My family and I started July 2 in Kawasaki, then traveled to Hiroshima and visited the Peace Memorial Park. The third and final stage of our long day of travel was returning to Kyoto and checking into a hotel.
From Hiroshima we took the shinkansen to Kyoto station. Yesterday I made an online reservation at the Dai-Ni Tower Hotel in Kyoto, which was described as “just in front of JR Kyoto station”. The only problem was that Kyoto station is HUGE. The station itself is Japan’s second largest station building. In addition to having train service on JR, private train companies, and Kyoto subway, the station also features a shopping mall, movie theatre, and government services. If you need to do anything other than sightseeing in Kyoto, chances are good that you can find it at Kyoto station.
We got off the train with our bags, and then tried to find an area map. The station was so huge that the map was not helpful at all. I decided it was time to test out my Japanese ability and ask for directions. I found a nearby station information booth, approached it and asked the friendly attendant how to find the Dai-Ni Tower hotel.
Asking “where is blabla” is one of the first things people learn in a new language. In Japanese, it is very simple: “blabla wa doko desu ka?”, where blabla is the person, place, or thing you wish to know the location of. The difficult part is understanding the answer.
The helpful attendant looked relieved that I could speak some Japanese, and then proceeded to give me 5 minutes of detailed instructions at high speed. I got him to repeat the instructions, and tried to follow along with language and hand gestures. The directions were as follows:
- Walk to the end of the station
- Turn left
- Walk half way through a bunch of restaurants and stores
- Turn left
- Walk half way down another long hallway
- Go down some stairs
- Walk underground for a while, taking a slight right
- Go up some stairs
- There’s the hotel
We did pretty well following the instructions until the last part. We left the underground area at the wrong exit, and ended up at the back of Kyoto station with no Dai-Ni Tower hotel in sight. After unsuccessfully trying to find an area map, I got my family to wait nearby with the luggage while I tried to find someone else to get directions from. After a search, I ended up learning that the hotel was very close to where my family was sitting.
I returned to find my sister in a hilarious conversation with some drunk businessmen. They were trying (very poorly) to flirt with her in English by talking about how her gaijin nose was so nice and their Japanese noses were very flat. She declined an offer to go for a drink, and we were on our way.
At the hotel we learned that the online reservation didn’t work, but the hotel quickly found us rooms at the online rate using excellent English. We got our room keys and rode a tiny elevator up to our rooms.
I can’t speak for people from other parts of the world, but North Americans are always shocked by the size of Japanese hotel rooms. My parents had their own room, and my sister and I shared a room. If we could have knocked out the wall between the two rooms it would have been about the size of a typical Canadian hotel room. It was small, but at least we found the f**king hotel.
(2014 Update) Despite our difficulty in finding it, I would recommend the Dai-Ni Tower Hotel. It is located close to the station, is clean, quiet, and reasonably priced. Look it up on your favourite map website first, or make good use of any mobile device with GPS. Also, travel light: the only thing less fun than being lost is being lost while transporting large bags. Travel light!