June 19, 2015
by Chinami Aizawa
If you ever travel to Kyoto and are in need of good information about Kyoto, then the Kyoto Tourist Information Center (Kyoto Sougou Kanko Annaisho) is the place to go. Nicknamed “Kyo Navi”, the center is located on the second floor of the JR Kyoto Station building, near the department story named JR Kyoto Isetan. The center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. all year round.
Many people – not only foreign travelers, but also visiting Japanese – use Kyo Navi to ask some questions related to sightseeing in Kyoto, such as how to get the place you want to go, how to buy a ticket, recommend places to go, and so on. Visitors can also get information on business and family hotels, Ryokan (a traditional Japanese style hotel) and transportation routes. Moreover, Kyo Navi offers many free pamphlets of various tourist spots in Kyoto.
All staff can speak both English and Japanese, while many others can speak Chinese and Korean. There are even a few who can speak Thai or French, but they are not always there. are there, not every time though.
I interviewed staff members at Kyo Navi, and they gave me some interesting answers.
Q. On average, how many people visit Kyo Navi?
A. About 1,000 people per a day visit the center. In the past, only about 20% of visitors were from foreign countries. This has changed recently, however. Now, about half of people who visit us are from foreign countries, such as USA, England, China, Korea and so on. We are busy helping visitors every day and at every time. But, if you come here in the morning (before noon), you probably won’t have to wait to talk with us.
Q. What are the most frequently asked questions by visitors?
A. Well, many people ask us the way to get to the hotel that they have booked. It’s a bit complicated to take busses, trains and taxis in Kyoto, so if you know the name of hotel or the address, we can show you the best way to get there. Also, many people ask us about ATM and foreign exchange.
Q. Have you ever been asked some interesting questions?
A. Yes, we have. Some people ask us about geisha and maiko, which are traditional Japanese female entertainers in Kyoto. They wear beautiful kimono and have white faces with lots of makeup. I think most people have seen geisha and maiko before on the internet, TV or in magazines. So many visitors think it’s easy to find geisha and maiko in Kyoto. However, it’s not as easy as they think, but instead rather hard to meet them. Nevertheless, we try to tell people the best way to see them.
As you can see, the staff at Kyo Navi can teach visitors many things about Kyoto. Moreover, if visitors want to explore regions outside of Kyoto, like Nara, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Takayama, the staff can also make recommendations on the best way to get to those places and what to do while they are there.
There are so many people from other countries sightseeing in Kyoto. There are a lot of English signs in Kyoto, but not enough. So before you get lost or worried, make sure you visit Kyo-Navi at least once.