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My first-time trip to Japan - Itinerary help

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Hi there,

I am going to Japan in May 2016. My trip should last 17 days (16 nights).
Day 1 (Thursday) arrival in Tokyo - Narita
Days 2 - 5 Tokio: 2 two full days for Tokyo, two side trips from 3 possibilities: to Nikko or Kamakura or Hakone / Mt. Fuji
Day 6: Takayama
Days 7 - 8: Kanazawa
Days 9 - 12: Kyoto with a side trip to Nara
Day 13: Kyoto to Mount Koya
Day 14: Koyasan (Mount Koya) and travel to Hiroshima
Day 15: Hiroshima - a day trip to Miyajima
Day 16: Hiroshima - Peace Park and travel to Tokyo-Narita
Day 17: leaving Japan in early morning from Narita

Please is this itinerary doable? For side trips from Tokyo (Nikko, Kamakura and Hakone) which are the better and which is to be omitted?
Any recommendations?

Thank you in advance.

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    I haven't determined whether this itinerary is actually do-able or not, but I can say, quite unequivocally, that it is FAR too rushed for my tastes. I found 6 days for Kyoto and Nara too short, and I think Takayama and Kanazawa (as a pair) best seen with 5 days between them.

    That said, it isn't my trip, and only you can decide what will work for you. I recommend that you spend a LOT of time with japan-guide.com , get some good guidebooks (or spend some time with a few in your local library), identify the things you most want to see in each location, note their opening/closing times (and check them on line to be sure you have current info), and mark them on a calendar. Pencil in your transportation (which you can plan using hyperdia.com ), add some time on either side (for getting to/from your lodging, checking in/out, packing/unpacking, getting oriented, etc.). Then see how things fit together.

    Do you already have your tickets? if not, consider flying into Tokyo (Narita or Haneda) and out of Osaka (Itami or Kansai) or vice versa.

    Re: Koya-san: My understanding is that one’s selection of a temple can make a huge difference to one’s enjoyment of Koya-san. I enjoyed Shojoshin-in, which still gets great reviews:
    https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ryokan-single/?ryokan=Shojoshin-in
    While on Koya-san, do not miss a dusk or dawn (or both) walk through Okuno-in:
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4901.html

    "day trip to Miyajima"

    I was glad I sent the night on Miyajima rather than in Hiroshima; you'll have to decide if that interests you and whether it fits your timing. FWIW, (a) I wanted to see Itsukushima's floating torii at both high and low tide, which is easiest to do if staying on the island, (b) I wanted to hike a bit and take in the magnificent views from the top of Mt. Misan, (c) I wanted to be in a very peaceful and relaxing place the evening after my visit to Hiroshima, and (d) the most affordable ryokan I located along my itinerary was in Miyajima, Momiji-so:
    https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ryokan-single/?ryokan=Momijiso

    "For side trips from Tokyo (Nikko, Kamakura and Hakone) which are the better and which is to be omitted?"

    Your interests, your call!
    - Kamakura is an easy day trip from Tokyo. Much as I loved my time there, and especially seeing the Daibutsu in his outdoor setting, I suspect what you will see in Kamakura is more similar to what you will see elsewhere than either Nikko or Hakone.
    - Nikko is often visited as a day trip, but I was glad to spend an overnight there so I also had time for Kegon-no-Taki and Lake Chuzenji. Nikko does, however, hove temples that are in a style you are unlikely to see elsewhere and the setting is lovely.
    - Hakone is quite different, being best known for its scenery and hot springs. I don't typically think of Hakone as a day-trip destination, but that could be just me.
    Many good reasons to visit any of them; whether it makes sense to fit one or more into a very rushed itinerary is up to you.

    "I am going to Japan in May 2016."

    I also traveled in May, and enjoyed it -- azalea and iris were blooming, along with other things, in most of the places I visited. There are also some events in May that you might want to consider, most notably the Aoi Festival in Kyoto:
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3948.html
    and especially the delightful Kamogawa Odori, also in Kyoto:
    http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/visitkyoto/en/info_required/traditional/kyoto_city/22/

    Hope that helps!

  • Report Abuse

    You seem to have forgotten that it takes time to get from place to place, so you have overestimated how much time you have in each place. For instance, you say days 2-5 for Tokyo, but then on Day 6 you are suddenly in Takayama and on Day 7 you are suddenly in Kanazawa. The Japanese rail system is efficient, but it will still take a minimum of half a day to get from one place to another - figure from when you check out of your hotel in one city until you are checked in in the next city. To get one full day of sightseeing in a place, you need to stay two nights. If you have 16 nights, you have 15 full days in Japan... you really can't count arrival and departure days.

    Lay out your plan on a calendar, showing travel times as well as it will give you a more realistic picture of what you can do. I think you will need to cut a couple of destinations and probably eliminate a few day trips to make this an enjoyable trip. We were in Japan for a similar amount of time on our first trip: 4 nights in Tokyo, 3 nights in Kanazawa, 6 nights in Kyoto and two nights in Hakone.

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    Completely agree with Kathie's perspective. I also had 17 days in Japan, and my actual itinerary ended up something like this:

    Day 1: Arrive Tokyo from Minneapolis late afternoon
    Days 2-4: Tokyo
    Days 5-6: travel to and tour through Hakone
    Days 7-8: travel to Matsumoto. Visit the castle and walk around the town. Check into my ryokan. Spend the next day in Kamikochi.
    Days 9-12: Travel from Matsumoto to Kyoto and cram everything I could into 3 1/2 days. At least 2 days too short.
    Day 13: Travel to and tour Hiroshima
    Day 14: Ferry to Miyajima and spend all day and night on Miyajima
    Day 15: Ferry from Miyajima to Hiroshima. Shinkansen to Tokyo arriving early evening.
    Day 16: Ended up going BACK to Hakone as a day trip as the weather was clear, my photos of Mt. Fuji from the shinkansen got accidentally deleted and there was no way in hell I wasn't going to see Fuji-san on a glorioiusly clear fall day. :)
    Day 17: Fly home from Tokyo to Minneapolis

    You definitely need to consider travel time. I would encourage you to be back in Tokyo 2 days before your flight (i.e. you have your last full day in Tokyo) to allow for any unforseen travel disaster. Pull that day from early in your trip if need be. Also, if you can stay over the night in Hakone, that increases your odds of having one beautiful weather day to see Fuji-san. (a highlight of my life, truly.) And finally, where possible, add time to Kyoto. You might want to consider skipping Nara on this trip and use that extra time for Kyoto.

    There, I'm finished. :)

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