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PeterBaker Aug 21st, 2019 08:00 PM

4 weeks in Japan - Can you please review my itinerary?
Hey, what do you think of the itinerary below? I’ll be in Japan for two months in March and April 2020. This is my first time in Japan. I’ll travel through the country for almost one month. Then I will spend a full month in Tokyo for work, but I'll have time for day trips during the weekends.

I enjoy slow traveling because I don’t want to bring all my luggage or worry about check-ins every time I move.

Do I need to activate the 21 JR travel pass on Day 5? Or is there a cheaper alternative if I adjust the itinerary?
I wanted to visit Kamikochi too but understand it is closed in March unfortunately. Is that correct? Can't find a lot of information about it.

Day 1: Tokyo - Arrival
Day 2: Tokyo
Day 3: Tokyo
Day 4: Tokyo - Day trip Hakone

Day 5: Kanazawa
Day 6: Kanazawa
Day 7: Kanazawa
Day 8: Takayama - Stop by Shirakawago/Gokayama on the way to Takayama
Day 9: Takayama

Day 10: Kyoto
Day 11: Kyoto
Day 12: Kyoto
Day 13: Kyoto - Day trip Nara
Day 14: Kyoto
Day 15: Kyoto

Day 16: Osaka
Day 17: Osaka - Day trip Himeji castle
Day 18: Osaka - (Maybe Koyasan)

Day 19: Hiroshima
Day 20: Hiroshima - Day trip Miyajima

Day 21 - 25: Okinawa - Going to Ishigaki, Taketomi or Iriomote

Then another full month in Tokyo - Day trips or multiple days in Nikko, Kamakura, Fuji Five Lakes

I considered squeezing in Matsumoto, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Kobe, Sapporo but didn't feel like visiting for different reasons. I know it's personal preference but is there a place you would recommend adding?

Your help is much appreciated!

kja Aug 21st, 2019 09:13 PM

Don't worry about luggage: Japan has an excellent luggage forwarding option. It's called takuhaibin, and here's the relevant info:

In generaly, I like your itinerary for your first month. :) Just a few notes:
  • Although Nara is an easy day trip from Kyoto, I was glad to spend 2 nights and 2 full days there, and I could easily have enjoyed more time there.
  • IMO, Koyasan can be a delightful place to spend a night. I don't think it's ideal for a day trip, but of course it depends on what you want to see / experience there. And it might make more sense in April than in March.
  • I was glad to spend a night on Miyajima, which is IMO particularly delightful after day trippers leave.
I haven't been to Hakone, Osaka, or Okinawa, and so can't comment on them, and I'll wait to comment on your plans for a second month until you've refined your plans a bit.

If you haven't already seen it, spends lots of time with It's not perfect, but it is an excellent resource.


lcuy Aug 21st, 2019 09:55 PM

I would not do a separate day trip to Himeji from Osaka. It is on the way from Osaka to Hiroshima, so I would put it on Day 18, then spend the night in Himeji or do it as a 1/2 day stop on the way to Hiroshima.
Would also do the Hakone trip on a weekend during your second month, and spend a night there, rather than rushing it as a day trip during your travel month. Kamakura is a better choice as a day trip from Tokyo, then you can add that day to the Kanazawa-Takayama- Shirakawago segment.
You have too many non-travel days to warrant a 21 day pass. Get a 7 day pass for traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto on days 4-10. Then either pay separately for the trip from Osaka to Hiroshima or -depending on which airport you're using for Okinawa, it might be worth it to get another 7-Day JR or a Regional JR pass for days 16 to 21. You can compare the costs on

PeterBaker Aug 22nd, 2019 02:44 PM

Thank you both! This helps a lot. I didn't know about the luggage forwarding option. I might just leave most of my luggage in Tokyo and pick it up in Month 2. Not sure how easy that will be.

I'm thinking of adding an extra day to the itinerary and overnight in Koyasan to get the full experience. Spending the night on Miyajima is probably not ideal, because I'll try to catch a flight from Hiroshima to Okinawa. I need to do some more research on Nara to find out if I want to stay a night.

I switched Hakone with Kamakura and put Himeji on Day 18 as you've suggested Icuy. I'm getting familiar with Right now still a little confused what is covered by the JR pass and what isn't but I'll figure this out later.

If you guys have any other suggestions, let me know. I appreciate it.

kja Aug 22nd, 2019 05:36 PM

If you decide to stay in Koyasan -- and I'm glad I did! -- note that the choice of temple can apparently affects one's experience greatly. I had a wonderful experience at Shojoshin-in, which still gets great reviews; others praise Eko-in. Beyond that, I've heard a number of tales of disappointment. And do check the climate data for when you'll be there -- as already noted, March could be a bit early in the year (i.e., a bit too chilly for some).

When researching Nara, be sure to include nearby Ikaruga (including Horyuji and Chuguji).

Visiting Himeji en route from Osaka to Hiroshima is a good idea (:tu: lcuy!).

Adastra2200 Aug 23rd, 2019 07:51 PM

From what I see the OP may fall a little short if using a 7-day JR Pass for Days 4-10. But just for convenience sake it still might be worth getting to avoid constantly buying tickets. You can fly direct from Hiroshima to Okinawa (the main island) if you wish, but if you want to go straight to Ishigaki, the closest choice would be Osaka. Getting a second 7-day JR Pass makes no sense though, and if returning to Osaka to fly south, then a JR Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass would fit nicely. I also agree seeing Himeji on the way to Hiroshima makes sense instead of backtracking.
BTW please be aware that there is no rail access to Shirakawago or Gokayama. You have to pay for the buses (they are not covered by the rail pass).

mrwunrfl Aug 24th, 2019 09:32 AM

Tokyo to Kanazawa is 14,320 and Takayama to Kyoto is about 10,470, so that is less than a 7-day JR Pass. A pass could be used on the 4th for Kamakura but that is still a bit short. Without the pass you would have a better connection to a Nozomi at Nagoya for the hop to Kyoto. With a pass you would not be able to take the Nozomi but you would have the option of taking JR from Kanazawa to Takayama at no additional cost.

You sh/could move your Koyasan stay to be between Kyoto and Osaka. Go from Kyoto to Koyasan on the 16th and then to Osaka on the 17th. That would make it much easier to visit Himeji on the 18th enroute to Hiroshima. You could then reasonably make it to Miyajima by 3 or 4PM for an overnight stay on the island, but your 2-night Hiroshima stay makes good sense.

Take the bus to Hiroshima airport, not the JR+bus way. You can get it at the bus center in the city center. The Rihga Royal hotel is quite close to the bus center and an easy walk to the PP & Museum. You can also get the airport bus from Hiroshima station. The pickup is on the shinkansen side of the station. The Sheraton and the Granvia hotels are right there seconds from the bus stop, maybe 3 minutes walk from the shinkansen tracks, less than 5 minutes from the JR local to Miyajimaguchi, and maybe 5 min from the streetcar that you would take to the Genbaku Dome Mae.

mrwunrfl Aug 24th, 2019 09:57 AM

You are going to need a luggage plan.

At first, I thought you could send your bag from Kanazawa to Kyoto and from Kyoto to Osaka. Then you could just carry a backpack for your stays at Takayama and Koyasan.

But you could use two pieces of luggage with one week of clothing in each plus a small backpack. Send or carry a bag from Tokyo to Kanazawa. Send the other bag from Tokyo to Kyoto. Send the first bag from Kanazawa to Kyoto or Osaka.

Do laundry in Kyoto or Osaka. Send one bag of dirty laundry to Tokyo.

I checked the link below for the airport bus stop at Hiroshima station:
Limousine Bus Services | Access Information | HIROSHIMA AIRPORT

Adastra2200 Aug 24th, 2019 11:50 AM

Unless the OP is interested in seeing the main island (which I didn't see in the first post), flying from Hiroshima Airport is a big waste. You'd have to find a flight from Naha to Ishigaki, costing several thousand yen more.

mrwunrfl Aug 24th, 2019 07:38 PM

I read it as the OP goiing to Naha and then going to Ishigaki. But if the destination is Ishigaki then that can be done with a flight from Hiroshima with a connection in Naha for USD 177.22 (depending on day).

Or it could be USD 102.65 from HIJ to OKA and then USD 74.57 from Naha to Ishigaki if the flights are on different days.

Fukuoka airport would be a closer alternative than Osaka for a nonstop to Ishigaki. That fare is as low as $102.65. Get that fare and it would make sense to fly from FUK to ISG. The Hiroshima airport bus is 50 minutes. The shinkansen to Hakata plus the subway to Fukuoka airport is 66 min - but you would get a nonstop to Ishigaki and not have to make the connection at Naha. It would cost $20 more, but worth it to me.

The airfares I mentioned are ANA Discover Japan fares. They are not available every day to Okinawa (OKA or ISG).

Flying from HIJ or FUK beats flying from OSA if you start the day in Hrioshima.

Adastra2200 Aug 24th, 2019 08:21 PM

I didn't interpret the OPs message that way - "Going to Ishigaki, Taketomi or Iriomote" didn't mention Naha at all. As for flying from Hiroshima, it's true that you can get to the airport in about 45 minutes by bus from Hiroshima Station compared to about 2 hours for Itami. But then you have to get to Naha, then wait at least 1 hour 45 minutes for the next connection (they don't have to be on different days), and then another one hour flight to get to Ishigaki.So in the end you taking longer and paying more for nothing. I considered Fukuoka as well. But then you have to pay the extra 8420 for the bullet train, and another 260 for the subway the rest of the way (total 8680), whereas if they go from Osaka to Himeji, Hiroshima, Miyajima and back to Hiroshima, that covers about 95% of the cost of a Kansai-Hiroshima Area Pass and additional fare is almost nil.

PeterBaker Jan 11th, 2020 06:03 PM

Thank you everyone. I appreciate your help. My girlfriend decided to join me so plans have changed a bit. We decided to skip Ishigaki and Koyasan because she can only spend 3 weeks.

For the itinerary below, does it make sense to buy a 21-day rail pass and activate it on Day 4? I'm confused what is covered and what isn't.
I used the calculator tool on japan-guide and it shows a total cost of +-60.000 yen. See image here:
A plane ticket from Hiroshima to Tokyo costs $80, while a single train ticket costs $164.
Would the cheapest option be to buy the 7-day pass for Day 4 - 10 as lcuy suggested in this thread and take the plane from Hiroshima to Tokyo?

Do you have any other suggestions for this itinerary?

Day 1: Tokyo - Arrival
Day 2: Tokyo
Day 3: Tokyo
Day 4: Tokyo - Daytrip to Hakone

Day 5: Kanazawa
Day 6: Kanazawa
Day 7: Kanazawa
Day 8: Takayama - Stop by Shirakawago/Gokayama
Day 9: Takayama

Day 10: Omihachiman
Day 11: Omihachiman

Day 12: Kyoto
Day 13: Kyoto
Day 14: Kyoto
Day 15: Kyoto - Daytrip Nara
Day 16: Kyoto - maybe: Daytrip Kurama

Day 17: Osaka
Day 18: Osaka
Day 19: Osaka - Daytrip Kobe
Day 20: Osaka - Girlfriend flying back home, spending some time in airport.

Day 21: Himeji
Day 22: Miyajima/Hiroshima
Day 23: Miyajima/Hiroshima
Day 24: Traveling back from Hiroshima to Tokyo (for another full month) - Fly or train

mrwunrfl Jan 12th, 2020 11:31 AM

Am pretty sure that you won't be eligible for a JR Pass because you aren't eligible for 90-day Temporary Visa. That is for tourists. You will be there for work.

You could fly from Tokyo to Komatsu (KMQ) then 40 min, 1,150, by bus to Kanazawa.

The shinkansen from Tokyo to Kanazawa is about 14,400. You prefer the Kagayaki shinkansen, faster by 35 min with fewer stops than the Hakutaka. The Kagayaki is all reserved seating. I got a reserved seat the day before making that trip in November.

The trip from Takayama to Omihachiman is probably best done by limited express to Gifu, transfer to another limited express to Maibara, then a JR local. There is a l'ex from Takayama at around 3:30 PM that stops in Gifu for several minutes before continuing on to Maibara, but it could be faster or slower than making the connection. The fare is under 7,700.

You should look into the Hakone Free Pass. Round-trip fares are around 4,000 but if you were staying in Shinjuku then you want the Odakyu Romance Car at 4,600 roundtrip, The HFP could save you money. There are also bus day trips that you can take from Tokyo if you choose not to DIY.

So, you would not need a JR Pass for that travel anyway.

What will you do with all that time in Osaka?

After you leave your GF, you could just travel from Kansai Airport to Himeji for a night.

You could look into a regional pass for Kansai region and/or one that covers Chugoku (Hiroshima), if available to non-tourists.

PeterBaker Jan 15th, 2020 02:30 PM

Ok thank you for letting me know. Good point about Osaka too. I'll just leave on Day 20 and will do some more research about other places in the region.

If I can get the JR Pass, would it be best to buy a 7-day pass and activate it on day 4?

mrwunrfl Jan 15th, 2020 10:09 PM

I explained in my previous post why, given your itinerary, you would not need that pass. You aren't using JR between Kanazawa and Takayama.

My comment on Day 20 was just moving the Himeji stay from the 21st to the 20th But, returning to Osaka for the night of the 20th is ok, too,.

You should look into regional passes - japan-guide has good explanations. You MIGHT be able to use one or more from Day 10 to the end.

mrwunrfl Jan 17th, 2020 08:26 AM

I was assuming you knew the cost of a 7-day JR Pass. It is 29,650

Adastra2200 Jan 17th, 2020 12:00 PM

There is some gray area above. The OP wrote about going to Japan "for work", but what kind of visa is that under? If that is under any kind of work permit, then you could not use the JR Pass. It is only for tourists with a tourist visa or landing permit. If you get a landing permit you could use the JR Pass (though "work" in Japan under a landing permit is likely technically illegal). But the same story goes for almost all the regional passes as well. If you are a foreign resident in Japan (i.e. non tourist) you could still use the Tokyo Wide Pass and Greater Tokyo Pass. And there is a student version of the Kyushu Rail Pass, but I've looked through tons of passes and not seen any that non-tourists could use, except perhaps the 18-Kippu which is at a snail's pace.

mrwunrfl Jan 18th, 2020 11:24 AM

A business traveler can get a 90-day temporary visitor entry status like a tourist.

If my USA employer sent me to Japan for work then I would get the visa-free temporary visitor stamp. That would apply even if I worked for Honda because my employer/employment would be US-based and my paycheck would come from "Honda USA" or something.

If I went to Japan to work at a 7-11 then I would need a work visa. The employer and work location would be in Japan and I would get paid in yen. It would be a job that a Japanese resident could take. says much the same as japan-guide:
  • You must have a valid passport and an onward/return ticket for tourist/business "visa free" stays of up to 90 days. Your passport must be valid for the entire time you are staying in Japan.
  • You cannot work on a 90-day "visa free" entry.

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