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Kyoto, in pictures

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I rarely run tourist photos on Head for Points – it isn’t what we do.  However, as a counterpart to my review of The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto today, I thought it was worth an extra 4th article with a few shots from our 48 hours in the city.


Feel free to ignore if you’re not interested …..


The fastest bullet train services from Tokyo take 2 hours and 15 minutes.  The train tickets are eye wateringly expensive however – close to £1,000 return for two children and two adults in ‘Green Car’ business class.


You can use the Japan Rail Pass but if your only trip is Tokyo-Kyoto then it isn’t worth it, especially as the fastest bullet trains are exempt.  We also saw long lines at Rail Pass counters at stations for people looking to reserve seats.


There are taxi ranks at the major Kyoto temples so it is easy to get around the key sites.  Some are also accessible by metro and tram or on foot from the centre.


English seemed more widely spoken than it did on my two previous trips to Japan, which were probably 10 and 20 years ago.  Railway stations and the like are effectively multi-lingual and you won’t struggle.  There is now an Oyster card-equivalent for the subway in Tokyo and Kyoto which makes life easier and saves you spending time at the ‘Fare Adjustment Machine’ each time.


It is definitely somewhere you should visit once.  Avios availability to Tokyo on BA is difficult to get if you have a 2-4-1 voucher, but Seoul (a 2 hour connection via JAL which can be done on Avios) always has seats.  If you don’t have a 2-4-1 voucher, you have additional options – JAL direct from Heathrow, Finnair with a change in Helsinki or Qatar with a change in Doha.  You can even route yourself via Moscow (on BA) with a connection to JAL.


Alternatively, a routing like our Hong Kong to Tokyo to Kyoto (rail) to Beijing one gives you some extra variety.  I would recommend Shanghai instead of Beijing but we had personal reasons for going through there on the way home.

Comments (62)

  • Dan says:

    I know this article was spurred by Rob’s recent visit – but I actually think this would make a great idea for a fortnightly article! Rotating between different cities or countries.

    I’m sure many of us are planning trips to various cities / countries and the experience of other HfP readers is far more informed and reliable than TripAdvisor etc.!

  • Ryan says:

    I never realised there were so many Japanophiles here. I second a lot of the recommendations here (Ryokan, Nara, Kyoto) etc.

    I am here for three months in Tokyo this time so going to try some new places like Nagasaki, Okinawa, Fukuoka and Hokkaido.

    Kobe is worth the short journey from Osaka if nothing else than the Wagyu Beef.

    Any HfP’ers in Tokyo fancy a coffee then let me know.

  • ankomonkey says:

    @John, you should get good views of Mt. Fuji on the shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka. At the time you’re travelling it should be covered in snow with a background of blue sky. Fuji Kyu Highlands is a theme park nearby and had insane rides many years ago. Not sure if it’s added new ones recently. Genghis’s Hakone recommendation is one of the best if you want more than just a glimpse of Fuji.

    +1 for Miyajima and Koya-san.

    • David says:

      Agree entirely! We were lucky enough to get a great view from the shinkansen. Fuji-Q is a great day trip from Tokyo; the rides are phenomenal and the view of Fuji from the ferris wheel utterly breathtaking.

  • Michael Birchall says:

    I had 9 amazing days in Japan in March – BA Club to NRT using the Lloyds upgrade voucher. Only scratched the surface of Tōkyō, was based in the Marriott in Shinagawa – wonderful staff and a fairly decent Exec Lounge. Comped Breakfast. Then the Shinkansen to Kyoto – booked via whilst I was there, amazingly fast & comfortable train in ‘standard’. It was 40 seconds late leaving – be warned, not everything runs on time! Stayed at the Westin in Kyoto – quite tired, loads of Japanese and Chinese tour groups. Exec Lounge not great at all. Then got local trains to Osaka to meet a friend from London who is married there – had a wonderful time with here and her family, including Korea Town (yes its IS called that!) I think I benefited from having local guides and really enjoyed it., especially okonomiyaki! Finally back to the Hilton Tōkyō via Shinkansen, and was given a room on 31st flooor with a huge ‘Lost in Translation’ vibe. Apologies at 37th floor exec check in that they couldn’t upgrade me as a Gold Card holder, so offered bottle of wine or chocolates as compensation. Exec Lounge amazing, but when I turned up I was upgraded to the ‘secret’ Diamond Exec Lounge with wonderful food and waitress service. Narita Express back to NRT and home on a BA 789. Can’t wait for a return trip – will stay longer and will plan trips to Hiroshima and Sapporo.

  • paul says:

    I find this site an invaluable resource for all things Japan.

  • Kwisstan says:


    Whilst I appreciate this is not an article type you run, it does have lots of replies (second most today) and information from commentators. Would it be worthwhile running a few more of these, even if they are not part of the emailed articles? I’ve learnt a lot for my trip later in the year.

    Maybe let poor Anika go somewhere nice for a change. 🙂 i found this more refreshing as it you wrote it as a true review, you didn’t get any special treatment or tours.

    • Dan says:


    • John says:

      Anika got to Japan also. Not that anyone would know it……radio silence since!

      • Rob says:

        She’s been ill for the last week and hasn’t been in, although she was still cranking out Shopper Points from home. Luckily the diary was pretty quiet. Hopefully she is back tomorrow. There is quite a bit on the way from her – a major ANA business class review, the ANA IC in Tokyo and the new Business Class lounge at City Airport which she visited just before falling ill (hopefully not linked, hopefully also not linked to the OneRepublic gig either!).

  • John says:

    Rob ,
    I have got a lot of information today for my trip at the end of the year in the comments . Plus, I enjoyed seeing this Morning some pics of your recent trip and your review .
    It would be great to slot in some popular destination reviews !

    • Rob says:

      We had a similar discussion in the office the other week about luggage – Anika wanted to do something on luggage to spark reader discussion, but we don’t actually have any luggage ‘news’ to wrap such an article around. Is is ‘good enough’ to write an article saying “why don’t you all talk about luggage today in the comments?”? We’re not sure.

  • David says:

    Since we’re talking Japan, I’m planning on using my 2-4-1 for spring 2018 to Tokyo.

    Recent availability suggests that there is often F availability to HND on the 777, but rarely on the 789 to NRT where there’s usually only J. So I’m trying to weigh up the relative benefits of those two options.

    Any thoughts from those more au fait with BA F than I am? I’ve done J on both the 777 and 789…

    • Jimmy says:

      I flew BA NRT-LHR in F on their 789 recently..was 2 months old, the plane, not me. Its good. Better than 777. Small cabin, larger fixed screen etc. But like any flight, its the staff that make it. We had good staff so enjoyed it…..even met the spare (female) pilot (am sure there’s a proper term, the one who sits on the right hand side….first officer perhaps??) in her PJ’s lol

      I believe the 789 in J is better than the 777 equivalent also?

      Another consideration (for some) is HND is MF and NRT is WW cabin crew. Currently NRT has better timings but HND quicker to reach.

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