We arrived at Kansai at around 8 pm, picked-up our luggage at the baggage claim and proceeded to the bus stops immediately outside the exit. It felt like a domestic flight as I hardly noticed immigration and customs. There are bus personnel that guide tourists to the correct bus--in our case the bus that goes to Kyoto station. We had to change currency to purchase our tickets at the ticket machine, which look like ATMs and are easy to operate--even if you don't understand Japanese. Upon arriving at Kyoto station, a black Toyota Crown taxi appeared like clockwork and we were off to our hotel.
We checked into Hotel M's Est Shijo Karasuma (which I recommend highly; it's central, convenient, safe, clean, cute--warning, the rooms are small--and a great value at less than P3k per night; it just opened in March 2017 and barely 2 months in operation, so the rates may go up soon) at around 10 pm, Wednesday, May 17. Hassle free! Upon setting foot in Japan, one gets the sense that things work properly here and little is left to chance.
We, on the other hand, made no plans whatsoever other than a clean slate and left our schedule in Kyoto entirely to chance. In short, we decided to just "wing it". Surely not the most efficient itinerary but we had a leisurely pace, which appears consistent with the feel of Kyoto (where you will observe the Japanese still wear their traditional kimono as they go about their daily routine).
May 18--Fushimi Inari Shrine and Arashiyama area (Tenryu-ji Zen Temple, Sogenchi Garden, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
May 19--The Five Storey Pagoda at Nara Park. . . and the deers!
May 20--Kagonoya (all-you-can-eat shabu-shabu and sushi, Shijo Karasuma Branch, just a few blocks from our hotel). We stuffed ourselves to the point we just returned to our hotel and slept. How terrible is that!
May 21--Nijo-jo Castle and Ginkakuji Temple
May 22--Kinkakuji Temple and Chion-in Temple
At first glance, Kyoto is NOT particularly impressive. Sure, it's relatively NOT crowded for Japan. One does NOT feel rushed in this city. Not as expensive as I expected. It's clean and has a terrific public transportation system. Locals are tolerant and even helpful to tourists.
If you're a foodie, Kyoto might disappoint. Yes, Wagyu beef is available all around town but you can already get nearly the entire quality range of Wagyu beef in Manila. The local diet is mostly carbs (noodles and rice), which is a reminder that Japan is a fundamentally poor country that had to struggle every step of the way to achieve its economic might. Of course, protein like sashimi and Wagyu beef are available but these are NOT daily fare. I would even venture to say that there is a shortage of fruits, which are astronomically expensive--a clear indication of the Japanese government subsidy to the agricultural sector.
Kyoto's distinction is its Imperial pedigree, including it's castles, shrines and temples (a number of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites), that appear to be located all over the city. Selina and I barely scratched the surface (e.g., we didn't even visit the Imperial Palace or its grounds--not sure if it's even open to the public) during this visit, which is always a convenient excuse to return.