12 days Japan 2019- Itinerary Help

Nov 6th, 2018, 05:35 PM
  #1  
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12 days Japan 2019- Itinerary Help

Hello there!
I am planning our first trip to Japan for mid to end of March 2019.
I am going with my husband and my 16 year old son. I want to know if this sounds too busy or reasonable. Don't have details yet as I first want to know if this is ok. Our flights are RT USA - Tokyo.

Day 1- Arrive Tokyo. Relax (Tokyo)
Day 2- Full day in Tokyo (Tokyo)
Day 3- Day trip to Kamakura (Tokyo)
Day 4- Tokyo to Hakone. See Mt. Fuji. (Sleep in Hakone)
Day 5- Hakone to Kyoto. Day trip to Arashiyama (Kyoto)
Day 6- Full day in Kyoto (Kyoto)
Day 7- Osaka. Sumo wrestling. (Kyoto)
Day 8- Day trip to Nara (Kyoto)
Day 9- Kyoto to Takayama. Day trip to Shirakawago (Takayama)
Day 10- Full day in Hida Satoyama (Takayama)
Day 11- Takayama to Tokyo
Day 12- Depart sadly.

A- Am considering if to delete day 4 to add a day at the end to Tokyo so I can go to Nikko. I hear Mt. Fuji is shy, so what would be the point in going if we won't get to see it? So we'd have the option of taking a day trip instead to Nikko.
OR
B- Keep day 4 regardless of weather, and delete day 10 so I can add a day at the end to Tokyo and go to Nikko.
OR
C- Delete day 8 and not go to Nara to go to Nikko instead (adding another day to Tokyo at the end).

I know it's 5 hotels in 12 days. Would it be easier to do day trips from Kyoto or Tokyo and get rid of a hotel? or does this make sense since we keep moving ahead without having to travel a few hours back to main cities?
Thank you!
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Nov 6th, 2018, 07:43 PM
  #2  
kja
 
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It really depends on your interests! Personally, I'd skip Takayama on this trip, making time for Nikko and at least one more day in Kyoto on this trip and deferring Takayama until you can include time for Kanazawa, but that's just me. I certainly would't cut Nara, but again, that's just an opinion based on my interests.

I'm sure it will be delightful not matter what you decide.
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Nov 6th, 2018, 09:44 PM
  #3  
kja
 
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BTW, in my opinion, it is easier to change hotels frequently in Japan than in many countries because (a) it has an excellent luggage forwarding option (called takuhaibin; here's the info:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2278.html)
and (b) train stations have luggage lockers or luggage desks (scroll down):
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2274.html
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Nov 7th, 2018, 07:58 AM
  #4  
 
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Concerning sumo in Osaka - I am not familiar with that venue as I went last May in Tokyo. However, in case you don't know, tickets go on sale on February 3rd and sometimes sell out very fast.
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Nov 7th, 2018, 08:57 AM
  #5  
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Well, I have to mention my husband doesn't want to feel too rushed. Loves gardens and old towns. We gravitate around nature and love good food.
So really I have to choose if to omit Osaka (since we are visiting Tokyo)? This way we add a day in Tokyo to go to Nikko.
Can we use the second day of Takayama to do a day trip to Kanazawa? Or is it too far? Or would it be better to stay in Kanazawa and use one day for a day trip to Shiragawa-go?
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Nov 7th, 2018, 09:06 AM
  #6  
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I heard about this luggage forwarding service. That's great! Thank you kja for sending me the link.
Mara, I will have that date written in case I decide to go. That's an important piece of information.
So much to see and so little time! It's frustrating. lol.
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Nov 7th, 2018, 05:33 PM
  #7  
kja
 
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Originally Posted by marcast View Post
ISo much to see and so little time! It's frustrating. lol.
Yes, well, you have 12 days for a country that could easily take months!

FWIW, and that might not be much, I wanted 6 full days just for a full and very busy (and not at all relaxed!) first visit to Kyoto and Nara. I regretted that I gave Kanazawa and Takayama only 4 nights, and seriously wish I'd given that area at least another night.

IMO, you have some difficult decisions to make, but no wrong ones.
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Nov 8th, 2018, 03:38 AM
  #8  
 
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Originally Posted by marcast View Post
I heard about this luggage forwarding service. That's great! Thank you kja for sending me the link.
Mara, I will have that date written in case I decide to go. That's an important piece of information.
So much to see and so little time! It's frustrating. lol.
Check with your hotel - when I checked they needed it at 5 PM the night before my trip. I missed it on my first train ride as I got to my hotel after 6 PM and was leaving the next day, and, on my return trip, I decided that triaging my clothing etc so that I could give my hotel one bag (keeping the other bag) to send on the night before was too much of a hassle. Maybe some of them will take it "the day of", which would have been OK.

Using the Shinkansen was so easy, though, all the way around, that it was no hassle for this solo traveler to lug two pieces of luggage and board the train. The train is flush with the platform - there are no stairs and no lifting your bags up as you do in Europe - you literally just walk on the train pulling your stuff behind you, easy peasy. The gap with the platform isn't even very big either. No "mind the gap".

That tiny piece of knowledge was very good to know ahead of time - I hate wrestling with bags going up and down steps of European trains.

PS max out your time in Kyoto. Really really. everyone told me that ahead of time and they were 100% correct. I had three full days there and it wasn't enough. It would not be overboard to tell you to split your 12 days among Tokyo and Kyoto but I totally get wanting to see as much as you can of other places too. I had 7 days and I split it between those two, had I had five more days I would have at least added a day to each place, and then maybe three days one other location. But I would not have run out of things to do and see in those two places, not at all.

and more: Tokyo airport to Tokyo (and back) takes a while - it is a hike. The bus was actually more convenient than the train, I thought, although both were so easy. I am not sure where you are flying home, but, your departure day will literally be about going home so don't count that day as a sightseeing day. Even if your flight from Narita is late afternoon. I flew nonstop to IAD which was after 4 PM and I left my hotel at 11 AM. If you got up super early (which you likely will anyway) you can get a bit of walking in but not a lot of sightseeing. The fish market is open super early although I didn't make it there this time.

Last edited by flygirl; Nov 8th, 2018 at 03:48 AM.
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Nov 8th, 2018, 08:23 AM
  #9  
 
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It's an ambitious itinerary for so short a visit, and even with Japan's incredible punctual and easy-to-use transport system, you will be losing a fair bit of time travelling.
Personally, with just 12 days, I would have only two bases - Tokyo and Kyoto.
Perhaps one more for Nara, though it's easy to visit from Kyoto, perhaps because we adored our ryokan there so much...
And do your day trips from those cities.
This also gives you the advantage that you can alter your plans if you realise you want more time in Tokyo and Kyoto themselves, as you can simply skip a day trip as you wish.
As Flygirl says, many of us always tell people to give Kyoto more time because it really is the most wonderful city and there's a lot to enjoy there, not to mention many day trips you can do in the region as well.
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Nov 13th, 2018, 12:15 PM
  #10  
 
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Marcast, if your husband loves gardens and old towns, omitting Osaka - as you are considering - makes sense. Your dates of mid to end March have you in Japan possibly during sakura season - the very peak season when hotels fill up quickly and prices climb. So book early - or, if you are comfortable keeping things flexible, you could 'chase the cherries' by heading north or south depending on weather.
Final note: " Tokyo airport to Tokyo (and back) takes a while" - this is certainly true of Narita airport but not of Haneda - taxi to Tokyo Station (random 'central' location) takes 22 minutes. The monorail (cheaper option) takes 15 minutes to the Hamamatsucho hub - you can then take taxi or Yamanote line on to your final destination. If you have a choice of flying into Narita or Haneda, always take the latter!
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Nov 13th, 2018, 07:34 PM
  #11  
 
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You have two full days in two places, Tokyo and Kyoto, and the rest of the time is day trips or intercity travel. I am not sure what your Hida Satoyama day is about.

Like kja, I would skip Takayama for this trip. My reason would be weather. Check on it, but I don't think the weather will be kind in March there, Shirakawgo, or Kanazawa. I would expect cold and rain and bare trees. There are better times for visiting that region and better regions for your time. South from Osaka, I mean, on the Sanyo side. Hiroshima, Korakuen Garden in Okayama, for example.

The sumo tournament should be fun. You would want to get there about 1PM and stay until 6PM. I haven't been to sumo in Osaka, but have to say that you don't need or want the most expensive seats.
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Nov 13th, 2018, 11:16 PM
  #12  
 
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Five hotels in 12 days is ambitious; I would fret that valuable sightseeing time was being lost to the logistics, especially for cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. Our first trip to Japan was also for 12 days (our children were 7 and 12 at the time); we based in both Tokyo and Kyoto equally and took day trips. From Tokyo, we visited Kamakura. From Kyoto we visited Hiroshima, Himeji and Miyajima. On our way between Tokyo and Kyoto we were graced with blue skies and beautiful views of Mt. Fuji. Knowing what I know now, I probably would have based more in Kyoto, though having spent all the time we did in Tokyo meant that on my return trip earlier this spring I didn't need to see as much of Tokyo, and was able to take a long day trip to Nagano (for the snow monkeys), and one to Yokohama.
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Nov 14th, 2018, 08:26 PM
  #13  
kja
 
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I changed hotels 10 times in 20 days while in Japan -- but I was traveling solo, took full advantage of luggage forwarding and luggage storage options, and had a plan that meant that I was always moving forward rather than backtracking. IME, the number of changes of hotels is less important than the ways in which those changes fit into one's plans and how readily the people involved can manage those changes. JMO. I certainly agree that it is worth giving the number of hotel changes some thought.
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Nov 15th, 2018, 11:53 AM
  #14  
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flygirl, I'll take your advice on extending the days of Kyoto. And omitting Takayama like mrwunrfl and kja adviced. My husband hates it when I have him in a marathon. I'm more like kja. I don't mind the hotel changes as long as keeps moving forward.
My flight arrives to the Haneda airport but departs from Narita. My flight leaves at 5:30, so would it be safe to say we can leave the hotel by around 12:30?

Boveney: "taxi to Tokyo Station (random 'central' location) takes 22 minutes. The monorail (cheaper option) takes 15 minutes to the Hamamatsucho hub - you can then take taxi or Yamanote line on to your final destination. If you have a choice of flying into Narita or Haneda, always take the latter!" Sorry to ask, but is this for Narita or Haneda airport? And what does "always take the latter" mean?

Kavey, "Perhaps one more for Nara, though it's easy to visit from Kyoto, perhaps because we adored our ryokan there so much.." Do you mind sharing what ryokan you stayed at? That is one experience I want to do. Stay a night in a ryokan. I was planning on doing so in Takayama, but if I skip that for this trip, I can do so somewhere else.
So a question for all....
Would it be better to go Tokyo-Nara (ryokan)-Kyoto-Tokyo or Tokyo-Kyoto-Takayama (ryokan just one night)-Tokyo? My original itinenary had two nights in Takayama so we can do a bike tour at hida sotoyama. But maybe we can just do one night so I can visit Shirakawago. (although mrwunrfl mentioned cold weather).

If there are some favorites in regards to hotels in Kyoto (close to train station and a nice 4 star hotel), let me know. I was looking into Hotel Monterey Kyoto, or Hotel Granvia.
The same for ryokans. For Tokyo, I booked Hilton Tokyo in Shinjuku area since I get a discount there.
Thank you so much to all! I promise I am narrowing my itinerary. Your responses help so much!
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Nov 15th, 2018, 02:25 PM
  #15  
tt7
 
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Originally Posted by marcast View Post
My flight arrives to the Haneda airport but departs from Narita. My flight leaves at 5:30, so would it be safe to say we can leave the hotel by around 12:30?
That obviously depends on where the hotel is. Are you planning on staying in Tokyo again before you leave or are you going to the airport from Kyoto?

Originally Posted by marcast View Post
Boveney: "taxi to Tokyo Station (random 'central' location) takes 22 minutes. The monorail (cheaper option) takes 15 minutes to the Hamamatsucho hub - you can then take taxi or Yamanote line on to your final destination. If you have a choice of flying into Narita or Haneda, always take the latter!" Sorry to ask, but is this for Narita or Haneda airport? And what does "always take the latter" mean?
Haneda. Haneda is a lot closer to Tokyo than Narita so most people would prefer to fly in/out of Haneda if they can.

Originally Posted by marcast View Post
That is one experience I want to do. Stay a night in a ryokan. I was planning on doing so in Takayama, but if I skip that for this trip, I can do so somewhere else.
So a question for all....
Would it be better to go Tokyo-Nara (ryokan)-Kyoto-Tokyo or Tokyo-Kyoto-Takayama (ryokan just one night)-Tokyo?
There are ryokans in Tokyo and Kyoto so no need to go to Nara, Takayama or anywhere else just for that. Given you only have 12 days, I would just stay in Tokyo and Kyoto and do day trips, as needed.

Originally Posted by marcast View Post
If there are some favorites in regards to hotels in Kyoto (close to train station and a nice 4 star hotel), let me know. I was looking into Hotel Monterey Kyoto, or Hotel Granvia.
For Tokyo, I booked Hilton Tokyo in Shinjuku area since I get a discount there.
Either of your suggested Kyoto hotels would be fine, if that's the type of hotel you're looking for. For Hotel Monterey Kyoto, take the subway three stops to Karasuma Oike, take exit 6, turn right and the hotel is about 100 metres down on the right. There's a 7-Eleven near by if you need an ATM (most Japanese ATMs won't work with non-Japanese cards, 7-Eleven and Japan Post Office ATMs being the exception).

The Granvia is right above Kyoto Station so is convenient if nothing else. Given that a lot of journeys start or end at the station, being close by is a plus.
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Nov 15th, 2018, 05:45 PM
  #16  
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I was planning on returning to Tokyo a day before I head back to the USA. Were you going to suggest to just leave out of Kyoto on the day we fly?
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Nov 15th, 2018, 05:53 PM
  #17  
kja
 
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You can research your ryokan options at japaneseguesthouses.com or booking.com (which, IIRC, allows you to limit your search to ryokan).

For lodging in Kyoto, I prefer the Kawaramachi district. YMMV.

Tokyo is HUGE. The best way to get to Narita will vary with where, exactly, you choose to stay. Most hotel web-sites have information about that.

Last edited by kja; Nov 15th, 2018 at 05:56 PM.
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Nov 15th, 2018, 09:22 PM
  #18  
tt7
 
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Originally Posted by marcast View Post
I was planning on returning to Tokyo a day before I head back to the USA. Were you going to suggest to just leave out of Kyoto on the day we fly?
Unless you have a particular reason to want to return to Tokyo for a night before you fly out, I would just go from Kyoto. It's about three and a half hours on the Shinkansen & Narita Express from Kyoto to the airport. If you leave sometime around 10 / 11 am, you'll be at the airport by about 2 / 3 pm, in time for a 5.30 pm departure.

One issue to consider is whether or not you will have a Japan Rail Pass - probably not? If you're not using a JR Pass and just buying individual tickets, you can take any Nozomi Shinkansen, which are faster and more frequent (multiple times an hour). If you're using a JR Pass, you're restricted to the Hikari Shinkansen, which is less frequent and makes more stops, so takes a bit longer (it's 'slower' than the Nozomi because it makes more stops, not because the train actually goes any slower). Avoid the Kodama Shinkansen, as that makes a lot more stops.

If you want to minimise the number of changes along the way then, for example, the Nozomi # 8 leaving Kyoto at 10.19 am, changing at Shinagawa to the NEX (Narita Express) will have you at the airport at 13.53. Nozomi # 12 leaving at 10.56 and changing at Tokyo to the NEX will get you to the airport at 14.26.

If you're not already familiar with it, use HyperDia for everything you ever wanted to know about train times, fares, track numbers and generally how to get from A to B (and if you need any help figuring out how to use it, please just ask).
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Nov 15th, 2018, 09:49 PM
  #19  
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In trying to decide where to stay in Kyoto, I would start with a list of what/where you intend to do/go. If you are going to do a number of day (or half day) trips (Arashiyama, Nara, Himeji, Hiroshima, Fushimi Inari, Uji/Byodo-in, Osaka etc. etc.) then being close to Kyoto Station will have its advantages.

Kyoto has two subway lines (the Karasuma line runs north/south, the Tozei line east/west; they intersect at Karasuma Oike). Although only two lines is somewhat limiting, they can be a quick and easy way to get places. Take the subway to Keage to visit Nanzen-ji, Eikan-do, the Path of Philosophy and Ginkaku-ji (then the # 100 bus to get back to the Station). Take the subway up to Imadegawa for a walk south through the Imperial Palace Grounds (and a visit to the Palace compound, which is now open to visitors - previously you had to make a reservation via the Imperial Household Agency). Take the subway to Shijo, take exit 17 and you'll find yourself in the basement food hall of Daimaru, where everything is beautifully presented. Walk through the food hall (admiring the gift-wrapped 10,000 melons ....) and out the back and up the stairs - the entrance to the Nishiki Market (not to be missed) will be 100 metres to the right (and there's a Starbucks 75 metres to the left if you need a coffee...). Avoid main roads and wander the back streets - if you have a phone with maps/GPS, you can't really get lost and the serendipity of just wandering (particularly in Kyoto) is not to be missed. As I say, I would start with where are we going to go? .... and how are we going to get there? .... and that will probably help you decide where's a good place to stay.
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Nov 16th, 2018, 12:13 AM
  #20  
 
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Originally Posted by marcast View Post
Kavey, "Perhaps one more for Nara, though it's easy to visit from Kyoto, perhaps because we adored our ryokan there so much.." Do you mind sharing what ryokan you stayed at? That is one experience I want to do. Stay a night in a ryokan. I was planning on doing so in Takayama, but if I skip that for this trip, I can do so somewhere else.
We stayed at Ryokan Kankaso, we booked via Japanese Guest Houses, we wanted the large ground floor room with private wooden bath tub, and they were able to sort that out for us. https://www.kaveyeats.com/2013/01/ka...o-in-nara.html

Originally Posted by marcast View Post
So a question for all....
Would it be better to go Tokyo-Nara (ryokan)-Kyoto-Tokyo or Tokyo-Kyoto-Takayama (ryokan just one night)-Tokyo? My original itinenary had two nights in Takayama so we can do a bike tour at hida sotoyama. But maybe we can just do one night so I can visit Shirakawago. (although mrwunrfl mentioned cold weather).
I loved Takayama but I'm not sure I'd bother with that journey for just one night. It's a lot further from Tokyo and Kyoto.
Nara is a short hop from Kyoto, so means you lose far less time in the travel / transfer.
That said, here is my content on Takayama: https://www.kaveyeats.com/place/takayama
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