November 2018 Our accommodation in Kyoto is ‘Guesthouse Urban Kyoto’. It’s a 8~10 minutes, 650m walk from the Kyoto train station and is on bus #5 route. Right in-front of the apartment is the bus stand to Kyoto station whilst bus coming from the Kyoto station stops just before the apartment. A taxi ride to/fro Kyoto train station cost +/- ¥650.
Frontage of Guesthouse Urban Kyoto. Our rented apartment is at the top right. Unit #302, 3F (2nd Floor). The ground floor consists of a Pharmacy & a cafe.
Map showing Guesthouse Urban Kyoto relative to the Kyoto train station.
The ground floor of the apartment is occupied by a pharmacy and a cafe. The entrance to the apartment is via a side door behind the pharmacy. There is no elevator and you’ll need to climb a narrow staircase, not something an elderly or a traveler with heavy begs would cheer about. Access to the apartment is by entering number codes at the main entrance as well as to your unit. So, it’s rather a key-less entry system, no worries about loosing your keys or entry card. There is no manned counter and entry information will be e-mail to you prior to your arrival. Check-in is 15:00 and check-out is 10:00
The narrow and steep staircase. Hauling a heavy beg is a challenge.
Apartment #302 in the centre. A mechanical keypad is used for entry.
Our apartment is a corner unit which is bigger than the rest. I wonder how small the others are, as our apartment meant for 3 guests, but only occupied by two of us is considered compact. (The owner also has 2 guests apartments in this building). The kitchen is small however we only used it to heat instant meal packs. The bathroom is tiny, it’s difficult not to bump against something inside. Even for us small size Asians, movement is restricted in the bathroom. During our 4 nights stay, no rubbish collection nor room cleaning was done. Booking of this apartment can be made through hotel aggregators.
Mini kitchen with an induction stove.
Water kettle, microwave oven and a small refrigerator.
Multi drawer cupboard and small LCD CTV.
2 single beds side-by-side. A foldable mattress under the bed for a 3rd guest.
The apartment has an air conditioner cum heater and if you need to do some laundering, at the ground floor you’ll find washing machines. A 7-Eleven convenience store is close by the apartment. If only an elevator is installed, this apartment would be a recommended option to a hotel.
The VERY tiny bathroom. Even the wash basin and bath tub is half size and the WC is positioned at an angle to optimise space.
November 2018 Bus services are extensive in Kyoto and you will likely be taking the bus, rather than the subway or train most of the time to places of attractions around Kyoto. A flat fee of ¥230 is charged for adult irrespective of the distance traveled within the designated zone. The Kyoto City buses are light green in color, with darker green stripes. The hub for Kyoto City buses is the Kyoto Station which is located just outside the Kyoto train station.
Kyoto City bus. Credit:medium.com
Riding the bus is straight forward, although at first you may feel intimidated. First of all you should know where you want to go from your originating location. A route map of Kyoto City Bus is a must have to enable you to plot your route. You can download it from their website for the latest version. Alternatively, get it free from the information racks all over Kyoto train station. Outside the station, head over to the Bus Ticket Centre to get one.
The Bus Ticket Center is to the right as you exit Kyoto train station. The Kyoto Tower is directly in-front of the center.
Location of Bus Ticket Center.
How to find which bus to your intended location. For example, you are at Kyoto station and wanting to go to Shijo Kawaramachi to visit Teramachi shopping street.
A segment of Kyoto City bus route map. Credit:www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp
1. Looking at the bus route, several buses from Kyoto station goes to Shijo Kawaramachi bus stop. You can choose bus #104, #4, #17 & #205.
2. Lets say you fancy the ‘blue’ bus route that bus #104 uses. You will then need to know where the bus stand for bus #104 is, as there are many bus stand outside Kyoto station.
This table is part of the route map. Credit :www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp
3. From the above table, bus #104 will pick-up passengers at stand A2. So that’s where you will board your bus.
4. You can take the same bus #104 for your return to Kyoto Station.
How to ride the Kyoto City bus. Go to the designated bus stand to board your bus. Fare payment is done upon exit. You enter the bus through the center door. An LED board inside the bus will display the next stop. Ring the bell if your stop is coming up and make your way towards the front door for fare payment and exit.
You board from the middle door & exit from the front. Credit:www2.city.kyoto.lg.jp
Fare payment by cash. Cash fare payment is made into a fare box next to the driver by putting in coins. All fares are to be paid in EXACT amount and no change is given. There is a coin change machine next to the driver that ONLY accept ¥1,000 notes as well as bigger coin denomination for change.
Payment by cash.
How a fare box and the change machine looks. Credit:arukumachikyoto.jp
Fare payment by Icoca card. Payment by pre-charged Icoca card is the simplest. Just tab your Icoca card at the reader with the ‘IC’ symbol and you are done. Almost all other pre-charged cards of other card issuer are also accepted, example Suica, PASMO, PiTaPa, etc.
Two variants of the Icoca cards.
A more detailed graphic of the fare box, change machine, charge card reader, etc. Credit:why.kyoto/blog
Fare payment by card (paper) ticket or ‘1-day pass’ card. Passengers with card ticket (counter/vending) or ‘1-day pass’ will have to insert the ticket into the card ticket slot. Users of ‘1-day pass’ will have their ticket stamped with the date and the ticket will be ejected out at the other end of the machine. Keep this pass for your subsequent ride for the day by just showing the driver the date stamped.
A used ¥600 ‘1-day pass’ with the usage date stamped on the reverse.
What is a ‘1-day pass’ ? It’s a ¥600 all day ticket. You can travel to any designated bus stops, as many times you like within the day. Make at least 3 trips (¥230 X 3) and you’ll start to save ¥90. Your subsequent trips are then for free. The pass can be purchased from the Bus Ticket Center, vending machine in-front of the center or on board the bus from the driver. Please note bus driver may only carry limited quantity of passes. There is no problem buying several for later use, there is no expiry date.
The ‘RAKU’ Bus The RAKU bus complements and forms part of the Kyoto City bus fleet. These buses have different design and meant to assist tourist by stopping ONLY at tourist attractions. It’s sort of an express bus covering tourist destinations within Kyoto. The RAKU buses are nos: 100, 101 & 102 and their routes are also incorporated into the Kyoto City bus route map.
The 3 variations of RAKU buses. The ‘norrnal’ green bus has also been spotted covering the RAKU circuit. Credit:yunosuke.com
You may find locals boarding this bus too, as they might be staying in close proximity of the attractions. So, the RAKU bus isn’t exclusive for tourist only. Fares and payment method is the same as other Kyoto City buses. Only RAKU bus 100 and 101 goes to Kyoto station.
Extract of the routes covered by RAKU buses. Credit:moneywehave.com
November 2018 On our second day in Kyoto, we’ll be visiting attractions in the Arashiyama district located on the western side of Kyoto. We will be riding the Sagano Romantic train first. Tickets has been pre-purchase at the JR (West) ticket office in Kansai airport a day earlier as it is known to run out fast. Most major JR (West) ticket office sells the Romantic train tickets and you can purchase it, up to 1 month in advanced. A one way ticket cost ¥620, rather expensive for a 15 minutes ride.
From the Kyoto train station, we took a 30 minutes JR San-in train line to Umahori station. You can board any of the trains from either platform 31, 32, or 33. Icoca card was used for fare payment on this sector. You tab your card at the ticket gate entering Kyoto train station and tap out at Umahori station.
Kyoto train station map. Credit:KyotoStation.com
After getting off at Umahori station, it is a 10 minutes walk to Kameoka Torokko Station, the stop for the Romantic train. Our plan is to board the Romantic train from Kameoka Torokko station and getting off half-way at Arashiyama Torokko station where you can access the Sagano Bamboo forest within a couples of minutes walk.
The walk from Umahori station to the Romantic Train stop at Kameoke Torokko, the brown building to the right.
Early morning mountain view.
Left to Umahori station. Signboard at Kameoke Torokko station.
Directional sign for Hozugawa river boat.
Starting from Kameoka Torokko station, we would suggest sitting on the left side facing the direction of travel. From this side, you’ll get more of the river and mountain view through the ride. Please note you will be sitting on small uncomfortable wooden chair with little shoulder room that isn’t exactly romantic. Do expect the train to be crowded and noisy. Standing passengers can come close to your seat and obstruct your scenery or worst, give you an elbow. Nonetheless, the train is clean and well maintained with its bright colorful exterior paint.
The first train for the day, Sagano #1 arriving from Saga Torokko. The return train will be Sagano #2 and so on.
Sagano #1 passengers getting off, while passengers for Sagano #2 scrambles in. Don’t know why. Seats are already numbered.
The train will coast along the Hozugawa river and goes through the ‘scenic’ forest. You will be treated with river and forest views which will definitely be lovely during cherry blossom or autumn foliage. During other seasons, this may just be another typical train ride, nothing to write home about.
We have decided to start our Romantic train ride from Kameoke Torokko and get-off at Arashiyama Torokko, the 2nd last stop about half way through the ride. This way, we will be getting the best views of the river and forest as opposed to starting from Saga Torokko. The famed Arishiyama Bamboo forest is 170m from Arishiyama Torokko station and the densest part of the forest is at about this point. If you opt not to get-off here, your last stop shall be Saga Torokko station. You can get off at any of the stations in between but NOT onto the train again.
Our route in green.
Hozukyo Torokko stop.
A small platform for the stop at Arashiyama Torokko.