There aren’t as many holidays this year so when I saw a 5 day weekend I jumped to plan a trip. Due to Children’s day we got Thursday off and then Friday and Monday as well. So I got in touch with my friend whose studying Japanese at a University in Kyoto to see if I could crash with her, and luckily my break managed to correspond with Golden Week so she was free to show me around.
I booked an early flight, and having learned from hitchhiking my way to the airport last time, booked a hostel at Incheon and requested a 5am taxi to the airport. I was flying through Eastar and due to plane and connecting flight problems our flight was over 3 hours late. So I took the ~$10 meal voucher they gave me and ate like a queen at the Dunkin Donuts near my gate, eyeing the boards as my 7am flight slowly rolled into a 12:30 flight and as a sizable crowd of angry people berated the workers at our gate for a good hour prior to boarding.
When we finally arrived at KIX and after getting a remarkable amount of questions from the customs officer that I hadn’t gotten at immigration, I made my way to the Yasaka shuttle bus station. Earlier in the week my friend had booked a shuttle bus for me, but due to my super late flight she’d asked her boyfriend to call and see if it could be moved around. Usually if your flight is late or delayed they just cancel your reservation, but since I was one person with only a carry-on I was easy to put on another shuttle bus. And they were expecting me when I arrived. It was a 40 minute wait until the next shuttle so I sat on a nearby bench and fought with the airport wifi to let my friend know I arrived.
The Yasaka shuttle bus was really nice. It was 3,300 yen and took me straight to where my friend lived in Kyoto. The first shuttle bus I had had wifi and was extremely quiet and peaceful. I paid after boarding and settled into one of the seats. We stopped once as the driver got out and asked if anyone needed the bathroom and when no one did continued on to Kyoto from Osaka. I did get a bit confused as we stopped at a Yasaka shuttle bus headquarters and I was lead to a different shuttle bus where it was just me, my luggage without wifi and the driver, but after awhile realized that the family I had probably been with was going to a different side of Kyoto from my destination. My friend was waiting and I was so relieved to see her waiting on the side of the street. She welcomed me with tons of snacks, like cheesy ham rolls and Calbee potato sticks which I was instantly addicted to, and ended up buying some almost every day for snacks. We caught up for a little bit in her small apartment before heading out to downtown Kyoto to meet her boyfriend for dinner. Walking around her neighborhood and taking the bus was so nice and peaceful. There were a lot of houses and people out riding bikes and so many plants. Plus it was pretty easy to get around.
On buses in Kyoto you enter through the rear door and then when you get off you pay at the front near the driver. It’s 250 yen and it requires exact change. Day bus passes are 500 yen so if you’re riding more than once that day it’ll save you money and energy because you just show the date to the bus driver as you get off. Bus passes can be bought on board but you’ll need to know a bit of Japanese to do so. All announcements are in Japanese and English and the drivers have microphones to tell you when they’re stopping or slowing down and to hold on. They wait for people running and also for people to sit down which is a nice change of pace.
Trains on the other hand are similar to those in Tokyo, with English options to pay for your tickets. Though one note is that on the way to Osaka on my last day we were on a train car for women only, so keep an eye out for signs in English, but it was only one train and one station we encountered that. We also managed to board an unmanned train at one point which was an interesting experience. It was a tiny train car that we only rode for one station and a conductor got on at the second stop to drive it the rest of the way.
Riding bikes are super popular, and a lot different then here in Korea where it’s popular but everyone is dressed in intense biking apparel. There are biking lanes on all the sidewalks so be careful your not blocking a coming biker. There are also plenty of spots where you can rent a bike for the day.
While in Kyoto since I stayed with a friend I don’t have any housing suggestions, and we also ended up eating a lot of convenience store food from the nearby Family Mart since she’s a college student and I had a limited amount of money with me. But the nice thing is that the convenience stores in Japan have a lot of decent food and are constantly keeping things fresh. So I ate ham and egg salad sandwiches, pancakes with butter and maple syrup in them that I heated on my friends stove (they were amazing!), tons of snacks (mostly Calbee potato sticks, cheese flavored) and my weight in cartons of iced chai lattes.