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Family trip to Japan in November '17

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Jul 15th, 2017, 04:00 PM
  #1
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Family trip to Japan in November '17

I would love some advice for our next trip to Japan in November 2017. Here’s the rather complicated plan so far. We are arriving and leaving separately so it’s been complicated. Also My husband and I have been to Japan many times before but are sharing the places we love with our daughter and grand-daughter for the first time…

1st November - my daughter, 8 year old grand-daughter and I arrive in Tokyo where we have booked an apartment in Asakusa for 8 nights (yes I know it’s a bit more than we need but there’s a reason for that).
We will visit Disneyland, wander Tokyo and do one or two day trips out during that time.
Then on 8th November my husband arrives in Tokyo and we’ll go straight down to Kyoto the next morning by train. We have another little apartment right in the centre of Kyoto for four nights 9th - 13th Nov.
We need to get the girls back to Narita for their flight home on 16th November so the plan after Kyoto is to get the train up to Matsumoto, stay there 2 nights and hire a car out of there.
13th enjoy Matsumoto and visit the gorgeous castle.
14th drive to one of the beautiful areas not so far away and enjoy the autumn colours. Which area do you advise??
15th head slowly across to Narita – stay that night and get them safely onto their flight next afternoon.
Then we oldies have another 10 days alone. Can’t decide whether to keep the car for a while longer – perhaps keep it for a few more days and drop it off back in Matsumoto to save the rather exorbitant drop off fee…

I’d love some comments on the general plan. The apartments in Tokyo and Kyoto are fixed and almost uncancellable so although I know more time in Kyoto would be good – no choice there…
I’d also love some advice about things to do in Tokyo with an 8 year old. She’s a good traveller and will be happy to wander old areas and potter in shops but there are probably things we shouldn’t miss?

Still so many things to decide – like is there a rail pass that would be good for us (main trips are down to Kyoto from Tokyo then 4 days later Kyoto to Matsumoto)?

I hope some of the kind Fodorites can help?
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Jul 15th, 2017, 09:59 PM
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kja
 
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Your daughter and granddaughter are fortunate to have this opportunity!

I haven’t been to Matsumoto, but I’m not sure why you feel the need to hire a car there, as I believe it can be reached by public transportation. BUT there may be many very good reasons for the car … I’m really just posing the question.

An alternative might be to visit Himeji from Kyoto and then, instead of going to Matsumoto, go to Nikko (which you can do by train) before taking your younger generation on to Narita.

Have you been to Kanazawa? Takayama? Have you considered returning to Kyoto / Nara after the younger generation leaves? What about Koya-san? I would think any of them worth exploring in your time frame and given your desire to experience a bit of koyo, but I’m sure other Fodorites will have some great ideas for you.

Hope that helps!
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Jul 15th, 2017, 11:00 PM
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If you want to see some places from Matsumoto, there are 3 that stand out - Kamikochi, Karuizawa, and the Kiso Valley (Magome & Tsumago). For Kamikochi you could barely squeeze it in before it closes for winter on Nov 15th; that said there is only bus/taxi access there. For the Kiso Valley the nature walk is famous and part of the old Nakasendo Road, although there isn't any spectacular sights along the way and it is pretty time consuming to get to. Karuizawa is the easiest and you can get there by bullet train from Nagano.

For autumn colors, try looking through:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2014.html

For the rail pass, the full JR Pass is the only one that covers all the places you mention. You'd still come up short without some sizable day trips or side trips. You could always take a day trip to see Izu. If you get the 14 day pass, you need some sizable trips like a trip to Sendai from Tokyo (90 min) or to Hiroshima/Miyajima from Kansai. If you haven't seen it yet, Miyajima is well worth it.
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...KGUB-HPKNxP10Q
and Iwakuni just beyond it very worthwhile also.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0COOZXi66mM

I certainly don't recommend the car for driving through Tokyo. It only makes more sense for rural isolated places.
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Jul 15th, 2017, 11:55 PM
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One of the arcades might appeal to the kid. I had some fun in one in Harajuku (spelling?) they had a bunch of the claw grab games which I loved as kid.

Maybe also a dress up day? I wouldn't have been into it, but my sisters would have loved buying a kimono or yukata and there are so many cute kids outfits here.
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Jul 16th, 2017, 06:30 AM
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If you have a car in Matsumoto consider Shirakawa-go. Also Takayama for the float museum and the Art Noueau museum.

If you want more time in the Kyoto area consider a couple of nights in Nara - I just spent three nights there and could have stayed longer.
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Jul 16th, 2017, 10:36 AM
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You can't really use a JR Pass for the first part of the plan. You would really want it for the 8th to the 15th, returning to Tokyo or Narita, but that is 8-days. You don't (yet) have enough travel for a 14-day pass.

Am not sure if Kamikochi would be good for fall colors anyway. Am thinking it is more evergreen trees, not deciduous. I could be wrong.

You could fly the girls to Narita from Osaka and then fly back the same day. Its an option.

Or, you drive/train them there (from Matsumoto) then consider that you will be ... at an airport. So you could fly to many places in Japan. It would be a good time to visit Chugoku, so fly to Hiroshima. Or maybe Kyushu.
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Jul 16th, 2017, 11:51 AM
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One other good place to take the child is Kappabashi in Tokyo. You can see numerous food models and things that restaurants use in their front displays - many almost impossible to tell from the real thing. Might be nice to take home a few sushi models or something. The Ghibli Museum is another option.

Kamikochi does indeed have autumn colors, as noted here:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6040.html
But on second thought, it is mostly in October, and since it's such a pain to get in and out of, Karuizawa makes a better choice (and even then, you'd get there at the tail end of the autumn colors).

For the rail pass, it really depends on where you are going. Decide where you want to go *first*, then you can choose the best way to get there.
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Jul 16th, 2017, 08:46 PM
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Whew so much good advice. You people are so kind! I can see I need to get things a bit clearer. It all seems so far away but it's busy in November and we need to book ahead.
We are starting to think the trip from Matsumoto to Narita is a bit long for the last day with an 8 year old in the car... so now we are looking at staying 13th and 14th at either Hakone or the Fuji Fives Lakes area and then going on to Narita on 15th. Any advice on which area is best to stay and even on places to stay there??
Would we be best to hire a car for a couple of days there or is public transport fine? WE'd come from Kyoto by train and go on to Narita by train but could take a car for the time we are around this area.
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Jul 16th, 2017, 08:52 PM
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kja
 
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For your transportation options, you might consult japan-guide.com -- once you get to the location of interest (you can use the search box at the upper right), you should see the word "access" below the top picture. Click and follow the links as necessary.
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Jul 17th, 2017, 11:20 AM
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Hakone is very near to Odawara station on the Tokaido shinkansen line between Kyoto and Tokyo. You could call Odawara the gateway to Hakone. From Odawara it is easy to connect to the Narita Express train to the airport (several options).

Getting to Fujigoko (Fuji 5 lakes) would be more complicated and much longer (to Kawaguchiko) by train and you would be passing through Odawara to get there.

Kyoto to Odawara is about 2 hours on one Hikari shinkansen train. Kyoto to Kawaguchiko is about 5 hours with 3 transfers.
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Jul 17th, 2017, 12:52 PM
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Staying in the Fuji area would be a great experience. You should stay at a ryokan at least for one night.
It would be much easier to go from Kyoto to Hakone to see the Fuji area. If you want to see both the Hakone and Fuji 5 Lakes area, it is doable but takes more time. JR is useless to go between them.

If you want to see the areas, then one of the Odakyu passes can save you some money.
http://www.odakyu.jp/english/deels/

And to be clear, you cannot catch the Narita Express from Odawara. You'd need to go to or near Yokohama or Tokyo.
http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/nex/
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Jul 17th, 2017, 05:42 PM
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Thank you so much. Do you think it would be ok to stay in Hakone and do some of the activities there for one day and then have a car for one day to go to Kawaguchiko? Would it be reasonable to take a car from Odawara at say 4.00pm on 14th, head out to the lakes early next morning, and drop the back at the station the next day (15th) and get to Narita that night? We stay there one night before the girls fly out on 16th.
I am thinking we could use 7 day JR passes - just working out the logistics. Can we use the JR pass for the whole trip back from Odawara to Tokyo to Narita?
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Jul 18th, 2017, 07:38 AM
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>> really want it for the 8th to the 15th, returning to Tokyo or Narita, but that is 8-days. You don't (yet) have enough travel for a 14-day pass.

I misread the OP when I wrote that. The plan is to leave the morning after DH arrival on the 8th. So that travel is the 9th to the 15th - 7 days. You could use a 7-day pass for the original plan of Tokyo- Kyoto- Matsumoto- Narita Airport. That is true for solo or two travelers but the economics could be different for a larger group.

You could use a 7-day pass for Tokyo- Kyoto- Odawara- Narita Airport from the 9th to the 15th.

I think your plan for Hakone & Kawaguchiko sounds ok, as long as you don't mean that you would be arriving from Kyoto to Odawara at 4PM. I hope these would be weekdays.

Yes, the JR Pass would get you from Odawara to NRT. Best route, imo, is a shinkansen to Shinagawa or Tokyo and connect to the Narita Express.
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Jul 18th, 2017, 11:44 AM
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There are tons of possibilities for an 8-year-old in Tokyo. I really liked Sunshine City Ikebukuro, a multi-skyscraper complex with an indoor theme park, aquarium, planetarium, and a 60th-floor observation deck. The theme park is Namjatown, and it has all sorts of games plus a couple of fun places to eat: Gyoza Stadium which is a recreation of a Showa-period alley with about a dozen gyoza vendors, and the Dessert Republic, where you can get ice cream with some unusual Japanese flavors.

In fact, it seems to me Tokyo is mostly a kid's town with so many things geared to the very young.
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Jul 18th, 2017, 02:05 PM
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Thanks mrwunrfl - Yes it is sounding good - especially since we are considering a day trip down to beautiful Miyajima from Kyoto, and if not that then certainly a trip out to Nara.
re Hakone, I am finding there is so much to do there that we will probably just stay two nights there and not try to get our to Kawaguchiko this time. I'm sure the koyo around Hakone will be lovely anyway.



Thank you shelemm - it's looking great. Thank you for this idea. I've just googled Sunshine City and it looks amazing!
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Jul 18th, 2017, 05:43 PM
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Another question about Hakone...
should we try to stay down near the lake or up near the ropeway?
I have a choice between two reasonable hotels/ryokan, one quite close to Naka Gora ropeway station and the other down behind Motohakone.
Neither are locked in though and I am trying to work out what area is best for two oldies, our daughter and 8 year old grand-daughter ie not to much strenuous walking and shops/restaurants nearby. The little one is a bit fussy about food so the traditional Japanese food would be rather wasted on her. Unfortunately we'd need to be able to get western food for her easily.
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Jul 19th, 2017, 06:27 PM
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I don't know what you mean by "behind Motohakone". That would be hills with the winding road that goes to Hakone-Yumoto that I walked up once but will not do again.

A day trip from Kyoto to Miyajima can be done. It is a 3-hour trip each way with no fooling around. At least one, very probably two, shinkansen trains, a JR local, short walk, and then the ferry. It could be busy.

Better would be to spend a night there or in Hiroshima, but there are drawbacks to that idea.
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Jul 19th, 2017, 11:34 PM
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Yes I see your point about the day trip to Miyajima - maybe I am trying to fit in to much, especially with an 8 year old in tow ... we can decide at the time.

In Hakone, unless I find something more perfect at a good price, I am choosing between two Japanese style rooms at Suirinho, two western style rooms at Hotel Ra Kuun or a combination room at Hotel Marroad which is nicer but of course more expensive. I am just waiting to see if the family room has a sliding division between the western bedroom with two beds and the Japanese room with futons. Anyone know either one of these three places?

It's hard to decide but even though it's a long time away, it's also a busy time and some places already seem to be booked out.
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Jul 20th, 2017, 08:39 AM
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>>not to much strenuous walking and shops/restaurants nearby.

Hotel Ra Kuun (Raccoon) is where I suspected you meant by "behind Motohakone". Am looking at google maps and street view. There is nothing nearby and it is on the road that I mentioned. It would be a strenuous and long walk up from Hakone. Fairly dangerous without a sidewalk on a winding two-lane road. I don't see a nearby bus stop. You would need a car for that place.

Interesting that the road it is on is named Tokai-do
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Jul 20th, 2017, 08:42 AM
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>>It would be a strenuous and long walk up from Hakone.

should be:
It would be a strenuous and long walk up from Motohakone.
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