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First time in Japan - Thoughts on 2 week Itinerary?

First time in Japan - Thoughts on 2 week Itinerary?

Old Aug 12th, 2018, 07:36 PM
  #1  
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First time in Japan - Thoughts on 2 week Itinerary?

Hello! I need some help confirming an itinerary...this will be my first time in Japan and we are considering Osaka, Hiroshima/Miyajima, Kyoto, Kanazawa, Takayama, and Tokyo in 2 weeks. We are a young couple who love urban/city vacations but would like to intersperse with some time in old Japan, experience its history, and definitely a couple of nights in a ryokan and experience onsens.

We are also planning on getting the 14 day JR Rail Pass..

What are your thoughts on the itinerary below?

- 2 nights in Osaka
- Leave Osaka, day in Miyajima and late afternoon/evening in Hiroshima; overnight in Hiroshima
- Next day Hiroshima/Himeji Castle, leave for Kyoto
- 3 nights in Kyoto
- 1 night in Kanazawa
- 2 nights in Takayama (day trip to Shirakawago)
- 6 nights in Tokyo (with a day trip to Hakone for more onsens)

Appreciate your thoughts!
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Old Aug 12th, 2018, 08:36 PM
  #2  
kja
 
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My initial impression is that your itinerary is extremely – and perhaps unpleasantly – fast-paced. But of course, it depends on what you want to see and do!

As examples, I think a first visit to Kyoto (+ Nara) easily merits 5 or 6 full days. 2 days for Kyoto is, IMO, extraordinarily minimal.

And I think the Kanazawa / Takayama loop best accomplished with 4 or 5 full days. One night in Kanazawa gives you only hours in a city that I regret giving only 2.5 days; 2 nights in Takayama (with time between Kanazawa and Takayama) gives you only a day there, again, far less than thought it merited.

And FWIW, I’d plan on spending a night in Miyajima rather than Hiroshima for the time you have in those 2 locations – Miyajima is an absolute delight after day trippers leave!

Have you consulted japan-guide.com? I recommend that you spend a LOT of time with it.

Last edited by kja; Aug 12th, 2018 at 09:35 PM.
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Old Aug 12th, 2018, 09:03 PM
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Thanks for your feedback! We do tend to enjoy moving around a bit more when we travel, which is why we were thinking to see more cities this trip since we're unlikely to come back to Japan for a long time. However we're open to suggestions - and japan-guide.com has definitely already been helpful with planning so far.

With the Hiroshima/Miyajima/Himeji plan for example, would you suggest cutting this out altogether then and just adding the night to Kyoto for 4 nights/3 full days? We don't want to cut out Osaka, and thought that rather than doing a day trip to Hiroshima/Miyajima we'd spend a full night there instead, but I think we could skip this if needed.
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Old Aug 12th, 2018, 09:36 PM
  #4  
kja
 
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Beyond saying that I doubt you would regret more time in Kyoto, I can't -- won't! -- tell you what to include or exclude from your itinerary! (BTW, you could base in Kyoto and day-trip to Osaka if you find you have more time than you want there. But it seems like Osaka has some special appeal to you?)

It seems to me that there are two very different approaches to the idea that one is unlikely to return to a destination for a long time. Some people choose to skim, visiting as many locations as they can in the time they have, even if they see / experience very little of the places they visit. Other people choose to visit some places with some depth, even if it means skipping other locations entirely -- even locations they are sure they would enjoy.

I readily admit that I am in the latter camp -- I seek to minimize my time in transit in exchange for more time in the select list of places I choose to visit. And I'm a traveler who takes advantage of every single waking moment -- I'm on the go from the time I get up until there is literally nothing else I can see or do that day, and only then do I sit down to eat and, after that, take a walk -- so it isn't that I'm basing my recommendations on the assumption that you want a leisurely trip. In fact, with so many places in the world that I want to see, I suspect that I'm unlikely to return to a place that I've already been, however briefly, just because I did see it, and don't want to "waste" all the time it would take to retrace all that unnecessary transit time. YMMV -- and certainly, other people do find "tasting" trips more to their liking.

Good luck with your planning! Japan is fascinating.
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Old Aug 13th, 2018, 04:50 PM
  #5  
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Thank you @kja! I think I'm still figuring out what my approach to traveling is ...
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Old Aug 14th, 2018, 06:41 PM
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My feedback will mirror kjas. Even for people who like to be on the go, youre going to be spending too much of your time on trains and too little in some important places. Ive been to Japan twice now and have visited everywhere on your list except Osaka and Takayama. I spent 5 nights in my first Kyoto Trip and gave it another 5 nights when I went back to Japan last year. and that doesnt include my 2 nights in Nara. Tokyo was all well and fine but I would prioritize it below Kyoto. I had 4 nights in Kanazawa and hit it at peak cherry blossom time. 3 nights would have been sufficient but Id rather have 4 than 1. I night doesnt make it worth your travel cost and time. And I fully agree that an overnight on Miyajima (I had 2) makes for a much more memorable experience.

If I were you, Id probably drop the Kanazawa/Takayama portion and focus on Tokyo/Hakone, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Miyajima. You might be able to squeeze in Himeji on the way from kyoto to Hiroshima. If so, take advantage of the luggage forwarding service at tout Kyoto lodging. Luggage forwarding is a godsend for making several hour stops at points of interest on travel days.
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Old Aug 14th, 2018, 08:26 PM
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Thanks! After some rejigging, we decided to drop the Hiroshima/Miyajima portion (will save this for a future trip) to add a full night to Kyoto. Itinerary is now as below:

- 4 nights Kyoto
- 2 nights Osaka
- 3 nights Kanazawa??/Takayama
- 6 nights Tokyo (day trip Hakone?)

We're struggling a bit with the Kanazawa/Takayama bit. Originally we were thinking 1 night in Kanazawa, 2 nights in Takayama with a day trip to Shirakawago. We have already booked a ryokan in Takayama for 1 night. However we also really want to spend some time in a quiet onsen town, and the Hirayu Onsen looks especially beautiful - thinking that we could do some hiking before visiting the onsen.

That being said, should we skip the night in Kanazawa to give it more justice next trip, and just do all 3 nights in Takayama? Or is it realistic to keep the nights split as originally planned, but day trip out to Hirayu?

Appreciate your thoughts!
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Old Aug 14th, 2018, 10:17 PM
  #8  
kja
 
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It really depends on what you want! I spent 2 nights in Kanazawa and regret that I so short-changed it. I spent just 1 night -- about 24 hours -- in Takayama and seriously regret that I gave it so little time. So IMO, 3 nights for the pair is not sufficient -- but YMMV!

As for your pre-booked ryokan, look up "sunk costs" before you decide what to do.


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Old Aug 14th, 2018, 11:16 PM
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I think for a first time trip to Japan you have a good workable itinerary. There’s a nice combination of destinations with enough time to get an initial overview of the country. I also have the feeling you will want to return for a more in depth visit the next time.

The only suggestion I have is that Hakone is a great place for an overnight visit to stay at a ryokan and enjoy their onsen. For a day trip from Tokyo I prefer Kamakura or Nikko, not that anything is wrong with Hakone.
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Old Aug 16th, 2018, 06:26 PM
  #10  
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Thanks to both of you! We've decided to do the full 3 days in Takayama. And will do more investigating into the day trips from Tokyo
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Old Aug 17th, 2018, 08:00 AM
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I think your new itinerary is MUCH improved. IMHO, 6 nights is not needed to tokyo. Id take 2 nights from it and put one to an overnight in Hakone and give a second night to Kanazawa. It as kja has advised many times before, YMMV.
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Old Aug 19th, 2018, 06:42 PM
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With your updated plans, you should not get the 14 day pass. You would not even make a 7 day pass pay off with your new plans.
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