My 5-year old and I are on a 6-week trip through Asia and this post is about our stay in Kyoto, Japan.
We arrived in Kyoto on the Shinkansen from Nagano. I thought that we could just go south to Kyoto from Nagano but the Shinkansen goes back east through Tokyo. It’s backtracking a bit but the Shinkansen is really a nice train and it’s covered by the JR Pass.
I had booked an Airbnb in Kyoto but I really wasn’t sure where to stay in the city. I really lucked out with a place in the beautiful area of Gion. I found a private room at the Flat Koudaiji – a kind of hostel with 5 separate rooms and 2 shared baths. The flat had a bunch of combo locks out front – each with its own combo and a key inside. It took me a bit to figure it out in the dark but once we got settled we enjoyed our nice house.
We got settled in our decent sized room with 2 beds. There was only one other room booked for a couple of nights so it was very quiet and easy to use the bath, etc. The only frustrating thing is a common complaint about places I stayed in Japan – they are all very cold. Every place I stayed only heated each room as you used it.
We ventured out for a little walk – it was very cold but beautiful. Meandering through the hilly streets of Gion, we were mesmerized by all the ladies in Geisha costume. I noticed many stores were renting beautiful outfits for the day and even doing the full hair and makeup. We never got around to doing it – one of my only regrets. Ellie would be an amazing Geisha!
The shops were all beginning to close – they close early by 5 or 6pm. The streets were very windy and not well planned – I got lost looking for a grocery store. Most shops were filled with souvenirs and many of them Japanese sweets. I think the locals and visitors must have a love for sweets because boxes of treats were flying off the shelves.
My favorite local treat was Otabe – an unbaked sweet made of rice flour and delicious fillings famous in Kyoto. If you step into the stores specializing in Otabe you can sample all the flavors, YUM! I found the banana-chocolate to be amazingly delicious for such a simple treat! We stocked up a few boxes for home.
We went to the local grocery and stocked up as I thought we might need food if my daughter was feeling any worse. I love shopping like that and seeing what the locals buy. I couldn’t read most of the labels and bought a couple of things that were different than I imagined. Oh well, it was part of the experience! You have to pay for grocery bags – so remember to bring some plastic bags or reusable ones if you go shopping. We also stopped by the pharmacy to get some meds for Ellie. The pharmacist understood what we needed for her pain (she gave us some children’s pain tablets – almost like baby aspirin). I asked for ibuprofen for her fever but they don’t sell ibuprofen for children in Japan.
My daughter was getting quite ill in the meantime so we headed back to the Airbnb. We stayed there until the next night when my daughter had a fever of 104F. My host was so helpful in telling me where to take her for medical care. She sent a taxi for us and we were taken directly to the hospital at about 9pm. We had good Blue Cross Federal Insurance and I verified that we were covered before we left the U.S. We waited less than an hour in the ER, which is much better than most places back home. The doctors didn’t speak much English but we managed with hand gestures and a simple intake form. We were given two prescriptions – powders that you mix into liquids. I had to pay about $200 with a credit card and they gave me a receipt to get reimbursed. For not speaking the local language I think we did rather well. Don’t be intimidated about seeking medical attention, this wasn’t our first time and won’t be our last!
We only had one “problem” staying at our location. It was actually snowing while we were there and our taxi couldn’t get up the hill to take us to the Airbnb. Ellie was in pajamas but at least I brought her boots, coat, etc. I wrapped her up and we slowly walked up the hill. It was an amazingly beautiful site with the snow falling on Kyoto though.
Ellie and I stayed inside for a couple of days and rested. It did “eat up” most of our time in Kyoto but that’s ok. We managed one full day after she was feeling better. We walked through the streets of Gion, stopping along the way at the various temples and tourist attractions.
Ellie loves Hello Kitty and we jumped at the chance to eat at the Hello Kitty Restaurant. They have huge stuffed kitties seated at tables for photo ops, as well as, Hello Kitty throughout the meal. Even our food was either shaped in her likeness or “stamped” with her face. It was a cute experience for Ellie and the food wasn’t bad.
We didn’t get outside of the Gion area but that’s ok because there were enough temples and tourist attractions to fill our day. Ellie wasn’t 100 percent and I didn’t want to push her. We had a great day and even though I have nothing to campare it with, I would say that Gion is a beautiful area in which to stay (or visit). Kyoto has been on my bucket list a long time and I wasn’t disappointed, I don’t think you will be either.