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Japan August 2016 Basics

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Hello Fodorites!

My husband and I finally booked our dream beach house for a wonderful So Cal summer with the kids. No, I'm not on the wrong topic. They are teenagers. The plan was met with ... Well ... A total lack of enthusiasm? When asked what my graduating senior had in mind, he said "Japan." Well of course! It's actually not that far out of left field because we are pretty seasoned travelers - just never been to Asia. But I'll gladly plunk down that $6k towards an educational trip any day.

Our dates are easy. Between all of our jobs, summer school, sports and college move in day only 7/31-8/14 works so those dates are firm.

I started by pricing airfare from SFO for five. Holy Cow. I re-pitched Newport Beach and added in the New Harry Potter rides at Universal Studios and was told they have an even better Universal Studios in Osaka.

So I found a Groupon and booked with a travel agency. We are independent travelers but I found a package for $1500 each with great nonstop flights, transfers, some meals, one tour and a Tokyo hotel. So that's our first six nights.

I am not ready to pick exactly what sites we want to see but I could sure use some help roughing out the plan to book hotels.

I figure we will have plenty of time in Tokyo and can do day trips to Hakone, Nikko? and/or Kamakurra. I read many sample itineraries from Japan-Guide, this site and Frommers. I don't need to really tailor to kids - I get tired before they do. And yes, they can handle Hiroshima. We did concentration camps last year.

After Tokyo, I am wondering about a one week JR pass (comes to $1320) to get to Kyoto. In Kyoto, I have spg points and we can stay at the Westin on points, for 5 nights (the 5th night is free so no point in staying 4). From Kyoto, it sounds like we can see Nara and Kobe?

Working backwards, since we have to fly home from Toyko, our final night will be in Tokyo at a free Sheraton near the train station.

So that leaves two additional nights...???

So far, some of the things I see in the itineraries that interest us are:
1. When we leave Tokyo, taking the train/bus to Magome and walking the Nakasendo Highway. Will the luggage service take our bags to Kyoto? Would he need an inn for one night prior to Kyoto? Is August too hot and humid for that plan?
2. One tour company goes to Takayama and Kagaosen (sp? The hotel is Kasulkyo Ryokan, Kagu) after Tokyo before Kyoto. What is the draw of these destinations?
3. We love monkeys. One itinerary had a refuge visit from Beppu. I don't think Beppu is going to make the list. Other refuges that make sense or are they only cute in the snow?
4. Views on the Sagano Romantic Train. Cost? Time commitment? Worth it?

As for those last 2 available nights, if we go straight to Kyoto after Tokyo, we can spend them in Hiroshima or Osaka. So, it's a 13 night trip. Nights 1-5 Tokyo, Nights 6-10 Kyoto, Nights 11-12 ? Osaka (aquarium, Universal Sutdios) or Hiroshima - Dare we split them?; Night 13 end in Tokyo.

Thank you in advance experienced travelers. We are all very excited about this trip! I don't think the whole seafood thing has occurred to the kids just yet but fine with me if they eat Ramen and rice all week.

Jill

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