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2 weeks in Japan in December, any suggestions?

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Sep 3rd, 2003, 06:25 AM
  #1
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2 weeks in Japan in December, any suggestions?

I'm planning on a trip to Japan around Christmas and New Year and need some suggestions to where to go.

I have been to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, and now I'd like to explore other parts of Japan. I was thinking of Hokkaido, but am worried about the weather, we're not into winter sports, so snow would not be appealing to us. Does it always snow around Christmas time there? How bad is it? I mean would we still be able to go out, walk around and enjoy the sites?

If the weather is too cold there, can any one suggest another area to explore? we like all kinds of things, shopping, hi tech stuff, food, as well as historic sites, scenery, traditional villages etc. Would also like to try some hot springs.

Any suggestions would be great, thanks!
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Sep 4th, 2003, 06:26 PM
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Average temps in Sapporo for New Year's Eve range from low of 15F to hi of 31F. That is what you call freezing cold.

It would be 20F degrees warmer in Kagoshima. Maybe visit Miyazaki. Some history in Nagasaki. Fukuoka is a nice city and you can fly between Fukuoka and Narita.
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Sep 22nd, 2003, 06:42 AM
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Mackie,

My husband and I are hoping to go to Tokyo( 4 nights), Kyoto (2n), and Seoul (3n) from 12/25-1/4. I've read that time of year isn't particularly rewarding for foreign tourists since the whole country of Japan shuts down during that exact timeframe. Did you find that to be the case when you visited?

Thanks!
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Sep 22nd, 2003, 07:45 AM
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Bonjour Jgee,

I've been to Tokyo and Kyoto around that time of year, and although all state (except post offices) offices, museums, zoos and buildings are closed from approx. Dec 28 to Jan 4, there is still quite a lot to see and do, with the added pleasure that Tokyo is less congested and polluted than usual during this time. Most usual businesses are open, and quite a number of department stores are open even on Jan 1st, with special displays and sales (try to go to Mitsukoshi to see people trying to buy some of the best "surprise bags" on sale on Jan 1st).


Temples and gardens are open, there are myriads special events and displays for the New Year, and the celebrations themselves are a good occasion to see "the real Japan".

Just plan early enough for hotel reservations and avoid being in the trains on the days the Japanese will travel to and from their home towns.
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Sep 22nd, 2003, 09:49 AM
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One sure benefit of being in Tokyo at that time of year is that the Imperial Palace is open to the public. I think the days are 12/23 and 1/1, you should check though to be sure. I was there and walked around the palace interior, it is very crowded but kind of neat and you get to the imperial family as well. It is worth the trip as just looking at the outside of the palace is not as much fun. Tpkyo for sure is open and doing business during that week, not sure what the rest of the country is like, but I imagine you should be able to see and do most everything you wanted.
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Sep 23rd, 2003, 11:58 AM
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Thanks All! You've helped us decide that we are going to go for sure. One other question though. I've read that Kyoto may not be worth the trip, what other cities nearby to Tokyo would be a better use of time and money?
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Sep 23rd, 2003, 01:11 PM
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Kyoto not worth the trip?? Really?
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Sep 24th, 2003, 08:42 AM
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I'm starting to grow my interest in visiting Kyoto. Has anyone taken the Cooking tour/lesson with Kitchen Mariko?

About how long is the train ride from Tokyo to Kyoto and how often does it leave Tokyo?

Thanks!
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Sep 24th, 2003, 01:11 PM
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To mackie: Since you're not into snow, why don't you try the more southerly locations? I'm thinking of Kyushu in particular, which is quite mild in Dec. There's a major airport in Fukuoka, and from there you can get to anywhere on the island. Nagasaki is a very interesting city, and the hot springs on the west side of Kyushu (Beppu) are a unique experience.

To jgee: Kyoto is well worth the visit. It's about 2 1/2 hours from Tokyo on the Shinkansen, which run every 15 minutes, so getting there is very easy. It was Japan's capital for over 1000 years, and remains the center of its traditional culture. No other spot in the country has as dense a concentration of important temples and shrines, and traditonal crafts.

Japan at New Year's is quite a lot of fun. It sounds from your itinerary that you will be in Kyoto. Stay up late on New Year's Eve and try to squeeze your way into Heian Jingu Shrine or one of the surrounding temples. It's quite a scene. One thing to beware of. Train reservations Dec 29-Jan 5 can be hard to come by. If you decide to go to Kyoto, buy your train tickets the day you arrive in Tokyo.
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Sep 30th, 2003, 03:45 PM
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mackie,
The suggestions above for December travel to Kyushu are excellent. I traveled for a week around Kyushu in early December of 2001, and it was one of my best-ever Japan trips. The temperature was very mild - mid-50's during the day, mostly and a few days of rain as I circled the coast. The interior of Kyushu was considerably cooler, due to the mountains - there was thick frost in the mornings but the afternoons were warm.
Ride down the east coast from Kumamoto to Kagoshima - the scenery around the Ariake Sea is beautiful, with vistas of islands and water. Kagoshima's volcano, Sakurajima, is spectacular. You can take a ferry to its base and go to the hot springs at the tourist lodge. If you love Japanese gardens, there is one on the outskirts of Kagoshima called Iso which uses Sakurajima as a backdrop to incredible effect - talk about "borrowed" scenery!
The bullet trains terminate at Fukuoka in northern Kyushu, but I found the express trains on the Fukuoka/Nagasaki and Kumamoto/Kagoshima runs to be just as efficient and pleasant.
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Oct 3rd, 2003, 06:11 AM
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There are some good articles at about.com covering Christmas and New Year's in Japan. Go to the link below and follow the January and December links.

http://gojapan.about.com/library/special/blholidays.htm

Yoi otoshiwo!
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Oct 6th, 2003, 08:01 PM
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Thank you all for your tips and suggestions!

jgee, hope you have a good one!

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