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15 Days in Japan, Itinerary Help Please

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Jul 24th, 2014, 01:45 AM
  #1
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15 Days in Japan, Itinerary Help Please

I am going to Japan in mid to late September for 15 days. I spent four days in Tokyo about 15 years ago, and I did not love it (loved the Park Hyatt, but not the location...Had bad jet lag which greatly affected the trip, though it made it easy to go to Tsukiji, which was great). I've been to Kyoto twice, and I love it; it is one of my favorite places. I want to give Tokyo another chance. I am traveling alone, and I normally travel to cities, not beaches or or more rural, quiet places (but I am open to this). I like architecture, great food, photography (I am a serious photographer),nightlife, walking (exploring neighborhoods), culture and history.

I am somewhat constrained by my current hotel reservations in Kyoto (three nights) and Tokyo (six nights, plan on day trips to Kamakura and possibly Nikko), which were based on my originally planned shorter trip. I would like to keep these reservations as they are. I would consider another night or two in Kyoto, if it makes sense. So, essentially, I have about five days before I go to Kyoto for which to plan an itinerary. I assume I should get a rail pass and explore the country; possible places to go to (?): Hakone....the Alps...Kanazawa...Nikko...a night in a ryokan... Onsen...A night in a temple at Koyasan ...Hiroshima...Kobe. I would appreciate help and guidance, and the smartest logistics and routing.

My current itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive Narita 5:00 pm, Overnight in Tokyo.
Day 2:Tokyo-?
Day 3: ?
Day 4: ?
Day 5: ?
Day 6: ? (Add a day to Kyoto?)
Day 7: ?-Kyoto
Day 8:Kyoto
Day 9:Kyoto
Day 10:Kyoto-Tokyo
Day 11:Tokyo
Day 12:Tokyo
Day 13:Tokyo
Day 14:Tokyo
Day 15:Tokyo
Day 16: Depart Tokyo

I am assuming all travel will be by train (hopefully Shinkansen, though I understand there are some limitations with a rail pass?).

Thank you for the help.
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Jul 24th, 2014, 01:57 AM
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Why so many days in Tokyo? If you didnt like it before you may not like it again. If you book hotels thru booking.com you dont have to prepay.

It seems you booked too early before sorting out the vital bits.
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Jul 24th, 2014, 02:53 AM
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I did not prepay for anything. As I said in my post, I would like to keep my Kyoto and Tokyo plans intact (this is not set in stone, but it is my preference, for now at least). And I did not say I didn't like Tokyo on my previous trip; I said I had bad jet lag, and I did not love it, nor did I like the location of my hotel. If I take two day trips from Tokyo, that leaves me with four days there, a reasonable amount of time.
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Jul 24th, 2014, 04:24 AM
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One place that doesn't get mentioned often here is Karuizawa, about an hour from Tokyo by Shinkansen. It's a really pleasant hilly area with lots of opportunities for outdoor activities (hiking, cycling, etc) while also having the usualy comforts available. An especially nice place to stay is the Hoshinoya onsen resort -- fantastic combination of Japanese and Western accommodations features.

I understand 100% about the Park Hyatt's location -- it's awful if you want to explore Tokyo and/or if you want to step outside the front door of your hotel and be in the midst of the city's action. The Grand Hyatt in Roppongi Heights is a great alternative: only a half-step below the Park Hyatt in quality/service, but in the middle of a much, much more interesting and accessible neighborhood.
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Jul 24th, 2014, 03:42 PM
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DonTopaz, I remember in the past you steering me towards The Grand Hyatt, and I agree; it looks like a great option for me. I am currently booked at a different hotel, but The Grand Hyatt is still a possible alternative if my plans change. Thank you for the other suggestions, I will do a little research.
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Jul 24th, 2014, 04:51 PM
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Sine you are going to be in Tokyo at the end of your trip, why not spend your first night in the temple town of Narita. After a good sleep, you can head to your next destination. We very much enjoyed our trip to Kanazawa. We also enjoyed a couple of nights at Hakone.

I'd add at least one night to Kyoto - IMO, there is no such thing as too mud time in Kyoto. Or, did you get to Nara on one of your trips? What about adding a night or two in Nara.

I'd shave a night or two off Tokyo. We love cities, thought we'd love Tokyo, but didn't. There were plenty of things we enjoyed there, and I'm sure we will return, but I wouldn't want to spend 6 days there.
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Jul 24th, 2014, 06:48 PM
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Kathie, Thank you. I already added one night to Kyoto; I agree with you. I have never been to Nara, though I thought it was more of a day trip than a one or two night trip?

Kanazawa seems interesting me.

So many people are saying that six days in Tokyo is too much....I am probably doing one or two day trips outside Tokyo, I am also going to a baseball game, and to the Sumo matches. I am sure I will go to Tsukiji at least one morning (maybe two mornings), I am going to do a bay cruise and/ or river boat ride. Additionally, I have booked several restaurants that I want to go to...This does not take into account exploring different neighborhoods and sights, shopping,etc.. When you look at this, six days does not seem so crazy to me. But who knows, I'll see how the rest of the trip is shaping up, and then look at it again.
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Jul 24th, 2014, 07:36 PM
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I like Tokyo so I don't think six days is a problem - I do like Kyoto more....on my last trip I spent six weeks there....but my last two weeks were in Tokyo and I really didn't have enough time....

For me, Nara would at least be an overnight trip - when I went I think I spent three nights - there is so much to see within the 'downtown' area but also nearby - short train rides to Horyuji, Yakushiji, Toshodaiji and Heijo Palace as well as the lovely Yamato Bunkakan Museum....

Nikko also could be an overnight....
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Jul 24th, 2014, 09:28 PM
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"possible places to go to (?): ......Kanazawa...Nikko...a night in a ryokan......A night in a temple at Koyasan ...Hiroshima."

I loved Kanazawa, with I had given it at least 2.5 days if not 3 (I gave it only 1.5). Also good if paired with Takayama, which also deserves (IMO) at least 2 days if not more (another place I did not give enough time).

I thought Nikko well worth an overnight so that you can also include Kegon-no-Taki and a bit of Lake Chuzenji:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3812.html

Koyasan was a highlight of my highlight-filled trip to Japan. I believe the experience varies with the temple, so select carefully. I loved Shojoshinin:
https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/...n=Shojoshin-in

Hiroshima is, IMO, very well worth seeing. Consider pairing it with an overnight in beautiful Miyajima, where there are several ryokan. I enjoyed staying at Momijiso; some people prefer one of the more upscale ryokan.
https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/...yokan=Momijiso

"I have never been to Nara, though I thought it was more of a day trip than a one or two night trip?"

I thought Nara (including Ikaruga, just outside of Nara, with Horyuji and Cjhuguji) WELL worth 2 full nights and 2 full days. Not many people give it that much time.

Enjoy!
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Jul 24th, 2014, 09:28 PM
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BTW, ask the editors to add a "Japan" tag to this thread!
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Jul 24th, 2014, 09:37 PM
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We hated Nikko. It was like Disneyland on Labor Day crowded. I would go again but not in big bus, not midday. It is beautiful but was ruined by crowds (in November).

Hakone was stunning. We had clear views of Mt Fujii both afternoon and next morning. Went to sculpture outside museum--quite incredible. I would spend a night there, maybe two.

We spent two nights in luxury Ryokan in Mijajima (excellent), hiked in park, then stopped at Hiroshima to see peace memorial--very moving. We also very much liked temple on Koya-san.

you can check my trip reviews (4 part) for 2008, includes one of photos of Koyo.

We did Nara as a day time, but could have easily stayed over night.

Sorry for inelegant style--wanted to respond but have end of day brain death. I would leave itinerary suggestions for more knowledgable. We did Tokyo,Hakone, Kyoto, Koya-san, Miyajima (hiroshima), Kyoto. Into Tokyo out of Osaka.
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Jul 24th, 2014, 10:26 PM
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At least one night in an onsen ryokan should be on your itinerary. I like the Karuizawa idea. You need a castle, maybe: Matsumoto, Inuyama, Hikone.

Your day at sumo would be to plan to arrive between noon and 1PM and not leave before 6PM. Find the line for the chanko nabe and get in it and then enjoy.

You don't need a JR Pass for the itinerary you are considering. It doesn't seem like you would be making any major changes to it that would then require one. But, so far, absolutely not necessary.

You would be using the shinkansen for the Tokyo <-> Kyoto rail travel. Free of the JR Pass you would then choose the Nozomi shinkansen.
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Jul 24th, 2014, 10:30 PM
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At least one night in an onsen ryokan ...

Really mean to say that an overnight (or two) Hakone should be on your itinerary and that would be a good place to enjoy an onsen ryokan.
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Jul 25th, 2014, 11:42 AM
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Thank you for the help. I think I'm starting to formulate a plan.

I get in late into NRT the afternoon on a Saturday, and I am planning on overnighting in Tokyo, then leaving the following morning. I will have five or six days (four or five nights) before I go to Kyoto. I am trying to do the following: Hakone, Takayama, Kanazawa, a night in Shirakawa-go farmhouse, a night in Koyasan (thank you kja for the helpful advice and the link!). So, I will have to edit a little bit. I also do not want to be on trains and buses all the time, and checking in and out of hotels every day, so I am thinking about that issue as well.

Possible itinerary:
Tokyo-Hakone, one night
Hakone-Takayama, one night
Takayama - Kanazawa, two nights (one night or day-trip to Shirakawa-go farmhouse
Kanazawa - Koyasan, one night
Koyasan- Osaka/Kyoto

A few questions and issues:
- Should I go straight to Takayama/Kanazawa from Tokyo, and visit Hakone as a day trip when I am in Tokyo later in my trip? This would give me another day in Takayama/Kanazawa. Note also that my first night is a Sunday, and Hakone hotels seem fairly full and very expensive (the rates are literally almost double what they are the next day during the week); if there is a way to go to Hakone during the week, that would be preferable. Also, after a long flight, the idea of a short train ride to Hakone is more appealing than the long trip to Takayama or Kanazawa.

-If choosing between Takayama or Kanazawa, what would your choice be?

- Regarding overnight stays in Koyasan and in a Shirakawa-go farmhouse, if you had to choose between them, what would your choice be?

- Would I need/ want a JR rail pass for this trip? I do not understand the details and the Shinkansen restrictions. Does this itinerary's routing make sense; is there a more practical or efficient route?

- Am I trying to do much in too short a time? As I said, I do not want to be on trains and buses all the time. Maybe I should pick two places for two nights each (e.g.. Hakone and Kanazawa), plus one night in Koyasan.

(Regarding other suggestions, I hope to go to Himeji Castle, which I understand is still under construction, but might still be worth going to; if not, I will need to think of an alternative. I would also like to do a day trip to Hiroshima, though I am concerned about going there alone; I think it might be upsetting, and I am not sure I would want to experience that alone, but we'll see. Of course, there is never enough time to do everything; you need to pick and choose.)
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Jul 25th, 2014, 12:38 PM
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I hope you can fit in an overnight in Hakone. When we were there last month, I felt like we spent too much time on transport vehicles: 2 trains, cable car, rope way - just in one direction and we didn't even do the cruise. We had had wonderful overnight at Ginyu ryokan but we really suffered from travel overload by the time we got there.
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Jul 25th, 2014, 01:21 PM
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To me, it looks a bit busy... ;-)
You could go from Tokyo to Matsumoto - lovely castle there - one of the originals. Then you could take a bus on to Takayama - the same day if you were really ambitious or the next day. From Takayama it is easy to access Shirakawa-go and Kanazawa on the Nohi Bus line.
http://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/index.html
I personally just visited Shirakawa for about three hours in between Takayama and Kanazawa rather than staying over - I have breathing issues and I read those minshuku can be very smoky from the fires they have there - irori.

The train trip from Kanazawa to Kyoto is not that long
You could go to Hakone on the way from Kyoto to Tokyo.

You can use hyperdia.com to see the train schedules as well as the prices - use the Total which includes Fare and Seat Fee. Then when you are more certain of your itinerary you will be able to compute if a Pass is beneficial or not.
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Jul 25th, 2014, 01:36 PM
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It would certainly be too busy for me.

Hakone was a delight. We spent two nights there - our last two nights in Japan. It was lovely and relaxing a great way to finish up a busy trip.

I think you will have to do some cutting in terms of the number of destinations. We spent two and a half days in Kanazawa, and would have enjoyed more time there.

Remember there will be more trips to Japan. Schedule it so you can really enjoy the places you go rather than rushing through places or spending way too much time in transit.
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Jul 25th, 2014, 04:24 PM
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Thank you Kathie and Mara; really great advice. I often have this need to want to see everything and do everything, but, as you said, in so doing, you miss so much: the enjoyment of being in one place, and fully experiencing it rather than just checking off a place on your list and moving on to the next place to check off.

The advice to do Hakone between Kyoto and Tokyo is good advice, but I am somewhat locked into my hotels in both Kyoto and Tokyo (by choice; the hotel in Kyoto, in particular, is very hard to book, and if I change my dates, I will not be able to stay there), so that might be tough.

What about: Two nights Takayama or Kanazawa (day trip to see the farmhouses), and two nights in Hakone? Then off to Kansai, possibly with a night at Koyasan (this still feels like a lot of travel time)...Or, choose between Hakone and the Alps (and save what I miss for the next trip; if I choose Hakone, go to Koyasan after Hakone, and add a day to Kansai (possible day trips to Hiroshima, Hijemi Castle); this would certainly be a lot less train travel time.
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Jul 25th, 2014, 05:26 PM
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Hi fishskis,

We just got from a 14 day first time trip in May and I found the editing process that you are going through now excruciating, but in the end we were very happy with our trip. We did the following in this order: Tokyo 4 nights, Hakone 1 night, Takayama 2 nights (a full day there was barely enough - and we found the Hida folk village there to be a great option to overnighting in S-go), Nara 1 night, Koyasan 1 night, and Kyoto 4 nights. We opted to skip Kanazawa this time around (going back again next year). If I had to cut out two nights from these in order to spend 2 nights in Kanazawa, I would cut out Hakone and Nara, but only because you can conceivably do them as day trips from Tokyo and Kyoto, not because they don't warrant an overnight stay. I can't recommend Koyasan enough, and we also stayed at Shojoshinin there (at kja's excellent suggestion). If you want some additional details on all of these destinations, take a look at my (very long) trip report. Have a great time!!
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Jul 25th, 2014, 05:35 PM
  #20
kja
 
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I agree that your proposed itinerary was too rushed.

"If choosing between Takayama or Kanazawa, what would your choice be?" -- that really depends on your interests. Look through japan-guide.com and a few guidebooks to see what most intrigues you.

"Regarding overnight stays in Koyasan and in a Shirakawa-go farmhouse, if you had to choose between them, what would your choice be?" -- I choose Koyasan. I knew I could see a Shirakawago-style farmhouse at the outdoor museum in Takayama. YMMV.

"I would also like to do a day trip to Hiroshima, though I am concerned about going there alone; I think it might be upsetting, and I am not sure I would want to experience that alone" -- I found Hiroshima very moving, and parts were hard to see, but more than anything, I found it a profound call for peace. I also went as a solo traveler and had wondered about how it would affect me. I was very glad to spend that night at a ryokan on Miyajima -- it seemed a suitable place for contemplation and rejuvenation. Again, though, YMMV.
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