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Touring Japan Days 4-7 Kyoto

KYOTO, JAPAN

ACCOMMODATIONS

Izutsu Hotel

52 Daikoku-cho, Kawaramachi-Sanjo-Sagaru-Nakagyo, Kyoto 〒604-8031 Japan

Like Tokyo, Kyoto is a big city so this room was on the smaller side but worked just fine. We actually met two people in the lobby who went to the same university that we did. It is a small world. The location of this hotel was great because it was in the middle of everything.

RESTAURANTS & FOOD

This was our favorite restaurant, Tengu. It was not far down the street from our hotel and we ate there multiple times. They had a “build-your-own-meal” menu so we got to try lots of different things. Plus, it was very inexpensive, the service was good, and the food was great. We tried plum wine, which is delicious and I finally got to have some yakisoba. It is a franchise that has multiple locations in Japan. It would also be a fun place to go for drinks and appetizers.

 

We also ate at the KFC across the street from our hotel a couple of times. It was the best KFC I had ever been too. Clean facility, friendly staff, and delicious food that was not as greasy as the American version. Plus their biscuits were more like donuts with honey on top.

I made sure to get matcha and milk (vanilla) ice cream every chance I got and we found a “summer snow” vendor outside of Maruyama Park.

Every morning we went to Tully’s Coffee and ate an American style breakfast. Well, I’ve never had a salad with my French toast, so it was kind of an American breakfast. We really like coffee so we drank a lot of coffee in Japan. However, we were surprised when we ordered our first cup (cafe latte) in Tokyo and received a bright green frothy drink. I probably did not do a good job enunciating and pointing because we ended up with matcha lattes which were good and already pretty sweet. One thing we noticed, other than Odawara (Odawara Train Station), is that you cannot find sweetener that actually sweetens your coffee. I may pack some Splenda for the next trip. We also ate at the Spaghetti & Cake Second House restaurant in the Mina shopping center, which was delicious.

Four Day Itinerary

Our first day was mostly a travel day so once we arrived at the hotel we walked over to KFC and then to the shops around our hotel. We love the Mina building which is a multi-floor shopping center that houses Loft (department store), UniQlo (clothing), GU (clothing), and  Spaghetti & Cake Second House (Italian style and dessert restaurant). We bought clothing, stationary, gifts, cards, and food there. It was only two doors down from our hotel so we went there a lot. UniQlo and the United Colors of Benetton across the street actually had jeans that were the correct length for me so I stocked up. We also found Akao-Shobundo, which was just down the street from our hotel. We loved this store because it was filled with antique books, maps, and Japanese artwork. If only we had brought an empty suitcase, we could have brought home tons of neat things. We visited the store multiple times and found a few light weight treasures.

Day 4 (Day of Arrival)

Nakagyo Ward

Mina Building

Akao-Shobundo

Day 5

Shimogyo Ward

Yumeyakata Kimono Rental

First thing, we headed south to the Shimogyo Ward. I reserved our kimono appointments in advance online. Wearing a traditional kimono was another activity that I wanted to make sure I got to experience. I had not worn a traditional kimono since I was about three years old. They dressed me and did my hair. Lots of people dress up in kimonos and walk around. It was quite an operation they had there and they are not the only kimono rental company in town. I could not believe my husband agreed to wear one too ( I think he enjoyed it). It did however get pretty hot underneath all those layers. It was not expensive and so much fun.

Jinmatsuan

Next we walked next door to either attend a Japanese tea ceremony or make matcha tea. We ended up making Japanese sweets and also made some friends who were from Okinawa. They did not speak English but we did sing the Japanese Butterfly Song that my grandmother taught me when I was little.

We walked around for a bit and then returned our kimonos. Next we headed east to the Higashiyama Ward.

Higashiyama Ward

Yasaka Shrine

Walking through the shrine, you will find lots of food vendors, shrines, statues, and people.

 

Maruyama Park [Maruyamacho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 605-007]

My grandmother’s maiden name is Maruyama (her’s is written differently than the park’s in Japanese though). But still, I wanted to go to the park with the same name.

Gion District

Day 6

After breakfast at Tully’s, we headed west to Arashiyama in the Ukyo Ward. There was plenty to see in Arashiyama.

Ukyo Ward

Arashiyama

Bamboo Grove [Walk from Saga-Arashiyama train station on road to Okochi Sansoa- 12 Saganonomiyacho, Ukyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 616-8393]

Nakagyo Ward

Nijō-Jo Castle [541 Nijōjōchō, Nakagyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 604-8301]

While walking through the gardens of Nijo-Jo Castle, we were stopped by some Japanese students. We were also stopped by younger students while in Maruyama Park the day before. Apparently, Japanese students are asked to find people they think speak English and practice speaking with them. The younger students asked us a list of questions and then for our autograph. The older students who we talked to in the Nijo-Jo Castle gardens took turns asking us a question and then asked to take a group photo. Yes, I am sure you can tell I am 1/4 Japanese, ha! I never realized how “white” I looked till this moment.

Kamigyo Ward

Kyoto Imperial Palace [3 Kyōtogyoen, Kamigyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 602-0881]

We did not do the interior tour of the Imperial Palace.

These are the places we did not make it to this time but I hope to visit next trip:

Fushimi Ward

  • Fushimi Inari Taisha [JR Nara Line- 68 Fukakusa Yabunouchichō, Fushimi-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 612-0882]

Higashiyama Ward

  • Kiyomizudera [294 Kiyomizu 1-chōme, Higashiyama-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 605-0862]
  • Tōfuku-ji [JR Nara Line- Japan, 〒605-0981 Kyōto-fu, Kyōto-shi, Higashiyama-ku, 本町15丁目778]

Kita Ward

  • Kinkaku-ji [1 Kinkakujichō, Kita-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 603-8361]

Sakyo Ward

  • Nanzen-ji Temple [Nanzenji Fukuchicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8435]
  • Jisho-ji/Ginkaku-ji [2 Ginkakujicho, Sakyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 606-8402]

Philosopher’s Path (path between Ginkaku-ji and Nanzen-ji)[Tetsugaku-no-michi, Jōdoji Ishibashichō, Sakyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu 606-8406]

Day 7

  • Check Out Of Hotel
  • Leave For Osaka (34.61 miles)

Kyoto Hotel Copyright © Booking.com
Mina Copyright © Auntie
Akao Shobundo Copyright © Akao Shobundo

Touring Japan Days 3-4 Hakone

HAKONE, JAPAN

ACCOMMODATIONS

Yamanochaya Ryokan

171 Tounosawa, Hakonemachi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa, Japan
〒250-0315

One of the experiences most important to me was to stay in a traditional style Japanese home or hotel (ryokan). This ryokan was amazing and depending on your budget, you could really live in luxury for a few days. Tonosawa hot spring is one of the seven great hot springs of Hakone. The Yamanochaya hotel can be found by the bridge that crosses over the Hayakawa River. Tatami floors and futons, balconies with forest and mountain views and open-air deep soaking tubs filled with hot spring water. Bathing in an onsen (public bath house) was another experience I did not want to miss out on. Now, that being said, I am a very modest person and once I was there I really started to second guess my onsen plans. However, at this ryokan, we could reserve a private hour.

You were provided with yukata (cotton kimono), and tabi (socks) which you were to wear throughout in the ryokan.

 

RESTAURANTS & FOOD

Breakfast and dinner, served in-room, were included and amazing. Our dinner was eight courses and presented with incredible detail and color. Our breakfast was just as colorful and delicious.

Dinner

Breakfast

One Day Itinerary

After hauling our luggage up what felt like a never ending hill, we dropped it off at the hotel and rode a bus to Lake Ashi. From Hakonemachi-Ko (pier) we went on a sightseeing cruise on the Royal II (Hakone Pirate Ship), passing by Hakone Shrine’s lakefront torii, and Mt. Fuji, that we unfortunately did not get to see due to clouds. Once we reached the opposite side of the lake at Togendai-Ko (pier), we grabbed some matcha and milk swirl soft serve ice cream and then hopped on a bus to Owakudani Station. Owakudani was created roughly three millennia ago by steam explosions. “Great Boiling Valley” is an active volcanic zone that sources Hakone’s hot springs. This is also where they boil eggs in hot spring ponds. The eggs turn black and do not need any salt. From Owakudani we got on the Hakone Ropeway to Gora and then headed back to the ryokan.

I highly recommend purchasing the Hakone Pass which allows you to use all modes of transportation throughout Hakone. We bought ours at Odawara Station on the way to Hakone from Tokyo.

Day 3 (Day of Arrival)

Lake Ashi

Viewing Mt. Fuji From Lake Ashi

Owakudani Hot Springs

The Hakone Ropeway from Togendai-ko and Owakudani was closed due to volcanic activity and because it was the weekend, Hakone was very busy and traffic was heavy. We were unable to see most of the things on our list before 6:00 p.m. which was when we had scheduled our private onsen appointment.

Our next trip, I will allot for at least two full weekdays in Hakone so that we can include more of the tourists attractions. Hopefully it will not be so cloudy and we will be able to see Mt. Fuji as well.

  • Open Air Museum
  • Pola Museum of Art
  • Hakone Glass Forest Venetian Glass Museum
  • Viewing Mt. Fuji
  • Latique Museum
  • Hakone Shrine

Day 4

  • Check Out Of Ryokan
  • Leave For Kyoto (233.22 miles)

Onsen Copyright © Boutique Japan

Touring Japan Days 1-3 Tokyo

TOKYO, JAPAN

ACCOMMODATIONS

APA Hotel Kanda-Jimbocho-Ekihigashi

3-1-22 Kanda Ogawamachi, Tokyo, 1001-0052 Japan, Chiyoda Ward

Keep in mind, you’re in Tokyo. This was the smallest room I have ever stayed in but it was super clean, the staff was incredibly friendly, and breakfast was amazing.

Restaurants & Food

Our first meal in Tokyo was at Ramen Thank, which was right down the alley from our hotel. We did not realize that you used a vending machine on the wall to order and pay and the employee helping us did not speak English. I asked, “eigo ga wakarimasu ka” to which he responded, “sukoshi.” It was confirmed, all I had was hand motions and pointing at my disposal. Well, I actually had the Google Translate app on my phone but I was too hungry and jet lagged to remember. He was so nice and suggested ramen dishes for us. Along with our tasty dishes we were given bibs to tie around our necks, which seems to be common practice at noodle shops because it can get a bit messy slurping noodles in broth or dipping noodles in broth to then slurpe. Find directions here.

On the same side of the street as our hotel was Ochanomizutaishouken. This restaurant served the best ramen and had an English menu. I ate dip ramen and Matt had ramen with pork. Find directions here. The online review I found later did not give it five stars but I give it five stars.

APA Hotel Kanda-Jimbocho-Ekihigashi had a small restaurant attached. That is where we ate breakfast. We had the option to include breakfast in our hotel reservation. It was worth the extra money (which wasn’t very much).

I think the Mitsukoshi Department Store in the Ginza District is where we ate milk (vanilla) ice cream. Along with that coffee and ice cream shop, the first floor featured tons of counters selling beautifully packaged Japanese sweets. Visit the basement of Matsuya Ginza Department Store and you will find food.  On the bottom two floors of the department store were a fancy food/gift section and a supermarket. Pick up some osenbei (rice crackers), mochi, and some bread from Bread Story. Find directions here.

Tokyo is where my grandmother grew up, so I had some expert advice when it came to food and some sightseeing.

Two Day Itinerary

Here is a two-day itinerary that is actually possible to follow without completely exhausting yourself. These are just the sights that were most important to me. There are so many wards and districts that we did not have time to include in our visit. We got behind the first day because we had our pocket wifi delivered to our hotel. Without Google maps it took us longer to find our hotel than we had planned. You need a Pocket Wifi. It is cheap and makes navigating Japan so easy. They will mail it to the airport you arrive at or to your hotel and provide you with a prepaid envelope so you can drop it in the mailbox at the airport before you leave.

We missed the Ueno Zoo (Asakusa District, Chuo Ward) and the Tsukiji Fish Market (Tsukiji District, Chuo Ward). We took it easy after unloading our luggage and pushed our DAY 1 activities to DAY 2. Day 2 was a long day but it didn’t feel that way. I had no idea till later that we had walked 15 miles that day. Remember, you can use public transportation, we just kept walking. We were not in Japan long enough to justify ordering a JR Pass before we left for our trip. However, if you will be using a lot of public transportation and plan on being in Japan for a while, you might benefit from the JR Pass. Read more here.

We used Pasmo. After we arrived in Tokyo, before we left the airport, we visited the Pasmo counter. There we purchased and loaded our Pasmo cards. At the airport, Pasmo cards come with a certain amount already loaded on the card (I think it was $30) and require a deposit of $5 which you are refunded once you turn the card back in (we kept ours as souvenirs)’ which you can do at any train station or the airport. We reloaded as we needed (which wasn’t too often because public transportation is cheap) and it worked out great and we didn’t end up overspending on public transporation. The Pasmo, like the JR Pass can be used throughout Japan. However, the JR Pass only works on the Japan Rail nationwide network (there are other modes of transporation that you may use that JR does not own or operate). Pasmo works for all public transport and stores like Seven Eleven.

Day 1 (Day of Arrival)

CHIYODA Ward

Jimbocho District
  • APA Hotel Kanda-Jimbocho-Ekihigashi
  • Walking the Jimbocho District

Day 2

CHUO Ward

Imperial Palace District [10 minutes from Tokyo Station]
The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace
  • Fujimi-yagura
  • Rose garden
  • The Museum of the Imperial Collections, Sannomaru Shōzōkan
  • Bamboo Grove
  • Suwano-chaya Tea House
  • Clasical species orchards
  • Oshibafu
  • Ninomaru Grove
  • Tokagakudo Concert Hall
  • Ote-mon Gate
  • Tenshudai
  • Ninomaru Garden

Hibiya Park (near the American Embassy)

National Diet Building (no interior tour)

MINATO Ward

Roppongi District

Tokyo Tower (no ride to the top) [along route of Hibiya Line]

Zojoji Temple and Shiba Park

 Ginza District

[Yuraku-Cho Line Subway from Imperial Palace or Hibiya Line Subway from Hibiya or Yamanote Line JR]
 

Taitō Ward

Asakusa District

[Yamanote Line JR To Ueno]

Tokyo National Museum (Open 9:30 AM-5:00 PM)

We missed the Ueno Zoo (Open 9:30 AM-5:00 PM). If you are not a museum person, the Ueno Zoo may be more up your alley. The Ueno Zoo is in the Taitō Ward in Ueno District. We spent most of our time in the Chuo and Minato wards because that is where my grandparents spent most of their time and I wanted to see the places they used to go. There are so many wards and districts within those wards that we did not have time to explore.

Day 3

  • Breakfast
  • Check Out Of Hotel
  • Leave For Hakone (51.39 miles)

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Ochanomizutaishouken Copyright © Tommasoon at Table Log
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