A week ago, we had our fall break here in Japan (something that everyone needed). Some of the other students and I, 7 of us total, went to Kyoto. Getting there was quite an experience, as that was the first time we had gone farther than Yokohama station without any of our buddies. I traveled with one of my friends (we actually traveled in several groups), and our commute to Shin-Yokohama station, where we would catch the shinkansen (bullet train), involved about 3 transfers at 3 different stations. Luckily, everything worked out and we made it to our shinkansen. By the way, make sure you know which shinkansen car you're in. The train is so long that cars 1-8 and 9-16 board from different platforms. If you mess up, you could be walking for a very long time. From Shin-Yokohama to Kyoto, it took about 2 hours and 15 minutes, so I bought a special "shinkansen" bento (box lunch). They're actually not all that special, but you normally buy them if you're going to ride the shinkansen during a mealtime. I had a fall-themed bento with some sort of salted, cooked fish, scrambled egg roll, pickled vegetables, rice mixed with beans and mushrooms, a mushy eggplant-thing, a carrot, and mushrooms, lots of mushrooms. The bento makers even cut the carrot into the shape of a maple leaf. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of the bento because I ate it before I thought about snapping a photo...
Because we had bought a travel package (hotel and roundtrip shinkansen tickets), that aspect of our trip was very easy. For students who want to travel during fall break and will be coming here next year, I highly recommend purchasing travel packages like these. They are usually cheaper than buying tickets and booking your hotel separately (unless you choose a different mode of transportation, like a night bus). There are several websites that you can use to book trips like the Japan Railways (JR) website. Since these packages are usually aimed a foreigners, anyone planning a trip to Japan who is not a Japanese citizen or resident can use them. As for students, be sure to talk to the KGU International Center, where they will help you out a lot.
Our group varied in the number of nights we stayed (2-4 nights), but for 2 of the days, we traveled all together. Since I had been to Kyoto 3 years before because of a family vacation, my friends had me plan what sights to see. It's very important to plan these ahead so you know how to get there. Being in an unfamiliar city and traveling around it can be very difficult. I mapped out the various locations, and wrote down directions and what modes of transportation to use as well as any admission fees. Many temples and shrines charge admission fees that can be anywhere from 300-600 yen. A few people bought train passes for use in the Kansai region (our own passes can't be used outside of the Kanto region or the Tokyo/Yokohama area). However, we all bought one-day passes that could be used for bus or subway. Paying the flat rate for the pass was cheaper and easier in the end.
Don't worry--the next post contains the actual trip.