Kyoto Redux

I loved Kyoto so much, I decided to go back! Here is my journey...

West Meets......West

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by jenae567 on March 25, 2010

Buried in the middle of central Kyoto is Higashi-hoganji hotel. One of two "Honganjis" in Kyoto, Higashi-hoganji is "the west" one. (Nishi-hoganji is the northern one, and is slated to be under extensive remodeling until roughly 2012.)

If you have a lot of time to spend in Kyoto, consider committing an hour or two to this temple. It is about a 10 minute walk from Kyoto Station.

The gigantic entrance gates to the temple can't be missed, and visitors will be greeted by the pigeon welcoming committee. Apparently the flocks of pigeons that reside here have become an attraction themselves - and an old man can often be found at the entrance gates selling food to offer them!

Bypass the pigeons and move on to the main hall. Here you will have to remove your shoes, but plastic bags are offered to carry them in. (Be sure to wear warm socks if you visit during the winter months!) Once inside the main hall, visitors are struck with awe and reverence. The huge hall is surprisingly simple within; bearing mostly tatami mats and pillars. However, at the front of the hall lie beautiful treasures, with the focus being on a smallish but intricate Buddhist statue in the center. Other articles are featured in the 2 segments flanking the center. Silence is maintained within the hall, as some visitors may be praying.

A doorway lies at the side of the hall leading to the outside once again. Follow this path and it will take you to a similar hall with the same layout.

While Higashi-hoganji may not be as fascinating as other sights such as the Golden Pavilion or Kiyomizudera, its main halls rely on subtlety and simplicity. In the right state of mind, these qualities can be appreciated. On the outside, the fantastic wooden architecture is a sight to be seen, as well as the beautiful dragon spring and cherry blossom trees that lie within the property.

Getting to Higashi-hoganji is easy. From Kyoto Station, exit the building on the Kyoto Tower side. Cross the street towards Kyoto Tower, and keep walking straight past Starbucks & McDonalds. Keep heading in this direction and the temple cannot be missed. It contains a high cement wall with elaborate entrance gates, all surrounded by a small moat.

When visiting Kyoto, make sure you visit all the main sights. If you have time to spare, Higashi-hoganji is not a bad place to swing by.
Higashi Honganji
Karasuma dori Shichijo-agaru
Kyoto, Japan, 600-8167
+81 (0)75 371 9181

Another One of Kyoto's Finest

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by jenae567 on March 25, 2010

Tucked neatly away in the mountains is another must-see in Kyoto. Kiyomizudera is another temple that has been made famous over the centuries through various Japanese artists in a variety of media. Meaning "Clear Water, Kiyomizudera was once famous for its spring, said to have healing powers. While the water nowadays may have lost its lost its magical lustre, a more skeptical population flocks to see the terrific views of the city it has to offer from its grand clifftop balcony, as well as its other features.

Getting to Kiyomizudera is a fantastic mini-journey in itself. The bus will drop you off at the bottom of a steep hill. In front of you lies a narrow street lined with charming shops on either side. Perhaps the wiser person will wait for the return portion of the trip to shop, as not to be weighed down by bagloads of souvenirs!
But passing all the shops will give visitors a good idea of what they might like to purchase on the way back down. Be sure to leave in plenty of time on the way back to discover what hidden treasures these stores have to offer! Some shops offer pottery unique to the area, known simply as "Kiyomizu Pottery", in a wide array of prices. Others offer kimono and obi (again ranging from low-end to high-end), as well as a multitude of "mochi" - a Japanese sweet treat made from pounded rice with a filling inside, usually of natto (fermented sweat beans), cha (tea), or strawberry. It takes a while for many tourists to develop a taste for mochi. But once acquired, they never look back! Other tasty treats can also be found at these stores, such as cookies or biscuits bearing the likeness of Kiyomizudera or perhaps another famous image of Kyoto. And of course what shopping street would be complete without a store chock full of Hello Kitty goods?

Once the temptations of all the shops are passed, a grand gate greets visitors, letting them know that they've arrived. Painted in vermillion red, the shrine at the entrance immediately erases all the souvenirs intended to be bought from visitors' minds. Follow the few stairs and foot path around the shrine and you will be presented with a corner that makes for a nice scenic photo opportunity. In the background will be Kyoto. The famous Kyoto Tower stands unmistakably in the distance. Keep following the footpath and it will bring you to the grand wooden structure that is Kiyomizudera.

Some interesting artifacts are on display here, such as tools carried by a monk centuries ago. The familiar scent of burning incense, however, will guide you to bigger and better things. Rounding the corner again, guests will find themselves on the famous balcony that gives them yet another beautiful view of Kyoto in the distance, while a nearby pagoda peeks out of trees. If you stand in the right position, both the peeking pagoda and the city view can be captured in the same picture. (Regrettably, as of March 2010, the pagoda was under extensive remodeling. However, it is lovely, I assure you!) Visitors can sit on the steps and enjoy the fresh mountain air and scenery. Sporadically, a large bell will ring at the temple, but it rings in such a manner that it does not startle other visitors. It is assumed that other visitors are offering prayers and ringing the bell as part of the process. The bell will catch your attention, and as you look back, you can see more artifacts on display.

When you've taken in all the panoramic scenery you can handle, continue on the path and you will find yourself on another lovely nature walk. (These never get old in Kyoto!). The usual flowers, fauna, and mosses will be found here. For a once in a lifetime experience, plan your trip here for late March - when all the Sakura (cherry blossoms) will be in full bloom! (Be mindful though that the crowds and prices will be much more unpleasant this time of year because of them!) At the time of my most recent visit, 17 March 2010, a small handful of the trees were beginning to bloom. Oh, to see Kiyomizudera dazzling with pink & white Sakura!

Once you have completed the peaceful trek around the hillside, you will reach the famed freshwater spring. For 200 yen, visitors can sample the water, which falls freely into a cement well from a trough above. Not everybody has given up on the legend of the healing water, as there is usually a substantial line waiting!

Getting to Kiyomizudera is easy! It is another highly popular attraction for which many city and Raku buses make it their final destination (or a highlighted stop on the way). Look for any bus that says "Kiyomizu-Dera" and hop on. Once you get off the bus, follow the crowd up the hill.

Whether you're looking for stunning views of Kyoto or healing water, Kiyomizudera is bound to be at the top of your favorites list.
1-294 Kiyomizudera
Kyoto, Japan, 605-0862
+81 075 551 1234

Let's Try Japanese!

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by jenae567 on March 24, 2010

Planning a trip to Kyoto? Don't speak a lick of Japanese? Fret not! Most tourists places in Kyoto are very accommodating to the English-speaking tourists! However, should you feel the urge to try your hand at Japanese, or if you want to be polite, I have constructed a quick cheat sheet to get you on your way!

Hello: Konnichiwa (ko-NEE-chee-WA)
Good Morning: Ohaiyo Gozaimasu (o-HAI-yo go-ZAI-mas)
Good Evening: Konbanwa (cone-ban-wah)
Thank you: Arigato Gozaimasu (a-ree-GAH-to go-ZAI-mas)
You're Welcome: Doitashimashite (DOE-ee-tash-ee-MOSH-tay)
Bathroom: Otearai (o-tay-ah-RAI)
Where is the (bathroom)?: (Otearai) wa doko desu ka? (o-tay-ah-rai wa doh-koh dess-ka?)
How much is it?: Ikura desu ka? (ICK-oo-rah DESS ka)
Please help me: Atsukete kudasai (Aht-SKATE-tay koo-da-SAI)
HELP!: ATSUKETE! (aht-skate-tay)
Is it/are you okay?: Daijoubu? (dai-JO-boo)
Hospital: Byooin (BYO-een)
I like it: Suki desu (SKEE dess)
I don't like it: Sukimasen (skee ma-SEN)
Taxi: Takushi (tah-koo-SHEE)
Hotel: Hoteru (ho-TEH-roo)
Bus: Basu (BAH-soo)
Beer: Biru (BEE-roo)
Water: Mizu (MEE-zu)
Tea: Ocha (OH-cha)
Coffee: Kohi (KOH-hee)
Cold (weather): Samui (sah-MOO-ee)
Hot (weather): Atsui (aht-SOO-ee)
Please (give or do): Onegaishimasu (oh-neh-GAI-shee-MAS)
Please (go ahead): Dozo (DOH-zo)
A beer, please: Biru, onegaishimasu!

This is just a short list, mostly for tourists. But the Japanese always appreciate a foreigner who tries the Japanese language. It's easier than you think! Give it a try!


Member Rating 0 out of 5 by jenae567 on March 24, 2010

Many people head to Kyoto and hope to catch a glimpse of the mysterious geisha the city is famous for; yet many leave disappointed, not having seen one. Also, what a lot of tourists don't realize is that if they do spot a "Geisha", it may not actually be a real Geisha, but a tourist wandering around in Geisha attire! (I would know - I was one of these fake "Geisha" during my first trip to Kyoto!)

Another misconception associated with these beautiful ladies is that they are actually GEISHA. But the ones that come to mind at mention of the word - elaborately dressed in lavish kimonos with the traditional white face paint and red lips - are actually not Geisha at all - they are "Geisha-in-training", better known as "Maiko".

So how do you find these lovely ladies and how do you know if they are real if you are lucky enough to spot one?

Look closely! Maiko are unbelievably coy and quick moving about; how they do it is a mystery to me, but I have not been able to get more than a quick glimpse of most of them! So the details you may need to look for when validating a "real" maiko may pass you by quickly!

-Maiko are most often spotted at dusk or evening.
-Head to the Pontocho area of the Gion district for your best chances.
-Real Maiko do not wear watches or jewelry.
-The steps of a real Maiko will be limited to the width of her kimono constricting her movement.
-Maiko will behave exactly as one would expect them to - if you see a Maiko screaming across the street to her friend, she's probably not a real Maiko. Same goes for the one spreading her kimono out so she can take longer strides. And the ones smoking cigarettes...

I have seen a few exceptions to these tips - During my first trip I spotted a very young Maiko all the way at Toei Uzumasa Movie Museum. I mistakenly thought she was a park actress! ("Boy, she's starting work young!" I though to myself!) I chased after the poor little girl with a camera, wondering why she wouldn't sit still for me, only to watch her find her mom and cling to her like her life depended on it. Yes, I was the typical "Baka Gai-jin" (stupid foreigner). I felt awful. But this little girl was an expert of turning her back to me and evading me among the crowds and buildings. Apparently they are seemingly trained to do this at a very young age - and this little girl seemed to already be a pro.

And now, head to Pontocho and go spot some Maiko! (But remember, please be respectful!)

The Kyoto Subway Experience!

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by jenae567 on March 24, 2010

In my last Kyoto Journal, I covered how to get around the city using the buses. This time around, I figured out how to navigate the subway system, and it's not as scary as I had initially thought it to be! Here, I'll explain how to get around the faster way in Kyoto!

The Kyoto subway system is wonderful; it gets you where you want to go (or very close to it), without having to wait for traffic. Consequently, it winds up being much faster than the buses for about the same price!

There are 2 main lines in central Kyoto: The Karasuma line, which runs south and north, starting from Kyoto Station, and the Tozai line, which runs east and west. Both lines are mapped out at Kyoto station, which is the starting point for most tourists.

Here is a step-by-step guide for the ticketing process:

1.) Determine which subway station is your final destination.
2.) Go to the fare map and find your destination/fare on the map. Remember this fare.
3.) Go to the ticketing kiosk and press ENGLISH SERVICE. (This makes things a lot easier!)
4.) Insert your money based on your TOTAL FARE(S). You can purchase tickets for more than one person at a time.
5.) The kiosk will then ask you for your individual fare. If your destination states on the map that your fare is 250 yen, enter "250".
6.) At the bottom, there are buttons that have pictures of one to five people; if you are purchasing tickets for 2 people, press the button indicating 2 people.
7.) Press "Purchase tickets". Tickets will spit out of the machine. Hooray!

If you're starting from Kyoto station, you will be on the Karasuma line and can only head north. Depending on your destination, you may have to switch to the Tozai line. Be sure to note the station at which you must switch trains. There are English announcements on the trains informing you of the stops, but if it is during the busy hours, you may not be able to hear the announcements, so be alert.

It helps to count the number of stops the train will make before your final destination. That way, if you miss the announcement of which station you're at, you will still know which station to get off at.

Also make note of the final destination of the TRAIN you need to get on - and make sure it matches the destination of the train you actually board. It is easy to get on a train that's headed in the opposite direction - so if you're going to sightseeing attraction on a train that ultimately heads to "X", make sure you hop on the train that says "X" and not "Y", or you may find yourself lost!

While the subway system may be a bit intimidating to a first-timer, I assure you, once you get the hang of it, using it is a snap, and will save you a lot of valuable sight-seeing time!

Pictures Do No Justice for Kinkaku-ji

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by jenae567 on March 24, 2010

If you go to Kyoto and see only one attraction, make it the famous Golden Pavilion!

The astounding beauty of Kinkaku-ji is impossible to comprehend through literary description or even photograph. When gazing upon this magnificent pavilion, it is hard to believe even with your own two eyes. It seems almost surreal, and yet it stands in a quiet composure, mirrored by its beautiful reflection in the lake. Even on the most overcast day, Kinkaku-ji shines brilliantly. On a sunny day, it competes with the sun.

Getting to Kinkaku-ji is simple. Many buses, both city and "Raku" (sight-seeing) buses either stop at Kinkaku-ji or make it the final destination. A simple path leads to the gate where a nominal fee of 600 yen is collected. Follow the path and turn the corner, and soon you shall be awestruck by the famous temple. A large area allows for crowds of tourists to make the most of the picturesque scenery, without bumping in to each other. It is very easy to capture photos of the area without other pesky tourists marring the photo. Even the most amateur of photographers with the most basic equipment can take home a stunning photo - the landscape does most of the hard work itself.

A large path leads visitors around the lake, offering more scenic beauty with a refreshing nature walk. Ducks and koi are residents of the lake, and don't seem too put off by such a large volume of visitors. Many types of trees, flowers, and mosses make for a lovely stroll. Upon completion of the walk, closer views of Kinkaku-ji are available for the curious.

The original temple was built during the 1300s, but was burned down in 1950 by a suicidal monk. It has been fully restored, along with a new and thicker coating of gold leaf on the exterior and interior. Entrance into the temple is prohibited to the general public, but a small placard near the temple gives visitors a teaser as to what lies within: a wooden floor so lacquered that it gives the illusion that it is a mirror, as well as many artifacts and artworks from its past.

Many souvenirs and traditional Japanese good-luck charms are available at Kinkaku-ji, to include the ever-popular Hello Kitty. A trip to the Golden Pavilion is not complete without an official keepsake, so have ready a few extra yen to acquire one. The prices are fair and well worth it.

For the most unforgettable experience Kyoto has to offer, make sure you visit Kinkaku-ji!
Kinkaku-ji/Temple of The Golden Pavilion
1 Kinkakuji-cho Kita-ku
Kyoto, Japan, 603-8361
+81 (75) 461 0013

A Nature-Lover's Must-See

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by jenae567 on March 23, 2010

If you love serene nature walks, take a train to the Arashiyama district of Kyoto.

Buried in the back of Tenryuji Temple is the famous Bamboo grove. Getting there is even a pleasure. The entrance to Tenryuji Temple offers a pleasant walk past beautiful landscaping and mysterious houses. Once within Tenryuji Temple, you'll find it has a serenity all its own. Sakura Trees and Koi ponds dot the pathways around the property. The old architecture of the temple is breathtaking. Although the temple grounds are well-surrounded by the bustling tourist traffic, it is void of the typical noise associated with it.

Walk further back in the temple grounds and you'll soon see weathered signs bearing the simple image of bamboo stalks. Follow these signs to a small booth. Although there is no fee to enter the bamboo groves, there is information available here.

The entrance to the bamboo groves is humble yet majestic at the same time. It is simple, yet breathtaking without any glamorous architecture. The wild bamboo stalks, which have been growing for years, (Possibly centuries!) effortlessly dwarf even the tallest person.

To fully enjoy the bamboo groves, you must turn on all your senses. Focus on the breeze that rustles through the leaves - it is the most relaxing sound in the world. Feel that same gentle breeze on your face. Smell the fresh aroma that nature is offering you. The crisp scent of greenery is invigorating. Notice the clean lines in a pattern best constructed by nature. Mother Earth's artwork is undeniably the best!

While there may not be much to say about the bamboo groves, it is a must-see if you enjoy serenity and nature. Get your mind in a peaceful state and enjoy the scenery that some may only see in movies!
Tenryuji Temple
4-3-17 Shinjuku
Tokyo, Japan, 160-0022
+81 (0)3 3201 3331 (

More Fun Than A Barrel (or Mountain) Full of Monkeys!

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by jenae567 on March 23, 2010

Right outside central Kyoto lies the Arashiyama area. It is relatively easy getting there from Kyoto Station using a handy bus/train combination.

After an extensive Google search of things to do in Kyoto (that I haven't done already), I decided I wanted to see the monkey park. Who doesn't love the crazy antics of our simian cousins? I've never met a monkey I didn't like, so I figured the Arashiyama Monkey Park should be on our to-do list.

After the bus/train commute to Arashiyama and a delicious udon lunch at a local restaurant, we crossed the infamous "Moon Crossing Bridge" towards the mountains and quickly found an old weathered sign bearing the image of a friendly smiling monkey. The monkey pointed us in the right direction. After a small pathway, we found a forgettable humble booth, where a lady collected the 600 yen entrance fee from each of us. We continued up the dirt trail which turned into an unfriendly set of stairs.

After climbing stairs and working up a sweat, we were relieved to see the trail return to its dirt path form - albeit a winding one. The path snaked around further before finally turning into a series of hairpin turns. A few benches were strategically placed for those of us who weren't quite "in shape" like we thought we were! After a quick rest to catch our breath, we continued on the hairpin pattern and soon stopped in our tracks - the shrill screech of monkeys alerted us that they were nearby - and in large numbers. Judging from the sounds of their shrieks, they were not happy! We continued on cautiously.

Along the path to the top of the mountain, there are various signs displayed in both Japanese and English. A few monkey facts are mixed in with warnings to not agitate the monkeys: Do not stare at the monkeys. Do not look the monkeys in the eye. Do not touch the monkeys. Do not feed the monkeys. Seeing these signs made me wonder what I had gotten myself into. As we continued further up the trail, we were again halted in our tracks. 2 wild monkeys had made themselves comfortable in the middle of our path not 5 meters ahead. It was the decidedly preferred spot for them to pick nits and sunbathe. What do we do?? We were given explicit instructions not to look at the monkeys or touch the monkeys. How do I get around the monkeys on the narrow path without looking at them to make sure I didn't bump into one? Should we wait? The monkeys looked comfortable and didn't give me the impression that they were going anywhere anytime soon. Ever so cautiously, we decided to go around the path-hogging monkeys. I managed to squeeze by them without bumping into them and they continued on their nit-picking, sunbathing business. I breathed a sigh of relief. Judging from their previous screams, I had envisioned myself accidentally disturbing a monkey and having it jump on my face, feverishly clawing at my eyeballs while screaming. Luckily, I had managed to avoid this.

Another 10 meters later, we encountered the same monkey-blocking situation, only there were far more monkeys to weave around this time! A few of them gave us the "Be careful" glance, and so we heeded their warning. We admired the beautiful view of Kyoto while trying not to step on any monkey feet in our peripheral vision.

We successfully made it to the top of the mountain, to a large flat "resting area", where a commune of roughly 100 monkeys were hanging out. We were greeted by a Japanese man who guided us to a big wooden house with chicken wire over the open windows. Once inside, monkeys clamored to watch the only visitors to the house. And then I figured out why. For sale inside this house were small bags of apples and peanuts. The price was a mere 100 yen (roughly $1.22 USD). I purchased a bag of sliced apples from the friendly lady behind the counter. My actions did not go unnoticed by a few monkeys, who were now rattling the chicken wire with anticipation. When I approached the monkey-strewn chicken wire, I giggled. One monkey calmly grasped the chicken wire with his feet and one hand, while he reached into the house with his free hand and flexed his fingers at me. As shown in the directions, I placed a piece of apple into my hand and offered it to the monkey. He grabbed the piece of apple, crammed it in his mouth, and outstretched his hand once again before he had even swallowed the first piece of apple. We repeated this process twice more before I spotted a hungry looking adorable baby monkey. The monkey clung to the chicken wire and outstretched his hand. I again offered the apple slice, only to be startled by another loud monkey shriek. Out of nowhere, a much bigger monkey swooped in and stole the apple from the baby! The baby ran off frightened, but soon decided to try again. Feeling bad for the baby monkey, I readied yet another piece of apple to offer. Without missing a beat, the same monkey swooped in screaming and stole the apple intended for the baby. This time the defeated baby found a short post to sit on and pouted. He did not return to the window. Just as I was beginning to wonder if the poor baby monkey ever got enough to eat, a Japanese man started howling outside - just like a monkey. He had a large bucket full of dry monkey food - and with each howl he let out, droves of monkeys clamored to him. Feeding time! We decided to exit the small house we were in and make our escape while the monkeys were distracted. The man threw the food on the ground, scattering handfuls to make sure each monkey could get some. (To include the baby monkey, twice denied apples.) I was relieved to see the baby would eat. As we began to make our way to the path down the mountain, another monkey fight broke out. 2 monkeys began chasing each other around the area, and one ran straight into my leg! Unfazed, the monkey decided to continue his pursuit rather than curse the person who got in his way. (Lucky for me!)

The monkey park was a great experience. It was not an overly-crowded attraction (we were the only 2 visitors in the monkey-feeding house), and it's the humans that are "caged" rather than the monkeys. It's fun to see wild monkeys in their natural habitat and in such large numbers. The close interaction makes for an unforgettable trip. Although the monkeys' cute exterior may be appealing for small children, the Arashiyama Monkey Park is not recommended for small children that cannot yet understand that the monkeys don't want to be pet. It is very apparent that these monkeys - while visited by humans daily - are still very wild. With the exception of the "feeding house", there is nothing that keeps the monkeys from humans, and encounters will be (very) close. Also, the hike to the top of the mountain is quite demanding physically, with a combination of stairs and steep inclines.

If you're a fit fan of monkeys, Arashiyama Monkey Park is a must-do!
Arashiyama Monkey Park

Kyoto, Japan

Tiny Rooms for Tiny Budgets & Tiny People.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by jenae567 on March 22, 2010

DISCLAIMER: I may be a bit biased. As a Korean-American, I stand about 5'3 on a good day and weigh about 110 lbs soaking wet. I'm fond of all things "Nae-Nae-sized" (small things just right for a small person), and my parents of Dutch upbringings made me fond of all things cheap. Keep that in mind when reading this review...

Tucked neatly around the corner from the massive, buzzing Kyoto Station sits the APA Horikawadori Kyoto Hotel. The price for it's location can't be beat. The facility looks modern but humble, and the inside lobby is surprisingly chic, with minimalist lines and deep red benches with clean lines.

We checked in on a cold and blustery afternoon. The line at the check-in desk was a bit longer than I had liked, but it moved quickly. We were soon warmly welcomed by a clerk that spoke wonderful English. Upon showing our reservation vouchers and passports, we were given 2 room key cards and a nod towards the elevators.

I had reserved a non-smoking double room. The hotel has "smoking floors" and "non-smoking floors", and my new travel buddy was not bothered for the duration of our stay by any errant smoke odors that may have crept through the vents. The elevators quickly whisked us up to the 6th floor and opened up to a simple, quiet, and clean hallway. Our room was at the end of the hallway, facing a bit of a strange angle; but did not distract from any real purpose.

Unlike most hotel doors that use keycards, this lock did not require that you insert the card into the lock and wait for the light to turn green - it merely requires that you pass the card in front of the sensor for entry. (How technicalogically advanced!) This was actually pretty convenient when you have backpacks and luggage weighing you down after a commute.

I opened the door to our room and it was astonishingly tiny. Not really for me, but for Will, my American-sized beloved companion. The poor fellow is just not built for Japan. The double bed allowed us to travel around half its perimeter - stopping at either the bathroom or the desk, which touted a nice LCD television. There is ample room at the entryway for shoes and luggage. (There's not much of a choice but to keep them anywhere else but here). After designating a limited space for his "giant" suitcase, he sat on the bed with a resounding *thud*. I was a bit bummed to hear this and tried it out for myself. The beds are abnormally firm for a hotel, but I was glad that the hotel had erred on the too-firm side, rather than the not-firm-enough side. My back needs a lot of support when I sleep.

The bathroom also tiny. However, the toilets are the high-tech toilet/bidet combo with the electronic seat warmer! Within arm's reach of the toilet, (literally), a small washtub/shower occupies the other other half of the room. I was glad to see that the shower head was at least high enough where poor Will would not have to become a hunchback to shower properly. I was also surprised to see the complimentary toiletries supplied. APA stands for "Always Pleasant Amenity", and their well-stocked bathrooms live up to the name. Each day of our stay, we were provided with 2 packaged brushes, 2 toothbrushes each with their own tiny tube of toothpaste, 2 double-blade disposable razors, as well as cotton swabs and small packets of lotions. But my favorite was the shower supplies! Rather than providing the travel-sized samples of shampoo and conditioner (that is barely enough for my massive amount of hair), the APA Horikawadori offers full-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body soap from the internationally-respected cosmetics brand Shiseido. Hooray!

On the 11th floor, there is a spa for guests for a very nominal fee. Unfortunately, I sport a varied collection of tattoos, so I was unable to enjoy the spa facilities, and my companion was too big to fit into the "yukata" (bathrobes) provided, but we decided to take a gander anyways. A traditional "onsen" (public hot bath); the other guests relaxing were of course, skinny dipping. The locker rooms are separated for men and women, providing lockers for your towels and other toiletries you might need after a round of unwinding. There are also massage chairs within the locker rooms to use if the onsens don't rid you of all your tension! Bashful people beware: the spa is a plethora of nudity, and traffic to and from picks up during the evening hours - so don't be surprised if you see many guests wandering the hotel/elevators in just their bathrobes and slippers! But, they don't mind if you don't. Heck - I even paid a visit to a smoking floor for a quick nicotine fix after a shower in just my yukata - and I couldn't have fit in better.

The APA Horikawadori is a nice "budget" hotel at a great location if you don't mind cramped quarters. If you don't require a lot of space to spread out and plan to only use the room as a place to crash after a long day of exploring Kyoto, you may find this hotel acceptable. If you are wanting the typical American-sized hotel room with the same convenient location, you may want to try a different hotel. The APA offers a spa, sauna, 4 or 5 Japanese TV channels, a movie channel (access is via purchase of a "room theater" card for 1000 yen, or roughly $10 US), and a nice tofu restaurant. The hotel is very English-friendly. It is a 5 - 10 minute walk from Kyoto Station, and a 5 minute walk from a 7-Eleven convenience store for a late night snack trip or minor things you may have forgotten. Also provided on the 1st floor are internet kiosks (100 yen for 10 minutes), a microwave, and vending machines that even offer beer.

APA Horikawadori Kyoto
1 Aburanokoji-cho, Shiokoji-nishi, Aburanokoji-dori, Shimogyo-ku,
Kyoto, Japan
+81 75-341-6111

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