selling ice cream will have it as an option. It also shows up in a variety of snacks and gifts.
Yatsuhashi (八ツ橋) is delicious Kyoto snack, made from rice flour and sugar. There are two types of yatsuhashi: baked and raw. The hard yatsuhashi was originally made using cinnamon, and tastes like a crunchy biscuit. Today, while the biscuits remain the same, you can also buy hard yatsuhashi dipped in macha and strawberry-flavored glazes.
Raw yatsuhashi, also known as hijiri was also made with cinnamon, but the cinnamon is mixed with bean paste and then folded into the hijiri to make a triangle shape. Today, you can buy a wide variety of flavors, including macha, chocolate and banana, and black poppyseed. Many of the flavors are seasonal, such as the sakura (cherry blossom) yatsuhashi available in the spring and mango, peach, blueberry, and strawberry, available from May to October.
Although yatsuhashi can be purchased at most souvenir shops, the best place to purchase raw yatsuhashi is the famous Honkenishio Yatsuhashi. While other stores may carry yatsuhashi, this is the place to find all of the seasonal flavors, as well as free samples. Most of these shops are located in Higashiyama. The most convenient for tourists is probably the one on Kiyomizu-zaka, just below the entrance to Kiyomizu-dera.
While many tourists find raw yatsuhashi to be a delicious (and highly affordable) souvenir, be aware that it only lasts for one week after purchase. Baked yatsuhashi on the other hand, will last for about three months. Consider this when deciding what gifts to take home with you.
Other Kyoto specialities include hamo (a white fish served with ume as sushi), tofu (try places around Nanzenji temple), suppon (an expensive turtle dish), vegetarian dishes (thanks to the abundance of temples), and kaiseki-ryori (multi-course chef's choice that can be extremely good and expensive).
If you have a lot of money, Kyoto is also an excellent place to experience kaiseki (懐石), which is a meal of many small courses and a quintessential type of Japanese fine dining; in Kyoto this will typically entail a private room with traditional Japanese architecture.
Kyoto's night scene is dominated by bars catering for local needs, most of which are located in Central Kyoto around Kiyamachi, between Shijo and Sanjo. This area offers a wide variety of drinking options for all types of people. You'll also have no trouble finding the host and hostess bars, courtesy of the staff pacing around out front trying to entice visitors. There are plenty of options beyond this street in other regions, but with such a large concentration of bars along in the same area, its easy to locate a place where you feel most at home to relax for the night.
If you're looking for nightclubs, Kyoto has a few options, but it is not a city known for its thriving dance clubs. Those hoping to experience that part of Japanese nightlife should consider taking a train to Osaka where many of the clubs are hip and wild enough to rival any Tokyo club.
Some of Kyoto's most famous sake comes from Gekkeikan Brewery in the Fushimi area of Southern Kyoto. A 400-year-old brewery that still produces great sake, Gekkeikan also offers tours of its facilities.
Kyoto has a wide range of accommodation, much of it geared towards foreign visitors. During peak seasons, such as the cherry blossoms in April or during Golden Week when accommodation is difficult to get, consider staying in Osaka. A thirty-minute train ride from Kyoto Station to Osaka Station will cost you ¥540 one way. Since Kyoto is a major tourist destination, demand is high and prices follow suit.
Most of the lodging in the city is clustered near the central city, especially around Kyoto Station and the downtown area near Karasuma-Oike. The outer areas have a scattering of their own, tending towards inexpensive but often much further from train or subway stations.
For those who would like to experience traditional Japanese accommodation, Kyoto is home to some of Japan's most luxurious ryokan, though prices are generally very expensive and would make economy class flight tickets look cheap.
|A-yado Gion||3F Sakura bldg., 244-2, Nakano-cho, 2 chome Shinm||Hostel||85|
|Amenity Hotel Kyoto Kiyomizu||4-171 Kiyomizu Higashiyama-ku||Hotel||-|
|Backpackers Hostel K's House Kyoto||418 Nayachou Shichijo-agaru, Dotemachi-dori, Shimogyo-ku||Hostel||91|
|bAKpAK Gion Hostel||2-244 Miyagawa Suji Higashiyama-ku||Hostel||85|
|Kyoto Bakpak Hostel||1-234 Miyagawasuji Higashiyama-ku||Hostel||-|
|Chita Guest Inn||343 Takatsuki-cho||Hostel||89|
|Daiya Ryokan||292, Nishi Tamamizu-cho, Higashihairu,Higashino To||Hostel||-|
|Eco and Tec Kyoto||40 Sanjyoboucho Awadaguchi||Hotel||-|
|Gion Shinmonso||Shinmon Mae, Hanamikoji, Higashiyama Ku,||Hostel||-|
|Gojo Guest House||3-396-2 Gojobashihigashi Higashiyama-Ku||Hostel||90|
|Gojo Guesthouse - Annex||11-26 Komatsu-cho 4 Higashiyama-ku||Hostel||89|
|Guest House Bola-Bola||25-17 Horigauchi-cho Uzumasa Ukyoku Kyoto city||Hostel||88|
|Guest House Kyoto Costa del Sol||134 Ebisu, Shinmachi, Gojo-sagaru Shimogyo-ku||Hostel||78|
|Guest House Yahata||544 Yahata-cho, Gojo-agaru Nishinotoin, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto-shi||Hostel||86|
|Guesthouse Bon||63-2 Kamimonzen-cho Murasakino Kita-ku Kyoto Japan||Hostel||88|
|Hanakiya Inn||583-101 Higashi Rokucho-me Higashiyama-ku, 605-0856||Hostel||88|
|Hannari||Higurashidori Shimodachiurisagaru Kushigecho, Kami||Hostel||-|
|Ryokan Hirashin||Takoyakushi-dori Takakura-Nishi Nakagyo-ku||Guesthouse||-|
|Hotel Alpha Kyoto||Sanjo-Agaru, Kawaramachi Nakagyo-Ku||Hotel||-|
|Hotel Sanoya Kyoto Station||539, Higashishiokoji-cho Higashinotoindori-Nanajo||Hostel||83|
|Hotel Sugicho||172, Moriyama-cho, Tomikoji-oike-agaru Nakagyo-ku||Hostel||81|
|IchiEnSou||4-2 Komatsu-Chou SijoSagaru 4 Choume YamatoOojiDou||Hostel||90|
|Ikoi-no-Ie Kyoto||885 Ushitora-cho, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto city||Hostel||85|
|Ishicho Shogikuen||Kawaramachi Dori Takeya Higashi Iru, Nakagyo-ku||Hostel||-|
|J-Hoppers Kyoto Guest House||51-2, Nakagoryo-cho Higashikujo, Minami-ku||Hostel||88|
|Hostel Kyotokko (ex Kyoto Cheapest Inn)||783 Sabamatsu-cho, Marutamachi-dori Matsuyacyo Nis Kamigyo-ku||Hostel||78|
|Kyoto Guest House The Earthship||33-15 Naka-Adaticho Yoshida Sakyo-ku||Guesthouse||85|
|Kyoto Nissho Besso Ryokan||Toninokoji nishi 13 Nakagyo-ku Sanjo||Hostel||-|
|Kyoto Travelers Inn||91, ENSHOJI-CHO, OKAZAKI SAKYO-KU||Hostel||-|
|Kyoto UTANO Youth Hostel||29 Nakayamacho Uzumasa Ukyo-ku||Hostel||87|
|Nagomi-Ryokan Yuu||94 Kamiwakamiya-cho, Wakamiya-dori Rokujo Nishi-ir Shimogyo-ku||Hostel||84|
|O-yado Sato||93 Kamiwakamiya-cho Shimogyo-ku||Hostel||85|
|Orange Inn||Kita-Kinuta 8, NIshi-Nanajyo, Shimogyo-ku,||Hostel||-|
|Oyado Ishicho||Kawaramachi Dori Takeya Higashi Iru, Nakagyo-ku||Hostel||-|
|RokuRoku||28-1 Nishiteranomae-cho Shishigatani Saky||Hostel||85|
|Ryokan Nihonkan||Higashi Shiokoji-cho, Shichijo-sagaru, Karasuma-do||Hostel||79|
|Ryokan Sanki||Shimabara Nishi-Shinyashiki-Shimono-cho||Hostel||86|
|Ryokan Wajimaya||Higashi-iru,Karasuma,Kamijuzuyamachi, Shimogyo-Ku||Hostel||82|
|Ryokan Wakamiya||701,Ebisuno-cho, Nishinotoinhigashiiru Nanajodori||Hostel||-|
|Ryokan Yachiyo||34 Fukuchi Cho Nanzenji Sakyo||Hostel||-|
|Sparkling Dolphins Inn Kyoto||Kamigoreicho 56,Higashi Kujyo Minami-ku||Hostel||77|
|Station Ryokan Seiki||24-25 Kitakarasuma-cho Higashikujo, Minami-ku||Hostel||82|
|Tomato Kyoto Station||135, Shimizu, Siokoji-Horikawa-Nishi Shimogyo||Hostel||85|
|Tomiya Ryokan, Kyoto Station||545 Higashishiokoji-cho, Higashinotoin-nishiiru S||Hostel||71|
|Uno House||108 Marutamachi-Sagaru, Shinkarasuma-dori||Hostel||-|
|Uoiwa Ryokan||Nanajo agaru 143, Horikawa-dori Shimogyo-ku||Hostel||85|
|Watazen Ryokan||413, Izutuyatyo Nakagyoku,Yanaginobanba,Rokkaku,Sagaru||Hostel||-|
|Yamashiroya Ryokan||517,shiokoji-cho,nanajousagaru,toudouindori shimog||Hostel||-|
|Guest House RAKUZA||2-255,Miyagawa-suji Higashiyama-ku||Hostel||-|
|Nine Hours Kyoto Teramachi||588 Teianmaeno-cho,Shijyo,Teramachi-dori Shimogyo-ku||Hostel||-|
|TANAKA-ya||5-352-8 Miyagawa-suji Higashiyama||Hostel||86|
|Guest House Kyoto||401-1 Teppo-cho, Shimogyo-ku,||Hostel||86|
|Peace House Sakura (Sakura House)||188-1 Kadowaki-cho, Higashiiru Gojo-agaru, Ymatooji-doori, Higashiyama-ku,||Guesthouse||76|
|Kyoto Hostel Kanouya||493-3Aizenjicho SenbonHisgashi Kamichojamachi-st Kamigyo-ku Kamigyo-ku||Hostel||-|
|Kyoto Backpackers House||25-17,Hinooka Ishizukachou, Yamshina-ku||Hostel||-|
|Kyoto City Hostel||664 Jofukoji Kyotoshi Kamigyoku||Hostel||-|
|Kyoto Globetrotters Hostel||Kyoto shi Kamigyoku 664 Jofukuji Dori||Hostel||-|
|Guest Inn Kyoto||174-5 hanayacho kushige nishiiru yakuencho||Hostel||-|
|Guest House NAGOMI||108-6 Wakamiyayokocho Kamigyou-ku||HOSTEL||86|
|Urban Hotel Kyoto||4-59 Nishiura-cho Fukakusa Fushimi-ku||Hotel||-|
|Kyoto Namba Terrace Guest House||334 Kamidachiuri Senbon Area Daikoku-cho -Kyoto-Shi||Guesthouse||-|
|Renjishi||14 Shimokashiwano-cho, Murasakino Kita-ku||HOSTEL||85|
|Kyoto Hana Hostel||229 Akezu-no-mon Dori, Kogawa-cho Shimogyo-ku||HOSTEL||91|
|Kyoto Guesthouse Roujiya||22-58, Ikenouchi-cho, Nishinokyo, Nakagyo-ku||Hostel||85|
|Ryokan Yamato||2-537-1 Shoumenkudaru-yamatooji, Yamatoojidori Hig||HOSTEL||-|
|First Cabin Kyoto Karasuma||4F, Takanoha-Square, 331, Kamiyanagi-cho, Bukkoji-dori Higashi-iru, Shimogyo-ku||HOSTEL||-|
|Guesthouse Kingyoya||243 Kankicho 3Chome Omiya-Teranouchi (Agaru-Nishii||HOSTEL||-|
|Hostel Mundo||596 Tenbin-Tyo Kamigyo-ku||HOSTEL||87|
|Khaosan Kyoto Guest House||568 Nakanocho, Bukkoji-agaru Teramachi-dori, Shimogyo Ward||HOSTEL||89|
|Guesthouse VENTEN||347-1,Inokuma Kamigyoku||Hostel||-|
|Kyoto Bed and Breakfast Hostel||Kamidachiuri dori Jofukuji Sagaru 663||Guesthouse||-|
|Guest House Yamato||539-26 6Chome 5Jyo Higashiyama-Ku||HOSTEL||86|
|Capsule Ryokan Kyoto||204 Tshuchihashicho Shimogyo-Ku, Kyoto||Hostel||87|
|Small World Guesthouse in Kyoto||25-10 Shimotorida-Tyou Murasakino Kita-ku||HOSTEL||83|
|Guest House Kinta||462,Matubarananseigomon-machi, Shinnmiyagawamachi-dori,Higashiyama-ku||HOSTEL||86|
|Hotel Honnoji||522 Shimohonnioji Teramaemachi, Oike-kudaru Teramachidori, Nakagyo-ku||HOSTEL||-|
|Hostel HARUYA||542-4 Furukawa-cho, Sanjo-dori, Shirakawabashi-nis||HOSTEL||-|
|Guest House Atagoya||Saga kurumamichi-cho 4-27 Ukyo-ku||GUESTHOUSE||86|
|Kiraku Inn Kyoto||251, Umemoto-cho, Sinmonzen-dori, Higashiyama-ku||HOSTEL||-|
|Kyoto Jalan-do||346 Isetacho Gokomachi Rokkaku sagaru Nakagyo-ku||HOSTEL||-|
|Guesthouse Waraku-an||Sannou-cho19-2, Shougoin Sakyou-ku||HOSTEL||-|
|Pan and Circus||616 Azuchi-cho,Gojo-agaru,Kawaramachi-dori,Shimogy||HOSTEL||84|
|Jam Hostel Kyoto Gion||Tokiwacho170 Higashiyama Kyoto||HOSTEL||-|
|Oyama Guesthouse||31-7,Miyanogocho, Kamikatsura Nishikyoku||HOSTEL||-|
|Kyoto Tsumugi Inn||28 Maeda-cho, Chudoji, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|OKI's Inn||542-2 Furukawa-cho Higashiyama-ku Kyoto-shi||HOSTEL||-|
|Guest House Itoya Kyoto||Arimachi 202, Kamigyo-ku,||HOSTEL||-|
|Hostel HARUYA Aqua||1-12 Waki-cho||HOSTEL||86|
|Guest house Hennka Kyoto||Souzancho 1-12 Imagumano Higashiyama||Guesthouse||-|
|Hostel Mundo Chiquito||485 Aburanokoji Takeyachosagaru Hashimotocho Nakagyoku||HOSTEL||88|
|Piece Hostel Kyoto||21-2 Higashikujo Higashisannocho||HOSTEL||92|
|Santiago Guesthouse Kyoto||6-503 Gojohashi Higashi, Higashiyama-ku||HOSTEL||82|
Manga cafes are dotted along the streets of almost every city in Japan. For a very reasonable price (about ¥100 per 15 minutes), you receive a private cubicle with a PC with internet access at blistering Japanese internet speeds. The chairs are incredibly comfortable (making them an excellent place to sleep for the cash-deprived), and you can even order snacks and drinks from the staff.
A number of business hotels have Internet access available if you have your own device, sometimes for free. It is also possible to find Wi-Fi "hot spots" around many large cities in Japan, especially near tech-related businesses and large corporate buildings with unsecured wireless networks. 3G Wireless Data and Pocket Wifi are other options.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Payphones (公衆電話 kōshū denwa) are easily found, particularly near train stations, although with the popularity of mobile phones, public pay phones are not quite as numerous as they once were. Gray and green pay phones accept ¥10 and ¥100 coins and prepaid cards. Be aware that not all places with public telephones have phones that accept coins, so it may be worthwhile to buy a phone card for emergency use. Some of the gray phones, as indicated on the display, can make international calls. Pre-paid cards can be purchased at convenience stores, train station kiosk stores and sometimes in vending machines next to the phone.
Modern Japanese mobile phones (携帯電話 keitai denwa or just keitai) tend to operate on unique cellular standards not always compatible with the rest of the world. 3G phones using the UMTS/WCDMA2100 standard and equipped with a 3G SIM card will most likely work. If your phone is up to spec, double-check with your carrier if they have a roaming agreement with either SoftBank or NTT DoCoMo. Coverage is generally excellent, unless you are heading to some remote mountainous areas. If you have no 3G phone but still have a 3G-compatible SIM card, you can rent a 3G phone in Japan and slot in your card, allowing you to keep your home phone number in Japan. For a longer trip, you can also purchase a phone, but doing this legally requires an Alien Registration Card (or an obliging Japanese friend willing to front for you).
The easier way is to get a prepaid phone. Prepaid phones are sold in most SoftBank and AU stores. If you already have a 3G phone, go with Softbank as it can sell SIMs as opposed to au whose prepaid service is phone-based like most CDMA carriers. Prepaid phones use a "card" with a pass key to "charge" a phone with minutes. These prepaid calling cards, unlike the phone itself, can be found in most convenience stores. A prepaid cell phone is available for as little as ¥5000 plus ¥3000 for a 60-90 day call time package, which will get drained at a rate of ¥100 per minute (¥10 per 6 seconds for AU's prepaid service). Both SoftBank and AU offer prepaid phones.
The Japanese postal service is excellent! Domestic and international mail service is very quick and reliable. The prices for sending letters, postcards and parcels vary depending on where you send if from and to which country you send it too, and of course depends on weight as well, so check this calculation page of Japan Post for more details. Post offices generally are open from 9:00am to 5:00pm on weekdays, closing at weekends and also on national holidays, though a few open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 3:00pm. Central post offices are sometimes open until 7:00pm, open on Saturdays from 9:00am to 5:00pm and on Sundays and holidays from 9:00am to 12:30pm. There are post offices in every major city and minor town. Another thing to remember is that the post office is one of the few places in Japan that is guaranteed to have ATMs that take international cards.
We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Kyoto searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Kyoto and areas nearby.
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