Subject: Re: Kyoto hotel/Japan hotel pass
Hello Georgia -- Twice in the mid '80's, I stayed in beautiful Kyoto at a ryokan (pronounced something like yokan) or traditional inn with the tatami-on-the-floor bed and traditional bathing (be sure to read up and memorize instructions on the bathing before you go so you don't horrify and offend Japanese travelers). The one I stayed in is geared to westerners so it isn't totally pure but it's easier on you, the guest, with possibly a real chair in the room to relax on. I believe it's called the Inn of the Two (or Three?) Sisters. It's in a very good location, convenient walking to tourist destinations. It used to be in the nice Japanese tour books; why don't you check a couple of them to see if it's still listed and at what kind of price.

You should love Kyoto -- incredible temples and gardens, reeks of tradional atmosphere, and very easy to get around. I found it very comfortable to travel in alone because so many westerners visit the city. I found some lovely small shops for pottery and other beautiful crafts, and I'm not normally a shopper.

I would sometimes see Japanese visitors coming to a wedding or festival, wearing kimono and traditional costume. And in '85, there was a street where at about 6pm, If I walked along slowly I'd sometimes see the Meiko (apprentice Geisha), in their whitened faces and all the costume, being picked up in cars for their evening appointments. That always was very exciting to me. Weekends in a big park was fun because the families are there, having fun together and eating amazing and wonderfully odd street foods -- I remember a cart that made a sort of omelette with interesting things in it.

You know that this will be an expensive trip, of course. And as for the prepaid hotel passes, find out if they are for some interesting hotels or only for chain hotels. Have you access to JTB -- the Japanese Travel Board that used to be here in various cities? They will help you plan and prepay a really wonderful trip - much better than you will plan on your own even with all the books and reference materials now available, because they know what is unusual and interesting and will show you a Japan that is not just an industrial power. I was sent to Kyoto, Matsumato, Kanasabi?, Myoshima Island, another old historic city I can't think of, into the real countryside and finally to Nagasaki -- all done with hotels prepaid, plenty of time to explore and even add a city here and there by train, a 3 week Japan Rail pass. It was a truly wonderful experience. On the other hand, when I tried to do something individualistic with my luggage while in Japan and without a professional travel agent to help me, I wasted essentially 2 days trying find out about it and make myself understood, and finally went to a travel agency for help. Then it took 10 minutes.

My point is, do as much planning and prepayment here as possible and with a very knowledgeable professional to help you. Don't try to go into Japan and then start making arrangements yourself, especially out of the main cities. Remember, Japanese people usually travel in family or office groups, not alone. And I'm sure the offices make all arrangements for western business people who come over. Some of this may have changed since 1985, I don't know, but I wouldn't want to take a chance and waste time and energy on it. All good luck and have a really gorgeous time,