I know there are lots of these threads, but I thought I still might appeal to the board participants' helpful natures.
I am 40-ish, male, and will be traveling solo. I studied Japanese in school, but have never been to Japan - my Japanese is poor and rusty but not non-existent. I fly into Narita in the evening of Monday, May 19 and fly out of Osaka (KIX) late in the evening of May 31. If I am counting correctly, this essentially gives me 11.5 days on the ground.
My current thoughts run as follows:
1. I am traveling solo, but I would like to return in the near future with my wife. Knowing her, she would probably be less interested in Tokyo and more interested in Kyoto, Nara, and the Japanese Alps. Because of this, I am content to focus a little more time in Tokyo than I would otherwise.
2. I happen to be arriving when the sumo tournament is going on in Tokyo. It seems like to good an opportunity to miss - especially since I am not sure I could drag my wife there.
3. I am interested in both the "modern" and the "traditional" Japan, but especially in how they overlay each other.
4. I am not much of a nightlife person, but I could certainly enjoy a walk to see the spectacle. One of my favorite activities in cities in general is finding an interesting neighborhood and strolling it, hanging out and getting a "feel" for it. I enjoy light hiking and strolls, but am not really looking for anything serious.
5. I only have 12 days and I am not interested in spending it all on trains and buses. That being said, I do want to get a little outside of Tokyo and Kyoto.
So, putting this all together, here is what I am currently thinking (Day 1 would be May 20, the day after I fly in):
Days 1-5: Tokyo
Day 6: Tokyo. Evening Train to Matsumoto. (Matsumoto)
Day 7: See the castle, poke around Matsumoto a bit, late afternoon train to Magome (Magome)
Day 8: Walk the Nakasendo to Tsumago. Afternoon train to Kyoto. (Kyoto)
Days 9-11: Kyoto. (Kyoto)
Day 12: Morning in Kyoto, Afternoon in Osaka. (Flight out of Osaka ~22:00)
I know this is pretty generic as a first-time trip and it might seem a bit "Tokyo-heavy", but I figure that I will start jet-lagged (and I seem to get hit pretty hard by jet-lag when traveling west) and that future trips are likely to be "Tokyo-light." I wanted to fit in an overnight in Koyasan (my last night seems to be the obvious choice for this) and I still might.
I am considering a day trip to Nikko while in Tokyo, but I am likely to wait until I am on the ground and see how I feel (and how the weather is) first.
After checking on Hyperdia, it seems obvious that a JR Pass is not helpful here.
If anyone has any advice or comments, I would be more than happy to hear them.
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