Kyoto was our first destination, but we arrived in Narita airport a few hours away. We grabbed a bullet train across the country and slept for a few hours as we made our way to our first stop of the trip. We would end up spending 5 days in Kyoto. Some of that time was spent exploring the city, but we also took day trips to Nara and Osaka to see the area. If you’re only going to visit one location in Japan, I’d suggest you go to Kyoto.
Our Delta flight left Orlando at 8:00 am Saturday and after 19 hours of flight time, we were in Kyoto, although the time of arrival was 4:00 pm Sunday. We picked up our pocket wifi, redeemed our Japan Rail Pass vouchers, and caught the first available train to Kyoto.
If you’re traveling to Japan and plan to use the Shinkansen (bullet train), I’d recommend learning about the Japan Rail Pass. For a single fee, you get unlimited rail access for the duration of your trip. It also gives free access to all local JR Trains. Japan has many different companies that manage their railways, so that doesn’t mean you’ll always get a free pass.
In order to use the JR Rail pass, you need to stop by the ticketing office of a JR Rail station. Show them your pass and ID and they’ll book your tickets and hand them to you. Every JR Rail office we visited had at least one employee who spoke enough English for us to book our trip. To be honest, “Kyoto. Ima” (Kyoto, now) was enough for them to do the rest for us.
By the time we left the airport, it was 7:00 pm, and we wouldn’t arrive in Kyoto until almost 11:00 pm. We took the Narita Express train from the airport to Tokyo Station. From there we switched to a bullet train bound for Kyoto.
After we made it there we grabbed a midnight snack by buying a meal ticket from a machine. Many inexpensive restaurants use ticketing systems for food. This allows for a smaller staff since they don’t need someone to run the cash register. All the restaurants with ticket machines we tried had pictures of the food – which helped. Be sure you put in your money first otherwise you might wonder why it’s not working.
We were extremely naive in how we planned this part of our trip. We should have just booked airline tickets into Kyoto rather than trying to take the train from Japan to Kyoto. It was cheaper, but it resulted in another 4 hours of travel time at the end of an already-long day.
We headed back to our hotel and settled down for the night. Whenever we travel we like to schedule something for the first day we’re in town. That helps to force us to get on a schedule and is a good opportunity to explore a new area.
In this case we had a food tour scheduled for early the next day.