Day 1: November 26
We flew with Cathay Pacific from Melbourne to Kansai Airport via Hong Kong. Due to fuel issues when departing from Hong Kong, we arrived an hour later than scheduled in Japan. This meant that at close to 11pm, there were a lot of us from the late flight trying to get tickets for buses heading into the city. Unfortunately the ticket booth had closed but because there were so many of us, they kindly opened especially for us! Since it was so late, the bus ride to Kyoto station ended up being only an hour. From Kyoto station, we took a short taxi trip to our hotel, Hotel Hearton Kyoto. I purchased a Kyoto 1-day bus pass from the reception for the next day.
Hotel Hearton Kyoto is literally a minute away from Karasumaoike station, which serves two subway lines (the only one to serve both Kyoto subway lines). It is three stops away from Kyoto station. We found it very clean, Japan-standard small and incredibly convenient for subway travel. The neighbourhood is quiet but there are several conbini nearby.
Day 2: November 27
We wanted to purchase the ICOCA, a chargeable travel card sold in western Japan, but Karasumaoike station wasn’t major enough to sell them. So we bought a single trip ticket, which is always an effort in Japan. We took the subway to Kitaoji station and then a bus to Ginkakuji. We used our 1-day Kyoto bus pass today (500yen).
We took another bus to Kiyomizudera. It was swarming with people and we had a soba lunch first before entering.
We then wandered over to Gion (except I led us in the wrong direction for a while but eventually rectified this), had an early dinner there and walked down some of the quiet streets where geisha teahouses still stand and operate. We did see a couple of geisha or maiko, and it was very quiet and peaceful compared to the busy main roads just one or two streets away.
We then walked to Chionin, which was specially lit up at night during the autumn period. It was so beautiful. These light up events at night are a really great idea, not only because autumn foliage looks so pretty, but as tourists it means we can visit more sites after hours.
Then plan was to then take a bus to Higashiyama and a subway back to the hotel from Higashiyama station. However that was not to be, as I got horribly lost and couldn’t find the station. I had to ask for directions from people and I followed their leads but ended up at a different station altogether! I’m not sure how this happened. Fortunately this one was actually closer to our hotel so it wasn’t a big deal in the end.