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1 month Japan itinerary - advice much appreciated!

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1 month Japan itinerary - advice much appreciated!

Old Sep 19th, 2015, 11:23 PM
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1 month Japan itinerary - advice much appreciated!

Hello! My husband and I are off to Japan for a month in March/early April next year. We've been trying to come up with an itinerary that lets us see a range of interesting places and things without trying to do too much. Having seen the helpful responses to others on this forum, I thought I'd pick your brains!
We are somewhat adventurous travellers in our mid-twenties. We enjoy independent travel. While we do enjoy seeing the big sights, some of our favourite travel memories have been when we've just been pottering around exploring places without a fixed idea of what we want to do. We both love food (from street food through to high-end). While we would like to see cosmopolitan Japan we'd also like to get off the (heavily) beaten track a little, and see some of the countryside/smaller towns. We are intending to travel via public transport (will likely buy a JR pass).

With that in mind...
Day 1 (7 March) - arrive Tokyo
5 nights in Tokyo (including day trip to Nara)
Day 6 - travel to Obuse to see the town and the nearby snow monkeys
2 nights in Obuse
Day 8 - travel to Takayama
3 nights in Takayama
Day 11 - travel to Gujo Hachiman
2 nights in Gujo Hachiman
Day 13 - travel to Kiso Valley for post town walk
2 nights staying in the post towns
Day 15 - travel to Hiroshima (including a couple of day trips)
Two nights in Hiroshima
Day 17 - travel to Tomonoura
1 night in Tomonoura
Day 18 - travel to Kyoto
3 nights in Kyoto
Day 21 - travel to Osaka
3 nights in Osaka
Day 24 - travel to Koyasan
1 night in Koyasan
Day 25 - travel to Nara
2 nights in Nara
Day 27 - back to Kyoto (this will be the start of April so hopefully we will see cherry blossom!)
2 nights in Kyoto
Depart either Tokyo or Osaka.

Any thoughts on destinations/timing much appreciated!
GingerKiwi is offline  
Old Sep 20th, 2015, 12:33 AM
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Yoshino in Nara Prefecture is one of Japans premier cherry blossom viewing locations, about 2 hours from Kyoto by train.

The Philosopher's Path in the Eastern hills of Kyoto is also a must do.

One month of travel in Japan, lucky you!

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4152.html
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Old Sep 20th, 2015, 01:05 AM
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Both of those places look beautiful, thank you for your suggestions!
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Old Sep 20th, 2015, 06:56 AM
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A couple of comments: Nara as a day trip from Tokyo doesn't make sense. Nara is often done as a day trip from Kyoto, but the train from Tokyo to Nara and return would take up most of your day. I'm guessing this is an error, and you planned to do a different day trip from Tokyo.

You have divided your Kyoto time - I'd put all of your Kyoto time together at the end of your trip. Dividing your time, IME, gives you less time in Kyoto to see/do/experience.

What a luxury to have a month for Japan! Have a wonderful trip!
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Old Sep 20th, 2015, 07:24 AM
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I'm envious of a month in Japan!

Maybe you meant to visit Nikko from Tokyo? Well worth seeing, IMO, and even worth considering for an overnight stay so that you have time for Kegon-no-Taki and a bit of Lake Chuzenji:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3812.html

While in Hiroshima, consider visiting Miyajima. Or perhaps stay on Miyajima (it is absolutely delightful before and after day-trippers), visiting Hiroshima on your way there.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3401.html

My understanding is that the temple one selects for Koya-san makes a huge difference to one's experience there. I was very pleased with Shojoshin-in, which still gets good reviews:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3401.html
While in Koya-san, don't miss Okunoin, and consider visiting it around dusk if possible.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4901.html

Kathie's idea of putting all of your time in Kyoto in one block is worth considering.

And if you can fly out of Kansai, it would save you the time to return to Tokyo.
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Old Sep 20th, 2015, 01:50 PM
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Nice itinerary as it looks like it meets your interests and preferences. You have more than enough time in Gujo and Kiso, imo. I would stop for a soak at Gero Onsen on the way to Gujo H.

The timing, weather-wise, is not the best.

The timing, as far as travel times go, is very good, esp. toward the end.

If you left Kiso Valley from Tsumago (JR Nagiso station) your travel time to Hiroshima would be 4+ to 5+ hours using a JR Pass. I would think about moving Osaka before Hiroshima because of that.

But you could get from Kiso to Hiroshima early enough in the afternoon to visit the Peace Park & Museum that day.

You could add a day to Hiroshima/Miyajima/Tomonoura, though the travel times between those are short.

On your way to/from Tomomura you can resist the temptation to visit Fukuyama castle if you plan to visit Himeji castle the next day on your way north. Fukuyama castle is on a hill across the street from Fukuyama station and, probably, the bus stop you would use for Tomonoura, but it is not special.
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Old Sep 20th, 2015, 02:36 PM
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¥8,200 Tokyo to Nagano (for Obuse) w/reserved seat
¥46,390 for a 14-day pass activated for the day you go to Takayama
=======
¥54,590
Plus about 2,200 in Kansai and a few hundred in Tokyo.

But ¥59,350 for a 21-day pass is not much more than that and could cover day-tripping from Tokyo, like to Nikko.
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Old Sep 21st, 2015, 01:18 AM
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Yes you are right, I meant a day trip to Nikko from Tokyo, not Nara!

Thanks for all the lovely suggestions, I think we will definitely try to get to Miyajima.

In terms of a temple at Koya-san, probably much like everyone else we'd like to stay in one which is fairly authentic (or at least isn't surrounded by tour busses etc). Does anyone else have a favourite, other than Shojoshin-in (which sounds great from the reviews I've read)?

We had originally planned on doing Kyoto in 2 chunks because my husband wants to be there on the 25th for the big fair/flea market, while I want to be there as late as possible for a good chance of seeing the blossoms! I think you are right though that it makes more sense to do it in one go. Perhaps we will day trip to Kyoto for the fair day, and then stay there for several days later on.

It's good to hear your positive feedback about the timing of our itinerary. Two questions: do you think it's worth spending 2 nights in the Kiso Valley? And do you think it's feasible to travel on public transport from Gujo Hachiman to the Kiso Valley? To my mind this seems like the most challenging route we will have in our travels.

Oh and one more question - given our plans, will we need an "all of Japan" JR pass? I've heard that you can get passes for smaller areas...? Thanks for your thoughts on the cost effectiveness of the JR pass mrwunrfl.

Any other thoughts? If there's anywhere we're going that you really don't think is worth it, please say! Thanks so much for all your help so far!
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Old Sep 21st, 2015, 05:47 AM
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Yes, you can travel from Gujo Hachiman to the Kiso Valley - I did it in the opposite direction. It involves trains and buses and a few hours but imo a lot of fun....for the trains you can look at hyperdia - the stations are GUJOHACHIMAN and NAKATSUGAWA.
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Old Sep 21st, 2015, 04:13 PM
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Here's the info on passes. BTW, the japan-guide web-site is an excellent source of information for just about anything you might want to know about Japan, and it's search function is very easy to use.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2357.html
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Old Sep 21st, 2015, 09:22 PM
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>> will we need an "all of Japan" JR pass?

Am pretty sure, yes. I took a look at the 14- and 21-day passes above. Those are the all-Japan passes. By "JR Pass" I mean the all-Japan passes.

Your need for a JR Pass could end on Day 18 and Kansai regional pass(es) after that. A 14-day pass ending on Day 18 would start on Day 5. So you would get the best value out of it by going to Nikko on Day 5. This might be better than the two options I gave earlier. It would take a good bit of research to work out something better.

>>do you think it's worth spending 2 nights in the Kiso Valley?

That is debatable. Would be nice if Mara could describe her time in Gujo and Kiso some more.

NAKATSUGAWA is the station to use for Magome, Nagiso for Tsumago end of the walk.
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Old Sep 21st, 2015, 10:05 PM
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>>Perhaps we will day trip to Kyoto for the fair day, and then stay there for several days later on

Ok, but planning a single stay in Kyoto around the fair makes just as much sense.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2015, 05:52 PM
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I'll try to expand a bit more on Gujo Hachiman and the Kiso Valley but first, you are talking about the flea market in Kitano Tenmangu Shrine? If so, personally I didn't think it was such a big deal - yes, it is really big but I guess I'm not much of a shopper and actually was on my way out without buying anything when I found a cool t-shirt - I think it would be good if you lived nearby as there were a lot of interesting tchotchkes but that's about it - don't know what you are shopping for. Plus I travel as light as possible so really don't shop much... ;-)

Getting back to the Kiso Valley/Gujo Hachiman - I think your itinerary calls for you to travel from GH to KV - that is a long trip by trains and buses so it will take a good part of the day which won't leave you much time to walk the Nakasendo from Magome to Tsumago - the recommended way to do it. So in that case it might be better to stay overnight and do the walk the next day.

I liked Gujo Hachiman a great deal - I spent two nights there since I didn't arrive til mid afternoon - there was a little festival going on then which was pretty cool. When I went there was an excellent guide in English with photos for a self-guided walk that I downloaded from the city website - that took me most of the next day.

Hope that helps...
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