Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Kyoto Takeaway Thoughts & Tips

Buses are the main transportation around Tokyo. You need to learn how to ride a Japanese bus. Riding the Japanese bus is quite intimidating at first. You are in a foreign land, with foreign characters. An English translation is not guaranteed. So it’d be best if you come ready.

Buy the Kyoto Bus Pass. It is a pretty good deal for JPY 500 – you can ride the bus all you want for a day. You’ll just have to add a bit if you want to go outside the zones (no biggie). I bought mine from Gojo Guesthouse. You get the pass stamped in the bus with the date, and just have to show this to the driver when you get off the bus

Each bus stop has a schedule that is precise. The bus closes its doors before the time so be at the bus stop before that. They have different schedules for weekends. Take pics of the schedules for your reference.

The city center has a lot of buses. They have a map where you can find the bus locations. You may need to cross streets... properly (follow the traffic lights).

In the bus stops, FALL IN LINE. Please. Proper manners are applied here.

Kyoto is a bike friendly city. The bikers won't attack you, but have some presence of mind to watch out for the bikers. You'll hear the bell when there's a biker approaching.

Some bikes parked in the street.
Hiragana reading pays off – insert Hiragana station pic directory in Kyoto

Pasalubong Buying (What to buy in Japan as souvenir)

When I started travelling, I was sweet enough to buy some food goodies for everyone in our department (around 25-30 pax). After two or three trips, my wallet felt the burden of massive pasalubong buying. I just bought goodies for my group (5 pax) to manage the budget. I don’t buy anything pricey, I usually buy local delicacies and some unique stuff I find in the groceries; Like the equivalent of dried mangoes and Choc-Nut here.

Applying my pasalubong-buying approach in Japan is a strain on the wallet.

I didn’t immediately find the popular Green Tea Kit-Kat in the groceries, I didn’t see any in 7-11 either. I found them when I was in Kyoto already – in Calbee stores.

Luckily, these bunch were on sale.
Price of a pack of KitKat Green Tea: JPY 285.

 Green chocolate for you.

They have a swankier version in a nice box for JPY 840. This tastes different too. It has some green tea bits - stronger flavor.

They have lots of these KitKat (original flavour) and Oreo bits in packs, on sale.

Now that’s for the green tea KitKat. The cherry blossom KitKat was nowhere to be found. I heard that they just make it during the Cherry Blossom season? I pouted.

But I found them in the airport anyway. Got these babies for JPY 750. My my, and these are just Kitkats! They also have a Mount Fuji version of KitKat but I withheld myself for spending more JPy because I already spent too much for just chocolate.
Now have a pink chocolate
They have this shopping street/area in Kyoto City Center but I didn’t find anything appealing. Or I saw the pricey pricey price before I got interested. I walked away before it held my attention.

The streets leading to Kiyomizudera is lined with souvenir shops. These are not your usual souvenir shops filled with generic keychains, ref magnets and I-Love-Japan shirts. They are mom-and-pop run souvenir shops, their merchandise speaks of craftsmanship. I really wanted this neat nail cutter: non-touristy design, looks classy, looks like it came from Japan without having the word “Japan” on it. But for JPY 500, it was just too much. A hair clip also looked really interesting but it was JPY 300 – I lost my interest.  No photos allowed in that shop.

They have lots of these nicely packaged sweets for you. Think of something like crepe with yummy filling. It expires after a week or so. Check with them before buying.

I also bought one of these green tea cakes. A small one costs JPY 1,050. The green tea flavor really pops and it blends nicely in the cake (you can taste before buying). Also check the expiration date. Comes in a neat box.

Be "gentle" with your English here. They can speak English but just enough to get by. I

Me: When will these expire? (referring to the box of sweets)
Vendor: No more. Finished.
Me: *Thinks: he meant no more stocks*. Is this okay to eat next week?
Vendor: No more. Finished.
Me: *simplify the question* If I buy today, okay to eat on Monday?
Vendor: Yes. 
I got whatever he has left. Most of the displays were already sold - and it was just morning. 

I had to remind myself I still had another night in Tokyo. Stop shopping.


If I rank all the cities I’ve travelled to (which I don’t like to do because it is difficult to choose), Kyoto would definitely be one in the Top 5.

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