16 Nights in Japan

Old May 1st, 2017, 05:19 PM
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16 Nights in Japan

Planning our mid-November trip has been challenging. I've done a lot of reading and am trying to narrow down our 16-night itinerary. Here is where I am:

5 nights in Tokyo

2 nights in Takayama OR Kanazawa (find a way to stop and see Shirakawago)

2 nights in Osaka (day trip to Nara)

4 nights in Kyoto

1 night in Koyasan

2 nights in Tokyo

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Koyasan (and staying in a temple, specifically) seems like this can't-miss experience and Japan-Guide.com seems to recommend it. Does everyone agree with including it? Nikko and Kamakura seem like interesting places. Is the night better spent there? Or should we not choose between Takayama and Kanazawa and just see them both in 3 nights instead of one of them in 2 nights? What about Mount Fuji ... should we specifically incorporate it into our trip somehow?

We plan to do all our travelling by train/bus. Is this doable? Should we shift any locations earlier or later to make travelling easier? Would the JR pass work for us?

Thank you in advance for all your help!
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Old May 1st, 2017, 05:29 PM
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Unless you are interested in ultra-urban culture, I worry that 7 nights in Tokyo is too many, even with day trips to Nikko and Kamakura. I would combine all the nights in Tokyo in one go rather than split it up like the way you have it. Think about flying into one city and out another.

Most visit Nara as a day trip from Kyoto, not Osaka. Kyoto is a city in which you could easily add a couple of nights, especially if you enjoy temples, gardens, and traditional Japanese culture.

Seeing Mount Fuji is weather dependent. You could visit the Hakone area, where the open air museum is very much worth a visit.

It is very easy to get around Japan by train. I would not do it any other way.

Happy planning.
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Old May 1st, 2017, 07:39 PM
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If you haven’t already booked your flights, I would encourage you to fly “open jaw” – into one city and out of another (probably Tokyo and Osaka). The cost of backtracking rarely matches any difference in price, and your time is, as they say, priceless.

If you MUST fly into and out of Tokyo, then I agree with tripplanner001: Explore options for moving on to your “next” destination ASAP after arrival – you might be tired, but if so, you’ll be tired under any scenario. Moving on, if it works, will let you cut out one change of hotels. Pushing on doesn't work for everyone traveling to Japan, but it is something to consider.

Some thoughts:

7 nights in Tokyo is a LOT for a first visit to Japan. For comparison, I gave it 4 nights, and that time included a long day trip. It really depends on YOUR interests.

2 nghts in either Takayama or Kanazawa is, IMO, a night too little. Again, it depends on your interests. Given how little time you have for the area, if a major goal is to see Shirakawago, then you might consider visiting the outdoor museum in Takayama, Hida no Sato, instead.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5901.html

As tripplanner also noted, you can visit Nara from Kyoto. And you might consider staying in Nara rather than Osaka. IME, Nara had more than enough to keep me happily busy for more than 48 hours.

I thought 6 nights for Kyoto / Nara barely sufficient for an introduction to these magnificent centers of traditional Japan. YMMV.

I found a stay in Koyasan (at Shojoshin-in) a highlight of a highlight-filled trip. Not everyone is enamored of the experience. If you do go, pick your temple carefuly, make sure you plan on time to vist Okuno-in at dusk or dawn or both, and try to see a few of Koya-san’s other treasures while there. Also, expect a LONG trip to and fro, generally with multiple changes of transport. I thought the scenery spectacular and was glad to see it, and I took advantage of Japan’s luggage-forwarding service so that I had only an overnight bag for the trip. Here's a recent thread about our differing experiences:
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...to-koyasan.cfm

(Japan’s excellent luggage-forwarding service is called takuhaibin; here's the info:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2278.html

Most people visit Nikko as a day trip from Tokyo. I spent overnight there, as I also wanted to visit Kegon-no-Taki and a bit of Lake Chuzenji and walk a bit of the Kanmangafuchi Abyss. I think it would be difficult to see the highlights of Nikko AND see these other sites in a single day-trip. Whether you visit as a day trip or not, if you have any interest in Japanese screens and sliding doors, consider making time for the stunning collection at the Nikko Toshogu Museum of Art.

Most people visit Kamakura as a day trip from Tokyo, and doing so worked for me.

Japan’s public transportation system is outstanding. There’s no need to consider anything else for the places you have targeted.

Hope that helps!
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Old May 1st, 2017, 07:59 PM
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Two nights in a place only gets you one full day, definitely not enough for Kanazawa. Even though Japanese trains can be fast, you still have to allow time to get from A to B. A good place to figure that out is hyperdia.com.

I agree that you seem to be over emphasizing Tokyo, which was my least favorite stop in Japan, and I wouldn't bother sleeping in Osaka on a short trip.

I spent three nights in Nara on my most recent trip, and didn't run out of sights, but it is certainly an easy day trip from Kyoto.
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Old May 2nd, 2017, 06:59 AM
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I should clarify why there seems to be a lot of time devoted to Tokyo. We land there late on day 1. We then will be going to Disneyland for a big chunk of a day as well. On the back-end, we are leaving early on day 17. When its all said and done, this leaves 4 full days to tour.
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Old May 2nd, 2017, 07:03 AM
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If you are flying out of Narita, rather than two nights in Tokyo I would (and did) spend one night in Narita town, one stop from the airport. The castle and grounds are worth seeing, or you could just arrive late afternoon.
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Old May 2nd, 2017, 07:25 AM
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More Kyoto.

Osaka is a smaller version of Tokyo. There are some nice sights and interesting areas, but they're all of 25 minutes from Kyoto by train (shinkansen to Shin-Osaka, local JR train to Osaka station or near the area you want to visit). You do NOT have to spend two nights there and based on your itinerary probably shouldn't. Daytripping to Nara from Kyoto is easy.

Kyoto is a big city (population = Philadelphia). It's also home to various temples, gardens, parks and districts (Gion, Arashiyama) that visitors associate with an older Japan. Thus, it's a big city that feels small. Osaka is just a big city.

Go to Nikko. Use the Tobu package (http://www.tobu.co.jp/foreign/en/).
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Old May 2nd, 2017, 09:51 AM
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>>shinkansen to Shin-Osaka, local JR train to Osaka station ...

That would not be my route even with a JR Pass. No point in changing trains when there is special rapid service between JR Kyoto and Osaka station. With a JR Pass, I'd want the JR limited express. All three options take the same time, give or take a minute or two. And there are non-JR options. There might be some destinations where using Shin Osaka station might be better, but most others would be via Osaka station.
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Old May 2nd, 2017, 10:16 AM
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>>2 nights in Takayama OR Kanazawa (find a way to stop and see Shirakawago)

You won't find a reasonable (imo) way to do that. You need to add a night and stay in one of the two cities, but not both. If you want to visit both cities and see S-go then add two nights.

>>Does everyone agree with including it?
For you, yes, because you have read about it and believe it is a can't-miss. I've given it a miss so far, though, mainly because I am not interested in staying the night there and there were better options (for me) for day trips from Osaka and Kyoto.

You really need to look into your nights in Osaka and what interests you there. That is, a day trip to Nara is not enough of a reason to stay in Osaka. You might be better off spending one or both of those nights in Nara. Or day-tripping for Kyoto.

So, my question for you is: why Osaka?
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Old May 2nd, 2017, 03:23 PM
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>

The rapid service is not that rapid. A limited express that stops at Shin-Osaka and Osaka is best because it's the most convenient, but the way I wrote it out is easiest for someone not familiar with the travel - basically trains going south from Shin-Osaka will go to Osaka and the shinkansen takes 15 minutes Kyoto to Shin-Osaka, not 25-30 like any other option. Plus, shinkansens don't change from limited express/rapid to local (which happened to us once).
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 10:24 AM
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The total travel times are 27-29 minutes on the three options. Best is to not change trains. The shinkansen option does require a change to a local to get to Osaka. The l'ex and SRS do not. The rapid train is far less expensive.

For example: http://tinyurl.com/k7lr7a3

An odd thing about that query is that if I uncheck Nozomi then the option with the Hikari train does not appear.
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 10:49 AM
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LucMir, you probably could use a JR Pass, but it depends on your route and day trips. For example, Tokyo- Takayama- Kanazawa- Osaka/Nara- Kyoto over 6 nights is about 33,000 which is more than a 7-day pass. You might be able to use a 14-day pass.

>>Should we shift any locations earlier or later to make travelling easier?

Yes, you sh/could change your current itinerary by moving Kyoto to be the last stop before heading back to Tokyo. Koyasan to Tokyo goes via both Osaka and Kyoto.
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 10:52 AM
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>>So, my question for you is: why Osaka?

I have read that it has a lot to offer from a food/dining perspective. I also feel like covering Nara from Osaka allows me to devote all my time in Kyoto to Kyoto.

I suppose another option would be to add a night to Takayama/Kanazawa and actually stay the night in Nara and avoid Osaka all together.

What is the best way to take in Mt. Fuji? Is it worth staying a night somewhere in its vicinity?
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Old May 3rd, 2017, 11:36 AM
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>>I suppose another option would be to add a night to Takayama/Kanazawa and actually stay the night in Nara and avoid Osaka all together.
.
Yes, staying in Nara is a good option. From there, then, to Koyasan and then Kyoto.

Yes, it is worth a night or two. You have two options: Hakone or Fuji Five Lakes (Fujigoko). Look into the Hakone Free Pass and you will learn about the Hakone loop. Or just go to japan-guide.

Was thinking about how a "Fuji" visit might depend on the weather when I realized that I don't know when your trip is. I don't think you told us. Weather and season would be a factor elsewhere.
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Old May 4th, 2017, 06:25 AM
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Our trip will be in November.

Fuji Five Lakes looks beautiful but seems like a long trek to get to any of our next destinations.
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Old May 4th, 2017, 08:34 AM
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That's true, which is why Hakone is on a typical itinerary and the other is not.
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Old May 4th, 2017, 09:58 AM
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The way that I just finished setting up my upcoming trip to Japan is to land into Narita, as that's where my flight lands, and then on the same day fly onto Osaka (Itami Airport). I've purchased a one-way ticket on ANA from Narita to Osaka-Itami. The flight is less than an hour and a half. I'm one who prefers to fly on to the farthest place first if I'm already in an airport.

When I get to Itami, I'll take the MK Taxi (shuttle) service to Kyoto, about an hour. I already contacted them and received an answer within 2 days that a rep will meet me with a sign with my name on it and escort me to the shuttle. When I get to Kyoto, it will be around 8:45PM and I can just check into my hotel, go to sleep, and then wake up the next morning refreshed and already in Kyoto.

http://www.mktaxi-japan.com/taxi

I then have 9 nights in Kyoto and after Kyoto will fly back to Tokyo on ANA, but will fly into Haneda Airport which is much closer to Tokyo city than Narita. I have put all of my Tokyo nights (5 of them) at the END of my trip as I have no desire to have to transit more than I need to and then also pay transportation fees twice from and two Narita.

I really wasn't interested in going to Tokyo, but since Singapore Air e-mailed me to announce throwing a big, airfare sale and my airfare ended up half the regular price and lands in Narita, I thought that I would just go on and add Tokyo to the mix. If Tokyo becomes too much, I can always just lounge at my hotel and do spa treatments and relaxation.

Happy Travels!
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Old May 4th, 2017, 10:02 AM
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Correction: "too", not "two". Let me wake up. LOL!

Happy Travels!
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Old May 4th, 2017, 02:47 PM
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@Guenmai - there are good day trips from Tokyo, unless you've already done them?
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Old May 4th, 2017, 11:05 PM
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thursdaysd: It will be my first time visiting Japan. I have only been in transit in Narita more times than I can remember. I'm going to be playing a lot of this Japan trip by ear as I have no desire to be running around like a chicken with my head cut off as I will have just gotten home from my European vacation three weeks prior to leaving for Japan.

Happy Travels!
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