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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

[Kyoto, Japan] Autumn Colors Tour


It's almost that time of year again. Late-autumn means it is time to make your way to Kyoto to take a look at the beautiful fall colors at the (always impressive) historical tourist attractions.
 
Ginkakuji - Kyoto
If you are not from the area (aka you cannot take a daytrip), you need to book accommodations early. I was living in Kobe, so I could easily take the train to Kyoto (about 1.5 hours). I transferred trains in Osaka. Osaka is also a great location to make your home base. It is one of the foodie capitals of Japan. The accommodations are relatively inexpensive and there is a lot to do in the evening hours, unlike in Kyoto. The train ride from Osaka to Kyoto is less than 1 hour, making Osaka a great place to stay.

You should be prepared for crowds...a ridiculous amount of people. Seriously. I thought I was going to be prepared, but I was not.

As a tip, there is a daily bus pass (Adult 500JPY - about 5USD) and a daily subway+bus pass (Adult 1200JPY - about 12USD). Don't waste your money on the combined subway and bus pass.
The bus is a lot more convenient to most of the popular tourist locations, so save the 700JPY.

Arashiyama
You need to buy the daily pass at the information center..at the Kyoto train station. If you know you are going to be there multiple days and do not want to keep going back to the station, you can buy multiple passes at the same time. The voucher is not activated until you use it the first time.

If you are planning a daytrip, make an organized plan.
The bus system is kind of confusing. So, make sure you pick up one of those bus maps from the tourist information center. I got my map at the Kyoto train station on the second floor. Also, if you've never been there, stop by the information center. They have employees that speak multiple languages and are able to give you tips about the best places to go. The person I spoke with spoke Japanese, Korean, English and Mandarin Chinese. Other workers spoke French, Russian, and Spanish. I'm sure there were other languages represented, but I cannot remember them at the moment.
(I will try and find mine/scan it here, so you can see what I labeled.)

Kiyomizudera (Kiyomizu Temple)
I went to Kyoto two weekends in a row.
The first weekend, I went to Ginkakuji and then toured around the city, including the Palace and other sights. I planned the first weekend because there was an evening Illuminations event at Kiyomizu Temple.
During this Illuminations period, they close the temple to the public a little earlier and then reopen it at night for a few hours. You pay an admission fee and then you get to tour the grounds and look at the autumn colors for a rather unique experience.
I was not ready for the crowds. Usually Japanese people are very particular about lines and order, but at this event. this was not the case. There were just hoards of people all crowded together and surging towards the entrance. I tried to find the back of the line, but ended up wasting time. I ended up having to ask some Korean tourists for help finding the line. So, just get yourself in the crowd.

The second weekend, I went to Arashiyama. I basically went there to see the monkeys...the baby monkeys. My friends and I did some more sightseeing around the Arashiyama area and looked around in Kyoto some more, too.

Arashiyama Monkey Park
There is so much to see in the Kyoto area and that it is a very spread out city, so make sure you prioritize it is what you want to see and are okay with not seeing everything.

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