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Itinerary set: Now some logistical questions on first time trip to Japan

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Hi Fodorites,

I have been reading your posts and trip reports for the last few months, and taken advantage of the great advice and fantastic links you have provided, such as www.japan-guide.com and www.hyperdia.com. I now have an itinerary set, and flights and hotels booked, and would be thrilled to get any feedback that you might have to make this trip more time or cost effective. I'm not looking to make wholesale changes to the entire trip, but just some possible tweeks or advice to help it go as smoothly as possible, or suggestions to make it more enjoyable. Here is what I have come up with:

Days 1 - 4: Tokyo - 4 nights at the Capitol Hotel Tokyu - arriving May 14 at 5am. Plan to spend three full days exploring Tokyo, not including a day trip to Nikko, probably on the third day. For Nikko will take the 8:08 train from Tokyo Station to arrive two hours later, and the17:07 to return. Both legs have a Shinkansen and a JR train.

Day 5: Take the 9:33 train from Tokyo Station to Gora, arriving at 11:19 to visit Hakone. Grab some lunch and do the rope-way, boat, bus circuit. Spend the night at Gora Hanaougi Sounkaku Ryokan and enjoy the onsen that night.

Day 6: Explore the Hakone open air museum in the morning. Take the 12:08 train from Gora to Matsumoto to arrive at 16:26. Coming primarily to see the castle, which we can see in the morning. Spend night at Matsumoto Marunouchi Hotel.

Day 7: See Matsumoto Castle in the morning. Take the 14:05 bus from Matsumoto to Takayama to arrive at 16:25. Staying at the Hida Plaza Hotel for two nights. Explore Town at night.

Day 8: Take one hour bus to Shirakawa-go. Spend about 3 hours exploring. Take bus back to arrive about 15:00. Explore Takayama. QUESTIONS: would it be redundant to also go to the Hida Folk Village in Takayama? Is the experience similar enough to Shirakawa-go that we should do that instead, so as to be able to spend more time in Takayama? I realize this is up to personal preference, but am interested in your opinions.

Day 9: Depart Takayma at 9:37, arriving at Koyasan at 15:51. I realize this is a long travel day, but for various reasons, this is where we landed. Spend the night at Shojoshin-in in order to see the cemetary at night and in the morning.

Day 10: Depart Koyasan at 12:48 for Kyoto, arriving at 15:09. Spend 4 nights at the Hotel Mume in Gion.

Days 11 - 14: Explore Kyoto, with possible day trip to Nara. I realize we could double our time and still not see it all, but will work with what we've got. Depart Osaka ITA at 2:30pm for flight home.

Questions:

With this plan would it make sense to get a one week JR pass? If so, when to activate it? It seems to me it could be used for Nikko, but if there is a day pass for that, I could wait until we leave Hakone to activate it. I believe we could buy a day pass to get us to Hakone as well. Let me know if you have suggestions.

Can I buy all of my train tickets for the entire trip at one train station in Toyko? How about from a travel agent?

We will be on trains often during lunch. Will it be difficult to find a place to buy a bento box or other train friendly food prior to boarding?

We plan to send luggage ahead from Toyko to Takayama, and go with an overnight bag to Hakone and Matsumoto. Then to send it ahead from Takayama to Kyoto, and take a day bag to Koyasan. Any better suggestions?

I'm a bit concerned about making the many connections going from Shin-Osaka to Namba Station on our way to Koyasan. I see three changes, involving subways, with a 4 minute and a 7 mintue walk and not a lot of room for error. Is this as complicated as it appears? Any tips? Would it be easier/faster/less prone for error if we took a taxi between the two stations?

Thank you in advance for your help. Your wealth of information is invaluable. Although my questions have been primarily about transporation, please feel free to provide any other info which you think might be useful, even if I didn't ask about it specifically.

Thanks again!

Russ

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