Seeking feedback on our 3-week Japan itinerary, 21 Sept-11 Oct 2013.
OK, I've spent a loooong time reviewing other posts and trip reports, as well as several guidebooks and websites, and finally have a draft itinerary ready for feedback - thanks in advance! As some background - we currently live in Bangkok and have traveled throughout Asia, but this is our first trip to Japan. Generally we don’t like to pack too many places into our trip; we’d prefer 3 home bases with time to wander and explore. We also try to include at least one smaller town where we can relax a bit. Highlights for us include ethnographic museums, local crafts, flea markets, exploring backstreets and old neighborhoods. Hubby also enjoys anything technical – science/technical/transportation museums, factory tours, etc., though he also likes visiting gardens, local culture, etc. We prefer to leave time each day to wander a bit. Although we are very active, a knee injury makes hiking/climbing and too much walking a problem, so we need to plan some breaks.
Our draft itinerary limits our stays to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Kanazawa, with some day-trips added in. I’d love your feedback - there is just so much to see that it’s hard to prioritize. (Note that the specific sights for each day are still TBD...I just wanted to pencil some ideas in now to be sure I can fit in the sights we most want to see).
Day 1 (Sat 21 Sep) – Arrive in Tokyo.
Day 2 (Sun 22 Sep) – Tokyo
Hope to book a full-day tour w/ Chris Rowthorn to give us an introduction to the city. Tour includes Shinjuku, Harajuku (seeing this area on a Sunday is one of our priorities), Meiji Shrine, and Shibuya.
Day 3 (Mon 23 Sep) – Tokyo
Central Tokyo – Tsukiji Fish Market, Imperial Palace and Garden, Ginza.
Day 4 (Tue 24 Sep) – Tokyo
Akihabara (definitely want to see the anime/manga area, bookstores) and the Edo Museum, which I think will be a highlight for us.
Day 5 (Wed 25 Sep) – Tokyo
Ueno Park and museums, Yanasen area, Yanaka neighborhood.
Day 6 (Thu 26 Sep) – Tokyo
Wander the Asakusa area. Visit the Sky Tree.
Take a Kojo Moe night factory tour in Yokohama or Kawasaki. (Buses leave from Tokyo).
Day 7 (Fri 27 Sep) – Tokyo
Museum of Emerging Science (take the elevated train to Odaiba for this). Visit the Toyota History Garage?
Day 8 (Sat 28 Sep) – Tokyo – Day trip to Nikko
((Other activities to try to fit in someplace for Tokyo – kabuki, sumo, visit the motorcycle street near Ueno, kite museum. Still trying to find an English-language motorcycle factory tour somewhere in Japan, not having much luck.))
Day 9 (Sun 29 Sep) – Travel from Tokyo to Kanazawa via train
Day 10 (Mon 30 Sep) – Kanazawa
Haven’t made specific plans yet – but we want a few days to relax in a smaller city and see the sights at a slower pace. Want to see Kenroku-en and Gyokusen Gardens, the Ninja Temple, etc. Perhaps stay in a ryokan.
Day 11 (Tue 01 Oct) – Kanazawa
Day 12 (Wed 02 Oct) – Kanazawa
Day 13 (Thu 03 Oct) – Kanazawa – Day trip to Shirakawa-go
Day 14 (Fri 04 Oct) – Travel from Kanazawa to Kyoto by train
TBD depending on arrival time.
Day 15 (Sat 05 Oct) – Kyoto
Philosopher’s Path (Ginkaku-ji, Nanzen-ji, etc.)
Day 16 (Sun 06 Oct) – Kyoto
Central Kyoto – Imperial Palace Park, Nijo-jo Castle, Nijo Jinya.
Day 17 (Mon 07 Oct) – Kyoto
Eastern Kyoto – Higashiyama, Gion. Museum of Traditional Crafts, Kyoto National Museum.
Day 18 (Tue 08 Oct) – Kyoto
Fushimi-Inari-Taisha? Not sure if it would be too much hiking for hubby. Any feedback on how much walking, how steep, etc?
Day 19 (Wed 09 Oct) – Kyoto? - TBD
Day 20 (Thu 10 Oct) – Kyoto? - TBD
Day 21 (Fri 11 Oct) – Depart Kyoto, return to Bangkok
So, my primary question is re: the overall itinerary. I feel pretty confident that we'll fill all our days in Tokyo, but am not as sure about the rest of the trip. Although Kyoto looks beautiful, I worry a bit about "temple fatigue," and some of the sights outside Kyoto seem a bit tricky to get to (we're prepared to get lost quite a bit in Japan's train/bus/subway system, but after 3 weeks, that might get tiring). Do we have too many days planned for Kyoto? While we'd prefer not to stay in too many different places, we're open to adding one more place and shortening the Kyoto stay if recommended. Note that we've opted not to visit Hiroshima, and if we add a stop, I'd probably want it to be in the general vicinity of our existing stops, vs someplace much further away.
Hotels - While we're not usually budget or high end travelers (4 star hotels generally, with a splurge here and there), I'm a little overwhelmed by the hotel prices in Japan, especially when I realize we'll be there for 20 nights. Priorities for us are a clean and quiet place (hubby is a very light sleeper), and one that is close to the sights or whatever form of public transportation we'll be using most often. Oh, and we want a private bathroom. We'd like to stay in the lower end of the $100-$200 range if possible, but that seems tough. So far we're looking at apartment rentals in Tokyo, as the prices seem more reasonable and the reviews better than for hotels at that price range; most seem to be in the Shibuya area. But I haven't had much luck finding a place in Kyoto yet, though I'm checking recommendations from other posts, like the Granvia, Comfort Inn, Dormy Inn, Toyoko, etc. We'd like to stay at least a few nights in a nice ryokan, but haven't decided whether to do that in Kanazawa or splurge on one night in a really nice one in Kyoto - any suggestions?
Thanks in advance for your suggestions! Once we have the basic itinerary and the lodging nailed down, then I can move on to the other details, but I first want to make sure I have a good framework in place - thanks so much for your feedback!
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Seeking feedback on our 3-week Japan itinerary, 21 Sept-11 Oct 2013.