General Travel Information
Provided for your information, as guidelines for your travels to Japan, the following content was supplied by the Kyoto Convention Bureau.
The two best airport options are flying into Osaka's Kansai International Airport (KIX) or Tokyo's Narita International Airport (NRT). The airport you choose just depends on your preference for air carrier, flight schedules, price, etc. From either airport you will need to travel by Train or taxi into Kyoto. Another option is Nagoya's Central Japan International Airport (NGO).
If you arrive at Kansai International Airport, you can transfer from there to Kyoto station on the JR Haruka express train (takes just over one hour). The train is speedy and quiet, features wide and comfortable seats, and provides plenty of luggage stowage space. Destinations are announced in both Japanese and English. Fare: JPY 3,490 for reserved seats, JPY 2,980 for non-reserved seats. Or, take a shuttle taxi direct to your hotel. The taxi takes you to any address in Kyoto that you request. You share the taxi with up to nine passengers to similar destinations. Your Japan bound journey can be booked with a credit card via the company website. Homeward bound journeys can be booked from your hotel room. The taxi journey takes a little over an hour depending upon traffic conditions and the location of your hotel. Services run from Kansai International Airport (KIX) at a Fare of approximately JPY 3,500.
If you arrive at Tokyo International Airport (Narita) you can take the Narita Express (NEX) train from Narita Airport (takes about one hour) to arrive at Tokyo station, where the Shinkansen (bullet train) departs. The Shinkansen ride to Kyoto Station is just 2 hours and 15 minutes. The total train fare from Narita Airport to JR Kyoto station is approximately JPY 15,930.
If you prefer, after arriving at Narita, Osaka's Itami International Airport is just a quick connection away (ITM).
Kansai International Airport
Narita International Airport
Itami International Airport
Central Japan International Airport
Large shops and department stores generally operate seven days a week, from around 10:00 to 20:00. 24 hr convenience stores can be found in every neighborhood and district. Banks are open 9:00 to 15:00 Monday to Friday. Not all ATM cash machines operate 24 hours a day. Post offices generally operate 9:00 to 17:00 weekdays only, they close their financial services (including international exchange) at 16:00: Kyoto Central Post Office at JR Kyoto station operates a 24 hour desk for postal services. Temples, museums and other tourist attraction opening times are from around 9:00 to 17:00; times vary according to attraction and time of the year. Many shrines do not have gates that close but it is common practice to not visit after dark. Temples and shrines do not have regular worshipping hours so visits can be made any day of the week.
The Japanese currency is called the yen. Cash is the most widely accepted method of payment. Major credit cards are widely accepted. Debit cards are almost unknown and should not be relied upon as a payment option. Travellers' cheques are only accepted for exchange in banks and post offices, and, in general, cannot be used to purchase goods and services. Foreign exchange can be performed in banks (look for signs in English), larger post offices, a limited number of hotels, and Kyoto Handicraft Center. Bank counters are open 9 am to 3 pm, post offices financial services from 9 am to 4 pm. There is not much discrimination in exchange rates and commissions between banks in the city and in the airport; post offices and the Handicraft Center reportedly offer slightly favorable rates. You can draw cash on your credit card or debit card at certain ATM cash machines: all post office (found in every neighborhood; not 24 hr) and Seven Bank (in all 7-Eleven stores; 24 hr) ATMs accept overseas credit cards with PIN. Please use the references below when planning the budget for your trip.
Japan Post Bank
Citibank - branch & ATMs in Kyoto
Seven Bank - located in 7-Eleven convenience stores accepts credit, debit and cash cards from around the world
Kyoto Handicraft Center
Currency Converter JPY
Climate and clothing
Japan has a temperate northern hemisphere climate and weather patterns are regular year to year. Kyoto celebrates the changing of the seasons through festivals and events, and its exciting and varied seasonal cuisine. Late summer may have comfortable morning and evenings, but hot days, with some humidity. Light clothing is recommended. Summer suits are comfortable business attire.
September will average precipitation of 8 inches (203.2mm), a high temperature of 82F (28C) degrees, and a low temperature of 67F (19C) degrees.
Weather in Kyoto Today (Yahoo Weather)
JNTO Seasonal Attractions
Mains electricity is supplied at 100 volts AC at the frequency of 60 Hertz in Kyoto. Most portable computers and cameras are internationally compatible but you are advised to check your equipment before departure. Mains sockets require a Type A plug and you are advised to obtain an adaptor before departure if needed. Type A plugs have two flat blades and are used in the US and Canada too.
More information about the Japanese electricity supply is available from JNTO
A very detailed description on world plugs and sockets is given here
Immigration, Visa, Health Certificates, Entry Procedures
All non-Japanese passport holders are required to give finger prints (electronically recorded) and be photographed at passport control. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan advises on its website http://www.mofa.go.jp/index.html a list of countries that do not require a visa to enter the country. It is recommended that you check with your local Japanese embassy for correct and up to date entry requirements to Japan.
JNTO gives further information on entry procedures and customs allowances
Language - Getting by in English and Japanese
Outside of your hotel and meeting venue the main language will be Japanese. However, Kyoto is Japan's prime tourist destination and has the infrastructure in place to make your stay enjoyable and stress-free. Subway & train station and bus stop signs are clearly marked not only in Japanese but also in English, Chinese and Korean for easy comprehension. Also, destinations are posted in English and Japanese, and stops announced in English on board making it even easier for the visitor to navigate the city. Restaurants may present bilingual and pictorial menus. If you speak slowly and clearly, shop assistants and taxi drivers will understand your needs. There are sightseeing maps and information boards posted throughout the city and direction signs are displayed in Romanised and Japanese versions. Furthermore, residents are friendly to visitors: if you approach someone on the street, you are likely to be understood and the person you ask is likely to be able and willing to help.
Post, Courier, Luggage Handling
Post offices are located in every neighborhood making the service very easy to use. Kyoto Central Post Office at JR Kyoto Station offers 24 hour service. If you are travelling with large or heavy luggage, courier services are recommended because most companies offer next-day delivery to anywhere in Japan be it the airport or your next hotel. Courier services can be obtained at your hotel as well as any convenience store. There are even two couriers in Kyoto Station that will deliver your luggage to your hotel/ryokan the same day, so allowing you the freedom to explore the city from the moment that you arrive. A large industry of safe and efficient couriers has grown up to service the demands of a population that is used to travelling separately from their luggage. Please see the following links.
Japan Post is the brand name for the national postal service
Sagawa Express offers nationwide and international courier services
Baggage Delivery Service at Kansai International Airport
FedEx is also represented here in Kyoto
Carry Service - B1 level of north (Karasuma) side of Kyoto Station (convenient for Haruka Airport Express)
Delivery Service - Ground level of south (Hachijoguchi) side of Kyoto Station (convenient for Shinkansen)
JNTO's guide to postal services
Personal Safety & Security
Japan is noted for its safety. Kyoto subways, train stations, and bus terminals are clean and well-lit. You should have no major safety worries when travelling within Kyoto. It should be reiterated here however that you are always recommended to take the proper precautions you would normally practice when in an unfamiliar place.
Traveling with Children
Your family will find many things to do while you are attending conference sessions - see the Sightseeing page for ideas. There are many educational and fun activities that appeal to children of all ages such as the world's first international manga comic museum, a chance to clash swords with samurai and pit your wits against ninja at the Movie Land, the Torokko open deck train and Hozugawa river rapids rural adventure, as well as parks, museums and festivals. Kyoto is a safe and fun city that your family will remember for a lifetime.
Consumption tax is a flat rate across the country of 5% on all purchases (correct at time of writing this site). There are no additional local Kyoto taxes. The displayed price on goods and services is required by law to be tax-inclusive. Receipts and bills often indicate tax and service charge for your reference.
Some shops in Kyoto city display duty free shopping signs: Kyoto Handicraft Center (all souvenir needs) http://www.kyotohandicraftcenter.com and Taniyamamusen (electrical goods specialist) http://www.taniyama.co.jp/store/dutyfree/index.html are particularly popular with visitors. You will need your passport to make purchases duty-free and a minimum purchase might apply.
The Japanese mobile phones protocol is different from that in other parts of the world and it is difficult to give useful information here. The best advice is check with your provider before you depart. Mobile phones are available for rental at the airport but not in Kyoto city. Public telephones can be found in hotels, your meeting venue and throughout the town. International calls can be made from NTT grey public telephones and others that are marked as such. Cards can be purchased that allow international telephone calls from any telephone using a code and PIN.
JNTO gives a detailed description of telephone services
Mobile phone rental at Kansai International Airport
Japan is covered by one time zone that is Greenwich Meantime (GMT) plus nine (9) hours.
Tipping is not practised in Japan - impeccable service is expected and delivered always. Some restaurants and hotels include a service charge in the bill that you pay. This will always be fully explained. Some shops place a tray near the cash register, this is for you to make your payment and for the change and receipt to be passed back to you, it is not a request for a tip. You pay your restaurant bill as you exit not at the table so not tipping is quite intuitive.
Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO)
News on Japan
Lonely Planet Japan
Visa to Enter Japan
List of Embassies in Japan
Currency Converter Yen
Kyoto City Home Page
Kyoto Prefecture Home Page
Kyoto City International Exchange Association
Kyoto Official Travel Guide
Kyoto Tourism & Cultural Information
Welcome to Kyoto
Kyoto Visitor's Guide
Learning About Kyoto
WAK Japan Culture Workshops
Kyoto Shimbun Newspaper
Weather in Kyoto Today (Yahoo Weather)
Kyoto City Transportation
http://www.kyotobus.jp/ (Japanese only)
Sagano Sightseeing Tram
http://www.myojyo.net/ (Japanese only)
http://www.117385.com/ (Japanese only)
Eizan Electric Railway
http://www.keihannet.ne.jp/eiden/ (Japanese only)
Kansai International Airport
Narita International Airport
Central Japan International Airport (Centrair)
Japan Air Lines (JAL)
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
JR (Japan Rail) West (Kyoto area)
JR (Japan Rail) East (Tokyo area)
JR Central Japan (Shinkansen 'bullet train')