Looking for some advice on a February trip to Japan for my fiancé and I who are both in our early 30's, active, love a good adventure, the outdoors, food, and local culture. He's a bit more into museums and history than I am, but we both really love nature and eating. I wish we were in Japan longer, but with the limited time we'd like to make the most of it and we were also thinking of eloping while we are there. We've been together nearly 10 years and neither of us is into weddings and are sort of tired of hearing the whole "when are you getting married..." spiel. Japan has so many beautiful temples, scenery, might be a beautiful backdrop for a quick private ceremony for the two of us. Obviously this isn't a wedding forum, but if anyone has ideas on places please share!
Also, I have been to Japan for work (Nagoya and Tokyo) but didn't get to experience much and this is my fiancé's first time.
Now onto the actual trip planning:
Our flights are already booked - in/out of NRT. We have 4 nights reserved in Tokyo at the end of our trip centered around running the Tokyo Marathon if we can get in. This portion of the trip can't be changed, but the remaining portion is flexible other than starting out from NRT.
Here are my current thoughts:
Day 1 - Arrive in NRT @ 3:45pm, activate 7-day JR Pass and take the train to Osaka. Check into the Hilton Osaka.
Day 2 - Leave luggage at Hilton. Buy Koyasan World Heritage ticket and train to Mt. Koya, stay at Fudoin Temple or similar overnight.
Day 3 - Spend day in Mt. Koya then return to Osaka in the evening to eat some good food (recommendations?). Return to Hilton to overnight.
Day 4 - Head for Kyoto after breakfast. Check into the Westin and explore Kyoto.
Day 5 - Kyoto (maybe quick elopement)
Day 6 - Kyoto
Day 7 - Head for Hakone after breakfast. Use JR pass to Odawara. Buy Hakone Free pass? Stay at Hyatt with points or cheap hotel. Would love to stay at a nice Ryokan for two nights but can't really afford it.
Day 8 - Explore Hakone. Check into a nice Ryokan. Trying to get into Ginyu but was told it is probably all booked but they are checking. Want to stay somewhere with really good food and a private onsen as I don't think I could relax in a public one.
Day 9 - Head to Tokyo after breakfast
Day 10 - Tokyo, hopefully for the marathon
Day 11 - Tokyo
Day 12 - Tokyo
Day 13 - Leave Tokyo at 7:00pm
Now looking at the itinerary it looks a little hectic with all the hotel changes/travel time. So my questions are:
Should I stay in Mt. Koya or forgo that for a day trip to Nara instead? Staying in a Buddhist temple sounds like a unique experience (should this not be missed?), but will be worth it to add all that travel time. If I did that I would spend my first 2 nights in Osaka and then 4 nights in Kyoto.
Should I get the 7 day JR Pass or am I missing something? The NRT to Osaka to Kyoto to Odawara is pricing out at 28,540 rather than 28,300 so there's not a huge savings but I assume I can use it for some maybe shorter trips in the cities.
Would the Hakone free pass still be worth it if I just use it from Odawara and then have to buy a ticket to Shinjiku? My JR pass would have expired by then so can't take the Odawara train back to Tokyo with it.
Any ideas on Ryokan's if I can't get into Ginyu, which is most likely? I'm really looking for a private onsen with a place that has phenomenal food. I am budgeting around $600 usd for the night. The first day I plan to explore Hakone and then the second day really relax at the Ryokan and take advantage of the onsen. I'd love to stay 2 nights at the same Ryokan, but don't think that's within the budget with my criteria.
I'm also not fixed in the places I visit other than Tokyo and Kyoto so if it makes more sense with regards to traveling and maximizing time to pick other places I'm open for ideas. I do however want to stay in a ryokan with an onsen, travel to areas with some natural beautiful to soak in, and have some truly unique Japanese experiences.
All thoughts and suggestions are much appreciated! Sorry for the long post. Thanks in advance
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