My husband and I went to Japan on our honeymoon in May 2009. We spent our first week in Kyoto, staying in a furnished apartment which we found through Kyoto Stay Club. As we're both vegetarians and were travelling on a tight budget, we wanted to be sure that we had a cheap place to stay with access to local shops so that we could cater for ourselves.
The staff at the Kyoto Stay Club office are really friendly and helpful. We had identified a couple of apartments from the site, but they turned out to have already been booked. The staff made other recommendations to suit our budget, and we ended up staying in a lovely top floor apartment in the Marutamachi area of Kyoto - near to the Imperial Palace.
Kyoto is a walkable city, and the apartment was close to Nishiki Market, as well as having a Co-op and a Family Mart just around the corner, so we were able to cook for ourselves. There were also two vegetarian restaurants nearby, so we could sample Japanese cuisine. We were across the road from the neighbourhood shrine, in a residential area full of friendly people, too.
We are going back to Japan in October and contacted Kyoto Stay Club again. We received a "repeat custom" discount and are hoping to stay in the same apartment, as it really was a home away from home for us.
I'd recommend it to anyone travelling on a budget (it worked out as costing around £30 a night each - although the current exchange rate (July 2010) means that this is now nearer £40 a night each).
This is an old Kyoto merchant’s house (Machiya) which was very recently (January 2010) restored to its original splendor, but with modern western amenities in the kitchen, bath and toilet. The house has two bedrooms, a dining room, kitchen, toilet and bath. It is a small house on a very narrow cobbled lane close to the Shirakawa canal. The location was fantastic and resonably priced. The owners showed us how to use the house and how to find the nearby markets, cafes and restaurants. It was a really great experience, alot nicer than staying in some of the hotels we experianced on our trip.
Higashiyama area of Kyoto near Heian Jingu.
In Japan, there is the "licensed tour guide system", which means the Japanese government requires anyone working as a foreign language speaking tour guide to pass the national exams and get the national licence. If you are going to book a tour of Japan, make sure your tour guide has a licence. If she or he doesn't and is going to charge you, it's an Illegal act.
But if you are going to book a tailormade tour through a travel agency, it can be very expensive. So why don't you consult a local tour guide directly? There is the web site called "Tour Guide-interpreter Search System". This site is run by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and all of the registered tour guides have passed the national exams, which are a foreign language, an interview in a foreign language, Japanese history, Japanese geography and Japanese general culture. These tests are one of the most difficult national tests in Japan and require a lot of knowledge.
Tour Guide-Interpreter Search System
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