1st time Japan - early rough planning

Old Oct 15th, 2016, 02:39 AM
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1st time Japan - early rough planning

I'm planning our first trip to Japan for next spring (March/April - flexible).
From browsing through travel guides like japan-guide I think we could just go anywhere and have no lack of stuff that interests us: temples/shrines, gardens, modern metropolis vs. old neighborhoods, food.. probably the usual list. Plus "every day life", railways - museums and scenic railways.

As the country is so large (long) and one cannot see all in 12-14 days anyway, I am considering a slow-paced approach. One person in my party has some mobility issues, so the amount of daily walking has to be taken into consideration as well. So more extreme walks like a few hundred slippery steps up a hill to see a castle would be rather not be on the list. Walking on more or less even terrain is no problem.

I am thinking about focussing on the Osaka-Kyoto region (fly in/out Osaka) - change places as less often as possible. Maybe the Tokyo region is too much for us on a first visit.
Is it necessary or recommended to change places between Osaka and Kyoto? Or rather do the latter as one (or two) side trip(s) from the former (or v.v.)?
If you wanted to add one lesser populated rural, mountain or coastal area in addition to the Osaka-Kyoto metropolitan area, which one would you recommend? It does not have be a super famous location dotted with many sights, rather a smaller, slow-paced (if there is such) town or any place in the countryside.

Other factors:
Cherry blossom experience would be nice, but no major interest.
Riding highspeed / bullet trains would also be more a secondary interest.

Any other feedback - also on issues I did not ask but you think are relevent - is very welcome.
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Old Oct 15th, 2016, 06:53 AM
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I think your plan to limit the area you are visiting is wise. If it wee me, I'd base in Kyoto and consider a couple of nights in Nara. I know our Japan experts here will have more suggestions for you.
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Old Oct 15th, 2016, 08:12 AM
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Thank you very much for your input.
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Old Oct 15th, 2016, 09:11 AM
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Sounds like a wonderful plan! And for those who are not fully committed to including both Kyoto and Tokyo in the same trip, I think deferring one of them makes a great deal of sense, since these are the two cities in Japan that are, for most of us, easiest to reach on a subsequent trip.

Osaka is very easily reached from Kyoto, so I think it would make sense for you to base in Kyoto, with day trips to Nara, Himeji, Uji, Ikaruga, Osaka, etc.

Something like Hiroshima / Miyajima (staying in Miyajima) might work as a separate destination for just a few days.

A night (or two) at a temple on Koyasan can be incredibly memorable. It can be a pain to get there -- lots of changes of transportation -- but once there, it's basically flat as I recall, and there is a bus connecting the major sites.

Hope that helps!
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Old Oct 15th, 2016, 05:08 PM
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Osaka castle in a park, no hill climbing, and has an elevator inside. It is worth visiting.

You mentioned bullet train, scenic rail, small town.

Bullet train from Kyoto to Okayama, connect to a train to Shikoku for the scenic ride across the Seto-Ohashi bridge, and a small town somewhere on Shikoku (I know not where).

Here is a scenic train near Kyoto: www.japan-guide.com/e/e3965.html
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Old Oct 15th, 2016, 09:46 PM
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Wow -- thanks a lot to all!
That really helps to get me started in the right direction with the detailed planning exercise.
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Old Oct 17th, 2016, 06:56 AM
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I second (or more accurately, third or fourth) the responses above.

I think exploring a region rather than trying to criss-cross a large chunk of Japan will be much more rewarding and you are right that you will certainly not lack for things to do.

If I were helping a friend with an itinerary of your duration, and they were OK with leaving Tokyo for another trip... I'd suggest the following as a rough start, in terms of number of nights, though not necessarily order - I'd need to refresh on the train routings to suggest the order...

Kyoto 6 nights - include day trip to Osaka, Uji and possibly Kobe
1 night Koya san (but assume that much of day before and after will be spent travelling to and from, and also exploring Koya san)
2 nights Nara (I did 1 night but wished as we left that we'd done 2)
2 nights Miyajima (with perhaps half day set aside to explore Hiroshima,again I did only 1 but wish I'd done 2)

That still leaves 1-3 nights to add in, depending on whether your 12-14 was a count of nights on the ground, or full days?

You could easily split your Kyoto stay to have 2 nights in a traditional ryokan and 4 nights in a less expensive western hotel...
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Old Oct 17th, 2016, 07:53 AM
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Thanks - great ideas and helpful tips!
I think we need to postpone our trip by a few weeks to end of April/May to get out of the costly cherry blossom season.
But the general concept will stay the same anyway.
The number of days/nights is still flexible - and will also take into account availability of decently priced airfares to Osaka on the respective days. So it's still the bracket of not less than 10 and not more than 14 days.
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Old Oct 17th, 2016, 04:37 PM
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I think we need to postpone our trip by a few weeks to end of April/May to get out of the costly cherry blossom season.

Be careful cowboy1968, there is something called 'Golden Week' that comes near the end of April/early May that can also send prices up:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2282.html

I'm probably the only one who will urge you to go to Nagoya to see the Toyota Commemorative museum of Industry and Technology. If you think it appeals, and if you don't want to move hotels too much, I think you could do it as a day trip from Kyoto, especially if you take the shinkansen
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Old Oct 17th, 2016, 05:09 PM
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As Sue_xx_yy said, do make sure you avoid Golden Week!

Assuming you avoid it, visiting in May can be lovely -- iris and many other flowers will likely be in bloom, there's a wonderful geisha - maiko dance in Kyoto (the Kamagawa)
http://www.pref.kyoto.jp/visitkyoto/...kyoto_city/22/
-- and a parade, too -- the Aoi Matsura.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3948.html
And you might be able to experience a fire lit noh performance, takigi noh, in Nara (or maybe elsewhere)

And given your preferences and constraints, you might want far more time in Kyoto than the typical first-time visitor. There's certainly a great deal to see and experience!
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Old Oct 18th, 2016, 02:15 AM
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We did find April in Kyoto more expensive than when we'd visited in autumn previously, though as it had been a gap of 3 years, we weren't sure how much was down to that. We went ahead of Golden Week.
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Old Oct 18th, 2016, 02:55 AM
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Wow.. again so much helpful advice.
Especially the info on the Golden Week.. definetely want to avoid that period and go afterwards in May!
Great to get such info before committing on dates and shopping for airfare.

Thanks also for mentioning the Toyota museum. That does match my interests. So another item for the potential to-do list.
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