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Advice on a 12-Day Japan itinerary

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Hi All,

My husband and I are heading to Japan for the first time in October. I’ve been doing a ton of research, we’ve finally settled on a tentative itinerary but we’re still unsure about a few things and I’d love any advice you’ve got.

We only have 12 days & we want to make the most of them! Our major interests are: Great food and drinks: exploring regional foods, street food, nice food, weird food- you name it. Seeing and experiencing as many beautiful and unusual sights as we can, staying in a beautiful old ryokan with an excellent rotenboro (and hopefully a view!), and a little hiking.

We don’t plan to rent a car so we settled on the the 7-day JR Pass which seems like the best option for our route. Sadly, we don’t speak or read Japanese - although we’re practicing the basics so we’ll at least be able to try!

Here’s what we’ve come up with:
14th: Arrive in Japan at Narita 9PM & head to our Airbnb in Shimokitazawa.
15th: Tokyo
16th: Tokyo
17th: Tokyo → Hoshi Onsen Chojukan in Gunma for an overnight trip (1 night) Rest, hike, onsen.
18th: Hoshi Onsen → Tokyo: Stay in a more central neighborhood for a night, more exploring and eating.
19th: Tokyo → Gero Onsen, then bus to Maze for a night at Maruhachi Ryokan
20th: Maze → Okuhida Onsen, stay in a ryokan with rotenboro (Maybe?)
21st: Takayama, explore the city, sleep in hostel or guesthouse in Takayama.
22nd: Takayama→ Kanazawa. Explore Kanazawa
23rd: Kanazawa → Kyoto
24th: Kyoto
25th: Kyoto
26th: Kyoto
27th: Osaka
28th: Osaka→ Home.

My only worries about this route is that it’s too urban. We were hoping to see some more rural parts of the country, but with limited time and no car we’re playing it a little safe - we don’t want to end up feeling rushed by trying to pack too much into a short trip.

Still on the safe side but a little more rural - we’re also considering a different route for the middle of our itinerary which would be:
Tokyo → Kiso Valley Explore Kiso Valley 19, 20th.
Kiso Valley → Gero/Maze for Maruhachi Ryokan
Gero → Nagoya, Nagoya → Kyoto.

Any advice about the route (we’re totally open to suggestions!) or japan in general you have would be hugely appreciated!!

Thanks a ton!

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