We took a stopping train to Osaka, but even so it took less than an hour. Since budget accommodation can be hard to find in Kyoto, some tourists stay in Osaka and commute, but that way I think you risk just visiting a selection of Sights and miss out on getting a real feel of Kyoto.
The subway took us right to our hotel, a member of the Toyoko Inn chain, in Osaka’s Tanimachi district. I think Toyoko Inn are aiming for world domination: there are 15 Toyoko Inns in Osaka alone. They seem to have hit on a successful formula of small but comfortable rooms equipped with fridges, kettles and wifi, a simple breakfast, and facilities you don’t find in hotels like Travelodge in the UK; coin operated washers and dryers, vending machines for hot and cold drinks (including beer and chuhai, a kind of fruity alcopop), and a microwave so you can reheat your 7-11 ready meal. They’re great for budget travellers as long ad you don’t opt for one with a ‘small double’ bed and expect it to comfortably accommodate two average sized westerners. Luckily we’d gone for twin beds.
One of the few disadvantages of a Toyoko Inn is their rigid 4pm check in, so we left our luggage in reception and went to explore the neighbourhood. It appeared to be primarily a business district – lots of eating places and convenience stores, but no other shops. Even a can of hot coffee from the hotel’s vending machine couldn’t re-energize me, so when we did finally get into our room I just collapsed on the bed and slept for a couple of hours.
The restaurant we picked for dinner had no name in English, but its menu had plenty of fishy items for Mr Vagabond to chose from. The waitress immediately brought a snack of pickled vegetables, beans and seaweed, so we guessed there’d he a cover charge (very common in Japanese restaurants). Mr V had to work around the bits of bacon in the “seafood” fried noodles, but they were very tasty, as was the crispy squid tempura with a hot broth/sauce, and blowtorch-seared tuna, all washed down with unlimited iced green tea. The bill came to ¥3200 (including 2 x ¥420 cover charge) which was a bit of a shock compared with the amount we had been spending in our self catering accommodation, but actually £17 was pretty reasonable for a meal of that quality. It was just a shame we couldn’t eat like that more often