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17 Night 1st Trip to Japan. Itinerary Advice Please

17 Night 1st Trip to Japan. Itinerary Advice Please

Old Dec 8th, 2011, 06:18 AM
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17 Night 1st Trip to Japan. Itinerary Advice Please

Hi Everyone

I've been longing to visit Japan for many years. My husband and I finally have flights booked for next October, courtesy of my dad who has generously donated some of his airmiles to us!

Although I've done lots and lots of reading, I think I'm perhaps a little overwhelmed about how to start in pulling together an itinerary, so would really appreciate some advice.

Let me tell you a bit about us, our interests and our travelling styles and then would be really grateful for any suggestions you might be able to share.

We're both 40, experienced travellers, but not much travelling in East Asia. Physically, we're quite creaky - in particular I have arthritis in hips plus some back problems, so we're not into a lot walking/ hiking. We prefer a certain level of comfort, minimum being en suite bathroom facilities and comfortable mattress.

I'd very much like to experience the famous hot natural water baths in a traditional accommodation, but am nervous about sleeping on floor bed as would find it hard to get up and out of it. I'd find a way though... so recommend away.

We're both hugely into photography but that covers all subjects from people to markets to festivals to architecture to food to landscapes.

We have a particular passion for wildlife, so would love to include that in our trip.

I'm also an obsessive foodie (I write a food blog for fun) and so we want to fit in more sights and experiences along those lines than an average visitor may choose. Perhaps even some short cookery classes, extra visits to centres of specialist foods and so on. And some food shopping!

I also have an interest in history, particularly 20th Century, and would be keen to visit the main sites of interest, though it will not be the focus of our itinerary.

Added to all this is a conflicting point - we don't like to rush around, but to travel slowly, the equivalent to the slow food movement but for travel, taking time to experience a place rather than whizzing through it.

Tough ask, no?!

So I'm looking forbr /> * ideas for itineraries
* suggestions for particular cities and attractions we should visit, given our interests
* recommendations for particular hotels and restaurants
* recommendations for cookery classes or specialist excursions or private guides that we might hire for an hour or a day
* tips on transport, money, language issues or anything else you think would help

Kavey is offline  
Old Dec 8th, 2011, 04:29 PM
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I don't think your list of preferences is too particular; instead, it is still too wide open. Are you not interested at all in things you don't mention? Probably you could meet most, maybe all, of these requirements by basing yourselves in almost any part of Japan for your entire visit.
You probably could use a couple of skeletal templates of itineraries to revise according to your own preferences. E.g., Fodor's Japan, 19th edition (pp. 22-23) has a 7-day itinerary based in Tokyo and 9 days for central Japan including Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Nara, Himeji--and Arima would be ideal for the hot springs experience. These two itineraries combined could make up your 17 days.
You could use these models to cover most of your wish list and discard things of no interest to slow things down (you don't mention liking shopping other than for food or nightlife).
WillJame is offline  
Old Dec 8th, 2011, 05:25 PM
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I don't know enough to respond to your particular interests and limits - perhaps others will. And you might find japan-guide.com helpful. Enjoy!
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Old Dec 8th, 2011, 11:50 PM
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WillJame, really? I thought with the specifics on food and photography, and a little 20C history, that gave enough to suggest amendments or weightings to an itinerary.

As it's our first visit, we want to do the regular sights, but just weight or focus towards the interests I mentioned.

No, it doesn't mean I'm not interested at all in things I don't mention, just that these are my highest interests...

And you're right, I don't like nightlife at all... shopping, really only where it relates to specialist food/ drink... otherwise not.

I'm not a fan of Fodors books, but will look at some suggested itineraries, in fact I started doing that using the japan-guide.com which another friend suggested to me yesterday, thanks kja for also suggesting it, it's a great resource.

I think my difficulty is that the guide gives an itinerary yes, then lists various options, but I'm struggling to work out which things to give extra/ less time to according to my interests and which things to drop completely and even which districts to look at staying in...

So would appreciate any help at all really, even just that x district in Tokyo is a good place to go and see this or that, or y district probably not ideal for us as a base as it's all about the nightlife... or just recos of specific restaurants, cookery classes, private guides or tours you took?

x x
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Old Dec 9th, 2011, 03:25 PM
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Expressing an interest in 20th C Japanese history means a visit to Hiroshima would be in order. But I'm not sure if you prefer modern Japanese history to, e.g., the Heian period. Central to many visits to Japan are shrines and temples, but does that kind of architecture and antiquity interest you? And many of these sites require some degree of agility or at least mobility, sometimes involving hundreds of stone steps. But they are eminently photographable.
The other thing that we'd need to know about in order to advise you would be some idea of your budget for accommodations and meals. Some kaiseki dinners will run hundreds of dollars per person, and many of the top end luxury hotels are $300-400 per night and up. Is that within your budget?
Though I have been on a few (mostly unsatisfactory) tours, I have never had a private guide during five visits to Japan totalling three years out of the last two decades. We have, however, hired guides in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. One obstacle is the possible expense. Here's a cooking tour in Kyoto which for eight hours for two people costs ¥78,000. In my money (Canadian), that's over a thousand dollars: http://www.michitravel.com/kyotogourmet
For those of more modest means, a visit to the basement floor of any large department store reveals a panorama of food of all kinds.
As for transportation, it's preferred to arrive in Tokyo and depart home from Osaka (or vice versa). That will allow you to eliminate the need for a rail pass and then juggling an itinerary around its duration. Does your ticket allow that?
I guess what I'm saying is that you'd get better advice if you began with some rough proposals as to itinerary and then sought help in fine-tuning them. Check previous posts on this site for examples of what others have done. Use the search function at the top right of this page.
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Old Dec 9th, 2011, 06:06 PM
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Hiroshima for 20th century history, yes, and also for food. It is famous for its okonomiyaki. Oysters, I think. I recommend the Rihga Royal or the Sheraton.

Nagasaki also for history and food. Nagasaki food has Korean, Chinese, and Portuguese influences. There are several unique historical sites in Nagasaki related to the opening of Japan.
Here is an article on food in Nagasaki: http://www.at-nagasaki.jp/foreign/en...about/culture/

When you stay at a ryokan the meals consist largely of local, seasonal ingredients. I'll recommend Momijiso ryokan on Miyajima as a reasonably price ryokan. This is near Hiroshima.

For sushi, go to Tsukiji fish market area. Not necessarily to the market itself but to the restaraunts nearby. There are many to choose from and you can wander around and check out the various picture menus. One of the three Sushizanmai places would be a good choice. If you don't like sushi then I am sure that you won't have to leave Tsukiji hungry (if they had cooked fish dishes in Tsukiji restaraunts then I was blind to it - mesmerized by the shushi options).

Liz Dalby wrote that people in Kyoto would spend all their money on clothing but in Osaka they spend it on food. Osaka has its own okonomiyaki style, for example. The Westin in Osaka is very nice; the Hilton is better located.

There is not much in the way of wildlife in Japan, as far as I know. You could look for the post here recently on fodors about the snow monkeys to see if that interests you.

And of course you should go to Kyoto. Check to see when the Kamogawa Odori is held (it is in October, some time, I think). Also, you would want to go to Gion to dine. Find a restaurant that serves shabu shabu or maybe Kobe beef.

Instead of, or in addition to, staying at a ryokan you could just stay at a western hotel and find a restaurant that serves kaiseki meals. I think there are different styles of kaiseki and have a vague notion that Kyoto style is notable.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Old Dec 10th, 2011, 07:07 AM
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Yes, we need to know your budget to recommend things to do in Japan. There are so many ways to enjoy yourself there and we can be more specific and helpful with suggestions if we knew your budget range. I think with that and what you've already told us we can put a few ideas forward.

Since you are a slow traveler I would suggest just three cities (locations) at the most and work from there. As a foodie you will just love Japan. Just a browse through one of the basement floors of an Isetan or Matsushiya or any large depato store will blow your mind.

I have seen many cooking shows on Japanese TV(unfortunately 99% Japanese though I have seen one in English) just like in the US where you can see ingredients and get the basic idea of how to make dishes. I ask the concierge of the hotel I am staying at to let me know when Japanese food cooking shows are on during my stay and a list is brought to me a few hours later though I wouldn't do this at a business hotel.

That Japan-Guide already recommended to you is a really good site for information so take the time to really investigate everything in that site. Here are some of the specialty foods of Japan that you need to be ready to give a try if you haven't already.


hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Old Dec 12th, 2011, 01:38 AM
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Thanks everyone, am assimilating and continuing with planning, will post again when have more pinned down.

Have had some great advice here, and on a number of other travel forums, so lots and lots to take in.

Kavey is offline  
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