5 weeks in Japan

Old Nov 20th, 2015, 02:05 PM
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5 weeks in Japan

Hi everyone!

I am currently planning my 1st trip to Japan. MARCH 2016 I welcome and appreciate any suggestions/help with my itinerary.

Namba/Osaka/Nara 4 days
Kyoto/ Uji/Arashiyama 10 days
Nagoya 3 days
Hiroshima/ Miyajima 2days
Himeji
Okayama

Kanazawa
Nikko
Yokohama
Tokyo 7days
then home to NYC

Is this a logical order for a 5 weeks span? the labeled days are places that I have booked accommodations for. I plan to get the 21 days JR pass, I would have to wait 2 weeks until I can activate it, which is okay since i'll be in kyoto for 10 days.

Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old Nov 20th, 2015, 06:59 PM
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You've made some great plans already -- kudos!

Some preliminary comments:

Re: Nara - I spent 2 full days there and could have spent more. But I'm not sure you need to adjust your plans: your time in Nara could also be included in your time in Kyoto +

Re: Kyoto + -- as already noted, you might count your time in Nara here -- just be sure to count it somewhere! I found an afternoon sufficient for Uji; YMMV. Arashiyama is, of course, part of Kyoto, even if many people list it separately.

Are you considering an overnight on Koya-san? I HIGHLY recommend it (and again, you could "count" that night in your time allocated for Osaka/Nara -- which, I think, proves that I really don't understand how you are breaking things out!)

So I'm about to do something that I NEVER thought I would do, which is to say that you might trim a bit of time from your allocation for Kyoto. !!! Whether you do so will, of course, depends on what you plan to do elsewhere -- but 10 days + time in Nara and Osaka is truly generous. I'm jealous! And I think that whether it makes sense depends on what you want to do elsewhere.

Jumping ahead (but in keeping with thoughts about your time in Kyoto), you can probably visit Himeji from Kyoto, or on your way to Hiroshima and other places in that direction.

I would not make Okayama a priority and was actually disappointed with it, even though I visited when the iris were in full bloom (which had been my goal). Maybe I just missed what made it special.... If it is a priority, consider visiting it on your way to / from Hiroshima. Check a few maps to see what routing options might make most sense.

I loved Kanazawa! Consider combining it with Takayama for a total of 5 days (plus or minus, depending on your specific interests).

Many people visit Nikko as a day trip from Tokyo. I was glad I spent an night there, which let me see not only the highlights of Nikko itself, but also Kegon-no-Taki and a bit of Lake Chuzenji.

I trust you've been looking at japan-guide.com? Including it's information about travel in March?
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2273.html

Hope these comments help!
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Old Nov 20th, 2015, 11:49 PM
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When working out my itinerary I find it helpful to map all the destinations on MyMaps (google) and to plug in the various journeys in to Hyperdia to look at travel times.

In most cases, the order of travel reflects a line or loop or figure 8 but you may find trains / travel suggest something different.

As Kja has said, it's difficult to work out your nights and what you'll be visiting / seeing from each base.

With 5 weeks, you have the luxury of lots of time in Kyoto. I would say keep 7 nights in Kyoto for Kyoto itself (including Arashiyama), and the other 3 days could be allocated to day trips such as Uji, Yamazaki (if you like whisky), etc.

If you want to overnight in Nara (one or two nights) that's great (and let me know if you want me to recommend our ryokan which we loved).

Osaka, unlike many travellers, we didn't warm to, though we visited on both trips (on the second one I wanted to see if I'd just been unfair on the first). We did enjoy the food market there (different in feel to Nishiki in Kyoto) and certainly it's worth a day trip out of Kyoto, but for me, I can't say I thought the night vibe was worth it. Then again we aren't into bars or nightclubs so perhaps that colours it.

Koya-san, oh yes, a night here is a special experience. We visited in 2012 and like Kja, stayed at Shojosin-in, a temple right by the famous Okunoin graveyard and temple.

On the first trip we spent 2 nights in Takayama and loved it. With the luxury of time, I'd definitely do 3 nights there, there is much to see and enjoy.

We haven't yet been to Kanazawa and are spending 4 nights there on our next (third) trip in spring 2016.

We haven't been to Shirakawa-go. I don't think we'll do it on the next trip either, but I've found a potential alternative just north of Kyoto that I'm exploring.
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Old Nov 21st, 2015, 10:11 AM
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I'm wondering if you have done the math to see if you actually need the 21 day JR Pass. Also not sure what you mean about waiting two weeks to activate it - you can activate it for a date a month in advance....

There are a number of regional passes which may suit your itinerary better than the national one.

japan-guide.com has a great deal of info about passes:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2357.html
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Old Nov 21st, 2015, 01:26 PM
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@Kja Thank you for your detailed feedback! I will definitely look in to spending a night in Koya-san from Osaka.

@Kavey Thank you for your input! I would love to get the name of the ryokan that you stayed at in Nara.

@Mara Thank you for Links and the heads up on the JR pass. I will use hyperdia to help calculate my travel cost before I decide which JR pass to get.

I'm a total newbie to planning a solo trip so I have much to learn!

I'll report back once I make my corrections and I truly value everyone's time/help!
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Old Nov 21st, 2015, 04:08 PM
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"I will definitely look in to spending a night in Koya-san"

My understanding is that one's choice of a temple can greatly affect one's experience of Koya-san. I stayed at Shojoshin-in, which continues to get great reviews:
https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/...n=Shojoshin-in
It is right across the street from one of Koya-san's great treasures, Okuno-in. Consider trying to walk it a dusk or dawn -- or both!
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4901.html
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Old Nov 22nd, 2015, 06:13 AM
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Maggs
We stayed in Ryokan Kankaso, it's a historical ryokan (formerly part of a temple complex I believe) right by the dear park and yet very tranquil inside, food was excellent, our room was stunning and I'd go again in a heartbeat.
We booked through Japanese Guest Houses (who were the ones to suggest this particular property to us).
Here's my report/ photos: http://www.kaveyeats.com/2013/01/kai...o-in-nara.html
Note that not all the rooms are so large, with a private bathroom with wooden tub and the extensive windows out to the gardens, so do ask Japanese Guest Houses to book you this same room as they booked for us.
Kavey
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Old Nov 22nd, 2015, 09:52 AM
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@Kja I just made a request for an overnight booking, hopefully it can fit in to my budget, is it also possible for me to go as a day trip from Namba Osaka? I checked it's about 1.5 hours by train and 5 minutes by cable car.

@Kavey Thank very much for the link, beautiful photos!

I have a question regarding SIM cards for Japan, would I be able to pick one up from their 7-eleven stores or should I order one to the states?
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Old Nov 22nd, 2015, 10:15 AM
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"I just made a request for an overnight booking, hopefully it can fit in to my budget, is it also possible for me to go as a day trip from Namba Osaka? I checked it's about 1.5 hours by train and 5 minutes by cable car. "

Assuming you are talking about Koya-san, well, yes and no! I think that what many of us found so special about Koya-san was staying in a temple, dining on the extraordinary temple food (vegetarian only, with incredible diversity), and seeing Okunoin at dusk or dawn. It is not inexpensive to stay at one of the better temples -- for me, it was quite a splurge, and one that was, for me, well worth it.

Technically, it might be possible to visit Koya-san as a day trip from Osaka -- I didn't actually check the routes. The scenery on the way there is impressive. Depending on how much time you have at the top, you could perhaps see part of Okuno-in and / or Kongobuji, with its extraordinary sliding screen doors.

Your call!
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Old Nov 22nd, 2015, 11:08 AM
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http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/201.../#.VlIf8r-fiHI

Evidently you can get a sim card at the airport....don't know from personal experience. I used to rent a phone but now t-mobile gives me free text and data...

I agree with kja - you should try to stay overnight in Koyasan....many different temples there...
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Old Nov 22nd, 2015, 09:42 PM
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I used rentafone to rent a wifi dongle for both our trips, and they also rent phones, I think probably SIM cards too.
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 08:55 AM
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@Kavey- The website says "they're currently taking a break and not accepting orders for the moment". Bummer... but thanks for the information, I will keep checking back.

@Kja- I received an email from Japanese Guest House saying Ryokans are reluctant to accept single guests.. they wanted me to give them my phone number and flight information before calling them to check for availability, did this happen to you?

@Mara- I really hope that Kansai Airport will have a sim card vending machines by March, I am nervous that since my flight lands at 8:20pm that I will have trouble getting a SIM card at that time so I can contact my host to my accommodation in Osaka should I get lost.
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 09:58 AM
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Just did a quick search and found these:
http://battera.co/fortourist/buy-a-p...ional-airport/

https://www.techinasia.com/ntt-com-j...nding-machine/

Hope that helps! You should make sure to let your credit card co. know you are traveling and of course your phone has to be unlocked....

I tried Japanguesthouses a few years ago and was told there was no single accommodation ryokan in Yufuin...duh....that's the last time I tried them...got a ryokan on my own. Have you tried booking.com - they have a few or also this site:
http://eng.shukubo.net/temple-lodging.html
You can contact a temple directly....
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 04:57 PM
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I think you'll find these are data-only SIMs. AFAIK foreigners are not allowed to buy voice SIMs in Japan, though they can rent them.

You can get free wifi everywhere from Softbank, but you need a phone that can connect to their voice network to receive the password: http://www.softbank.jp/en/mobile/special/freewifi/en/
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 05:18 PM
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Sorry, I did not realize that a SIM would be data only - I guess US phones are different....

If you really need to make a call can't you just use your cell phone for a quick call....that's what I did before a few times....

Coming in at that time may be an issue but some of the places are open:

http://www.kansai-airport.or.jp/en/s...index.html#_02
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 06:27 PM
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"I received an email from Japanese Guest House saying Ryokans are reluctant to accept single guests.. they wanted me to give them my phone number and flight information before calling them to check for availability, did this happen to you?"

I had forgotten about that! Now that you've reminded me, IIRC I knew that some ryokans do not accept single guests and so did some research to identify those that would accept them. I believe there is a way to search japanguesthouses for those that allow single guests (maybe you need to check ryokan by ryokan?), and Shojoshin-in -- the ryokan I recommended above, and the one I specifically requested -- is one of them . I don't recall being asked for phone number or flight info before they checked availability, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. It is my understanding that japaneseguesthouses is a reputable service, so if they did ask, I would provide the info. JMO.
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 08:21 PM
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I received no hassle either when booking or when staying as a single guest at ryokan in Hakone, outside Matsumoto and on Miyajima. A single supplement, yes. But I felt very welcomed at all 3 of them.
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 08:26 PM
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Oh yes, I felt very graciously welcomed at each of the two ryokan at which I stayed!
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Old Nov 24th, 2015, 09:43 PM
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Aah, sorry to hear about rentafone, there are definitely other providers people use regularly, will suggest a forum trawl or seeing which ones others have recommended.
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Old Nov 25th, 2015, 02:06 PM
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Thank you everyone for the helpful links and suggestions!

I will try to unlock my older Iphone 5 so that I can use the prepaid SIM cards in Japan, or choose between ATT passport silver plan (not great,but it's my carrier..) or sign up for Tmobile international plan for two months. (no contract)

I've been taking notes and making corrections to my itinerary, what do you guys think about this so far? it's not perfect, but it's making my heart happy.

Osaka 4 Nights (one night at Koyasan)
Kyoto 10 Nights (Kyoto itself,Kibune&Kurama, Arashiyama, Uji, Nara, Amanohashidate).
Nagoya 3 Night
Hiroshima 2 nights (Miyajima)
*or cancel accomadations for Nagoya and spend 3 nights in Miyajima then goto Hiroshima.
Okayama
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