10 days in Japan and need some advice

Sep 18th, 2008, 12:37 PM
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10 days in Japan and need some advice

I've been reading a lot of the posts but am so overwhelmed that I thought I'd just ask my own questions.
My husband and I are going to Japan October 8 - 18th. (We're 28 and 31, have traveled quite a lot but never been to Asia). Our itenerary is 4 nights in Tokyo followed by 6 nights in Kyoto. Which of the many daytrips would you recommend (Nara, Hakone, Nikko?) We love the combination of the history and zen beauty of Japan with the hyper-modern almost futuristics aspects of it. Would love to do a bit of hiking or biking on a day trip. Or maybe an onsen?

We have guidebooks but personal experiences are always best. Thank you so much!

Mashaostr is offline  
Sep 18th, 2008, 01:26 PM
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We spent the first 2 weeks of June in Japan, and had a fantastic time. We are already planning a return visit. Hakone and Kyoto were our favorites.

Traditional Japanese rooms and the garden were wonderful.

This spa/water park is across the street. Difficult to get kids to leave!!!

Be there first thing on a weekday morning. Gorgeous!
TravMimi is offline  
Sep 20th, 2008, 07:43 AM
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It's great that you have limited yourself to two key areas within 10 days. My suggestion would be to utilize the 4 nights (3 or 4 days in Tokyo) for the "urban" experiences and to use the Kyoto portion for the more historic experiences.

I would suggest spending the entire 4 days in Tokyo proper, without daytrips outside of the city. Then, your 6 nights in Kyoto can include one (or two) full-day trips to Nara.

I currently live in Tokyo, and my recommendations for "must sees" are:


1. The "Ueno" area--don't spend too much time at the museums, just one will do (preferably the Japanese section of the National Museum) but please have a look at the UENO TOSHOGU, which is one of the oldest structures still standing in Tokyo and is a much smaller and less elaborate version of the TOSHOGU that you would see in Nikko.

Couple a visit to Ueno with a short visit to Asakusa and pay a quick visit to the SENSOJI temple. Eat at either the famous AOI MARUSHIN (tasty but heavy tempura) or MATSUKAWA (grilled eal), jusy a few minutes' walk from the SENSOJI entrance. A boat ride will take you to the HAMARIKYU gardens--a nice way to end the afternoon.

2. See the TSUKIJI early morning fish market before while it lasts--it is scheduled to move to a new location in, I believe, 2010.

3. Have a look at some of Tokyo's most recent additions to modern shopping and dining. Although the Roppongi Hills complex is about 5 years old, make some time to walk through and around the complex. Also have a look at the nearby TOKYO MIDTOWN (opened in 2007), which is a complex of shopping and resyaurants.

4. A walk around the Imperial Palace Gardens together with a walk through GINZA also makes for a good half-day.

5. Spend a morning exploring Omotesando and Harajuku. Check to see if the Ota Museum of wood block prints is opened--located in Harajuku itself. Take a walk to the Meiji Shrine in Harajuku.

6. Some good spots for eating/drinking:

a. In the MARUNOUCHI BUILDING (across from Tokyo Station) is "WORLD WINE" located on the 35th or 36th floor. It is a good place to see professional Japanese and expatriates enjoying wine in a fashionable location.

b. If you like Japanese sake and are okay dealing with a Japanese menu, try SAKE NO ANA (in the GINZA RANGESTU building) for top quality sake (many choices) in a really local setting.

c. If you tire of Japanese fare, try CICADA, an excellent Mediterrannean restaurant in the upscale neighborhood of HIROO. It is a good example of the high quality international cuisine that Tokyo has to offer.

KYOTO (my favorites)

1. Nanzenji Temple (be sure to go inside the abbot's residences to see the paintings on the walls/screens)

2. Daigoji Temple (perhaps the oldest pagoda in Kyoto, architecturally speaking) and Sanboin temple (be sure to enter the garden of Sanboin Temple)

3. Kiyomizu Temple

4. Take a half-day trip to UJI to see BYODOIN temple--a refreshing change from the other architecture and much older than what you will see in much of the rest of Kyoto.

5. Good ryokan to consider, depending on your budget--Ryokan Seikoro, Ryokan Hiiragiya, Ryokan Yoshikawa)


1. Todaiji

2. Horyuji Temple (30 minutes by train outside of NARA, but ancient, and much older than some of the other treasures you'll see in NARA).

3. Kofukuji (nice at night if open)

Hope this helps. Have a great trip!

MMM is offline  
Sep 20th, 2008, 10:57 AM
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I highly recommend adding Hakone to your itinerary. You can find a ryokan with an onsen bath. Or a Western hotel with onsen - or without and visit another place that has an onsen bath.

You should be able to find good hiking in Hakone (it is a national park area). Maybe biking. Would look for biking opportunities in Nara. Takayama is a good place for riding a bike.

You should visit Ryoanji in Kyoto - I think that is the place with the zen rock garden.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Sep 20th, 2008, 10:59 AM
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I definitely would do the day trip to Nara.

Are you returning to Tokyo after your visit to Kyoto? Or are you flying out of Osaka Kansai airport?
mrwunrfl is online now  
Sep 20th, 2008, 12:07 PM
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We are not temple people but Todaiji (Nara) and Kiyomizu (Kyoto) were incredible.
colduphere is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2008, 02:53 PM
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Thanks so much everyone! So helpful. Mrwunrfl, we are unfortunately flying back out of Tokyo (no flights from Kansai with our airline miles)so we'll be taking the train back to the airport from Kyoto that day.
Mashaostr is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2008, 05:23 PM
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Hello, I have a little different opinion if you don't mind.

I like the idea of Tokyo, Hakone and Kyoto.

If it were my itinerary, and I know it's not, I would spend 4 nights in Tokyo(maybe 1 in Nikko if you choose to go there), 1 night in Hakone and 5 nights in Kyoto.

I liked Nikko much better than I did Nara as there is much more to see in the area including Lake Chuzenji. I know a lot of people love Nara ,and I like it too, but I found it full of souvenir shops, deer, shopping malls streets and more tourists than you can count. The only places that I have encountered with more tourists per capita in all of Japan were Kyoto and of course Tokyo.

Nikko is a little harder to do than Nara(hilly and a longer train ride from Tokyo than Nara is from Kyoto) so there are not as many tourists and the views and sites are much more interesting and eye appealing to me.

If you overnight in Nikko or the surrounding area, I think you will find a lot of what I call "scenic" ryokans to stay in as opposed to the ones around Nara.

If I were to go to Nara again I would definitely stay overnight to try and experience the town without the hordes of tourists who invade every day.

Just another opinion to confuse you, lol

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2008, 12:48 PM
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If you arrive on the 8th and depart on the 18th then that gives you 10 nights. You have 4+6, so that means that you are planning to spend your last night in Kyoto before flying from Tokyo the next day.

What time is your departure?

Assuming that your departure is late enough, then I recommend getting a 7-day JR Pass. You would have it activated starting October 12 when you go to Kyoto (from Tokyo or from Hakone or from Nikko)
mrwunrfl is online now  
Sep 24th, 2008, 05:30 AM
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Statia is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 11:37 AM
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I got so excited about the suggestion of going to Hakone for a night between Tokyo and Kyoto, but unfortunately, I can't find a single ryokan with availability on October 12th! Is it worth it to go to Hakone as a daytrip from Tokyo without staying the night or is the whole point of Hakone to experience a ryokan? If we're allowed into the onsen and can go for a nice hike through the Japanese countryside, it may still be worth it, right?
Mashaostr is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 11:56 AM
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Yes, of course you can do Hakone as a day trip from Tokyo.....a long day trip.

mrwnrfl on this thread has done it as a day trip. You could do the "round" tour which is popular. See here for details



You can take the "Romance car" from Tokyo's Shinjuku station or if you have a JR Pass you can get a Kodama shinkansen from Tokyo station to Odawara. See here


You will be in the prime time fall foliage season which is what is making it hard for the overnight reservations in Hakone I bet. Have you tried to book on some of these sites?





I have some more at home if you need


hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Sep 30th, 2008, 12:04 PM
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Hi Peter. I just replied to Mashaostr's post on the subject of Hakone. I actually stayed two nights there. Arrived in the evening and just made the last bus to Moto-Hakone.

Next day, I took the tourist route (starting at the lake) to Hakone Yumoto and went for a soak at Tenzan. Tenzan was pretty good. That was the first time I saw one of the Japanese saunas. Really an oven for cooking humans. Then I went back to M-H. Next day I took the tourist circuit again and continued on to Kyoto.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Sep 30th, 2008, 05:23 PM
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Aloha Bill! I always get mixed up on who stayed where for how long, sorry. It is much better to stay over night or even better for two. We found our two nights in Gora to be just about the right amount of time in the area. So much beauty and nature to take in....trying to fit in a couple more days next fall.
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2008, 05:58 PM
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Statia is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2008, 06:56 PM
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Statia, you bookmarked this thread back in September!

Have you rescheduled your trip?
mrwunrfl is online now  
Dec 4th, 2008, 08:00 AM
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Are you back yet? How was your trip?
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 07:00 AM
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We also are planning 10 days in Japan (two couples who have never been to Japan)....of course we want to attempt it ourselves, but would like some advice about the difficulty and expense of traveling alone We have traveled many times to Asia (China, Laos, Cambodia Vietnam and of course our beloved Thailand) but never here. We'll be using some hotel miles (starwood etc.) and some cash. So here are our queries: 1. Itinerary: We know we're going to Kyoto and Hakone)....do we also stay in Tokyo (we'll have just come from Shanghai) or go to some smaller towns ....preferrably all in the same diretion. 2. Need for a tour guide when we hit Narita...can we do this alone and will we know what we're seeing and doing (after viewing several tourist sites in Beijing without the benefit of a guide who spoke English, we realize that sometimes ya gotta fess up to being an illiterate tourist) Can we get around and negotiate transportation on our own, or will we need help. 3. Hotel suggestions (some starwood and Hilton/Marriott points...some traditional choices). Thank you, in advance, for your ideas (other than what's already been posted here.) As I said, we've traveled to Asia for the last 9 years on our own, only because Fodorites encouraged us and helped. Here we are, asking again.
jodo is offline  
Jan 29th, 2009, 05:13 AM
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mrwunrfl, my husband became ill and was hospitalized three hours before our Japan departure this past fall. So yes...now I am rescheduling the trip with my sister for this fall.

Sorry for the double bookmark! I often skim during the day and bookmark to go back and read at night or on weekends when I have time to do so.
Statia is offline  
Jan 29th, 2009, 07:56 AM
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Good luck with your trip this year. We also plan to be in Japan this fall. Our plan is to spend the month of October chasing the fall colors from Daisetsuzan National Park and the Shiretoko Peninsula on Hokkaido then fly down to the Chubu region and explore some of the Alpine route and environs followed by Oirase in Northern Tohoku(with a stop in Kakunodate of course) and eventually ending up flying out of Narita.....it should be fun. Hope you plans are proceeding well. Don't forget to book early if you are planning on going during the busy times.

hawaiiantraveler is offline  

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