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First trip to Japan-17 night Itinerary in Cherry Blossom season

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Nov 18th, 2014, 11:49 PM
  #1
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First trip to Japan-17 night Itinerary in Cherry Blossom season

My partner and I are planning our first trip to Japan, we plan to fly in on March 30th to Tokyo
(I hope to see as much of the Cherry Blossoms in bloom as possible) whilst also seeing the sights.

We have 17 nights total- I will definitely be purchasing a Japan Rail pass-
This is a rough idea of how long I am thinking we will spend in each place, and suggested day trips, any advice or tips on improving the itinerary would be much appreciated!!! Ie are we spending too much time in one place? Better base for day trips?

TOKYO 3 nights
-2 days general sight seeing
-Nikko world heritage day trip

HAKONE 2 nights
-Mt Fugi /general sight seeing

KANAZAWA 2 nights
-General sightseeing

KYOTO 3 nights
-General sightseeing
-Philosophers walk

OSAKA 5 nights
-General sightseeing
-Day trip to Nara
-Day trip to Himeji castle
-Day trip to Hiroshima peace park

TOKYO 2 nights
-Day trip to Disneyland (I can't help myself)
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Nov 19th, 2014, 01:45 AM
  #2
kja
 
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Can you fly into Narita and out of Kansai or vice versa? It would be nice to avoid backtracking.

I thought Kanazawa deserved at least 2.5 days and was sorry I didn't give it more. YMMV. I also thought it worth combining with Takayama, which you seem to have decided to skip. And that decision could well make sense -- it is YOUR trip! I'm just noting my reactions, which may well be worth dismissing. ;-)

3 days for Kyoto is VERY little. 5 days for Osaka seems like a LOT. FWIW, I spent 4 full days in Kyoto and 2 full days in Nara and 0 days in Osaka, but the "right" break-down really depends n YOUR interests.

IME, most people visit Nara and Himeji from Kyoto rather than Osaka, but I could be wrong.

Rather than visiting Hiroshima as a day trip from Osaka, you might want to consider visiting it en route to, or from, Miyajima, with an overnight stay on Miyajima.

Many people visit Nikko as a LONG day trip from Tokyo; I was glad to spend a night there.

Hope that helps! Japan is a very special country - enjoy!
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Nov 19th, 2014, 02:06 AM
  #3
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Thank you for your response! I am looking into flying in/out of different cities to save backtracking but at this stage still undecided.

I did originally have Takayama in the itinerary but was trying to lend more time to Osaka/Kyoto so I cut it out- is there anything particularly special about Takayama that I shouldn't miss?

The reason for the lengthy stay in Osaka is due to the day trips I plan to take from there..perhaps Kyoto is a better base? I don't know

I am finding that a hard decision, which is better to base in for the day trips....
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Nov 19th, 2014, 02:20 AM
  #4
kja
 
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For many (most?) purposes, Kyoto is a better base than Osaka. But (of course) it depends on what YOU want to see and experience. I trust you have been consulting the excellent online source, japan-guide:
http://www.japan-guide.com
and I trust you have at least one, if not more, good guidebooks....

You don't have the time to see everything that is worth seeing, so you need to make difficult decisions. Yes, Takayama has things worth seeing; to see them, you would need to skip other things / places that are worth seeing. It is YOUR trip and only YOU can decide what to include.

Hope that helps! the good news is that you will see some wonderful things no matter what you choose.
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Nov 19th, 2014, 08:58 AM
  #5
jgg
 
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Please note - I am planning a similar trip at the same time of year. I would suggest booking hotels, particularly in Kyoto before booking airfare. I am finding some difficulty booking a hotel in Kyoto at that time. Many of my top choices are fully booked for last week in March and first two weeks in April so culling through my second tier choices. Also, my top choice for ryokan in Miyajima is booked as well. I am finding hotels in Tokyo not to be any problem booking.
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Nov 19th, 2014, 08:37 PM
  #6
 
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I also would recommend more time in Kyoto and agree that hotel reservations should come before plane reservations unless you hope to use rewards. We found space at the Westin through Japan Tourist Bureau when nothing was to be found anywhere else. I highly recommend using them. Prices during the cherry blossom season will be high--no point in looking for deals (this was also true for us in the spectacular autumn that we visited.

We spent 2 nights on Miyajima then saw Hiroshima second day. Strongly recommend.
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Nov 19th, 2014, 09:11 PM
  #7
 
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>> are we spending too much time in one place?

The answer to that q is definitely "no", imho. You are shorting every stop to some extent.

Your itin makes sense, tho. At least in terms of the base for those 5 nights. Basing in Kyoto doesn't offer much advantage, logistically speaking, other than it means you would not have to move from a Kyoto hotel to one in Osaka.
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Nov 19th, 2014, 09:20 PM
  #8
 
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Just posted my draft itinerary for spring 2015. Great advice from those above on booking your lodging immediately. I just finished the last booking a few minutes ago. There were two temples we wanted to stay in at Koyasan and even though I tried several months ago, both were booked already.

There is SO much to see in Kyoto from my research...we're spending 5 nights there.

Good luck planning and have fun.
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Nov 19th, 2014, 09:32 PM
  #9
 
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We spent 8 nights in Kyoto, then 1 at Koya-san, 2 at miwajima (spelling I know) and a final night and day in Kyoto before flying out of Kansai. It was not too much--but again depends what you want. I have no way of comparison, but Kyoto was magnificent. Not an easy compact city though--very different from New York, Paris, San Francisco, even Rome. Spread out like LA. But many many amazingly beautiful gardens and temples (the two often come together). I would love to see screen.
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Nov 19th, 2014, 11:17 PM
  #10
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Thanks everyone for the advice and useful links!!

I am thinking now I might have to work in a night in Hiroshima...

The whole 'Kyoto or Osaka' as a base question seems like less of an issue, especially since I think the lack of available accomadation in Kyoto might decide for me.

I too have already been looking into the accomadation options to get an idea on pricing and I can't believe how little there is left!! I need this itinerary sorted out so I can book everything in ASAP
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Nov 19th, 2014, 11:30 PM
  #11
 
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You could go from Kyoto to Hiroshima and spend a night or two. Then visit Himeji-jo on your way to Nara where you spend a night or two before going on to Tokyo.
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Nov 20th, 2014, 06:35 AM
  #12
 
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Mr W's idea sounds good. Try checking Japan Tourist Board by phone (there is one in San Francisco, I'm sure there are others) before you give up on Kyoto.

You could either spend the nights in Hiroshima or on Miyajima--a lovely place to try a ryokan and a very beautiful island with national park-- then visit Hiroshima on your way to your next stop.
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Nov 20th, 2014, 09:39 AM
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> I too have already been looking into the accommodation options
> to get an idea on pricing and I can't believe how little there is left!!

You're likely not seeing availability because your trip is more than 3/4 months away. With the exception of hotels that belong to larger chains and very high-end ryokans, most accommodations in Japan offer reservations only 3 or 4 months in advance.
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Nov 20th, 2014, 10:43 AM
  #14
 
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I was just going to write exactly what what Don. the hotels may not be fully booked. They often don"t offer room reservations until a few months before they are available.
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Nov 20th, 2014, 12:10 PM
  #15
 
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I disagree with the above - more and more hotels book out early now.

Being a member of Toyoko Inn and able to book six months in advance I noticed availability around the end of March/beginning of April just about booked up in Kyoto at the end of September/beginning of October...and now one can book earlier than a couple of months on sites like booking.com.

I booked my May stay in one of the Tokyo My Stays weekly hotels the end of August....
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Nov 20th, 2014, 01:40 PM
  #16
 
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I agree with Mara. It used to be that most places started opening reservations 3 months ahead of time and some places still do so but most places now take reservations at least six months ahead of time so keep looking.

Have you ever thought of staying in a machiya? This is a fantastic option especially in Kyoto where hotel prices are extremely high. We stayed at Koke An with another fordorite couple in November 2013 and were very satisfied. Koke An even has beds lol. See this site and enquire. Avi the owner is very helpful as you will see if you contact him.

https://www.kyotomachiyastay.com/index.php/en/

Aloha!
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Nov 20th, 2014, 05:29 PM
  #17
kja
 
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I agree that Hiroshima is well worth seeing, and if you do so, combining it with Miyajima is a great idea. That said, I again note that you are trying to see a LOT in a very limited amount of time, so I think you need to make some difficult decisions.
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Nov 21st, 2014, 08:55 AM
  #18
 
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Referencing your split between Kyoto and Osaka, you said, "The reason for the lengthy stay in Osaka is due to the day trips I plan to take from there..perhaps Kyoto is a better base?"

What are the day trips you're planning to take -- that info may elicit some further advice on whether one or other might suit you more.

Personally, we stayed in Kyoto 5 nights on our first visit and Osaka for 2, and last time we did 6 nights in Kyoto and Osaka for 2 again. I want to love Osaka more, especially as food is one of my obsessions, and Osaka is renowned for being a foodie destination, but although I enjoyed some aspects of Osaka, I didn't fall for it the way I have for Kyoto. Not sure why, entirely...

We also spent a night in Nara, a night in Koyasan and we did a trip to Hiroshima with an overnight on Miyajima.

Day trips really the only one we did was Yamazaki for one morning, which was worth it for us as my husband is a huge whisky fan.

If you're having trouble with accommodations, it's worth getting in touch with Japaneseguesthouses who have connections with both traditional and western accommodations and may be able to find availability where you couldn't find it online.
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Nov 21st, 2014, 05:18 PM
  #19
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Thank you again everyone! I have managed to fly into Tokyo and out of Osaka, so I'm making the most of the time we have, this has also added a night to our trip so its 18 nights now-

With research and everyones helpful suggestions I have a new itinerary!!!! I will start to work through finding accommodation now....

Tokyo 4 nights
-Nikko heritage day tour
-Day at Disneyland
-2 days sightseeing

Hakone 2 nights
-Mt Fugi/Fugi lakes day trip

Takayama 1 night
Travel from Hakone to Takayama early morning to spend full day there sightseeing

Kanazawa 2 nights
-1 day of sightseeing

Kyoto 4 nights
-Nara day trip
-3 days sightseeing

Hiroshima 2 nights
-Day trip to Mirajima island

Osaka 3 nights
-day trip to Himeji castle
-1 day sightseeing

I'm fairly happy that this itinerary I think it makes better use of our time
Let me know what you guys think Any suggestions of things to see in these cities would be great- we are huge foodies so special suggestions for dishes to try would be great too!!!
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Nov 21st, 2014, 06:57 PM
  #20
kja
 
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I'm glad you were able to arrange for an open jaw flight! Excellent news!

I must admit that I would find this plan unpleasantly rushed. FWIW, I regretted that I gave Takayama only about 1.5 days (meaning actual time on the ground, not counting travel) and that I gave Kanazawa only 2 days; YMMV. And as already noted, I spent 4 full days in Kyoto and an additional 2 full days in Nara and did NOT see everything I wanted to see in that area.

Can we assume that you arrive in Tokyo very early? or that you plan to leave very late on your last day? Because otherwise, 4 nights there really gives you only 3 days -- and given your current plan, that means only ONE day for Tokyo itself.
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