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First Time to Japan..Itin Advice Needed

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Apr 19th, 2017, 01:58 PM
  #1
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First Time to Japan..Itin Advice Needed

I am headed to Japan on May 17th...so excited! I will be on a tour for 13 of my 19 days but have 2.5 days on front end and 3.5 days on back end to explore on my own and have a few logistical questions. I would love to get feedback, especially on my last three days.

I will land in Tokyo late afternoon the 18th and plan to take the JR airport express to my apartment rental. I will be staying in Shimokitazawa. I plan to see the usual tourist stuff and have breakfast at Tsujiki market. Is it a good idea to have book a tour for this visit? I have no desire to go the tuna auction. I just want to explore and eat my way around. The tour will begin in Osaka Saturday night and I will leave Tokyo Saturday morning and try to spend the afternoon exploring Osaka. Any specific recommendations for Osaka food, drinks or siteseeing?

On the hike, bike and kayak tour I will be visiting Osaka, Hiroshima, Kyoto, hiking the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route, Katsura, Wakayama, Onomichi, Matsuyama and ending in Tokyo, I believe only Kyoto has 2 nights.

We end up in Tokyo on a Thursday morning and my tentative plan is to head out to the art islands for 2 days and then back to Tokyo the night before my flight home Sunday evening. Is this doable and a good use of my last few days in Japan? I love art and these islands look beautiful. I am about to book a hotel in Uno near the port but first wanted to check in here. Also many of the dinners we are on our own so would love any suggestions for can't miss meals in any of our stops. Some areas are easily researched and some not so much.

Also - I'm a public transport spaz and a little nervous about the trains but from all I've read they are easy to navigate with instructions in English on the machines etc. Any helpful tips?

Thanks for your time and thoughts Japan experts.

JenV
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Apr 19th, 2017, 07:53 PM
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kja
 
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No need to use a tour for the Tsujiki Market – or anything else you mention! – unless that’s your preference.

Many of us think a first visit to Kyoto / Nara easily worth at least 5 full days. You might want to think about your preferences and whether you want to add time there.

Public transportation in Japan is incredibly easy.

Please consult japan-guide.com – you will find a wealth of information about each of your questions, and about things you haven’t even realized you should ask! Really, spend a LOT of time with that incredibly valuable and informative web-site!

Hope that helps!
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Apr 19th, 2017, 08:01 PM
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BTW, if you want to work with a guide, you might consider taking advantage of an occasional local “goodwill guide” – The Japanese National Tourism Organization coordinates free "volunteer guides who are knowledgeable and happy to guide you in return for practicing their English – which can be excellent!
www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/trav…
You pay any entrance fees and his/her meal if your time with the guide includes one. Do NOT tip these guides, or anyone else in Japan.
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Apr 19th, 2017, 08:22 PM
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that tour sounds great! can i ask who you booked through? we love to hike, bike and kayak!
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Apr 19th, 2017, 09:59 PM
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Nicolemp, it is through G Adventures. I thought it sounded fantastic, something a bit different and a way to see some of the countryside where I might be too intimidated to go by myself. I've traveled solo frequently in Europe but for some reason I was hesitant about Asia. Also, price wise it is not too spendy.

kja - thank you so much for the guide tip (love this idea) and suggestion of Kyoto/Nara. I started reading the Japan Guide a few months ago but due to busy season am just now getting back to planning. I was thinking I may want more time in Kyoto (and the only thing I know about Nara is the deer).

I like guides sometimes when traveling solo because I can interact with a local that way, meet other travelers to hang out with and also, I'm a nerd that loves lots of details about stuff. That said I'm perfectly happy strolling around places by myself.

Thanks for your help.
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Apr 19th, 2017, 10:19 PM
  #6
kja
 
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FWIW, I saw the deer in Nara for a total of less than 10 minutes. I spent about 48 hours in Nara. For me, the deer were not a highlight, nor were they a problem.

I'm glad you found the idea of Goodwill Guides interesting. From what you say, I think you would find them very helpful.

And yes, i think you would do well to do a bit more research on Kyoto / Nara.

Good luck!
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Apr 20th, 2017, 08:08 AM
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www.hyperdia.com for all your train timing needs. You won't have or need a JR Pass.
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Apr 20th, 2017, 09:28 AM
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I think you have a terrific plan. The end of your plan is doable and, given your interests, a good use of your time.

I have a few questions:

Where is Katsura? Kyoto-fu or Chiba or ?

Why does the tour end in Tokyo? Except for maybe Katsura, your tour stops are in Western Japan. Maybe you can just skip that last leg of the tour because you are just going back west to Naoshima.

Does the cost of your tour include intercity travel?

What exactly does this mean "tour will begin in Osaka Saturday night"? What happens that night?

You do want to visit Dogo Onsen in Matsuyama.
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Apr 20th, 2017, 10:48 AM
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BigRuss - thanks for confirming. I did look in to getting the pass but with only a few trips on my own it didn't seem to make sense. I will take the express into Tokyo when landing, then bullet train to Osaka and then back and forth to Naoshima. Otherwise all travel covered by the tour.

mrwunrfl - thanks for the feedback, the tour overview map appears to cover the entire country. I may have left a few spots off of my original post. All intercity travel is included in tour cost. We have a group meeting Saturday night in Osaka, an orientation basically. Otherwise, that entire day is free for me in Osaka. I read that they have a thriving microbrew scene and that is something I may want to check out in addition to the street food. Thanks for the recommendation of Dogo Onsen. I will look it up. I don't know the answer to the other questions regarding various tour stops and locations. I have taken one other G adventures tour to do truffle hunting on the Istrian peninsula in Croatia and I had a fantastic time so I trust that this will be a great itinerary.
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Apr 20th, 2017, 12:31 PM
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My guess is it's Kii-Katsura, a convenient place for accessing the Kumano Kodo. I spent a couple of nights there and picked up a car to visit the shrines of the pilgrimage, which are great, by the way. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4956.html

From Wakayama, you can ride the Tamadensha and visit Ni-Tama. It's a good outing in rural Japan. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tama_(cat)
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Apr 20th, 2017, 07:32 PM
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This sounds like your tour:
https://www.gadventures.com/trips/ja...nd-kayak/AJHB/

That tour is like what I thought: the activities are all in western Japan and then travel to Tokyo. It looks like that day 12 is a travel day and includes the train and one night in Tokyo.

So, why don't you just get off the train at Okayama that day and go to Uno?

Have an Osaka-style okonomiyaki with your Osaka craft beer. Then try the Hiroshima-style later in the trip.
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Apr 21st, 2017, 09:23 AM
  #12
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mrwunrfl, excellent suggestions thanks. I will look into leaving one day early as well and love the food tips!

someotherguy - thank you, will check these out!
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Apr 21st, 2017, 02:03 PM
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it might be that the ticket they give you would only be good to Tokyo, so you would want to find out in advance what happens if you get off at Okayama. You might have to pay the regular fare to Okayama, but that is less expensive in money and time than backtracking from Tokyo.

one thing that might happen is that they tell you that the base fare part of your ticket is good for 4 days. The base fare for a regular (not special or discounted) ticket is valid for 1 day for each 200 km traveled. Hiroshima to Tokyo is 894.2 km. So you could, for example, use it to go to Okayama on day 1, to Kyoto on day 3, to Tokyo on day 4. You would still have to pay the surcharge and, optionally, the reserved seat fee for those last two segments.

The base fare between Okayama and Tokyo is ¥10,480. Okayama to Kyoto is ¥3,670

Of course, if you do change the plan you could advise them of that and ask for a refund on the ticket and the last night lodging in Tokyo.
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Apr 21st, 2017, 06:34 PM
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Actually, the validity might be 5 days for an 800 km base fare ticket. Two days for the first 200 km and one day for each of the 200 km after that. See Validity here:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2359_001.html
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Apr 25th, 2017, 08:51 AM
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I will have to call and find out if this is an option for my tour. thanks so much for all the feedback.
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Apr 25th, 2017, 10:23 AM
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Ok, good. Am interested in learning what they tell you.
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