12 Day Japan Itinerary

Old Jul 29th, 2017, 07:16 AM
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12 Day Japan Itinerary


My wife and I will be in Japan for 12 whole days in early November and would like some advice on a possible itinerary.

We will arrive and depart from Tokyo Haneda Airport.

The first thing to mention is we do not want to keep changing accommodation from one night to the next and carry our luggage around with us. We would rather stay in two or three places maximum.

This will be our first time in Japan and we would like to spend some time in Tokyo but we also like nature and walking so are aiming for a balance between city life, temples and nature.

We would also like to spend time in Kyoto.

My thought was to use these two places as a base, explore each of them and do some day trips.

Potential day trips from Tokyo include Nikko and Hakone or Fuji Five Lakes (Lake Kawaguchiko). We are also considering Mount Mitake for hiking.

Potential day trips from Kyoto include Nara, Kanazawa, Hiroshima and Mount Koya (which may be too much of a stretch for 1 day?).

We do not mind having to travel for a couple of hours each way to reach places and plan to have a day trip one day and a slower exploring Tokyo/Kyoto at our own pace day the next.

So the main questions are:

1. Is splitting out time between Tokyo and Kyoto and using them as a base a good thing to do?
2. What rail pass would work best if we do this?
3. If we decided to have 5 days in Tokyo, 5 in Kyoto and 2 days somewhere else, where would you suggest?

Sorry for such a long post but I have tried to include as much information as possible.

Best Regards,

DannyWal is offline  
Old Jul 29th, 2017, 07:47 AM
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In general, splitting your time between Tokyo and Kyoto makes a lot of sense; adding one other place for a night or two also makes sense, and you have a lot of wonderful options.

I must admit that I don’t think of Hakone or the Fuji Five Lakes as good day-trip options from Tokyo; I think of them as more suited to a night or two. YMMV.

IMO, Koya-san is NOT a reasonable day-trip option. It takes too long to get there, and a major part of what makes it such a special place is spending the night in a temple.

But you don’t have to carry your luggage around each time you change locations: apan has an excellent, convenient, and extremely reliable luggage-forwarding option called takuhaibin; here's the info:

If you haven’t already done so, I’d encourage you to spend LOTS of time with It isn’t perfect, but IME, it’s an excellent resource.

Hope that helps!
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Old Jul 29th, 2017, 08:14 AM
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Correction on day trip from Tokyo - I meant to say Kamakura, not Kanazawa.
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Old Jul 29th, 2017, 08:40 AM
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1. Yes, that makes sense for your travel style.

2. You could probably use a 7-day JR Pass. You would want one if you did a day trip from Kyoto to Kanazawa or Hiroshima. It would not be of much use for Koyasan. There are other non-JR rail passes for Hakone (Odakyu), Koyasan (Nankai), and Nikko (Tobu) but those are better used for overnight, I think. There is a JR Pass, that would cover both Nikko and Kawaguchiko but the pass duration is short (it is the Tokyo Wide Area Pass, IIRC).

3. Am hoping that this question is opening up the idea of a 1- or 2-night stay somewhere other than Tokyo and Kyoto. IMHO, your experience with most/all of your day trip ideas would be enhanced by an overnight stay. To answer your question: Hiroshima and Miyajima would be my suggestion.

In addition to takkyubin, your luggage strategy could include using coin lockers at JR station and/or leaving luggage at your lodging (before, after, or between stays).
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Old Jul 29th, 2017, 02:49 PM
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1) Most people do in fact split their time between the Kanto and Kansai areas, so you are thinking of the typical beaten path. And there is a lot to see in it which is why it's so beaten. But you should also customize your own plans and go where you want, not just where everyone else has been.

2) It's all in the details. Make your plans *first*, then choose the best way to get there. If you want to add some side trips or day trips, then the 7 day pass is likely the way to go. If you are only interested in a Tokyo-Kansai round trip, then you'd still come up a little short on the JR Pass and you could save a lot more on the japanican ticket.
The japan-guide is one good resource but not the only one and you should never rely on any single site anyways. The official city websites have excellent tourist guides with great places listed nowhere else.

3) I'd say for Tokyo proper 3-4 days are enough. The rest of your time in the areas can be used for some great day trips. Depending where you choose, a 7 day JR Pass might end up being the better choice. But if going to the Fuji area, the Odakyu passes are what you want.
You should see some of the autumn colors in Japan if you can, and for early November, Nikko, the Fuji area, Takao, and Shosenkyo Gorge in Yamanashi are all good spots near Tokyo.
In Kyoto there is Daigoji, Sanzenin, Yoshiminedera, and Tofukuji, among others.
Needless to say, Kyoto has a huge number of good places to see.

In addition, you should definitely not skip Nara.

Plus if you have the energy, you can also go see Osaka and Kobe in the evening.
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Old Jul 31st, 2017, 02:07 AM
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Thank you for the great replies, I appreciate it.

I now have an idea of some great day trips and think we should be OK splitting out time between Tokyo and Kyoto.

The additional areas, especially for the Autumn colours look great, so thanks for that.

Best Regards,

DannyWal is offline  
Old Jul 31st, 2017, 02:31 AM
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Agree about Hakone and Koyasan not being good day trip options.

You need to research all of the spots to see if they truly interest you, but my favorites so far have been Myajima and Nara. Koyasan is great if you have specific interests but perhaps it would be too much travel time. Definitely do at least one night in an onsen are (Hakone is one, but there are several.

I would do 4 in Tokyo, 5 in Kyoto with a day trip to Nara, 1 night onsen town, one night Miyajima. I'd probably skip Koyasan given your limited time, but maybe it would be a "must see" for you.

I wouldn't plan too many day trips for Kyoto- therenis so much to see there that even with four full days+1 day in Nara, you won't see everything and I wouldn't want to short change it.
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