Kyōtango (京丹後市) is a city in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. It was formed on April 1, 2004 by the merger of several different towns. Technically the population is 55,054 (as of 2015) but these numbers are spread out over a large area. The city consists of the following towns, each with their own respective Municipal AET placements (only 1 per town).
In addition, there are currently 2 Prefectural AET placements, with living accommodations in Mineyama. All JETs residing in Kyōtango need cars due to having multiple schools that are widely spread out. It's also quite inaka and isolated from the rest of the prefecture thanks to the mountains.
The towns are fairly straight-forward, although there is the odd border here and there, which the exception of Tango. The town of Tango is very spread out, and consists of two areas that are, for all intents and purposes, separate villages. The first is Taiza, where the Tango AET lives, and Ukawa, which is further north. Both of these villages are part of the town of Tango, but the residents all say they live in Taiza or Ukawa, never Tango.
Amino is the largest town by population, but Mineyama and Omiya are the central areas, with Mineyama as the seat for the Kyotango City Hall.
There is an X-band radar station operated by U.S. Forces Japan in Tango. There are many foreign contractors working in conjunction with the base, many of whom live in a suburb of Amino, but there are people scattered all over the area that work there as well.
From Tokyo Orientation, you will meet with the Kyoto Prefecture group and take the shinkansen together, into Kyoto-shi. Make sure you buy a bento and drinks before getting on the train. It's a good idea to wear comfortable shoes from the Keio Plaza Hotel, since you'll be walking a lot and switching trains. Once on the shinkansen, you can change into your proper business attire and shoes.
Shortly after arriving at Kyoto Station, you will meet your supervisor and part ways with the group. You will most likely be riding in a car with your supervisor, and it can be a pretty long drive. Bring something to read or do for the ride during those awkward moments, but also be sure to make small talk with your supervisor and get to know them. You may get lucky and have a veteran AET riding in the car as well.
- By Car: This will be your main method of transportation. As Kyōtango City AETs, we have many schools to work at, so having a car is essential. The city of Kyōtango is very spread out, and the train services are quite limited. Unfortunately, the BOE does not provide us cars, or contribute funds for the purchase or rental of one. You have 3 options of obtaining a car:
- Renting: Most AETs rent from Wataki Motors in Toyooka. It's the easiest method, as they speak English and take care of all the difficult stuff for you, like insurance, shakken (annual check), snow tires (definitely need those), and more. This is also probably the most expensive way to go, although it removes the need for self-maintenance completely.
- Inheriting: If your predecessor owned a car themselves, they may fancy selling it to you. However, it will be up to you to take care of insurance, shakken, snow tires, etc. This is definitely a cheaper method due to the high costs of renting, even with shakken, although it can be difficult to manage this without proficiency in Japanese.
- Buying: Perhaps the most difficult option, but also another inexpensive alternative to renting. You or someone with you will need strong skills in reading and speaking Japanese to negotiate a sale. As with inheriting a car, everything is up to you, but the car is YOURS.
- By Train: Depending on where you are placed in Kyōtango, you may have access to a train station. The area is serviced by the Tantetsu Kyoto Tango Railway which is run by Willer Trains. The trains aren't the most convenient method of transportation, as they don't run frequently, and the last trains leave quite early. However, they are still useful and fairly simple to navigate, even with limited Japanese skills.
- By Bus: Kyōtango City does have bus service, although honestly we never really use it because we have the convenience of our own cars, friends with cars, and the train if all else fails. The buses do have more frequent service than the trains, though. You can find more information about fares and schedules here, although it's all in Japanese.
- By Bicycle: The Tango area in general is quite beautiful and scenic for riding bicycles. Just be cautious of winding roads with deep gutters!
Municipal AETs of Kyōtango City are employed by the Board of Education. Like everyone else on the JET Programme, contracts are renewed on an annual basis. The official AET supervisor works at the BOE, but our direct supervisor is the Kyoto-sensei at our base schools. Typically, Kyōtango AETs report to their base school during student vacations and breaks, unless they are closed, in which case the BOE is our place of work. At this time, the BOE does not provide subsidies for housing or transportation.
Prefectural AETs are employed by the Kyoto Prefectural Board of Education, based in Kyoto City. Contracts are renewed on an annual basis. Prefectural AETs have one supervisor who is the Vice Principal at their base school. In addition to this, Prefectural AETs have a Daily Supervisor at each school they work at who will, in almost every case, be a member of the English department. Like the Municipal AETs, Prefecturals will report to their base school during student vacations and breaks, although it is possible that visit schools will ask them to attend sporadically for club meetings and events during this time. Transport costs are subsidized by the Prefectural AET's base school, although housing is not.
People will tell you that it snows a lot in the winter, and you should be prepared appropriately. However, for the last two years, there hasn't been too much single-time accumulation. Winter 2016-2017 has seen more snow than previous years, but still not too much at any one time.
During the spring, Kyotango is a beautiful place for hanami.
Summer is hot, and very humid. If you're in Amino, Tango, or Kumihama, you'll have a breeze off the ocean to help, but not by much.
As the leaves change in November, Kyotango becomes a multicolored wonder to behold.
Finding restaurants in Kyōtango may seem somewhat daunting, but there are many great places to eat in the area. Some of these have obvious locations, while others are hidden gems known only to the locals.
- Ma Maison
- Little White Flower (hotel with restaurant)
- Kaki no Ki
- Beach Thai Restaurant
- Bay Cook
- Kumihama Rest Inn
- Reception Garden
- Tomato & Onion
- Yakiniku Moto Dojo
- Rairaitei Ramen
- Fufutei Ramen
- Marugame Udon
- Ajiwaino Sato
- There is a chain of grocery stores called Nishigaki that service northern Kyoto Prefecture, as well as stretch into northeastern Hyogo prefecture.
- In Omiya, there is a store called Itotome that carries a lot of specialty goods not found in normal grocery stores. A must-go for homesick foreigners, but very pricy.
- There are several Fresh Bazaar supermarkets in Kyotango. National chain.
- There is a Gyomu Super in Mineyama, near the police station, that carries bulk, frozen, and foreign foods for low prices.
- There are an abundance of FamilyMarts, Lawson Stations, and Yamazaki Shops.
- Toyooka: If you're in the Kumihama placement, lucky you. This is the closest city of a decent size, located in Hyogo Prefecture, and it's even larger and more convenient than the main part of Kyōtango. Most ALTs rent their cars from an English-speaking dealership here. You can also find 2 shopping malls, many grocery stores and restaurants, parks, a large fitness/recreation center, and more. There is also a larger train station (for the area, anyway) with limited express services to larger cities. They have a thriving JET community as well, and their city hall seems to be more on the ball with English resources, such as Japanese classes and community events.
- Kyoto: This is the capital city of Kyoto-fu, and basically where people think you are placed when you tell them you live in Kyoto (ahhh, if only). All major JET meetings, training seminars, etc. happen here, even though it's the least convenient location for us. It's approximately 2.5-3 hours away by car, train, or a combination of both.