1st time Japan - solo female

Mar 9th, 2014, 07:11 AM
  #1  
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1st time Japan - solo female

Hi, I'm totally new to Fodor, so please be kind!

I've just booked flights to Japan and am trying to get my head round coming up with an itinery, which is proving harder than with any other trips I've done for some reason. Maybe it's because I'm usually travelling in a car/rental car and will be using public transport this time.

I'll be travelling from July, 10th - August, 7th. Not the best time of year to go to Japan, I know, but the only time I can go, so I'll just have to deal with the heat and humidity.

I'll be starting and finishing in Fukuoka as I'm visiting friends who live there. I am planning to travel solo for two weeks in the middle of my stay, roughly from the 17th-30th, but I can add a night or two if needs be. I was thinking 14 days because of the JR pass availability.

I have read guides and looked on many forums and people seem to be spending a lot of time in Kyoto and Tokyo, but I'd like to fit something a bit more rural into the trip as well.....but maybe mainly as day trips from the cities?! Open to better ideas.

This is what I am thinking so far:

Fukuoka --> Kyoto 4 nights, including a day trip to Nara and somewhere else I haven't decided on yet (open for suggestions) -->travel to Koyasan and spent the night -->Tokyo, 6 nights, with day trips to Nikko, Hakone and Mt Fuji Lakes --> this is where I become very vague and have three nights left, maybe on to the Kiso Valley, is it worth staying there for two or three nights?? Has anybody got any suggestions?---> Day 14: return to Fukuoka. I have considered spending the three nights somewhere and then returning to Tokyo for a final night and flying back to Fukuoka if my rail pass has run out. I've found cheap flights with Jetstar.

I realise that the Koyasan to Tokyo day will involve 7 plus hours of traveling, so if there is anywhere en route that is worth stopping off for a night, please let me know.

Also is it worth getting a 14 day JR pass for this, or do I have too many static days, keeping in mind that I'll also possibly be travelling back on my last day to Fukuoka? Would it make more sense to buy individual or regional passes?

I do also want to visit Hiroshima and Miyajima, but thought I might do that as an overnight trip during my two weeks in Fukuoka. That as well as Yakushima. I'm not so worried about finding an itinery for the time in Kyushu, as my friends will be able to help with that a lot, but of course if there is somewhere you think I must see in those two weeks, let me know!

I'd also really love some suggestions for accomodation in the various places. As I said I'm a solo female traveler and I prefer private rooms rather than sharing dorms, but I'm on a bit of a budget and would like to save some money in some places, so that I can treat myself to a few nights in a nice ryokan.

Any suggestions and tips will help greatly!
sylvie77 is offline  
Mar 9th, 2014, 07:19 AM
  #2  
 
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I would try to plan my stops around the rail pass... i.e. stops in Kyoto and Tokyo at either end of the journey so you are not paying for the pass while in these longer stay cities..
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Mar 9th, 2014, 10:37 AM
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I recommend Takayama and Shirakawago for those extra 3 nights. Or Kanazawa.

There are many ways that you can put this together and you have some good ideas, including flying back to Fukuoka.

I don't get the part where you mention returning to Tokyo. What you have so far boils down to a few nights in Kyoto, a stop in Kiso Valley, and on to Tokyo. That is a 7-day pass itinerary starting at Hakata and ending in Tokyo. Koyasan to Nagoya for the night, then day trip to Kiso Valley, and on to Tokyo. Or Koyasan to Nakatsugawa is not much further than Nagoya, spend the night in Magome or Tsumago, walk the Nakasendo as I think you are considering, then on to Tokyo. OR, perhaps better, on to Nikko where your JR pass runs out. From there, take the Tobu train to Tokyo, and spend your 6 nights, then fly back to FUK.

Returning to Fukuoka after an overnight to Hiroshima/Miyajima is certainly good time-wise. It is a quick trip from Hakata to Hiroshima station but it is not cheap. You would want it to be on a rail-pass.

As far as rural Japan goes, you will have Kyushu at your front door given that you will be in Fukuoka.
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Mar 9th, 2014, 06:47 PM
  #4  
kja
 
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I must admit that I am confused by your current itinerary. I think it might be helpful, to us and to you, to pull out a calendar and mark it up with your travel plans (when do you need to leave, when will you arrive, leaving time for packing/unpacking, getting to/from your hotels, etc), where you plan to spend each night, and what you hope to visit. Then come back to us with a plan that shows where you plan to be each day/night. You don't need to list every site you plan to visit, just something that gives us a sense of what cities you hope to visit in what time frame.

Japan is a lovely place to visit -- I'm sure you'll enjoy yourself no matter what you decide!
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Mar 9th, 2014, 06:48 PM
  #5  
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P.S. -- Maybe I'm the only one who was confused? If so, sorry!
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Mar 9th, 2014, 07:28 PM
  #6  
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BTW, I traveled to Japan as a solo female - loved it!
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Mar 9th, 2014, 07:43 PM
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You mentioned Yakushima. It's a long way from Fukuoka, unless you take the once-daily flight. And you need at least two nights there do have time to do any hiking. Not a day-trip kind of place from Fukuoka.
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Mar 9th, 2014, 08:16 PM
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kja is confused, I am confused, Bob surely is confused, and the OP is definitely confused (the reason for the apology at the beginnning, I think).

How long do you want this trip to be? You sound like the kind of person who doesn't want to relocate often. That is do day trips instead of moving from place to place. Is that the case? How did you come up with 6 nights for Tokyo? Do you have a plan for that?

Here is what could be the start of your trip:
Day 1: Fukuoka to Miyajima, night on Miyajima
Day 2: Miyajima to Hiroshima, night in Hiroshima
Day 3: Hiroshima to Koyasan, night in Koyasan
Day 4: Koyasan to Kyoto
Day 5: Kyoto
Day 6: Kyoto
Day 7: day trip to Nara, night in Kyoto
...
mrwunrfl is offline  
Mar 10th, 2014, 12:21 AM
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Firstly, if you have two weeks in Fukuoka, then I agree you could easily do Hiroshima and Miyajima from there during that time, as I think it's about an hour train journey between Hakata and Hiroshima stations. That said, would recommend the overnight in Miyajima as it's just wonderful.

In terms of your extra days, can I suggest you give more time to Kyoto? Firstly, there is a lot to see in Kyoto itself, that would easily merit 3 or 4 full days (or more, if you had it). And then there is much that can be visited from a Kyoto base - Arashimaya is really within Kyoto, but often considered as a half or full day trip, you have Nara and Osaka nearby, both worthy of a full day trip each, if you like whisky, go and spend half a day visiting Yamazaki Distillery, which is a 15 minute train ride out from Kyoto, you could head to Kobe if you wanted to, there's green tea town Uji within reach as well. You could incorporate Koya-san visit into the middle of a longer stay in Kyoto, so that you don't have to do that 5-6 hour trip from Koya-san directly to Tokyo. Kyoto to Tokyo is not much over 2 hours journey time.

A question: is all your time with your friends in Fukuoka going to be spent at the city itself? Or will you be able to tour Kyushu itself? The reason I ask is that my husband and I spent 8 nights in Kyushu in autumn 2013 and hired a car for much of that. This gave us the most wonderful wonderful views as we drove from place to place, mostly rural and with some spectacular mountain views as we switchbacked up one side and down the other, peak after peak, as we crossed the region. It's very easy and pleasant driving, the roads are not at all crowded, it gives you a lot of flexibility on your itinerary as you are not reliant on the one or two trains or buses timetabled each day between some places, and those views are just amazing.
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Mar 10th, 2014, 01:09 AM
  #10  
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I am indeed confused myself, that's why I posted. Thanks for all the helpful responses. I always find this very early stage of planning the hardest.

kja, I had started putting a calendar together, but that's where I got stuck. I'll flesh it out now and get back. Thanks also for the encouragement. I have to say that I am a little nervous about traveling on my own for that amount of time (I've never gone beyond a weekend and only in countries I'm familiar with), but I hear everywhere that Japan is the best place for it.

mrwunrfl I usually don't mind relocating, but the thought of dragging luggage around in 30C and high humidity isn't the most appealing, so thought it might be easier to do many things as day trips rather than relocating and spending a night in loads of different places. The 6 nights in Tokyo was to allow for three day trips (Nikko/Hakone/Mt Fuji) from there as well as having 2 or 2 1/2 days for Tokyo. But maybe it does make more sense to do this at the end and buy separate tickets to these places or even join an organised tour for Mt Fuji/Lakes. Also, I hadn't realised that Hakata/Hiroshima would be that expensive as I thought there was a 2 day JR Sanyo-Shikoku-Kyushu Rail Pass,but just realised that for that reagion they only have a 5-day one, so starting off there is indeed a good option.

rkkwan, Thanks. Yes I realise. Sorry, it wasn't clear that I didn't see it as a day trip, but maybe as something to do with my friends for a few days.

Once again apologies for the confusion and thanks everyone for the input. It's much appreciated and really helpful!
sylvie77 is offline  
Mar 10th, 2014, 08:59 AM
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Regarding luggage, where you are just going for a single night somewhere, you can use the takuhaibin luggage forwarding service which is prevalent across Japan to send your main luggage to the next main stop on your itinerary, and just keep an overnight bag with you for the single night in between. We have done this and found it very reliable and helpful.
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Mar 16th, 2014, 05:59 AM
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I've copied the below from a new thread has started, as Kavey pointed out it would be easier for folk to compare things if they were all in one thread, which is a very good point:



Hi,

so after my initial very vague (and to most people also confusing) plan, I've gone back to the drawing board and come up up with a new itinerary for my 14-day trip in July.

I'm starting and finishing in Fukuoka as I'm visiting friends there and the flights are booked, so that is the only part of the trip that isn't flexible.

Day 1 - Fukuoka to Hiroshima/Miyajima
Day 2 - Miyajima to Kyoto
Day 3 - Kyoto
Day 4 - Kyoto
Day 5 - Kyoto (day trip to Nara)
Day 6 - Kyoto to Nagoya
Day 7 - Nagoya to Matsumoto
Day 8 - Matsumoto to Takayama
Day 9 - Takayama to Tokyo
Day 10 - Tokyo
Day 11 - Tokyo (day trip to Nikko)
Day 12 - Tokyo
Day 13 - Tokyo (day trip to Hakone)
Day 14 - Tokyo to Fukuoka


I have taken Koya-san off the itinerary as I've spoken to two of my friends, who both said that whereas they enjoyed it, it wasn't as special as they had hoped (they both admitted that it might have had something to do with the fact that it was January and -10C and quite bleak up in the mountains). So I decided to leave Koya-san for another time and I have added Nagoya, Matsumoto and Takayama instead, which also means dropping Nikko or reducing it to a day trip from Tokyo.

I have thought about going Takayama to Odawara (rather than straight to Tokyo) and doing the Hakone visit with an overnight stay and then traveling on to Tokyo on Day 11, but that seems a lot of travelling for days 6-11 with one night stop overs?! Or should I drop the night in Nagoya and go straight to Matsumoto from Kyoto?

Any thoughts, tips, feedback and ideas would be very welcome! I hope this is less confusing!



kja on Mar 16, 14 at 12:09am

You'll see some wonderful things!

I trust you realize that you will need to be selective in what you choose to see. For example, I wasn't able to see everything I wanted to see in Kyoto and Nara, even with 6 full days in the area. Seeing just the highlights of Takayama really requires at least 1.5 days, if not longer. And you are giving yourself only 2 days in Tokyo, which may be enough for your interests, although many people want more time there.


Kavey on Mar 16, 14 at 9:31am

I'm wondering if you might add this to your existing thread? It's hard to flick between two different threads, to remember what has already been suggested or discussed, that has lead to the revised version?


sylvie77 on Mar 16, 14 at 1:56pm

Thanks Kja for your input! I know I won't be able to see everything in that little time. I always try and not cram to much into the days when I'm in a new place. I tend to have the attitude that I'll see what I see and what I don't get around to I'll save for (hopefully) another time. Otherwise I always think travel can become quite stressful as you always feel like you're missing things. As to Tokyo, if I feel like I want more time there, I'll drop the day trip to Nikko as I will have had some experience of more rural Japan in between Kyoto and Tokyo.

Maybe I will also drop Nagoya and head straight for Takayama. It seems to make sense.

Kavey, will do! I was worried people might miss it in an old thread, but I guess it goes back to the top of the forum if there is a new post. Still finding my feet on Fodor!
sylvie77 is offline  
Mar 16th, 2014, 03:08 PM
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Hi Sylvie
Thanks, it may just have been me but I was trying to remember which of the various current itinerary threads was your original one, and what you'd already discussed and what had changed... this makes it easier for me.
Kavey is offline  
Mar 16th, 2014, 10:52 PM
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Not a problem, Kavey. I appreciate all the input, suggestion and knowledge people are sharing. It helps so much and makes me a lot calmer about doing it on my own.
sylvie77 is offline  
Mar 18th, 2014, 07:34 PM
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Kyoto to Takayama makes more sense than going to Nagoya, unless you have a definite plan in Nagoya. I recommend spending 2 nights in Takayama, then bus over to Matsumoto (stopping in Kamikochi for a few hours on the way) for the night.

You could use a 7-day pass ending in Takayama on day 6. From Matsumoto to Tokyo just take the Azusa limited express to Shinjuku. Then you have your options open to take the Tobu train to Nikko or the Odakyu train to Hakone. Am pretty sure you don't need a 14-day pass, assuming you are flying back to Fukuoka.
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Mar 19th, 2014, 06:06 AM
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I just checked Hyperdia and agree, no need to overnight at Nagoya.

I haven't been to Matsumoto so can't comment on that but certainly we travelled directly between Takayama and Nara and didn't find the journey at all onerous. Such interesting views, comfortable trains and a cultural experience in itself, we felt.

If you do drop Nagoya and/ or Matsumoto can I recommend the extra time in Kyoto? There's a lot to see and do in and near the city and I have never met anyone (so far) who regrets giving an extra night or few to Kyoto.
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Mar 22nd, 2014, 11:51 PM
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Thanks mrwunrfl and Kavey. I'm gonna start booking some accomadation after I come back from a trip o Helsinki this week, so will post my final itinerary then if anybody is interested.

Kavey, I know that it would be worth having more time in Kyoto, but I think I'd realy like to be out of a city and gonna spend the extra night I get by skipping Nagoya in Takayama.

I'm just hoping that this won't be the only trip to Japan in my life, so that I can go back to Kyoto another time!
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Mar 22nd, 2014, 11:58 PM
  #18  
kja
 
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"but I think I'd realy like to be out of a city and gonna spend the extra night I get by skipping Nagoya in Takayama. "

I trust you realize that Takayama is a CITY.
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Mar 23rd, 2014, 01:11 AM
  #19  
kja
 
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"I know I won't be able to see everything in that little time. I always try and not cram to much into the days when I'm in a new place. I tend to have the attitude that I'll see what I see and what I don't get around to I'll save for (hopefully) another time. Otherwise I always think travel can become quite stressful as you always feel like you're missing things."

I KNOW that I will not be able to see everything I want to see, ever. Period. I try to plan accordingly.

That means that I assume that I will NOT be able to return and so I try to make the most of the time I have to devote to wherever. If I am lucky enough to return to a loved site, well that would be awesome! But I have NEVER taken the future for granted, and have never wanted to waste even a single moment on the ground -- so I have never intentionally skimmed the surface of a place that I have chosen to visit, no matter how many other places I skip to maximize the use of time in my priority destinations. If I'm going to go somewhere, then I'm going to take advantage of every moment I think that place deserves. Other people have different preferences. Vive la différence.
kja is offline  
Mar 24th, 2014, 12:13 AM
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As Kja says, Takayama is a city (or town, no idea what population size defines the difference). It's smaller than Kyoto, of course, and less tourists - even during the twice-annual festival I found Takayama much quieter than the areas of Gion and Higashiyama in Kyoto, which were packed!

I'm not trying to discourage you from Takayama, as it's a pretty place to visit, but I do think you're underselling yourself on Kyoto considerably.

Another option might be to look at staying in a more rural accommodation/ district of Kyoto for one or two of your nights there?
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