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1st trip to Japan - 3 week itinerary. Please help....

1st trip to Japan - 3 week itinerary. Please help....

Old Nov 6th, 2008, 10:23 AM
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1st trip to Japan - 3 week itinerary. Please help....

Hi,

I'm heading to Japan next month and Im currently finalizing my itinerary and booking hotels. I would GREATLY appreciate any comments or suggestions as I've been working on this plan for weeks but I'm still unsure if it's the best route to take.

Background: were a late 20s/early 30s couple looking to see culture, food, UNESCO sites, onsen, ryoken and possibly stay overnight in Buddhist lodging. Shopping isn't that important to us. Were happy just walking around neighborhoods and see how other people live day to day.

We would like to see the cities and stay a couple of days outside them. I'd like to have at least 2 days enjoying natural sights but I'm not sure where to go to do this in December weather. We love to hike & cycle but were not sure December weather is conducive to this. I'm from Wisconsin, but prefer 50+ degrees for outdoor activities.

Here's what I'm planning:

14-Dec flight/ arrive in Tokyo at 5PM
15-Dec Tokyo
16-Dec Tokyo
17-Dec Tokyo
18-Dec Nikko or Hakone day trip (Tokyo overnight)
19-Dec Tokyo to Kyoto in morning
20-Dec Kyoto
21-Dec Kyoto
22-Dec Kyoto
23-Dec kyoto
24-Dec Kyoto to Nara (stay in rykoen in Nara)
25-Dec Osaka
26-Dec Osaka
27-Dec Osaka (is this too much time for Osaka??)
28-Dec Himeji, then to Hiroshima
29-Dec Hiroshima/ Matsuyama??
30-Dec Matsuyama ??
31-Dec train back to Tokyo in AM
1-Jan Tokyo
2-Jan Tokyo/flight home at 3PM

Thank you so much!!!!
rachelanneb is offline  
Old Nov 6th, 2008, 12:55 PM
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Rachel, considering the length of time that you have in Japan I would be inclined to mix up your itinerary a bit more between large cities and some smaller places.

Now admittedly, I am not so much a "city" person, but I think what you have is a bit overkill. You could easily afford to take some time out and include say Koyasan or a trip up to Takayama for a bit of a different mix. If that is too cold for you why not have a look at Kyushu. At the very least I would give more consideration to turning Nikko and/or Hakone into overnight trips and make the most of them.

I must also say that I have never been to Osaka so may be that offers something really different to Tokyo or Kyoto. I was recently in Japan and we had a volunteer guide for the day in Kyoto. When talking to her she mentioned she was from Osaka. We asked her why on earth was she travelling into Kyoto to do guiding if she lives much closer to Osaka. Her answer was that she finds Osaka boring - just food for thought.

You have Hiroshima/Matsumyama on your list. Do you mean Hiroshima/Miyajima?

Incidentally I am currently doing a trip report on my three week trip through Japan if you are interested. It is titled My magical three week+ trip through Japan.
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Old Nov 6th, 2008, 02:46 PM
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Hi, rachelanneb -

I like that you aren't trying to rush through Japan - there is much to savor there!

Given your description of your interests, I'm inclined to agree with shandy that you seem to be spending a lot of time in cities, but maybe that's what you want.

> possibly stay overnight in Buddhist lodging

I don't know what it would be like in December, but I loved Koyasan and found my night at a Buddhist temple there among the most memorable of a very memorable trip.

> looking to see . . . UNESCO sites

You might consider adding a day to Nara if you want to see Horyuji in addition to the ancient monuments that are within Nara itself. I'm really glad that I had nearly 2 full days in the Nara area - there is a lot to see there! In addition, Itsukushima Shrine in Miyajima is very close to (and easily reached from) Hiroshima, and Miyajima is a lovely place to consider for a ryokan stay. Itsukushima Shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; I don't believe anything in Matsuyama is.

Also - is there any reason why you are flying in and out of Tokyo, rather than flying into Tokyo and out of Kansai (or vice versa)? The open jaw would keep you from back-tracking.

Hope this helps!

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Old Nov 6th, 2008, 03:04 PM
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Here is a list of the UNESCO sites in Japan

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2251.html

Nikko, Nara,Hiroshima Lots of sites in Kyoto, and Koyasan are places you can visit that are or have UNESCO sites within

kja's idea of an open jaw flight is a good one that would save you some time and possibly some money

I would plan this itinerary this way

Tokyo 5 nights with daytrip or overnight in Nikko
Hakone 1 night
Kyoto 5 nights
Nara 1 night
Hiroshima 1 night
Miyajima 1 night
Matsuyama 1 or 2 nights
Osaka remainder of time and fly out of KIX

or something like this with a night in Koyasan after Kyoto if you like

Aloha!
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Old Nov 7th, 2008, 09:05 AM
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thanks for the helpful responses. I'm going to do some research on the suggested changes and revise my schedule, possibly removing Osaka.

I fly/in and out of Tokyo because those were the only affordable tickets for me. I agree that it would have been nice to find a flight out of a southern city.

Thanks again!
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Old Nov 8th, 2008, 11:46 AM
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What airline are you flying? It is possible to get a one-way fare for about 12,000 yen. Or two flights for $230 to $260. You could fly back to Tokyo from Matsuyama, for example.

I believe the Imperial Palace in Tokyo is open for visitors on Jan. 1, so you timed that right, I think.

I suggest scratching the Osaka stay. Go to Takayama for a night or two and then take the bus to Shirakawago. Spend a night there in a gassho-zukuri. Expect about 5 feet of snow there. I stayed at Koemon minshuku (a g-z farmhouse) and they had boots available for guests to use during their stay.

The bus from S-go to Kanazawa does not run at that time, but you can get a bus to Takaoka where you can get a train to Kanazawa and/or on to Kyoto.
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Old Nov 8th, 2008, 12:22 PM
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My 2cents here:

I think you're spending more time than necessary in Tokyo in the beginning. Especially since you'll be in Tokyo for NYE/New Year's Day. I'm tempted to cut one night, use it for Takayama.

From Tokyo, you can take the bullet train to Nagoya, transfer to an express train to Takayama. I recall it takes about 2hr from Nagoya. I think you can also use Takayama as a base to visit Shirakawago--I have never been there myself, not sure if the bus service runs around this time of the year. Possible to see snow.

If you do an overnight in Hakone, you can go straight westward the following morning. The trick is to send the suitcase by takkyubin courrier service (very reliable and inexpensive) to Takayama or Kyoto the day before, just use an overnight bag.

I would scrap Osaka. You can do Koyasan instead. It's a good idea you're allocating enough time in Kyoto. The latter part of your trip looks a bit more rushed.

It is also my understanding that lots of people travel before year-end. Don't know exactly what the peak period is--around 28-30 Dec out of Tokyo, and 3-4 Jan back to Tokyo. Make sure you book bullet train seats on these days.

Don't underestimate the winter temperature in Kyoto. It can be quite cold--though snow is rather rare. Also many temples are NOT heated. I would strongly recommend warm socks, good winter coats/jumpers, most important of all comfortable shoes (preferably rain proof).
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Old Nov 8th, 2008, 08:31 PM
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I have revised the itinerary according to your helpful comments and further reading on my part:

13-Dec flight
14-Dec flight/ arrive in Tokyo at 5PM
15-Dec Tokyo
16-Dec Tokyo
17-Dec Tokyo - Nikko day trip
18-Dec Tokyo
19-Dec Takayama
20-Dec Takayama
21-Dec Kyoto
22-Dec Kyoto
23-Dec Kyoto
24-Dec Kyoto
25-Dec Nara
26-Dec Nara
27-Dec Osaka
28-Dec Osaka- himeji day trip
29-Dec Kobe
30-Dec Kyosan
31-Dec Kyosan & back to Tokyo
1-Jan Tokyo
2-Jan Tokyo/flight home at 3PM

I'm pretty sure these are the sights I would like to cover but still not clear if the last portion of my trip is arranged in the best order of travel. Again, any suggestions are very much appreciated!

Cheers!
rachelanneb
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Old Nov 10th, 2008, 01:50 PM
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Himeji and Kobe are the farthest south(or west) you will go so maybe go to Kobe after Nara and work your way north(east) ie

Kobe
Osaka
Koyasan
Tokyo

If it were me I would do

Kobe
Koyasan
Osaka-2 days w/Himeji day trip
Tokyo

Aloha!
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