You're planning a trip to Japan. Your going to hit up the ancient capital city of Kyoto and you'd like to know what's cool and hip and secret. Most of all you'd like to know where the discerning space hippie Edwon spent his time when he lived in Kyoto for 1.5 years. Fear not, this post will guide you to the goodness...
All locations I mention are also available in this map ---> EDWON KYOTO MAP
First things first, get a bicycle. Winter or summer, this is the best way to get around Kyoto.
This is my favorite place to rent cycles from. Translated from Japanese it is simply called "Kyoto Rental Cycle" but it's actually pronounced as "Kyoto Rentaa Saikuru". Great prices and lots of choice. They've got everything from Mama-Chari's (grandma cruisers) to stylish road and mini velo's. Rent by the week and the prices are even better, but be sure to get there as soon as they open in the morning. They sell out fast.
Often hostels and AirBNB's will include a bicycle as well, but if you want something better than a Mama Chari, hit up Kyoto Rental Cycle.
Watch this video for my guide on how to use the trains properly.
The train service in Japan is excellent, and Kyoto is no exception. You'll quickly figure out how to buy tickets and/or a pass card, but figuring out which train to take can be confusing as hell. I recommend using the standard google maps transit directions. Google Maps' knowledge of the train times is basically flawless and will give you the quickest route. Like I said, a bicycle is the best way to get around Kyoto, but you might want to take a train to some remote locations.
Kyoto is freezing in the winter. Summer is blistering hot and humid. You'll want to come in the Fall or Spring for optimal weather. Unfortunately Fall and Spring are also the busiest times for toursits. Fear the crowds not though, for the only places where that will affect your experience is in the most popular temples, but there are literally thousands of hidden temples, gardens, cafes, and parks for you to enjoy free of crowds even in the peak of tourist season.
Of course a lot of people these days will use AirBNB when they travel, and certainly Kyoto is no exception to the rule. There are great AirBNB's to be found, but they often book fast and can be spendy if you haven't planned far enough in advance and your coming during the tourist seasons in Fall and Spring. Also, if your just staying in someones apartment your really missing out on some of the coolest places you can stay in Kyoto, which are the guesthouses and the worlds best capsule hotel!
円3000 - 円5000 a night
The capsule hotel of Japan are a legend.
But stay at any capsule hotel in Tokyo, and you might be dissapointed. Most were built in the 70's, and while they have their charms, are poorly maintained and a bit shady. But, "9 Hours" has come along to make a capsule hotel that looks and feels exactly how you'd imagine a place called a capsule hotel should. It is a utopian matrix of futurusict aesthetic, service, and all for a great price. The location is a plus as well, a short subway ride from Kyoto station will get you there.
Reservations can be a bit tricky, and fill up fast. Reserve as far in advance as possible. the site explains how
They have showers, lockers, a place for your luggage while you explore, and free WiFi.
You even get a space robe.
And now we come to one of my favorite hobbies, Cafe.
Cafe you say? Hobby that is not!
But dare I say yes, for many a time have I asked a japanese woman about her hobbies, and often the reply was "Cafe" which means to say, she enjoys finding the coolest most obscure and tasty cafe's known to man, and going to them and giggling alot with her ふふ女子 friends. Welcome, to cafe.
Or should I say, いらしゃいませ！
円800 - 円1000 • Weekdays 12pm - 8pm
It may look humble, but this by far my favorite cafe in Kyoto. Featuring handcrafted japanese food from the wonderful chef, owner, and waiter: Natsuki. Simple, healthy, delicious meals for a good price in an old japanese house. If your at Nijo castle, it's just across the street. A bit tricky to find, but worth the effort.
The doorway is tricky to find. It's on the southwest corner of the intersection, with a tiny printed sign next to the door that simply says "culotte" (pictured above). Natsuki is very kind, but doesn’t speak much english. Fear not, you can't go wrong with "Higawari Kudasai" (today's special please) or the delicious Buroshki and rice. Also, the spiked homemade Egg Nog is incredible.
円400 - 円1000 • Open Mon + Tue 12pm - 8pm, Thur + Fri + Sat 12pm - 12am, Closed Wed + Thur
For the Japanese hipster. A stylish, minimal coffee shop near Nijo castle and just down the street from Culotte. This is a great place to sit back, relax, and enjoy some delicious coffee. The curry and sandwiches are great as well. There's also a beautiful gallery / design boutique on the 3rd floor.
ARASHIYAMA • MAP
Arashiyama, all the guide books recommend it. And yes, it's beautiful. But, it's also crowded and touristy. And that legendary bamboo forest? Apparently it's not illegal for a taxi to drive down the iddlyic forest path and completely kill the vibe.
Instead, beat the crowds and take a ride in a private gondola. It's only about 3500円 ($30) for a half hour and you can have up to 6 people on the boat, or do you yoga like my friend Noriko here.
KIYOTAKI • MAP
This tiny village is a stones throw from Arashiyama. 10 minutes by bicycle or 40 minutes by foot. You can walk all the way there from Arashiyama or take a rickshaw pulled by a dude wearing traditional japanese bicycle spandex. You could also take a train out to Hozukyo station (see here) and hike along the river, but you'll need a local or a really good map to guide you through the mountain roads and trails. You can find more detailed maps of the Kiyotaki area online or in guide books.
There's only one cafe in Kiyotaki village. It's only open when the owner isn't fishing. There's a river flowing through the village and if you walk along the river south of the village you'll find a waterfall with a basin that you can swim in during the summer months.
Thanks for using my guide to Kyoto! I'll be updating this as I have time so check it periodically.