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Family of 5 - Trip to Japan: Need help getting organized

Family of 5 - Trip to Japan: Need help getting organized

Jan 11th, 2010, 09:23 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 88
Family of 5 - Trip to Japan: Need help getting organized

We're planning a trip to Japan in late October. We are a family of 5 with three boys 12, 9, and 4. I'm trying to book airline tickets with miles and am trying to figure out a rough itinerary. We will probably have 11 or 12 nights. We typically like to do 'vacation rentals' and have 3 'home bases' for a 12 night trip. We like outdoor activities, hiking, and mom likes good food.

Here's what I've looked at so far, that I think we would enjoy. I'm trying to figure out how to make this into a workable itinerary. We could fly into Kansai and out of Narita if that works...or the other way around.

- Kobe, Hiroshima, Miyajima
- Shikoku
- Kyoto
- Something in the mountians: Takayama, Matsumoto, ??
- Tokyo
- Hakone

I know that's way too much for 12 nights, but I'm struggling with where the kid-friendly 'home bases' might be.

- fly into Narita
- Tokyo with day trips to Hakone, Fuji Five lakes
- Somewhere in the mountians hiking and visit folk village
- Western Honshu with day trip to Shikoku
- fly home from Kansai

What cities would you recommend? Or just focus on smaller areas: Kyoto, Shikoku and Western Honshu? As you can see I'm all over the map!

Thanks for your help!
sdfamily is offline  
Jan 11th, 2010, 03:17 PM
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Yes, you are right, that is too much to fit in with only 12 nights, especially with 5 of you travelling. I think I would be making it Tokyo, Kyoto and Takayama.

Trying to fit in Shikoku as well is bit too much and I would seriously reconsider Himoshima/Miyajima. To stay there for a night would be pushing the schedule as well and, yes, it can be done as a day trip from Kyoto but it would make for a very long day trip and perhaps be too much for the kids depending on what they are like.

You could still go out to Himeji for a half day which they would enjoy. Likewise, they will love feeding all the deer at Nara even if they get a bit "templed out" there. Another good trip for the kids from Kyoto is out to Arishiyama and combining the Sagano Romantic Train with the boat ride down the Hozu River back to Arishiyama.

From Tokyo you can do Hakone and Five Lakes and/or Kamakura.

Two or three nights in Takayama would be a good counter balance to the cities and let you do some walking as well and go out to Shirakawa. An alternative to Takayama might be the Kiso Valley and do the walk there but there will be more things to entertain the kids around Takayama.
shandy is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 06:56 AM
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shandy - Thanks for your response. I just finished skimming your trip report and noted the trip to Arishiyama as something that they might like.

I'm a bit nervous about my 4 YO and the crowds in Tokyo. Maybe we stay on the outskirts in a quieter (is there such a thing?) neighborhood?
sdfamily is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 08:13 AM
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Wow, five of you!
OK nights 1 - 4 in Tokyo

nights 4&5 in Matsumoto maybe stay here:


or Hakone where there are so many places to stay, see here if you haven't already for info:


night 6 in Hiroshima

night 7 on Miyajima and maybe stay in one of these



night 8-11or12 in Kyoto where you can transit to KIX and fly out

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Jan 12th, 2010, 05:52 PM
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OK....after more research, here's my latest thoughts....

- Kyoto has a festival on the 22nd of Oct, 'Jidai Matsuri'
- We can't get mileage tickets from LAX to Narita until the 18th of October
- To fly into KIX, we have to change planes in HNL
- My kids are in school until the 15th

I'm thinking of flying to HNL on the 16th and departing for KIX on the 18th, arriving on the 19th. Can't beat 2 days in Honolulu! Using miles you can have a layover and an open jaw.

Arriving at KIX on the 19th around 5ish.

- 19 Oct: overnight Osaka
- 20 Oct: Visit aquarium, travel to Kyoto
- 21, 22, 23, 24: Kyoto with sidetrips to Nara and Arishiyama
- 25, 26: Takayama with trip to national park for hiking
- 27, 28, 29: Tokyo with day trip to Hakone
- fly home from Narita

If we skipped Osaka and aquarium, we might be able to fit in a day at Tsumago in Kiso valley after hiking.

I know I excluded all the Disney and Universal Studios stuff, but we live in Southern California and just spent 12 days in Disneyworld this past October.
sdfamily is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 04:56 AM
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Your plans sounds good. I tend to think that it would be better to stick with the aquarium rather than rushing over to Kiso Valley. Although Tsumago was one of the highlights of the trip for me, I tend to think it may be unnecessarily complicating the issue as you will need to make several changes to get there. It won't be a quick and simple trip.

If you don't do a half day to Himeji from Kyoto, don't forget you could always go from Takayama to Tokyo via Matsumoto and see the castle there. It is extrememly good as well and, besides, I believe they are doing a lot of construction work at Himeji - not sure how this is affecting the viewing of it. The bus trip over the Alps is gorgeous.
shandy is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 10:36 AM
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Hello! You made a really good plan. You will have plenty of fun. I think you should always choose Takayama over some other city in the mountains. And it is a place where you can take a good rest and have some amazing foods. You've got a very busy itinerary. Maybe you'll get tired somewhere around the middle of your trip. It should be your holiday after all and not a business trip. And Takayama is a really good place to rest your soul. Enjoy really really tasty food in Takayama, which is always my favorite! There are so many of small restaurants with foods that taste like homemade and not like restaurant food at all. Good idea to make that hiking trip! Go to nature park Kamikochi! Check out for some impressions and info:
barcafana is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 01:21 PM
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Skip the aquarium and Osaka altogether as you have no time to do it justice, save it for a return trip. I would take an MK taxi shuttle from KIX directly to Kyoto and start my journey from there.


As I mentioned up-thread, I would favor Matsumoto over Takayama as the castle will be a hit with your children and you can also use it as a base for hiking the Kiso valley or any other in the vicinity. Lots of good restaurants and shops in Matsumoto.




I have written a couple of trip reports about the area in Japan which you will be traveling that might interest you. Click on my screen name to review if interested.

Do you have an idea on what type of lodgings you are looking for?

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Jan 13th, 2010, 03:13 PM
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For some reason I thought it would be a lot quicker to travel to Osaka than to Kyoto after a long plane flight. But, after looking at the times, it looks like 30-45 minutes longer. Probably best to just go there...

As far as accommodations, in Kyoto we'd probably do a vacation rental. I've looked at several on VRBO.

In Takayama or Matsumoto, probably a guesthouse.

In Tokyo, who knows?????
sdfamily is offline  
Jan 14th, 2010, 08:21 PM
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Are you interested in staying at a Ryokan?

In Tokyo, unless your destinations are also outskirts, I would stay in the city. There are millions of commuters struggling to get to and from work. Unless that is a Japanese experience you are looking for, you don't want to join them.
nickn is offline  
Jan 14th, 2010, 11:32 PM
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What airline FF program allows both an open jaw and a stopover on the same trip?

What national park near Takayama?
mrwunrfl is offline  
Jan 15th, 2010, 06:59 AM
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nickn - I don't think we would probably stay in something as formal as a Ryokan. I'm thinking that three young boys would not be the best guests.:=) As far as Tokyo, I agree that something in the city would work best.

mrwunrfl - On American you can book one-way award travel. So technically, it's not an open jaw, but two one way awards. You can also do open jaw, but I have them reserved as separate one way awards. One from LAX to KIX with layover in HNL and the other from NRT to LAX.

The national park I was looking at was Kamikochi.
sdfamily is offline  
Jan 15th, 2010, 07:45 AM
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You just might hit the end of the koyo in Kamikochi on your dates if my calculations are correct.....

See here for some choices of Tokyo apartments if interested.


Or are you interested in a budget hotel with two rooms?

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Jan 16th, 2010, 03:40 AM
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If your main intention is go to hiking in Kamikochi then Matsumoto is a much better place to situate yourself than Takayama. I was thinking of Takayama mainly because to me Matsumoto itself has the feel of being in just another city (albeit smaller than Tokyo and Kyoto), whereas Takayama has more of a village feel to it. It would take me only 15 mins or so to be wandering around the outskirts into the countryside. However, my knowledge of Matsumoto is quite limited, hawaiiantraveler is much more knowledgable about the town than me.

If you do decide on Takayama, the Rickshaw Inn would give your family a "ryokan" experience without being of the full on variety. Their clientale is mainly foreigners so they cater for westerners well. It is really a western sytle hotel hotel with Japanese sleeping arrangements in some rooms. You can choose a room with the futons on the floors and yukatas to wear. etc and your kids would enjoy some time sleeping Japanese style. I believe they have family rooms and having a kitchenette and lounge area (communal area) to boot would be a great bonus with kids. You could simply heat up something in the microwave if they are starving at inconvenient times. They do not offer the full Japanese dinner which is expected in many of the more proper ryokans.
shandy is offline  
Jan 24th, 2010, 01:40 PM
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Hi there. hope this is not too late but i just wanted to let you know that we are just back yesterday from Japan with our 4 young (blond) girls (caused a commotion and lots of smiles whereever we went!) after a suggestion on this site we stayed at Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu and it was fabulous and we felt a good price through tripadvisor online booking. hotel was one of the few places that have 'quad' rooms, but i believe it is possible to get a quad room with an extra fold up bed. there is a submit a question section on their website through which you could ask. location fantastic - right on bus line to and from airports, right above subway and train station and interesting area. it was a hotel not an apartment though in terms of food prep but there was a fridge in the room. i never found a true 'supermarket' but then i wasn't really looking. just across the way is 'Foodworks' which sold all sorts of Japanese and western foods (my kids arent very adventurous with food unfortunately). there was fresh fruit and veg, lots of Japanese stalls and great 'French' bread and pastry shops, deli for sandwich meats and we lived off the yummy (western) soup stall. we just took stuff back to our room and ate there. Hotel staff very helpful etc etc. we definitely recommend this hotel for young families. good luck!
coolaholigah is offline  
Jan 26th, 2010, 07:27 AM
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Thanks for the recommendations! I'll check out the Rickshaw Inn and the Shibuya Excel Hotel Tokyu.

It turns out we can't get to KIX using miles (easily, that is). So, here's what I'm thinking....
- First night in Tokyo
- Nights 2-5 in Kyoto (that will put us there for the Jidai Masuri)
- Nights 6-8 between Takayama and Matsumoto
- Nights 9-12 in Tokyo

Can we rent a car to travel from Takayama to Mastumoto? We could go to Kamikotchi between the two cities.

Also, if we decide to go to Hiroshima, could we do it as a day trip from Kyoto?

sdfamily is offline  
Jan 26th, 2010, 08:03 AM
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Yes you can rent a car and that is what I would do in that area. See here for rental pricing and reservations. You can also check the JR car rentals at the station if you are using a JR Pass. They may give a discount.


Yes you can do Hiroshima as a day trip from Kyoto although it would be a long day trip as the train travel alone would be about 2 1/4 hours each way. There is enough in Hiroshima to warrant an overnight at least but you may not have time this trip.

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Jan 26th, 2010, 08:27 AM
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HIroshima is not hard to do on a day trip. I've done it w/each of my kids when they were 12-13 yrs old. On one trip we stopped at Himeji castle on the way, and the trip took this timing: left Kyoto on train 7:30 am, arrived back at Kyoto at 8 pm. On the other trip we went to Miyajima after seeing the Peace Park area and museum in Hiroshima, and the timing was about the same re leaving Kyoto and getting back.

If you want some help on the rentals you are looking at regarding the areas and how convenient they are and what they are like, let us know.
emd3 is offline  
Jan 26th, 2010, 08:29 AM
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p.s. If you are going to only stay one night in Tokyo the first night and then take the train to Kyoto the next day, be careful to consider closely where you stay that first night. You don't want to waste a lot of time on transportation getting to Kyoto the next morning. I would stay in Shinagawa the first night after arriving at Narita, and get the Shinkansen from Shinagawa the next a.m. instead of getting it at Tokyo Station.
emd3 is offline  
Jan 26th, 2010, 08:35 AM
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Also, if you are going to Arishiyama, check out the monkey park.
emd3 is offline  

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