Arrived in Kyoto today.
Met up with Lauren in the Narita airport (ended up being fairly easy to just wait in the bag claim area for her flight to get in). Went from the bag claim to the JR Rail Pass area (well, first we went to 2 ticket booths who very kindly pointed us to the correct area).
The lady at the Rail Pass station got us our passes very quickly and when we told her we were headed to Kyoto, she went ahead and printed us reservation tickets so that we wouldn't have to scramble for seats.
I have to say the Japan Rail system really does put all other trains to shame. Not only are the super clean, quiet, fast, and on time, but incredibly well organized. There are roman letters and numbers in addition to the kanji script, and the platforms are marked with the car numbers so that you know where to stand to wait for your car. I was a little worried that it would take us a while to figure out the train, and we might need more time to make the switch from one train to the next, but 15 minutes was more than enough time to navigate the train station (once yet another friendly resident pointed us in the right direction).
Our hotel, K's House Kyoto, has all kinds of handy area maps, including one with area restaurants that even lists the opperating hours of every place (very important when you're looking for somewhere to eat after 8pm, as many places are closed by 8 or 8:30). We ended up going to Manzo, a place a few blocks away that had tasty beef over rice and miso soup (for me) and tempura udon (for Lauren). Then back to the hotel, which requires guests to remove their shoes upon entering (but provides free lockers to store them in, and slippers for inside). Our room is very tiny with one double bed and a tiny bathroom with shower. Fairly all Japan hotel rooms are small, so we expected that, but everything else seems to be fairly nice. The shower works well, as does the AC (thankfully), and the staff is very helpful. There are also some neat common areas with tables, couches, and computers with internet set up. For $38 per night per person, it seems like a fairly good deal.
Tomorrow the touring begins... and there will be sushi!