Advice on Japan

Old Feb 19th, 2016, 04:53 PM
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Advice on Japan

Hi

Would appreciate some advice regarding our itinerary for travel in Japan for 13 nights at beginning of Nov 2016. We're in our mid 50s.

Itinerary is as follows:
Day 1-3 nites in Tokyo (use national local pass)
Day 4 Travel to Nagano area 1 nite (activate JR Pass)
Day 5 Nagano to Hakone 1 nite
Day 6 Hakone to Nagoya or straight to Takayama 1 nite
Day 7 Takayama to Kyoto overnite
Day 8 Kyoto overnite
Day 9 Kyoto to Hiroshima overnite, visit Miyajima
Day 10 Hiroshima to Nara overnite?
Day 11 Nara (use national local pass)
Day 12 Nara to Osaka
Day 13 Osaka
Day 14 Depart Osaka

Hubby has been to Japan many yrs b4 (mainly Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka n Nara). We visited Nagasaki while on an asian cruise a few yrs ago.

Any ideas/thoughts or recommended changes to above itinerary would be highly appreciated. Many thanks!
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Old Feb 19th, 2016, 06:13 PM
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First, welcome to Fodor's, LaSam!

Second, because you flagged your post as a "trip report" -- which means a report of a trip you have already taken -- you might not get the information you are seeking. So I suggest that you contact the editors to request that they remove the "trip report" tag. You can do that by hitting the orange triangle at the top right corner of YOUR post above -- the one that reads "Report Abuse" -- even though you aren't reporting abuse! Once you hit that, you'll get a screen that lets you enter a message to the editors.

OK, now for some specific comments:

Are you sure your timing allows you to actually see and do the things you want to do? As examples, just one night in Hakone seems short to me, as does just one night in Nagano. But maybe those times work for you... just asking!

I do not think Takayama well suited to a single overnight. I gave it 1.5 days and sincerely regret that I did not give it more. You might consider deferring Takayama until you can combine it with Kanazawa and give the two cities a total of at least 4, if not 5, nights. JMO.

For your time in Hiroshima and Miyajima, you might consider spending the night in Miyajima rather than Hiroshima. I say that for two reasons: (1) It is an incredible delight to see Miyajima after daytrippers leave, and to see it's "floating torii" -- part of the Itsukushima shrine -- at both low and high tides. And, of course, Miyajima offers many other delightful moments. (2) Hiroshima can be, as I'm sure you know, very powerful on an emotional level, so I was glad to have a very quiet, contemplative night afterwards in a beautiful setting on Miyajima. I stayed at a small and surprisingly affordable ryokan, Momiji-so, which still gets great reviews, and there are, of course, any number of other well-reviewed ryokan options on Miyajima.

I loved Nara, and thought it well worth 2 nights. Just to be sure I'm understanding you: Are you limiting your time in Kyoto and Nara because of "Hubby's" prior time there? Many of us think that these two cities, together, easily merit 6 nights / 6 days.

I'm not sure what you mean by the "national local pass" -- which doesn't mean your planned use won't work -- just that I literally don't know what you mean!

If you haven't already done so, I urge you to consult japan-guide.com and use it as extensively as you can -- it is, IME, the single best available source for tourists visiting Japan. The only think that I know I question is its estimates of timing specific walks, particularly in Kyoto -- they took me twice as long as that source suggested, and I'm not a slow-paced traveler!

Hope that helps!
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Old Feb 19th, 2016, 07:25 PM
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kja, Thanks for responding so quickly and for the advice re remove "trip report" tag. I'm new to this forum so appreciate all the help I can get as planning a diy trip is a lot of work n need sorting out - choose and eliminate process.

Great to have people's diff views on things! As u can see we have only 13 nites in Japan so have to be more selective in what we can do n see in the limited time, a little better v what other friends have done in 7-10 days (round trip from Tokyo! They had even less time than us. I want to see a few areas of interest of each place. I don't think we'll be going back to Japan as there are other places to visit on our bucket list. In the first place, hubby didn't want to come ... so he is doing me a great favour.

Will consider staying at Miyajima instead of Hiroshima. Have been using the Japan guide which I found very useful. I only started researching last wk, trying to put an itinerary together.

Let me clarify, apart from buying a 7 days JR Pass, thinking of buying the Pasmo card for convenience to use in Tokyo and in Osaka/Kyoto/Nara when the JR Pass expires after 7 days. Is there is another better alternative card that we can use?

https://www.japan-rail-pass.com/serv...FQslvQodHI4MpA

Due to limited time we have, is Nagano area doable for 1.5 days b4 heading to Hakone? I'm not sure if I want to give either Hakone or Takayama a miss as I have seen a variety of mountain sceneries b4 and prefer to have a ryokan/onsen ie visit Nagano and Jigokudani Wild Monkey Park in Yamanouchi over Hakone/Takayama (chose 1). Am aware that Takayama is more than 3 hrs by train o/w from Odawara Station so it will make my planning easier if I drop one place over another in regards to timing?

I'm quite selective in what we want to see, impossible to fit everything in limited time. I appreciate natural beauty over city stays, a few temples is more than enough for us. Although airfare from Australia was on sale, mid range hotels are quite expensive v low season. Fortunately, am able to use points for a few nights for hotels here and there n save some $$$.

Yes, thanks, have been using the Japan guide, found it excellent in the planning.

Would appreciate your further thoughts re our itinerary.

Kind regards
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Old Feb 19th, 2016, 08:18 PM
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I'm glad you found some value to my comments and hope that others will also chime in, particularly as I have little (if any) knowledge of some of the things about which you ask.

For the passes, consult not only japan-guide, but also hyperdia.com to see what it would cost to go without a pass; note that you need to count both of the costs listed per seat in hyperdia. Once you come close to finalizing an itinerary, calculate and compare costs; and then, before committing, see if a slight tweak to your plans will make a big difference to your transportation costs.

I haven't been to Nagano or Hakone, so I'm no help with either of those sites. As I said, I chose Miyajima for my one ryokan experience, and I was very happy with it. YMMV.

As for the temples, remember that (a) Japan has both temples and shrines, which are somewhat different beasts (not to mention palaces, castles, preserved segments of traditional architecture, and various styles of gardens and parks) and (b) in Japan, temples and shrines are often more about gardens and landscaping than structures or interior spaces. I was concerned that I would become "templed out," and I've read many people express similar concerns. I've rarely (maybe once?) encountered anyone who actually experienced that -- instead, most travelers comment on the differences among these sites.

For lodging, be sure to consult booking.com

Also, I trust you know that you are apparently planning to travel just before the start of Japan's magnificent "koyo" season -- the time when leaves turn color in the fall. That means that you are just a bit off a prime travel time -- so probably lower costs -- but also just missing something wonderful. Your call!
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2014.html

Enjoy!
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Old Feb 19th, 2016, 08:56 PM
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Hi LaSam,

As kja suggests, if you haven't used the hyperdia.com website to check train times, I suggest you do. You will see that from Nagano it's only about 2.5 hours to Takayama vs. about 3.5 hours to Gora station in Hakone (Odawara is still an hour away from any of the Hakone sights). From there it is about 5+ hours to Takayama, and then another 3+hours to Kyoto.

Of course, you know what your priorities are better than anyone else, but I think as it stands, on days 4, 5 and 6 you will find you will be doing a lot more train travel than sight seeing.

Here are my suggestions, of which there are many other possible options:

1) If you are going to Nagano to see the Snow Monkeys in Jigokunai, I'd stay in Shibu Onsen instead of Nagano. This puts you 15 minutes from the Snow Monkey Park and you can stay in an onsen ryokan there.
2) I would suggest dropping either Hakone, and adding that night to Takayama for a total of two nights there, or drop Takayama and add that night to Kyoto (or a second night in Miyajima/Hiroshima area.
3) 2 nights in Kyoto is really only one full day, which is not nearly enough time to really appreciate all that Kyoto has to offer. I'd suggest deleting Osaka and adding those two nights to Kyoto.

These are by no means the only possibilities. Whatever you decide to do, have fun!
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Old Feb 19th, 2016, 09:00 PM
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Thanks kja


Will definitely do a costs sheet etc.

No ryokans or hotels left in Miyajima left on booking.com Looks like we just visit Miyajima and stay in Hiroshima.

Trawled thru many good avg hotels close to main stations. These are already booked out in various cities. Some of these hotels with tiny rooms are quite expensive even for Oct/Nov.

Thanks for the websites. Onward with the planning. Will let u know when things fall into place.

Ciao for now.
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Old Feb 19th, 2016, 09:16 PM
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"No ryokans or hotels left in Miyajima left on booking.com "

Then try japaneseguesthouses.com
More importantly, check back -- it may be too far in advance for some ryokan to accept reservations! IIRC, many don't open their reservations systems until at least 6 months beforehand, and some may have even shorter lead times -- on the order of 3 months.

And don't miss the advice from russ_in_LA -- he was apparently posting just as you did, and it is really easy to miss those simultaneous posts!
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Old Feb 20th, 2016, 01:13 AM
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Welcome to the Fodors Japan gang!

How exiting to be planning your first trip to Japan. As for it being your only trip - who knows? Never say never! Several people I know thought that would be the case when planning their first trips, as they too had much of the world that beckoned, but that one trip was so magical that here they are with multiple trips under their belt. In any case, even if you think you will never go back, it's better to really enjoy what you see than to whizz around so fast that you are unable to appreciate any of it!

In any case, I too think that you are trying to pack just a little bit too much in, and that you will end up experiencing a lot of travel and not very much Japan. (It could be argued that bullet trains are a Japanese experience in themselves but you'll be wanting to experience more than that!!!)

The itinerary I suggest is based on what you have started with and what you have said above but with more time to actually see anywhere rather than arrive, check in, have a couple of hours, one meal and be on your way again!

Day 1-3 (3 nights) in Tokyo
Day 4-5 (2 nights) Hakone
Day 6-7 (2 nights) Takayama
Day 8 (1 night) Nara
Day 9-11 (3 nights) Kyoto
Day 12 (1 night) Hiroshima (am), overnight Miyajima
Day 13 (1 night) Osaka
Day 14 Depart Osaka

That's my two pence, anyway!
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Old Feb 20th, 2016, 03:14 AM
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russ_in_LA, kja and Kavey, Many thanks for your time and input!

I will change my itinerary. I do like to stay put in a place for 2-3 nights to see something of the area instead of being on the "run" every day mid wk. I did use hyperdia and google to time the distances. So much info overload sitting in front of the pc for hrs reading this and that and trying to sort things out mentally is draining! I really needed some clear guidance here. So, thank you folks for your great advice/suggestions, it is much appreciated.

Will start afresh 2morrow as it is getting late here 11:11pm. The other nite I went to bed at 1:30am. Yes, I know having things on the mind last thing b4 bed is not good!
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Old Feb 20th, 2016, 06:01 AM
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LaSam it's a wonderfully enjoyable process though, so enjoy shaping your itinerary and building anticipation of a magical trip!
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Old Feb 20th, 2016, 04:27 PM
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If you go to Nagano then you should go on to Takayama from there via Toyama. If you want to include Hakone then go there before Nagano.
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Old Feb 20th, 2016, 08:22 PM
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LaSam--if you want to go at a slower pace, then why not follow our itinerary from our first trip:

4 nights Tokyo (day trips to Nikko, and Mt. Fujii)
3 nights Takayama (day trip to Shirakawa-go)
3 nights Kyoto (day trip to Nara)
3 nights Hiroshima (day trip to Miyajima)
Then you could add your overnight in Osaka here--just leave Hiroshima on a very early train, so you can enjoy the day there.

I personally prefer, as you do, to base myself in one place, and branch out on day trips from there. I like to come back to my cozy room, knowing that my toiletries are lined up in the bathroom, and my chargers are all plugged in. This trip actually worked out quite well logistically. I dragged my non-travelling younger son on this trip, and he only squawked a little.

We found Hiroshima to be a cool city. We visited the museum in the morning when it opened, left for lunch and a rest, and then we went back until closing. It is huge, and much nicer than its cousin museum in Nagasaki. Also, there is a fun baseball stadium there, and the okonomiyaki pancakes are the best anywhere (get the seafood ones).

Regarding the JR pass, just figure out your itinerary first, and worry about the wisdom of getting a pass later. You just go to the Hyperdia website and add up the segments--I did not find it worth it for this trip.
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Old Feb 20th, 2016, 09:01 PM
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Oops, we stayed 5 nights in Tokyo, not 4, with a third day trip to Odaiba.

BTW, my discriminating son liked Takayama the best, and I tend to agree with him.
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Old Feb 21st, 2016, 08:15 AM
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How embarrassing--here's my final, corrected itinerary for our first trip to Japan:

5 nights Tokyo (separate day trips to both Nikko, and Mt. Fujii, and 1/2 day trip to Odaiba)
3 nights Takayama (day trip to Shirakawa-go)
4 nights Kyoto (day trip to Nara)
3 nights Hiroshima (day trip to Miyajima)


I also wanted to add that other posters here have very different travel styles, and that is fine. Variety is the spice of life, after all. Only you can decide what is best for you.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2016, 10:45 PM
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Hi everyone

Sorry have not been able to post because "submit" button did not work for some reason.

Also have been rather busy, but thank you all for your input.

ATM, am also looking at ryokans with onsens so there may be a slight change of itinerary. I'd rather be in the beautiful countryside or by the sea.

If anyone can recommend a great onsen experience, please do let me know.

Cheers!
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