The Japan Connection

Residence Manager of Citadines Karasuma-Gojo Kyoto,
Yukako Iijima, goes off the beaten track between Tokyo and Kyoto

Issue: Nov 2011

Yuka by the Shinkansen
The Shinkansen connects Tokyo and Kyoto, making commuting between the two cities fast and easy

Japan has one of the most sophisticated public transport systems in the world. I can say that with no small amount of certainty because I have lived abroad for many years. I grew up in Brazil, spent six years in London as a student and have worked in Singapore, Bangkok and Taiwan.

Our Shinkansen (bullet trains) are world-class and world famous. That is why I had no qualms moving to Kyoto be the Residence Manager of Citadines Karasuma-Gojo Kyoto a year ago although my family is in Tokyo. Thanks to the Shinkansen, I manage a home visit every month with no hassle.

Between Tokyo and Kyoto, though, there are many tourist sites where you can take in a side of Japan that few have trodden. If you have the time, get on a Shinkasen that allows you to make stops in between. Here are some of my favourite picks of these off-the-beaten-track places.

Yukako Iijima (in kimono) and the friendly staff of Citadines Karasuma-Gojo Kyoto welcome you to Kyoto
Yukako Iijima (in kimono) and the friendly staff of Citadines Karasuma-Gojo Kyoto welcome you to Kyoto

Come to Kyoto

Since Kyoto is now my city, let's begin with some charming places in Kyoto. Compared to Tokyo, Kyoto is definitely a quieter, more leisurely and gentle city. She is one of Japan's cultural centres and is famous for her glorious temples and magnificent views.

Situated in the historical district, Citadines Karasuma-Gojo Kyoto is within walking distance of the city's business district and tourist belt. You will be close to restaurants, shops, major departmental stores, entertainment venues as well as several cultural heritage sites. Our serviced residence is also just outside Gojo Subway station which connects you to the rest of the city and one stop away from the main Kyoto station of Shinkansen. Being close to Shinkansen stations helps travellers enjoy easy access between these two cities, and also allow them to conveniently reside at two of our properties - Citadines Shinjuku Tokyo and Citadines Karasuma-Gojo Kyoto.

For a last-minute sweet souvenir, pick up some Japanese sweets to take home from just round the corner from Citadines Karasuma-Gojo Kyoto
For a last-minute sweet souvenir, pick up some Japanese sweets to take home from just round the corner from Citadines Karasuma-Gojo Kyoto

If, however, you are game for something quirky but still quintessentially Kyoto, then take a ride to Otabe in Jujo, in downtown Kyoto, three train stops from Citadines Karasuma-Gojo Kyoto. Otabe is a confectionary shop. Here, you will get a chance do what many Japanese like to do - visit stores and factories to watch how Japanese specialties are made and sample the food. At Otabe, you can do that as well as participate in a piece of Kyoto history and food culture.

At a tatami room right above the shop, you can learn to make yatsuhashi, a cinnamon-flavoured sweet that is a Kyoto specialty. The sweet is named after a famous 17th century koto (a long, stringed instrument) player and composer, Kengyo Yatsuhashi. Four years after his death, a sweet shaped like the koto was created and named after him. Yatsuhashi comes in two forms: soft, unbaked triangular shapes filled with red bean paste and hard, baked cookies. When your creations are completed, they will pack them into boxes for you to take home. You can also buy the souvenir sweets made fresh at the shop to sample what professionally made yatsuhashi tastes like.

The autumn leaves at Nanzenji Temple are so beautiful that it has been the location of many film shoots
The autumn leaves at Nanzenji Temple are so beautiful that it has been the location of many film shoots

About 25 minutes from Citadines Karasuma-Gojo Kyoto by subway via Karasuma-Oike Station is a temple that I would recommend for its view as well as the food nearby. Nanzenji Temple is one of the most important Zen temples in the country and comprises several sub-temples. The temple is the headquarters of the Nanzenji branch of Rinzai Zen Buddhism. While many take in the sights, not as many know of the tofu restaurant near the temple. In Kyoto, the tofu (soybean curd) is first rate. It has to do with Kyoto's large number of underground springs and spring water provides excellent quality water to make tofu. While there are tofu restaurants all around, I like the one near Nanzenji Temple. It is autumn now and the trees in that area, crowned with red leaves, are simply magical to behold and many films have used them as a backdrop. Great food, great culture and a great view all at once!

The route from Kyoto to Tokyo gives you a gorgeous view of Mount Fuji. I have often stopped en route to visit Hakone, part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park that is famous for its hot springs and cool view of Mount Fuji.

Climb up Odawara Castle for a great view of the city
Climb up Odawara Castle for a great view of the city
Photo credit: www.kanagawa-kankou.or.jp

To get to Hakone, though, you need to stop at Odawara and transit to Hakone. In their eagerness to get to Hakone, most people overlook Odawara. But if you want to take the road less travelled, then give Odawara a chance. There are two things you can check out at Odawara: Odawara Castle and kamaboko (fishcakes). Odwara Castle, the family residence of feudal lord, Hojo, was listed as one of the 100 Fine Castles of Japan by the Japan Castle Foundation in 2006. It provides you with a panaromic view of the city from its towers and you can view ancient artefacts displayed there. Kamaboko is an Odawara specialty and is made from white fish caught in the fishing port of the city.

Enjoy Atami

Another interchange you can make a stopover at is Atami. This coastal hot spring resort is a place my family and I would vacation at when I was young. The whole family, including my grandparents, would spend a few days there every year enjoying the hot springs before tucking into fresh seafood. During summer, they would put up firework displays at night which we kids particularly delighted in.

By the time you are through with these stops, you might be ready for a good rest. Get back on board the Shinkansen and head to Citadines Shinjuku Tokyo. The contemporary residence and dedicated service offered are a balm for any tired traveller. The Apart'hotel is also close to the Marunouchi and Toei Shinjuku subway stations. With such great connections, exploring the rest of the city from this home away from home once you have had your rest should be no trouble at all.

Come stay with us at …

Somerset Azabu East Tokyo
No 1-9-11 Higashi Azabu,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0044, Japan

Tel: (81-3) 5114 2800
Fax: (81-3) 5114 2801
Email: enquiry.tokyo@the-ascott.com

Somerset Roppongi Tokyo
No 3-4-31, Roppongi,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032, Japan

Tel: (81-3) 3568 3939
Fax: (81-3) 3568 3971
Email: enquiry.tokyo@the-ascott.com

Citadines Shinjuku Tokyo
1-28-13 Shinjuku
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160 0022, Japan

Tel: (81-3) 5379 7208
Fax: (81-3) 5379 7209
Email: enquiry.shinjuku@the-ascott.com

Citadines Karasuma-Gojo Kyoto
32 Matsuya-cho Gojo-dori Karasuma-Higashiiru
Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto 600 8105, Japan

Tel: (81-75) 352 8900
Fax: (81-75) 352 8901
Email: enquiry.kyoto@the-ascott.com


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