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First Trip to Japan - help with planning please

First Trip to Japan - help with planning please

Old Sep 30th, 2017, 03:56 PM
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First Trip to Japan - help with planning please

My wife and I hope to be traveling to Japan in September of 2018 for 21 days. We've received great help from the forum on trips to Europe and Africa and are hoping for more of the same! Dates are flexible as they will be dependent on using air miles. We have the ability to fly R/T into NRT or fly in to Hiroshima and out of NRT. We are seniors (late 60's) but still active. Our interests are gardens, food, culture, history, art/architecture and, of course, beautiful scenery.).. We have no specific goals other than to experience other cultures and foods

Would you suggest R/T to one airport or start and end in 2 places? How would we best amend this planned trip to make it better? What's the best way to split our time? What other areas should we prioritize or ignore? Will we be intimidated by the transport? Any suggestions will help.

Our next door neighbor is from Japan and helped us plan the below itinerary 4 years ago (with hotels) after we did loads of research at the Japan planning site and already had flights but then we cancelled. WE CAN ADD DAYS and change arrival and departure airports The below itinerary might have been a bit aggressive as my Wife really prefers to not have any one nighters (nor even 2 nighters). Please critique and improve this plan. Thank you.

19 day and 18 night Japan Plan
Day 0 Arrival day in afternoon TOKYO
day 1 "TOKYO - Hato Bus Tours 1/2 day? Rikugien Garden and/or Asakusa, the Meiji Shrine and/or Hama Rikyu garden "
day 2 TOKYO - day trip to Nikko
day 3 TOKYO - Do the classis "round course". Hakone Tozan Railway: y train, cablecar, ropeway, boat and bus. Purchase the free pass. Maybe add an extra night and stay in a Ryokan so Hakone Round course is less rushed?
day 4 Bullet train to NAGOYA. Check bags in locker. Then take train to Ise + also see Hikone Castle and Genkyuen Garden in Hikone
day 5 Leave Nagoya early towards MATSUMOTO. Get off at Magome and hike to Tsumago, about 3 hours or so. Then on towardsMatsumoto
day 6 MATSUMOTO - Matsumoto castle
day 7 Go to TAKAYAMA . (GO BY BUS AND NO BACKTRACKING)
day 8 "Go to KANAZAWA - Use bus and stop at Shirakawa-go
day 9 KANAZAWA - See Kenrokuen garden in the morning
day 10 Leave for KYOTO - Daitokuji Temple & Zen Gardens
day 11 KYOTO - Katsura Imperial Villa & Garden and/or Nijo-jo
day 12 "KYOTO - day trip to Mt. Koya? Or not and/or Daigoji Temple & landscape garden"
day 13 Leave early for HIROSHIMA via Kyoto on bullet train. Stay in Miyajama (Shukkeien Garden)
day 14 KYOTO - Miho Museum in a.m. then Kokedera (Moss Temple) in afternoon
day 15 KYOTO - day trip to Nara (Isuien Garden and/or Yoshikien Garden)
day 16 KYOTO - Ryoanji Temple & Rock garden or Heian Jingu Garden
day 17 KYOTO - Day trip: Osaka Castle / Temmangu Shrine (Nakanoshima) - Minoo Park
day 18 "Leave for Osaka airport in the morning. (be there by noon…) for 2:30pm flight home"
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Old Sep 30th, 2017, 07:06 PM
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Far too rushed, except for Kyoto and perhaps Tokyo (my least favorite city in Japan).

Doing Koya-san as a day trip will be exhausting, and part of the point is to overnight in a temple in any case.

I recently spent three nights in Nara and could have stayed longer.

Kanazawa also needs more time, at least three nights.

Haven't done Hakone but thought most people at least did one night there.

I would revise it starting in Hiroshima and ending in Tokyo.

Use hyperdia.com to see how long the train rides will be.
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Old Sep 30th, 2017, 08:25 PM
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I’m glad you began a new thread, rather than tacking on to that other one!

If it works for your final itinerary, it is IMO definitely worth considering open jaw flights, and into Narita out of Kansai might also work for you.

Transportation is very easy – see
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e627.html

Also look into Japan’s excellent luggage forwarding option. It’s called takuhaibin; here's the info:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2278.html)

What to see / do really depends on your preferences and interests, but a few comments:

• I personally would not go to Hakone as a day trip. YMMV.

• I regret that I gave Takayama just over a day and that I gave Kanazawa only 2 days. I wish I had given the pair 5 nights (3 in Kanazawa and 2 in Takayama, with a stop for a few hours in Shirakawago) -- and even that would have been on the rushed side.

• If you plan to visit the Katsura Imperial Villa (and it is worth seeing, IMO), note that you may need to book in advance. Same with Kokedera.

• Mt. Koya is not well suited for a day visit, and although there is much to see and enjoy there, the main reason most people go is to spend a night in a temple, which can be a highlight of a trip to Japan.

• If I’m following correctly, you are planning two separate stays in Kyoto. That might work well for you, but I’m not sure what the logic is. If you are going to stay in the area twice, consider spending a night or two in Nara rather than two stays in Kyoto.

• I believe Shukkeien is in Hiroshima, not Miyajima.

• I’m glad I spent a night in Miyajima, not only to be there after day trippers left, but also to have time to explore it before departing the next day. I don’t believe your plan would allow that.

• Interesting choices for Nara – I loved Nara, spent two full and very busy days there, and missed both of these gardens.

• If you are going to take a day trip from Kyoto to see a castle, I would think Himeji-jo might make more sense. (It might have been closed for renovations when your neightbor helped you plan.) Or you might be able to see it on your way to/from Hiroshima. Given your interest in gardens, if you do go to Himeji-jo, also consider visiting Koko-en.

• If I’m counting correctly, you have 3 full days and some bits in Kyoto / Nara. FWIW, I fell hard pressed to fit my highest priorities for those two locations in 6 full and very busy days. Again, YMMV.

Hope that helps!
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Old Sep 30th, 2017, 08:54 PM
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Thanks for the quick reply. As this itinerary was planned 3 years ago the Kyoto split might have been based on the flights. Happy to rearrange and start in Hiroshima and out of Tokyo. Let me cogitate and rework some things.
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Old Sep 30th, 2017, 09:08 PM
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In September, I'd probably head north to south -- but I'd check festival schedules, flights, etc., before deciding.
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 03:44 AM
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Yes, agree about September. It will be hotter and more humid the further south you are.

I did visit gardens in Nara (would have to check to see if it was those two), but there is so much more to see in and around Nara! I spent my first afternoon visiting merchant houses and enjoying a sake tasting even before tackling temples.

My first trip to Japan covered some of the same ground. Click on my name for my East Asia TR, or start here (links at the top of the page):

https://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com...-little-kyoto/
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 07:30 AM
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Additional cogitating is due. Especially because you have multiple one-night stays and one of you doesn't really want stays that are less than 3 days.

Days 2,3,4,5 involve a not insignificant amount of travel. The good thing I can say about it is that, at least, you have it at the beginning of the trip.

Day 3, yes, spending a night in a ryokan in Hakone is a great idea. or two or skip it. Why rush?

Your Day 4 is not impossible. You can choose Ise or Hikone but not both for that day. The better choice would be Ise. You can stop in Hikone on the day you travel to Kyoto.

Days 7 and 8 are sub-optimal in several ways.

I suggest that you skip Ise/Nagoya and Takayama and add one night each to Matsumoto and Kanazawa.

Or drop Matsumoto and make Takayama a 3-night stay.
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Old Oct 1st, 2017, 07:33 AM
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I agree that Hakone and Mt Koya should not be daytrips. Hakone is great for an onsen experience and Mt Koya for the temple stay/night time atmosphere. You can ask your hotel to help forward your luggage from Tokyo to Kyoto while you travel to Hakone for a night. The service is not expensive (15 USD or so).

Whatever you do in Kyoto, make sure to see Fushimi Inari and its red gates. It's my favorite.

Have you considered switching Osaka Castle out for the Himeji Castle? It should only be an hour from Kyoto by train.
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Old Oct 6th, 2017, 10:04 AM
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been away. thanks for the comments.
KJA is right Himeji-jo was closed for renovations when our neighbor helped us with our original plan so I will add that back. I forgot.

I have changed this itinerary from North to South, added days and tried to add/cut things as suggested. Now fly into Tokyo and out of Hiroshima. Obviously I need more help on the Kyoto portion.

To be honest I do not remember why Nagoya was on the 1st itinerary and I hear suggestions to drop it. It would be great to get rid of any 1 night stand as my wife is not fond of them. Happy wife/Happy life.

How about some suggestions on this revised North-south itinerary?
This revision is 3 travel days and 20 full says in country. That would likely be my max. The actual # of days will depend on when I can use miles for premium flights so the final plan may revised for a little more or less. September travel dates "out" are just now showing on the United site so booking the flight out will happen soon. I will not be able to book my return date until 3 weeks have passed from booking my flight out. Those of you who use miles know the drill.

If there is a way to do overnights in Nara or some other suggested locale, please help make that efficient. However, unless there is too much travel, I think my wife would prefer 60-90 minute train each way to packing bags and moving hotels. Plus, staying in one place gives us more flexibility to have late mornings or evenings in some places. I changed to 2 nights Matsumoto 2 nights Takayama and 3 nights Kanazawa but that 7 night commitment may be too much.

Thanks in advance for the help. Here is version 2.

Day 1 – 1 night in flight. Leave PDX
Day 2 -4 nights in TOKYO. Arrive Tokyo mid-afternoon.
Day 3 -flexible day. Maybe Hato Bus Tour for 1/2 day? And/Or Rikugien Garden, Asakusa, the Meiji Shrine, or Hama Rikyu garden.
Day 4 - day trip to Nikko
Day 5 – 1 night NAGOYA. Bullet train to NAGOYA. Check bags in locker. Then take train to Ise.
day 6 - 2 nights MATSUMOTO. Leave Nagoya early towards MATSUMOTO. Get off at Magome and hike to Tsumago, about 3 hours or so. Then on towards Matsumoto
day 7 - Matsumoto castle
day 8 – 2 nights TAKAYAMA . Leave for Takayama by bus
day 9 - ?
day 10 – 3 nights KANAZAWA - Go to KANAZAWA - Use bus and stop at Shirakawa-go
DAY 11 - Kenrokuen garden in the morning
DAY 12 – ?
Day 13 - ?
stop in Hikone on way to Kyoto (Hikone Castle and Genkyuen Garden in Hikone)
day 14 7 nights KYOTO. Leave for KYOTO - Daitokuji Temple & Zen Gardens
day 15 KYOTO - Katsura Imperial Villa & Garden and/or Nijo-jo
day 16 "KYOTO - day trip to Mt. Koya? Or not and/or Daigoji Temple & landscape garden"
day 17 KYOTO - Miho Museum in a.m. then Kokedera (Moss Temple) in afternoon
day 18 KYOTO - day trip to Nara (Isuien Garden and/or Yoshikien Garden)
day 19 KYOTO - Ryoanji Temple & Rock garden or Heian Jingu Garden
day 20 KYOTO - Day trip: Himeji-jo and/or T emmangu Shrine (Nakanoshima) - Minoo Park
day 21 2 nights HIROSHIMA OR MIYAJAMA. Leave early for HIROSHIMA via Kyoto on bullet train.
day 22 - Shukkeien Garden
day 23 – FLY HOME FROM HIROSHIMA
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Old Oct 6th, 2017, 10:33 AM
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>>that 7 night commitment may be too much.

Why do you say that? You could add to it.

That trip from Matsumoto to Takayama could me most of a day by itself if you stop at Kamikochi and Hirayu Onsen on the way. A stop in Kamikochi for a few hours is definitely worthwhile.

Before you go cutting that 7-night part of the trip you need to go to japan-guide to answer those ? on days 9 and 12.
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Old Oct 6th, 2017, 10:46 AM
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been away. thanks for the comments.
KJA is right Himeji-jo was closed for renovations when our neighbor helped us with our original plan so I will add that back. I forgot.

I have changed this itinerary from North to South, added days and tried to add/cut things as suggested. Now fly into Tokyo and out of Hiroshima. Obviously I need more help on the Kyoto portion.

To be honest I do not remember why Nagoya was on the 1st itinerary and I hear suggestions to drop it. It would be great to get rid of any 1 night stand as my wife is not fond of them. Happy wife/Happy life.

How about some suggestions on this revised North-south itinerary?
This revision is 3 travel days and 20 full says in country. That would likely be my max. The actual # of days will depend on when I can use miles for premium flights so the final plan may revised for a little more or less. September travel dates "out" are just now showing on the United site so booking the flight out will happen soon. I will not be able to book my return date until 3 weeks have passed from booking my flight out. Those of you who use miles know the drill.

If there is a way to do overnights in Nara or some other suggested locale, please help make that efficient. However, unless there is too much travel, I think my wife would prefer 60-90 minute train each way to packing bags and moving hotels. Plus, staying in one place gives us more flexibility to have late mornings or evenings in some places. I changed to 2 nights Matsumoto 2 nights Takayama and 3 nights Kanazawa but that 7 night commitment may be too much.

Thanks in advance for the help. Here is version 2.

Day 1 – 1 night in flight. Leave PDX
Day 2 -4 nights in TOKYO. Arrive Tokyo mid-afternoon.
Day 3 -flexible day. Maybe Hato Bus Tour for 1/2 day? And/Or Rikugien Garden, Asakusa, the Meiji Shrine, or Hama Rikyu garden.
Day 4 - day trip to Nikko
Day 5 – 1 night NAGOYA. Bullet train to NAGOYA. Check bags in locker. Then take train to Ise.
day 6 - 2 nights MATSUMOTO. Leave Nagoya early towards MATSUMOTO. Get off at Magome and hike to Tsumago, about 3 hours or so. Then on towards Matsumoto
day 7 - Matsumoto castle
day 8 – 2 nights TAKAYAMA . Leave for Takayama by bus
day 9 - ?
day 10 – 3 nights KANAZAWA - Go to KANAZAWA - Use bus and stop at Shirakawa-go
DAY 11 - Kenrokuen garden in the morning
DAY 12 – ?
Day 13 - ?
stop in Hikone on way to Kyoto (Hikone Castle and Genkyuen Garden in Hikone)
day 14 7 nights KYOTO. Leave for KYOTO - Daitokuji Temple & Zen Gardens
day 15 KYOTO - Katsura Imperial Villa & Garden and/or Nijo-jo
day 16 "KYOTO - day trip to Mt. Koya? Or not and/or Daigoji Temple & landscape garden"
day 17 KYOTO - Miho Museum in a.m. then Kokedera (Moss Temple) in afternoon
day 18 KYOTO - day trip to Nara (Isuien Garden and/or Yoshikien Garden)
day 19 KYOTO - Ryoanji Temple & Rock garden or Heian Jingu Garden
day 20 KYOTO - Day trip: Himeji-jo and/or T emmangu Shrine (Nakanoshima) - Minoo Park
day 21 2 nights HIROSHIMA OR MIYAJAMA. Leave early for HIROSHIMA via Kyoto on bullet train.
day 22 - Shukkeien Garden
day 23 – FLY HOME FROM HIROSHIMA
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Old Oct 6th, 2017, 11:23 AM
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you double-posted the same thing
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Old Oct 6th, 2017, 11:49 AM
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On day 9 consider visiting the Art Nouveau museum. I assume you already know about the float museum.

You could put a couple of nights in Nara after Kyoto and before Hiroshima.
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Old Oct 6th, 2017, 03:11 PM
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Better!

When I planned my time in Japan, the shrine in Ise could not be visited. If that’s the purpose of your visit there, please be sure to confirm that you will be able to see it.

I’m not sure what help you want for the Kyoto section. You just need to decide what to do!
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2158.html

I second thursdaysd’s recommendation of the Art Nouveau museum in Takayama, aka the the Hida Takayama Museum of Art:
http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/s...kayamaart.html
Lots of other options. With some research, I’m sure you’ll find some of interest.
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5900.html

There’s also a LOT to see in Kanazawa.
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2167.html
One option to consider: a tea ceremony at Gyokusen-en:
http://www.kanazawa-tourism.com/eng/...de1_1.php?no=8

And again, Mt. Koya is not a day-trip destination.
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Old Oct 6th, 2017, 03:19 PM
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Sorry about the double post. I was looking at my screen and it looked like I had not submitted yet.
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Old Oct 6th, 2017, 03:45 PM
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5 or 6 nights for Takayama / Kanazawa is likely sufficient. Consider using that extra night elsewhere.
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Old Oct 6th, 2017, 04:49 PM
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Hi,
Not sure what you'd be seeing in a half day Tokyo tour. Many such tours are quite rushed. If you see Hama Rikyu, the Kyu-Shiba Rikyu Garden is also very close by.
For your Day 9, there is also Hida-Furukawa nearby, or if you want, you could see Toyama, but Fukui is also beyond Kanazawa and has a few often overlooked sights if you rearrange things.
Kanazawa is worth some good attention, and not just the garden. But if you find yourself with some time, you could rent a car and see the Noto Peninsula.
If you're still looking for things between Kanazawa and Hikone, you could go see Amanohashidate.
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3990.html

Both Hikone and Genkyuen were delightful. The castle is not that large, but it's one of the few surviving originals, yet often overshadowed by Himeji.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCp5HCc6rYQ
Neither the castle nor the garden take up too much time. The garden nicely uses the castle as borrowed scenery.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbftZ0Xj8gU

For Kokedera (Saihoji), you MUST be flexible with your plans. They choose the date and time and you can say go or no-go. It's rather complicated to get the reservation. See:
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3937.html
If for some reason the reservations or plans don't work out for you, there is also Gioji which is also in Arashiyama. Some call it the "poor man's Kokedera", referring to Kokedera's 3000 yen per person charge.
https://youtu.be/4XU_E7EckPw

Isuien and Yoshikien are indeed both the gardens at Nara Park. Isuien is far better, but also very pricey, at about 900 yen.
https://youtu.be/kk-7IoLELio
But foreign tourists can visit Yoshikien for free, so they both balance out. They are extremely close to each other so no trouble in getting from one to the other.
https://youtu.be/vFWGuQ5Z0oI

Whatever you do, don't miss the Todaiji Temple - it is the crown jewel of Nara.
http://bit.ly/1Rhxg0E

You need to flesh out your plans more for Kyoto. You can still see lots more there. Try looking through:
https://kyoto.travel/en
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2158.html
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Old Oct 6th, 2017, 05:40 PM
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>>Sorry about the double post

Yeah, I should have just mentioned that I replied to the first one.
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Old Oct 11th, 2017, 05:23 PM
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I am going dark for about 4 weeks until I get the flight out and back ticketed. Mileage flights are opening up so I just need to decide what is the best time in Sept. to leave for a 21+ day trip.
Then when my # of days are firm I will log back on and beg you all to help me nail it down.
Thanks all.
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Old Oct 18th, 2017, 03:03 PM
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Dear Fellow Fodorites

We now know our arrival date which will be September 12, 2018. In another 3-4 weeks we will know our return date. Than we can finalize things.
If anyone is a premium mileage hound, I can share what I discovered about using Alaska, Delta and United miles for west coast flights to Japan. Each quite different.
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