Visitors should stock up on business cards and expect to exchange them with everyone they meet in a business environment. Take some time to develop relationships and don’t push for quick decisions. A few words of Japanese will be appreciated. Kyoto residents are often thought of as more conservative than the population as a whole.
The Hyatt Regency (www.tokyo.regency.hyatt.com) is in a quiet part of town, around a mile from Kyoto station and a short walk from Shichijo station for connections across the city. The hotel is beautifully designed with plenty of local character incorporated – think bamboo, kimono silks and Japanese art. For a more central spot, consider the Kyoto Royal Hotel & Spa.
Many establishments in the city source ingredients from Nishiki market – known as ‘Kyoto’s kitchen’ – so visitors can look forward to excellent, fresh cuisine. Okariba is a rustic barbecue joint on the city’s eastern fringe and comes recommended by Hollywood actress Jessica Alba who recently described it as “the best dining experience of my life”. Wild boar is the signature dish of an exotic menu. In central Kyoto, the narrow streets of Pontocho house a wide choice of small restaurants. Stick to those with English menus outside
Pretty Pontocho offers a good selection of cosy bars and drinking dens, or there’s the historic Gion district where visitors might even catch a glimpse of the mysterious geisha or their apprentice maiko. Those craving a taste of home could head to the Pig & Whistle where there’s a good choice of beers on draught, plus dartboards, table football and a menu featuring the likes of fish and chips.
There’s no airport in Kyoto so international visitors tend to fly into Osaka’s Kansai International Airport or arrive by train from Tokyo. One-stop options from London to Osaka include Air France via Paris, KLM via Amsterdam, Lufthansa via Frankfurt, and Finnair via Helsinki. Alternatively, fly direct to Tokyo with British Airways, Virgin, ANA or Japan Airlines, and catch an onward domestic flight or hop on the train. The quickest Shinkansen ‘bullet’ trains between Tokyo and Kyoto make the journey in around two hours, 15 minutes.
From Osaka’s Kansai Airport, the Haruka Limited Express train takes around 75 minutes to Kyoto. Limousine buses do the trip in around 90 minutes to two hours, depending on traffic.
Japan is nine hours ahead of GMT. The currency is the yen. See www.seejapan.co.uk.
Kyoto is Japan’s cultural and historical heart and home to a UNESCO World Heritage centre comprised of 17 temples and shrines across the city. They include Kiyomizu-dera, perched on the city’s surrounding slopes, the Ryoan-ji temple and its famous zen stone garden, and Kinkaku-ji, better known as the impressive Golden Pavilion. Elsewhere in the city, Nishiki market presents a bewildering range of food and goods while Gion is the pretty, historic district where you’re most likely to spot elusive geisha.
“If you want to enjoy the city’s busy streets and social scene in the evening, it is highly recommended to choose a hotel downtown rather than near Kyoto station”
Avi Lugasi, Windows to Japan