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Another Planned Japan Itinerary (if you can stand it...)

Another Planned Japan Itinerary (if you can stand it...)

Old Apr 15th, 2013, 05:18 PM
  #1  
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Another Planned Japan Itinerary (if you can stand it...)

Hello fellow Fodorites. I have completed my draft itinerary for my November trip to Japan. I have participated in these forums for about a year now and have learned a lot, while also trying to impart some learnings to others in places I have visited recently, such as Turkey. If folks like HT, Mara, Don Topaz, kja and other Japan experts can stand commenting on yet another Japan itinerary, here is my plan. Note: I am locked in on the 17 days as my ticket is purchased but do have some flexibility to move things around if anyone feels I'm missing anything critical for a first trip to Japan. Also to note: Japan has fascinated me since I was in 6th grade. My goals for the trip are therefore many and varied. See gorgeous temples. View Mt. Fuji and see other natural wonders. Experience Japanese culture. Soak in an onsen while looking out at mountains or lakes. Eat incredible food and the tastiest sushi of my life. etc. etc. etc.

Anyway, here is my plan:

Day 0 Direct flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo
Day 1 Arrive Tokyo in late afternoon. Shuttle to my TBD hotel. Leaning towards staying in Ginza to make the early morning trip to Tsukiji Fish Market less painful.
Days 2-4: Tokyo
Days 5 & 6: Tour package of Hakone National Park. (tour operator to be selected)
Days 7 & 8: Matsumoto and Kamikochi. (2 night ryokan stay in Matsumoto)
Days 9-12: Kyoto
Day 13: Hiroshima
Day 14: Miyajima (overnight in a ryokan on the island)
Day 15: Bullet train from Hiroshima to Tokyo. Evening dinner/more exploration.
Day 16: Either Kamakura or more Tokyo
Day 17: Direct return flight Tokyo to Minneapolis

So, any obvious errors with that itinerary? How about any absolute must sees/do's, other than the most obvious things, that I should make sure I incorporate?

Thanks everyone.
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Old Apr 15th, 2013, 06:04 PM
  #2  
kja
 
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Should be a great trip, MinnBeef! And just for the record, I am NOT an expert on Japan (as some Fodorites are!) - just someone who had a wonderful trip there.

> Day 13: Hiroshima
Day 14: Miyajima (overnight in a ryokan on the island)

Depending on your interests, you might be able to see both Hiroshima and Miyajima in one day. As I recall, I reached Hiroshima in the late morning, spend 4 or 5 hours visiting the A-Bomb Dome, Peace Park, and Peace Museum, and then took the ferry to Miyajima. I spent the night at Momoji-so (check it out! http://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/d...a/momijiso.htm). I spent the first part of the next day exploring Miyajima (the town and its temples and shrines and also Mt. Misen), and left this lovely island mid-afternoon.

> Days 9-12: Kyoto

I'm not sure where your travel falls within this time frame, but you might want to consider adding time here if you can. I had 4 full days in/around Kyoto plus 2 in/around Nara and could have used more!

BTW, I had one of the most delicious and memorable meals of my life at Misoguigawa in Kyoto. It specializes in French kaiseki and it looks like it still gets very good reviews.
http://www.misogui.jp/eng/

> Either Kamakura or more Tokyo

I enjoyed Kamakura, but I think Nikko might provide a better contrast to the other things you'll be seeing. If you do go to Nikko, you might consider spending a night and including a visit to Chuzen-ji and Kegon-no-Taki in addition to seeing the temples. And don't miss the small, but excellent museum of Japanese screens!

Hope that helps!
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Old Apr 15th, 2013, 06:44 PM
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What dates exactly(or very close) in November?
What is your hotel/ryokan budget?(so I can give you recs along the way)
Also are you a single, double, triple?
Your overall itin looks ok and doable with the main sites thrown in. I would maybe save Kyoto till the ending and utilizing a combo of 7-day pass with other options but would need to know answers on my questions above first, thanks.

Aloha!
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Old Apr 15th, 2013, 11:35 PM
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Ha, great minds, Kja!

As I read MinnBeef's itinerary, I had the exact same thought -- more time in Kyoto and combine Hiroshima with Miyajima.

We did just that for our first trip to Japan last October (for which we also had 17 nights). We spent 5 nights in Kyoto (and are going back for another 5 this autumn) plus 1 in Nara, 1 in Koyasan and 1 in Osaka. After that we took the train to Hiroshima, spent a few hours there, and then took the afternoon ferry to Miyajima. That gave us enough time on the island to wander around the harbour by the shrine and famous floating gate, walking on the sand with the tide out and a little walk through some stalls and shops in town. We also visited the temple just behind our ryokan, the auberge Watanabe. One could spend longer on Miyajima, especially if a big walker, as the mountain paths between other shrines and temple buildings look worthwhile for walkers... but part of an afternoon and an evening plus a little time the next morning is good too.
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Old Apr 16th, 2013, 05:00 AM
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Overall, sounds like a very reasonable plan.

Regarding your first stint in Tokyo, staying in Ginza or nearby area makes a great deal of sense. Another area nearby Tsukiji is Shiodome, where there are several hotels at different price points (Conrad, Park, Villa Fontaine). This area is also adjacent to the especially pleasant Hamarikyu Garden and the river cruise terminal.

Karuizawa is a hilly and touristic area about an hour northwest of Tokyo by Shinkansen, and it might be destination to consider for the latter part of your trip. If your budget allows it, the Hoshinoya onsen resort in Karuizawa is a terrific choice, offering a gorgeous setting and a combination of traditional Japanese experience with Western amenities. Karuizawa is also a convenient place from which to reach Narita airport -- you can leave at midday and easily be at NRT by mid-afternoon.
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Old Apr 16th, 2013, 05:43 PM
  #6  
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kja-

Thank you for those recommendations. I would expect to actually spend between 1/2 and 3/4 of a day in Hiroshima, depending on what time I leave Kyoto. Although in all likelihood, I'll probably leave no later than mid-morning so that with a 2+ hour train ride, then transport and check in at my hotel, I'll hopefully get started at Peace Park, etc. by early afternoon. By the way, one can't VISIT the A-Bomb Dome, can they? You just observe it from afar?

I do think I need a little more time in Kyoto. My understanding is that the main attractions are quite spread out and that the Metro system isn't all that useful. Kyoto sounds kind of like Istanbul in that for a first trip, you can't possibly allocate too much time to it...? Thanks for the restaurant recommendation...I will check that link out.

I was also considering Nikko for that last day, although my understanding is that Nikko is further from Tokyo than Kamakura. I do very much want to see the Great Buddha at Hase. My only concern with leaving Tokyo on that last full day is getting stuck somwhere unexpectedly and then missing my flight the next day. A small risk to be sure, but something I'm keeping in mind.

Thanks for the great advice!
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Old Apr 16th, 2013, 05:47 PM
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HT, my travel dates are Nov. 5-17.

At this point, I have reserved my ryokan nights in Matsumoto and in Miyajima. At current exchange rates, those 3 nights will run me about $350-$400/night. I would like to keep the remaining nights to an average of around $200-$250/night if possible. I'm a solo traveler but typically book double rooms if the price isn't all that more expensive. I am leaning towards the Mitsui Garden Hotel in Ginza for its proximity to Tsukiji, although haven't booked anything yet. My hotels for Kyoto and Hiroshima are still open. Especially for Kyoto, what do you recommend? I had hoped to stay at Hotel Mume based on the fantastic TA reviews but they are fully booked for my days there.
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Old Apr 16th, 2013, 05:50 PM
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Kavey-glad to hear you greatly enjoyed Miyajima. I am anticipating spending a full day there for the exact reason you mentioned...doing some hiking around the island and perhaps to the top of Mt. Misen, in addition to seeing the torii at several times during the day, walking through Red Maple Valley ark to hopefully see fantastic colors, the shrine, etc.
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Old Apr 16th, 2013, 05:53 PM
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Don, appreciate your vote of confidence on my itinerary. Thanks for the tip on Shiodome also. I will check out some hotels there. I have been leaning towards the Mitsui Garden Hotel in Ginza but if I'm not mistaken, I've read comments on TA that there aren't a lot of restaurants in the nearby area. Would Shiodome be better for evening dining than Ginza?

Thx for the tip on Karuizawa. I will do some reserach on that. My afternoon flight is 3:00, I believe, so it's good to know that it's an easy jaunt back to Narita.
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Old Apr 16th, 2013, 06:19 PM
  #10  
kja
 
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> one can't VISIT the A-Bomb Dome, can they? You just observe it from afar?

When I was there, one could walk around it, which was not "from afar," but rather from the surrounding sidewalks. But you are right, you can't enter it.

>Kyoto. My understanding is that the main attractions are quite spread out and that the Metro system isn't all that useful.

Yes, the main attractions are quite spread out, and some are a bit further from the metro than might be ideal. In some, but not all, cases, you can take buses instead of the metro. As I recall, I did use the metro quite a bit and found it extremely efficient for the places that it did serve.

> Kyoto sounds kind of like Istanbul in that for a first trip, you can't possibly allocate too much time to it...?

The analogy to Istanbul is apt, if imperfect. First, it seemed to me that Istanbul had a fairly easily agreed upon list of highest priorities, followed by a fuzzy set of "next-in-line" places, and then lots of other it-would-be-great-to-sees. In contrast, I thought Kyoto had many, many more places in the top tier and I found decisions about which sites to see MUCH more difficult. With Istanbul, I felt like I had the liberty to fit a few "extras" in around the sites I considered must-sees; with Kyoto, I had to choose among the places I most wanted to see, and even with the time I gave it, I couldn't fit in all my high priority destinations. But maybe that was just me. Second, Istanbul has a major international airport; Kyoto can be reached easily from Kansai, but isn't a "gateway" city, which could be relevant if a trip planning consideration is whether you are likely to fly into/out of a city on a future trip.

> Thanks for the restaurant recommendation

I should have mentioned that Misoguigawa was an extraordinary splurge for me. Even years later (I was there in 2006), I've only paid a similar price for a very few other dining experiences.

> I was also considering Nikko for that last day, although my understanding is that Nikko is further from Tokyo than Kamakura. I do very much want to see the Great Buddha at Hase. ... My only concern with leaving Tokyo on that last full day is getting stuck somwhere unexpectedly and then missing my flight the next day

Yes, Nikko is further, and really merits an overnight; Kamakura can be easily visited as a day trip from Tokyo. If your heart is telling you to see the Daibutsu, do so! He is special. You might consider visiting Kamakura during your first few days in Tokyo instead of waiting until the end.
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Old Apr 16th, 2013, 07:15 PM
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It looks good.

>Days 5 & 6: Tour package of Hakone National Park. (tour operator to be selected).<<

What does that mean? Day 5 you leave Tokyo and spend a night in Hakone. Then what on Day 6? Back to Tokyo or another night in Hakone.

So you are traveling to Matsumoto on Day 7, two nights there, then travel to Kyoto on Day 9 and spending 4 nights there.

For that itin, I might buy a ticket to Matsumoto and then use a 7-day JR Pass for Day 9 thru 15.
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Old Apr 17th, 2013, 05:20 AM
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MinnBeef, Ginza is better for evening dining than is Shiodome.
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Old Apr 17th, 2013, 06:49 PM
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mrwunfl-

You are correct. Day 5 I leave Tokyo with the tour. Spend that night in Hakone. After my 2nd day at Hakone (day 6), I return to my TBD hotel in Tokyo for that evening. The next morning (day 7), I catch a morning train to Matsumoto.

Thanks for the feedback on the JR ticket. That's what I was also thinking, figuring that the bullet train back to Tokyo from Hiroshima would likely be my most expensive leg to buy on its own, so wanted to have a rail pass covering that day.
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Old Apr 17th, 2013, 06:50 PM
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Don-

Thank you. Ginza is sounding more and more like the area I want to stay in over my first week in Tokyo.
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Old Apr 17th, 2013, 07:21 PM
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I was thinking since you will have transport from Tokyo to Hakone with your tour you could then buy a ticket from Odawara to Matsumoto on the 7th from about ¥7350 to ¥12000 but the cheaper ticket is same time or better than the expensive ticket. Then get a 7-day JR pass ¥28300 starting on Day nine which will carry your train travel through the 15th rather than buying a 14-day pass for all at ¥45100.

Have you looked at the Citadines in Kyoto or the Dormy Inn Kyoto yet? In your price range and comfy with great reviews. The Dormy Inn even has a free onsen,coin washer and dryers and free hot noodles after 9:30 pm. Great after a long day.

I would also head towards Hiroshima/Miyajima after Matsumoto and leaving Kyoto for last before returning to Tokyo. Not only to savor Kyoto just before you leave Japan but to better your chances at experiencing the fall colors of Kyoto which should be better later in Nov as you possibly can.

Odakyu in Shinjuku station has travel packages to Hakone. You can buy there at the station or a travel agent in your Tokyo hotel if there is one.

http://www.odakyu.jp/english/

We will be in Hakone a week before you. Have fun!

Aloha!
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Old Apr 20th, 2013, 09:17 AM
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Thank you HT. I did look at both of them--great reviews on TA. Neither struck me at the time for reasons I don't recall, other than perhaps I need to go a bit above $250 if I want something somewhat upscale. I'll revisit my research on those two places. I

have inquired at 3 different ryokans and all tell me they are full (at least for single/double rooms) Now I appreciate that Nov. is prime fall colors season and that I'm looking for a room for a Thurs-Sun. time period at highly-rated ryokans per TA, but I'm starting to wonder if the fact that they know I'm a solo, male traveller works against me for cultural reasons??
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Old Apr 20th, 2013, 09:53 AM
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Being solo at a ryokan works against you for financial reasons. Charges are per person, so some ryokan don't accept reservations for 1 person when they expect they will sell the room (and meals) at 2x rate. At japaneseguesthouses dot com you can see if a ryokan accepts solo travelers.

I would suppose that ryokan on Miyajima that generally accepts solo travelers might require double occupancy at leaf-peeping time. I am guessing that they also might refuse to book to a foreigner, knowing that they can always sell to Japanese at that time.
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Old Apr 20th, 2013, 10:42 AM
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Hoshino resorts, locations in various places, takes singles Hoshinoya Kyoto and Karuizawa certainly do. Kai hakone and Kai kaga onsen probably do. It is an expensive brand so book through a virtuoso agent to get preferered rates and special amenities and benefits. Great places but likely triple your budget once you add meals. Nevertheless I recommend them often and guests are thrilled.
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Old Apr 20th, 2013, 04:12 PM
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mrwunrfl-you are correct about Miyajima. I don't think I was charged double but they did tack on a hefty premium for the privledge of staying there. Oh well, it will still be worth it, I'm sure.

Kimjapan-thanks for that tip. I will check it out.
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