16 Summer Nights in Japan

Old Dec 14th, 2010, 07:27 PM
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16 Summer Nights in Japan

We are visiting Japan this summer during the first two weeks of August. We will be meeting our son who is finishing his year of study in Japan. This is probably our only opportunity to visit this incredible country. We will be there for 16 nights flying in and out of Osaka from New York.

We don’t have to see everything and would rather spend quality time in a few spots, than running ourselves ragged. We are most interested in the ancient traditions, architecture, gardens and temples. We are equally interested in natural beauty, hiking, bicycling, mountain climbing and communing with nature. Our stay should include several nights in Ryokan and an experience or two at a pristine Onsen resort.

Some sites we are seriously considering are Koya-san/Okunoin, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Miyajima and the Inland Sea. Again, the emphasis is not to run ourselves ragged. We are content spending a day taking a bike ride along a pretty path, or a long stroll along interesting ancient streets, seeing one temple rather than three, reading our books in a garden, having a long relaxing meal.

We are open to any suggestions. Obviously missing from the list above is Tokyo. Your thoughts on this are welcome. But most importantly, we are very flexible, and would like to hear whatever suggestions you may have, not only limited to itinerary and how many days and nights we should be staying in each location, but which hotels, inns, and ryokan we should stay in. Thank you all in advance.
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Old Dec 14th, 2010, 11:30 PM
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Brace yourself for the heat and humidty. Starting at around the end of the second week, too, there will be obon holidays, a time when many Japanese families travel to their hometowns to pay respect to their deceased relatives, as well as travel with their families for pleasure both domestically and internationally. Book your flights asap as flights out of Japan mid-August are often sold out.

Again, heat and humidity. It's hotter and more humid than New York. You may want to rethink your destinations to north and/or high altitude. Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima...crazy hot.

You say you are interested in natural beauty, hiking, etc...Consider Nagano prefecture, or the more mountainous areas of Takayama/Shirakawago/Gokayama/Gujo Hachiman, or better yet, Hokkaido. There is no way you will be riding a bicycle or strolling around Kyoto and reading in a garden there without being miserable.

I don't want to discourage you, but I do want you to be totally aware that summer weather is truly uncomfortable. Just to put it in perspective, Florida in August is an incredible relief from Kanazawa heat, and Kanazawa is cooler than Kyoto/Osaka, which is cooler than Hiroshima.
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Old Dec 15th, 2010, 12:01 AM
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KimJapan

You could not have said it better.. 5 Summers in Japan myself.
Used to escape back to Australia for 2 weeks in August, every year.

Agree with you about Takayama/Shirakawago/Gokayama..
Great sight seeing there, but, much better seen in winter..
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Old Dec 15th, 2010, 04:39 AM
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KimJapan and Gearsau, thank you so much for these comments. The tickets are bought and the time we are traveling really was locked in. So it sounds like we may have to go North. What a shame to miss these key sites though.
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Old Dec 19th, 2010, 08:32 AM
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We are contemplating a very revised trip: Nara, Naka-no-yu (just outside of Kamikochi), and Obuse - 16 nights. We will use these three bases for day trips and hikes.

We land in Osaka/Kansei at 6:00pm and are planning to travel directly to Nara staying in Nara the night of our arrival. We need to return to the US from Osaka for a 2:15 pm flight on a Monday. The question is which town should we stay in just prior to our departure - Naka-no-yu or Obuse. Obuse is closer to Nagano which has good travel options to Kansei. But, Naka-no-yu is closer. Can we leave the morning of our departure or are connections so complicated and distances so long, that we need to leave the day before and sleep the night prior to departure in Osaka?

All advice appreciated.
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Old Dec 19th, 2010, 02:38 PM
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You can see the train info on www.hyperdia.com
You can also compare single trip prices to the cost of JR passes to see which is more economical. Note that Yout son will not be eligible to use a JR Pass but you would. No problem for him to buy tickets on the same trains.
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Old Dec 20th, 2010, 07:07 AM
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It's sad to think that Spiceroute is going to be passing up such marvelous locations as Koya-san/Okunoin, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima and the Inland Sea because of fears of heat and humidity. I've spent several summers travelling to these locations and remember the sights much more than I do the weather. On Daimonji in mid-August Kyoto for example, I recall well the bonfires and fireworks, people strolling by the river in the evening. There was also a memorable hike to the temple at Ohara. Hiroshima just before the 50th anniversary of the bombing. And Gion Matsuri, too. The elevation of Koyasan makes it cooler in the summer especially amidst the forests of Okunoin.
I'm wondering where the increasing concerns about summer heat in Japan are coming from, as my sense is that over the last decade this issue has grown--much much more than the temperatures in Japan have. I've just read an article in the current New Yorker that tells me in 1960 84% of American homes didn't have air conditioning whereas by 2005 88% did. I wonder if that's it, namely, that our need for comfort and air-conditioned convenience means that we avoid places perceived as too hot.
I'll be in Japan to the end of July this year.
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Old Dec 20th, 2010, 07:12 PM
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WillJame, thank you for this encouragement. Can any of you guys recommend a fair, responsible travel agent who can help us make hotel bookings?
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Old Dec 23rd, 2010, 01:56 PM
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There is a bicycle route across the inland sea that you might be interested in, see: search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fv20060421a1.html

Kamikochi is nice place to visit and go hiking but I don't think of it as a base for day trips. There is no rail service but there are buses to Takayama in the west and to Matsumoto in the east. It would be nice to stay there a couple nights. But I think it would be best to relocate to those places rather than day-trip. There might be buses in the immediate area of Kamikochi but otherwise you would need to rent a car (in Takayama or Matsumoto). I only spent a few hours in Kamikoche, enroute from Takayama to Matsumoto.

I have been to quite a few onsens and would not describe any of them as "pristine", especially at resort towns. They are pretty well managed, engineered, tamed. It is not like climbing into a natural hot spring in Yellowstone (if you were allowed to do that). I understand that there are some more natural places (Nagano? Kyushu?), but I have my doubts that the Japanese have found a hot spring that they didn't improve.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2010, 02:52 PM
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We have been successful with making many of our bookings. Can someone recommend a very nice place to stay for the Bon Odori festival in Gujo Hachiman?

KimJapan, thank you for the link to Hyperdia - it is excellent!! I am having some difficulty sorting out the rail pass system. For different destinations there are different "monthly commuting" fares.

Here is our planned itinerary: Osaka(Kansai airport) ,Nara, Tsumago, Kamikochi, Gujo Hachiman, Osaka/Hiroshima (day trip from Osaka/US.

What would you recommend as to the order: Tsumago first and then Kamikochi or the reverse, Kamikochi and then Tsumago?

Any recommendations as to a rail pass? Thank you all in advance.
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Old Dec 25th, 2010, 07:21 AM
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mrwunrfl - thank you for your response. I think we will stay in Kamikochi a few nights and just enjoy the hiking there.

I did the numbers using Hyperdia and another excellent link

http://www.jorudan.co.jp/english/nor...norikeyin.html

and it looks like the rail pass is not going to be economical.

Would love a recommendation for where to stay in Gujo-Hachiman for two nights.
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Old Dec 25th, 2010, 11:45 AM
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http://www1.ocn.ne.jp/~mansyu/

I stayed here for two nights but it was last April not during the festival (although there was a cute little festival the day I arrived). They have an email address but I did everything in Japanese with the help of a Japanese friend.....
Another idea is to call the Tourist Bureau - there is someone there who speaks excellent English and maybe she can help....
Here's an email address for the Tourist Office: [email protected]

Under Sightseeing on this page http://www.gujohachiman.com/kanko/index_e.htm is a terrific map and walking tour in English that you can print out - I did the whole thing - it was really great! There is a pass you can get from the TIC that gets you into many attractions for one price.....
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Old Dec 29th, 2010, 04:22 PM
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New proposed itinerary which combines the advice offered so far. Need recs for where to stay in Kyoto for two nights. Someplace lovely but not crazy expensive. Osaka(Kansai airport) ,Nara, Magome, Kamikochi, Kyoto, Osaka/Koyasan/Hiroshima (day trips from Osaka)/USA.
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