First stab at Japan itinerary

Old Sep 10th, 2006, 02:25 PM
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First stab at Japan itinerary

First stab at itinerary after rearch this weekend. My husband and myself will travel first time to Japan. Looking to see the city but also go off the beaten track to experience the real Japan. We do not speak/write Japanese. Ages 32 and 28. Husband 6'3" while I am 5'2" so we will be quite a site.
Please provide candid feedback as things I can remove, things we did not include that is a must for a trip to Japan etc.

4/3 Fly non stop from New York to Narita.
Stay at Crowne Plaza in Tokyo with points for 5 nights.
4/4 Tokyo to get over jetlag
4/5 Day trip to Kamakura
4/6 Day trip to Nikko
7/7 Tokyo and then night out in Roppongi
7/8 Move to Conrad Tokyo for 2 more nights on points.
7/9 Tokyo
7/10 5 hour train ride to Hiroshima. Tour around for a few hours and then spend night
7/11 travel to Miyajima and spend evening in Ryokan
7/12 travel to Dogo Onsen and then to Takamatsu for night
7/13 Travel to Kyoto to stay in Holiday Inn Express for points 5 nights
7/14 Kyoto
7/15 Day trip to Kanazawa
7/16 Day trip to Himeji
7/17 day trip to Nara
7/18 Travel from kyoto to Ise and spend night
7/19 travel to Wakayama and spend night at Koya-san
7/20 back to Kyoto for night
7/21 Travel to Hakone and spend night. Was trying to do this not on a Saturday since seems crowded but so far this is where I have planned....
7/22 Back to Tokyo for another 2 nights
7/23 Tokyo
7/24 4:20 flight back home

Please provide commentary as experts will easily see fault/good with this plan.
Would like to fit in Amanohashidate but seems bit far for day trip.

Look forward to hearing from everyone and thank you in advance!
jh0507 is offline  
Old Sep 10th, 2006, 04:24 PM
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Just on first glance I wouldn't take so many day trips from Tokyo and Kyoto. Maybe just one day trip from each city and stay and discover the city you are staying in. Kanzawa would be a long daytrip from Kyoto. I would keep Nikko from Tokyo and Nara from Kyoto. Slow down a little and smell the roses. Asia is meant to be done slowly.

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Old Sep 10th, 2006, 05:29 PM
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Ok, that is not unreasonable. I agree with ht that you can cut back on the day trips from Tokyo and Kyoto.

All of that is the real Japan (the HIs not so much), though not much of it is off the beaten path. Dogo onsen and Ise are not on most westerner's itineraries, but the rest of it is.

You could just stay overnight in Matsuyama after going to the onsen (Hotel Patio Dogo). Or just go to Takamatsu, for whatever reason you have. I would not stop at both. In any case, you can stop at Himeji and visit the castle on your way to Kyoto on the 13th.

Kanazawa is not a day trip from Kyoto. It requires at least a full day (arrive in the evening and stay two nights or arrive in the morning and leave late the next afternoon) at least, but another day would be better.

Definitely change your itinerary around so that your visit to Hakone is not on a weekend.

What month are you traveling? April or July? Funny, but the 21st for both of those months is on a Saturday. If July, then you may be interested in attending the grand sumo tournament in Nagoya.

I hate to write this but you could skip the visit to Dogo Onsen and spend the time in Kanazawa. You can (and should) visit an onsen ryokan in Hakone. There is a Hilton at Odawara that sounds nice, too.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Old Sep 11th, 2006, 12:17 AM
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7/12 would be a busy day. Start by walking or getting a ride from the ryokan staff down to the Miyajima port. Take the ferry to Miyajimaguchi and walk two blocks or so to the JR station. Take the JR local train to Hiroshima. Get a street car from JR Hiroshima station to the port. Take the hydrofoil from Hiroshima to Matsuyama. At Matsuyama port, get the bus to Dogo. This bus goes into and thru the town, out to the end of a street car line. Walk a couple of blocks, not far, to Dogo Onsen. After your soak, walk back down to the steetcar station and take the streetcar to JR Matsuyama station. Take the limited express train for 2.5 hours to get to Takamatsu.
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Old Sep 11th, 2006, 12:33 AM
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About the "beaten path" thing. You are getting off of the extremely well beaten path of Tokyo-Kyoto and even off of the fairly well beaten path of Tokyo-Kyoto-Hiroshima. But at no time are you way out in the boonies where your lack of Japanese language skills would pose a challenge.
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Old Sep 11th, 2006, 11:01 AM
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I have revised per your suggestions. I have removed Shikoku

Trip is in April
4/3 arrive from NY
4/3 until 4/9 Stay in Tokyo with day trip to Nikko
4/10 Tokyo to Hakone. Stay overnight Hakone.
4/11 Hakone to Hiroshima (5 hour trip) Stay overnight Hiroshima
4/12 Hiroshima to Miyajima (short ferry) stay at Miyajima
4/13 Miyajim to Himeji to Kyoto. Stay night in Kyoto (about 3 hours on train)
4/14-4/17 stay in Kyoto with day trip to Nara
4/18 Kyto to Ise (about 2.5 hour trip) Stay night in Ise
4/19 Ise to Shirahama ( about 4.5 hour trip) stay night in Shirahama
4/20 Shirahama to Wakayama ( about 1.5 hour trip) stay night in Koya-san
4/21 Wakayama to Kanazawa ( about 4.5 hours) stay 2 nights in Kanzawa
4/23 Kanazawa to Tokyo ( 5 hours)
4/23 flight at 4pm to NY

Am I getting too hung up on seeing certain areas? Seems a lot of train travel at the end. I am used to moving a lot on trips but Japan will be for us the largest amount of land to cover and may not be able to travel as we usually do.

Please further advise
jh0507 is offline  
Old Sep 11th, 2006, 02:48 PM
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I wouldn't be comfortable with traveling from Kanazawa to Narita in one morning to catch a flight at 4:00 pm. You would have to be at the airport at 2:00pm at the latest. I would stay somewhere closer to Narita the night before.....maybe no further than Yokohama.... but that's just me.

The rest is looking good. You could do another day trip from Tokyo if you feel bored in Tokyo(I doubt it). It's easy to go to a train station and buy a r/t ticket somewhere or if you have a JR Pass. There is so much to do in Tokyo that I think you'll find time flying by.

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Old Sep 11th, 2006, 03:25 PM
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If you want to travel to Narita on the day you fly, you could fly directly to Narita from Komatsu airport, which is about 30 minutes by bus from Kanazawa. There is one flight per day that departs at 8:30 AM and arrives in Narita at 9:30 AM. You can buy tickets 60 days in advance on the ANA website, though the flight is operated by IBEX. You could also fly to Haneda airport and take the limousine bus to Narita from there. There are hourly or so flights from Komatsu to Haneda. You'd need to allow at least 2 hours for the bus you could leave Komatsu around 10 AM rather than at 8:30.

Personally, I'd fly directly to Narita, then spend the time at Boso no Mura in Narita town.
KimJapan is offline  
Old Sep 11th, 2006, 03:30 PM
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Another thought. If you reverse the order of your trip and go to Kanazawa first, you are almost guaranteed to see cherry blossoms in full bloom. As your itinerary is now, you are arriving in most places after the blossoms have peaked. Kanazawa is the place you have on your itin that is latest blooming...pretty consistently in full bloom just before the beginning of the school year the first week in April.
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Old Sep 11th, 2006, 04:32 PM
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You'd want to take the train from Kanazawa at 7:25 AM to get to Narita airport at 1PM. You have a few options if you miss that. But it is 5+ hours of train travel with at least two connections before getting to you 12 hour flight.

You could go from Miyajima to Kanazawa. Then back to Kyoto, Wakayama, and Ise. From Ise then the train to Nagoya and shinkansen to Narita Express.

Ise Jingu is a nice place to visit. Do you have other plans for visiting there?

I see that Shirahama is famous for plum blossoms "in the early spring". I thought that plum blossom time was end of February, but maybe Shirahama has a plum blossom festival in April? You could consider visiting Yoshino for cherry blossoms as it is in that general area.

This itinerary is looking better. Might be better to leave Kanazawa late on the 23rd. Flying to Narita on the 24th is a good idea, but the train would be more reliable.

You'll need a 14-day JR Pass activated on the 10th. On the 11th you will be getting on the shinkansen at Odawara station. Be sure to schedule it so that it is a Hikari train (hopefully one that goes on thru to Shin Osaka).

I prefer not to travel on Saturdays and would adjust that I was somewhere on the 21st instead of traveling. Saturdays are good days to be in a city.
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Old Sep 11th, 2006, 05:47 PM
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Ecellent suggestions. We will now fly out one day later as too much of a rush to airport on 23rd. Is this any better?

4/3 arrive from NY
4/3 until 4/9 Stay in Tokyo with day trip to Nikko
4/10 Tokyo to Hakone. Stay overnight Hakone.
4/11 Hakone to Kanazawa ( 4 hours) 2 nights in Kanazawa
4/13 Kanazawa to Hiroshima (4.5 hr) Night in Hiroshima
4/14 Hiroshima to Miyajima (short ferry) stay at Miyajima
4/15 Miyajim to Himeji to Kyoto(about 3 hrs train) Stay night in Kyoto several nights
4/20 Kyto to Wakayama (1.5 hr) Stay night in Koya-san
4/21 Wakayama to Shirahama (1.5 hr) Night in Shirahama
4/22 Shirahama to Ise. (4.5 hr) Night in Ise
4/23 Ise to tokyo 3.5 hr Night in tokyo
4/24 flight at 4pm to NY
jh0507 is offline  
Old Sep 11th, 2006, 05:52 PM
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I forgot to answer question about Ise. Not planning too detailed yet in each stopover. Traveling around the peninsula looks beautiful. The shrine, Husband and Wife rocks, Pearl Island.
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Old Sep 11th, 2006, 06:43 PM
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Ok, yeah, that is better. Going from Hakone to Kanazawa is a good route. Would be idea, I think, if you could get a Hikari train at Odawara that goes thru to Maibara and has a good connection to the limited express trains bound for Kanazawa. And you should be in good shape for that trip. Then with 2 nights at Kanazawa after that longish trip you then have the longest haul, to Hiroshima. But then two nights in the area. Miyajima to Hiroshima can be a bit of a chore, but after that it is an easy shinkansen ride to Himeji, a few hours there and then pull into Kyoto for dinner. Then, finally, settle down in Kyoto for a few days with an easy trip to Nara. After that you are moving daily, but traveling less than two hours.

So that is a lot of traveling but do-able if you can cope with the frequent change of beds. But you have to be efficient enough to not make a big production out of it.

What you might look at more closely is the trip to Ise (the correct station at hyperdia would be ISESHI). Shirahama to Tokyo would be a 5 hour trip. So the net cost of your visit to Ise is three hours of train travel. Or maybe you could spend more time in Ise if you only went as far as Nagoya on the 23rd. It would be an easy shot (1 connection) from Nagoya to Narita Airport. But maybe you could take a day from Tokyo to give to this part (post-Kyoto) of your trip.

One more thought: you might consider Hakone as a day trip from Tokyo instead of enroute to elsewhere. Reason is that if you don't get the right train from Odawara then the fastest route west might actually be to take the shinkansen back to Shin-Yokohama to get a Hikari train bound for Kyoto. There are good non-JR options for visiting Hakone from Tokyo, like the Odakyu trains. My point is that though Hakone is on the way you to elsewhere you might consider it as an overnight trip from Tokyo.

When you add it all up, you might do well to get a 21-day JR Pass. Take the limo bus to the HI on arrival day and then you'd be able to use the JR Pass the next day all the way to Narita airport on departure day.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Old Sep 11th, 2006, 09:18 PM
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Good idea about saving first day of JR pass
here is a link for the limosine airport bus to Crowne Plaza from Narita

cost is 3000 yen per person and is door to door service


hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Old Sep 13th, 2006, 12:58 AM
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I must say that I do not understand this concept of trying to find the "real Japan" while spending one's time in Japan just moving from place to place and seeing the scenes. Slow down and spend less time seeing places and IMHO you will get a better idea of Japan.
mjs is offline  
Old Sep 13th, 2006, 05:16 AM
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If you go to Ise, check this place out- look at the baths on the sea...I really want to stay here.

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Old Sep 13th, 2006, 10:30 AM
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Believe me, I understand the desire to see all the places you've read and heard about. Everything seems "doable" when you see that it *only* takes a short time to get from one place to another, but I really encourage you to reconsider. That 1.5 hour travel time actually turns into quite a bit longer when you factor in having to pack, check out, check in and unpack each time. The time you think you have to sightsee at the next destination will not be nearly as long as you think and may leave you frustrated and disappointed. I speak from experience - both from my trip to Thailand and my recent trip to Japan.

In Thailand, we flew to Koh Samui on the first flight out from Bangkok one day and came back on the last flight the next day. Theoretically, we would have had almost 2 days at the island. Not only was this not long enough, but the time it took for packing, travel, check-in, and check-out (not that any of these individually took very long) could have been much more productive and enjoyable if we had just stayed in Bangkok, which we left without seeing everything we wanted to see. In retrospect, although I really wanted to go to a beach in Thailand, this was the one thing on our trip that I would have done differently if I could do it over again. I would have eliminated it from this trip altogether and saved it for another trip when I could have spent more time.

In Japan, just checking out of the Granvia in Kyoto, going across the city to the Gion area and checking into a ryokan took awhile. We ended up not being able to begin our sightseeing for that day until mid-afternoon and only did one thing. Part of it was our lack of energy that day, but packing, unpacking, changing hotels does take its toll.

Same with our plans to go to Osaka. The plan was to leave Kyoto relatively early in the day (easy since check-out is 10a anyway), get to Osaka and stay there until maybe early afternoon the next day. Not a lot of time, but we figured we'd be there for several hours (and, more importantly for my BF, several meals). Of course, we weren't done seeing the things we really wanted to see in Kyoto, so we didn't leave for Osaka until late afternoon. We had time for dinner in Osaka, went to see Himeji Castle the next day and returned to Osaka just to retrieve our luggage and get on a train back to Tokyo. Didn't get to see much of Osaka at all and there were things in Kyoto and even Tokyo that we still wanted to see. We would have had more time for these if we hadn't tried to spend this overnight stay in Osaka.

We only had the one-day stay in Osaka that didn't really work out the way we'd hoped. You have SEVERAL city changes and short stays. I'm just afraid that it may not be as enjoyable as you're anticipating.

No matter what, I'm sure you'll end up with great trip memories. Good luck!
jlaughs is offline  
Old Sep 13th, 2006, 12:54 PM
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Hi jh0507, I recently traveled to Japan this past fall for 25 days. Your itinerary looks good, but like the other responses, I would focus more on specific areas (but every traveler is different, of course). The day trip to Nikko is very recommended, it is very beautiful there. I don't really know about Kanazawa, Himeji, or Nara. We ended up staying in Kyoto for about a week and still didn't run out of things to see! Although I here Ise is also a must-see. Have fun!
andrewmlin is offline  
Old Sep 13th, 2006, 10:03 PM
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Flying to a place for a one-night stay is too time consuming because of the requirement to be at the airport well in advance of the flight and the fact that many airports are out of town. When you land at an airport in Japan one of the first things you are likely to do is to take the train in to the Hauptbahnhof.

Traveling by train, though, you arrive in the heart of the city, the transportation hub and place with services for travelers. It is kind of like a road trip: Vegas to Yosemite to SF to SB to LA, San Diego. Only without the car. OP will be have been in Japan for a week before going on the rail.

Here is the day's activity schedule for April 20 on the OPs latest schedule assuming the travel time of 1.5 hours ir right. That time might be right if the overnight was in Wakayama, but it is not right because it doesn't (I believe) include time to get from Koya-san to Wakayama which I don't think is insignificant. Ok so:
8:00 wake up, clean up, eat, brush teeth with hotel provided tb and tp, check out, go to JR station
9:00 arrive at JR station
9:15 board train to Shirahama
10:45 arrive Shirahama
11:00 bag is stashed in locker, traveler is refreshed by a bottle of Pocari Sweat
18:00 after 7 hours out and about in the town, stopping for lunch at a local place, being in real Japan and all that, where the Tokyo-Kyoto tourists never venture, you are back at the station to collect your bag and go to a hotel to check in
19:00 after freshening up in room, out for dinner and some pachinko or somethng
22:00 back to hotel, remove tomorrow's clothes from bags and put today's clothes in the bag.
23:30 after some quality time with your SO, or some goofy Japanese TV show, some review/mod of tomorrow's plan, it's lights out.

After OP reports back about Shirahama and I might regret not having been there, yet. My last trip to Japan I spent three nights in Takayama during the spring festival. Would have been better to spend the third night, after the festival was over, in Gero just to the south of Takayama. Sunday morning in Takayama was like a stadium after the game is over.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Old Sep 14th, 2006, 10:20 AM
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mrwunrfl, I agree that, in theory, the plan seems reasonable and doable. The problem is that theory sometimes doesn't correspond to reality. If they are changing hotels every night and traveling to a new place everyday, the chance of this theoretically great itinerary turning into a reality disappointment is, I think, pretty decent.

Maybe we're different, but for both of us to get up, shower, get ready, check out and get to the train station would take more than an hour. It also doesn't sound like they will be using luggage service, so they may have large suitcases with them going from place to place. This might make it harder to find lockers big enough (thus needing more time than what you allowed) or even needing to go to their hotel first to leave their luggage there before venturing out.

I just think that if they had one time of an overnight, short stay it might or might not be okay. But several days in a row of this might be tiring and not as satisfying and enjoyable as anticipated. Keep in mind too that these one night stays are at the end of their trip. I noticed that our pace slowed down a bit later in our trip. Theoretically each day's itinerary sounds great, but physically (at least for us), it's hard to wake up early everyday, go-go-go all day (poor feet!), get to bed relatively late only to do the same thing again the next day and the next day and the next.

But, like I said, I absolutely understand the desire to see everything that sounds interesting.
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