As I stood in Kyoto station outside the JR ticket counter waiting for Amrita and Ohanna, all I could focus was at the bakery right across. I dragged a rucksack, suitcase and a small bag to grab the best chocolate croissant we ever had. It was mountain day, and the station was busy with people travelling all across the country. Worlds 2nd fittest country has a holiday calendar with days dedicated to Mountains, Sea, Star, and a Dolls & Girls Festival. It gives you an idea of how well nature and people are synchronised with each other. Japanese are calm and crazy at the same time, with shrines and Zen gardens all around to love hotels and insane fashion trends, it’s all pretty mind-boggling.
It just seems impossible, travelling to a country where they don’t speak your language and your 6-year-old who has a mind of her own and doesn’t care what you say, in my wildest dreams I had not imagined that it would be so easy travelling in Japan. If you leave your passport or purse somewhere it comes and finds you, nobody is begging, it’s clean, nobody can be more punctual, and mind it; it is considered rude if you count the change you get back while shopping. It’s a different world… a place that’s worth exploring. From Monuments and Shrines to Mountains and beaches, Japan has everything to offer, and visiting them is easier than you think. With an incredible network of worlds best trains, buses, trams and flights you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Delhi – Narita Airport –Tokyo – Kyoto
Kyoto, the earlier capital of Japan, intrigued us as much as Tokyo. With a history of more than 5000 years, love for Zen gardens and a mention in Steve Jobs biography, we decide to visit Kyoto first.
So we exchanged our voucher for JR Pass and took the NXT train to Tokyo central to catch the next Shinkansen for Kyoto. With only two subway lines, the best way to travel in Kyoto is by bus. We took a bus from the Bus terminal right outside Kyoto Station to MyStays Hotel located in Downtown Kyoto.
Kyoto District Map
Downtown Kyoto is close to most of the attractions in town and travelling with my daughter I wanted to be located centrally. Next four days we went all out exploring Kyoto’s innumerable shrines and its cuisine at our slow pace. Wherever you might be in Kyoto, Google maps will always show a Shrine close by. Kyoto has options for hikes and cycling routes, and most of the attractions are starting points for these hikes. We checked official Kyoto Tourism page for latest events and found the Light and sound show on Thousand Demons at Kodaiji Temple.
Exploring Kyoto with a Bus Pass
Buy a one or two day pass depending on the length of your stay and days itinerary for unlimited bus rides during that period. This will take you to almost all corners of Kyoto. It’s always on time, and the best way to find your bus is to use google maps. They also give a city map to get a better idea of the different route the buses ply on.
Top Things to do in Kyoto
Temples- Shrines – Bamboo Forest- Food – Culture – History- Hikes and Cycling
- Ginkakuji Temple
- Arashiyama – Bamboo Forest & Monkey Garden
- Chion-in Temple & Kyoto Station
Kyoto Station building is a sprawling commercial building with train stations, shopping and great restaurants. Kyoto Bus Stand is right outside. Take a bus or do a 10 min walk to the Chion -in Temple.
- Gion & Maruyama Park
Gion is lined up with fantastic shopping, lanes filled up with fabulous restaurants and eateries alongside Mikasa river. A shrine is never far away, and Maruyama Park connected to Gion has a collection of magnificent shrines and temples. This is a must visit during your Kyoto trip
- Kodai-Ji Temple
We visited this temple during the festival of 1000 demons with a light and sound show
- Fushimi Inari-Taisha – The mountain of faith will test yours so go prepared
- Kinkaku-Ji/ Rokuon-Ji- Now a Buddhist Aen temple was earlier retirement villa of the shogun
- Nishiki market – Street Food, Restaurants & Shopping
Amazing Day Trips from Kyoto using your JR Pass
Tokyo is one of those rare cities of the world which has world-class infrastructure on one hand and temples and shrines on the other dating to more than 5000 years. The normal and extreme walk hand in hand. Buildings dedicated to Karaoke Bars, Gaming arcades, Love Hotels, fine dining to the best tea drinking ceremony, samurais and sumo wrestlers. Could I intrigue you more?
Travelling with our daughter, we wanted to choose a place which was close to the attractions we had planned to take her on this trip. We took up an Airbnb in Nippori area. This was a blessing in disguise as we were in a lovely and quiet residential area with all necessities within walking distance like the Belgian cafe across the road.
Top Things To Do In and around Tokyo with Kids
- Disney land and Tokyo Sea World– Book the Disney resorts or hotels for comfortable transfers and other benefits. If you are staying out like us, reach the resort at the opening time of 8 am by subway to Maihama station. Also, plan and book according to the footfall on those particular days. Check it here: Disney Crowd Calendar
- Ueno Park. Visit this park for:
Ueno Zoo| National Museum of Nature and Science| Shinobazu Pond |Tokyo National Museum| National Museum Of Western Art| The Ueno Royal Museum
- Hakone Day Trip
Even on a short trip to Japan, it is imperative to move away from Tokyo to understand the flow of energy, beauty and calm which is part of Japanese life all across the country. The best way to do this is to take a one or two-day trip to Hakone which is less than 100 km from Tokyo. Part of Fuji- Hakone- Izu National Park, It’s a hilly area with fantastic views of Mt Fuji from various locations like Lake Ashi, Ropeway stops, Hotels and more. Read: Japan- Complete Guide to Hakone visit from Tokyo – Hakone Free Day Pass
- Kamakura Beach
If the weather is good head out to the beaches around Tokyo. Train rides with slightly more than an hour will get you there.
- Hato Bus Tour is perfect to know the cities routes and various famous shrines. We loved the tour and especially our visit to Meiji Shrine located in a 170-acre jungle in the heart of the city. Click here to Book a Hato Bus Tour
- Museum of Maritime Science
- Lego land
- Boat Tours
- Tsukiji Fish Market
Planning the Japan TRIP
Japan Visa (http://www.vfsglobal.com/japan/india/)
At INR 1150 is super cheap if you are applying from India. They would generally give a multiple-entry visa with a maximum stay depending on your itinerary. Document checklist is available online, and the whole process takes almost seven working days. Also, check out JAL Airways for Promotional offers.
Japan Railway Pass (https://www.jrailpass.com/)
For travelling within Japan though you have a lot of flight options, I would highly recommend buying a JR pass. If you buy a single ticket, it can be very expensive, but a JR pass will start saving you money from the first trip itself Stations are located centrally and are easy to approach. Frequency is enough for you to make a pretty flexible plan just in case of any last minute changes. They have options for 7, 14 and 21 days. Special discounts for kids and senior citizens. If it is a last minute trip, you can buy it from an authorised travel agent in your city too. Insist on the free Japan travel guide with it.
Note: has to be bought outside Japan before arrival.
For more information on JR pass click: Complete Guide to Buying and using a Japan Rail Pass
It is one of the most important things for the trip. I’ve sworn by it since the day I started travelling internationally. Depending on the policy, it covers all your medical bills, lost luggage and other emergencies.
I recommend: ICICI Lombard and Bajaj Allianz
Pocket Wi-Fi Modems
They generally work for 10 devices and are very useful. It can save you loads of time, as you can check Train times, Shinkansen Train schedules, bus routes, locating restaurants and last minute Cab Bookings.
Book them on JR pass site or various other providers in Japan. They can be collected at the Airport from their respective counters as you land into Japan. You can also go directly and pay and pick up a device, but sometimes in peak season, they are out of stock. So do pre-book.
With few amazing apps, the process of booking rooms has become super easy. I always research the things to do in a city and the book as close as possible to them within my budget. Booking in Japan was a little different; there are a few room types to choose from.
Ryokan | Cube Hotels| Vacation Rentals| Standard Hotels (Budget- Mid-range – Luxury)
Booking.com – If you are not sure but want to block the rooms without paying till a cutoff date.
Agoda.com | Expedia.com| Airbnb.com
We stayed at Mystay Hotel, Kyoto and Airbnb, Nippori Area, Tokyo.
Cash is preferred at most places, and sometimes it can be difficult to find ATM machines in some part of the town or as you travel to lesser touristy areas of Japan. We were carrying Dollars, and our first exchange was at Narita Airport and remaining in the city.
1 INR = 1.76 JPY
1 USD = 107 JPY
Average Meal: 600 yen
Food on the Shelves (7 Eleven, Family Mart, Lawson, Daiso): 300 yen
Ramen and Gyoza (Momo/Dim Sum) in most of the restaurants are 300 yen too.
Don’t miss the most amazing bakery products available all across Japan
Apps to make it all Easy :
City Happenings: TimeoutTokyo| City Tourism websites
Finding Food: GoogleMaps|Yelp|Gurunavi|| |
Booking Tours and Activities: Japantravel | Viator |Tripadvisor |Visitacity
Transport: JREastTraininfo| Japanrail|Japantaxi|Navitime|Kyotobus |Googlemaps| Japanguide.com
Conversion rate– xCurrency
Lost in translation: GoogleTranslate| Duolingo (learn basic Japanese)
Understanding Culture and Etiquette is essential in Japan. By following them, you are able to scratch the surface and get a better understanding of the place and a sense of belonging. Empty your cup as you enter Japan, It has so much to teach and offer that it changes the way one lives. Read Complete guide to Japanese lingos and Etiquette Handy Guide to Japan Culture and Etiquette