First Trip to Japan in April 2016

Old Feb 4th, 2016, 03:01 PM
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First Trip to Japan in April 2016

I am travelling with my friend this April (Sakura Season) to Japan and have drafted a rough itinerary.
Not sure if I should take a 7/14 day JR pass, Heritage Pass or if any other travel passes. I have booked by accommodation through airbnb and booking.com.

Although I have listed the below cities, am not sure, if I should be including or excluding any from this list. By the looks of it, it will be a busy trip, but would like to hear any suggestions from the ones who have been to Japan before.

9-Apr-16 Tokyo City - Asakusa (Temple), Shinjuku, Ueno Park
10-Apr-16 Kyoto Osaka
11-Apr-16 Kyoto City - Sento Palace, Philosopher's Path, Sanjusangendo Temple, Kinkakuji temple
12-Apr-16 Kyoto Nara
13-Apr-16 Kyoto Hiroshima, Itsukushima (Torii Gate)
14-Apr-16 Kyoto Himeji, Kobe
15-Apr-16 Kyoto Kiso valley
16-Apr-16 Kyoto Osaka
17-Apr-16 Kyoto City - Fushimi Inari Shrine, Maruyama Park - Leave to Mt Koya
18-Apr-16 Mt Koya Temple Stay
19-Apr-16 Tokyo Harajuku, Meiji Shrine, Yoyogi Park, Takashita
20-Apr-16 Tokyo Hakone - Lake Aashi
21-Apr-16 Tokyo Mt Fuji
22-Apr-16 Tokyo Takayama
23-Apr-16 Tokyo City
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Old Feb 4th, 2016, 07:22 PM
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Have you already booked your flights? If not, consider booking into Tokyo and out of Osaka / Kyoto (or vice versa) so that you don't have to back track. If you have already booked, consider whether you will arrive in Tokyo in time to move on to another location that same day so that you don't need to stay in Tokyo at both the start and end of your trip.

IMO, Hiroshima and Miyajima (the location of the Itsukushima Shrine) are too far from Kyoto to make for a comfortable day trip. YMMV. I was pleased with my decision to travel to Hiroshima in time to spend 4 or 5 hours visiting the A-Bomb Dome, Peace Park, and Peace Museum before heading to Miyajima for a very relaxing and contemplative night after the emotional power of Hiroshima. The chance to see Miyajima after day-trippers left, and to see the Isukushima Torii at both low and high tide were, for me, highlights of a highlight-filled trip.

Likewise, IMO, Takayama is too far from Tokyo to be a good day-trip destination, and it deserves more time than you could give it on a day trip. Consider deferring Takayama until you make a trip that also includes Kanazawa. JMO.

Despite the number of nights you are planning to spend in Kyoto, it looks like you are planning to spend a surprisingly small amount of time there. Many of us think that Kyoto and Nara, together, are easily worth 6 full days. (And even then, you would need to be very selective.) Of course, you can always wait to decide about day trips, but do consider whether you are trying to fit too much into your time.

If you haven't already seen it, the best single source of information for tourists to Japan is japan-guide.com The one think that I've thought it did NOT do well was estimate the time it would take to visit various sites in Kyoto and Tokyo -- I took about twice as long as it estimated, and I was not traveling at a particularly slow pace.

There are a LOT of trip reports and planning threads here on Fodor's -- you might want to consult a few, paying particular attention to the planning threads (where you get the input from a variety of travelers with different experiences and preferences). I think that you will find Fodorites to be very helpful, so you might want to think through some of the issues a bit more and then come back with your questions.

Hope that helps!
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Old Feb 5th, 2016, 05:57 PM
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You've got some good ideas on your plan but it won't work as is. You need to look at a map and see where those locations are.

Also, you can use http://www.hyperdia.com/ to check travel times. Just be sure to set the departure time to a reasonable hour, say 10AM.

Got a question for you: how do you feel about changing lodging locations? Some people like to nest in one location. Others enjoy moving around one night here, two nights there, ...

Which are you a nester or a mover? Your current itinerary is a strange hybrid - changing locations only two times like a nester but you have a lot of destinations like a mover.
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Old Feb 5th, 2016, 11:32 PM
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I agree that some of your destinations are not very good as day trips, with 3 to 4 hours of travel each way on some days. There are dozens of possible variations, but here is how we allocated 13 nights on our first trip and we were very happy with our itinerary:

Tokyo 4
Hakone 1
Takayama 2
Nara 1
Koyasan 1
Koyto 4

That said, you have a couple more nights than we had, in which to possibly squeeze in Hiroshima (over-nighting in Miyajima) and Kiso Valley (which you could possibly do as a day trip from Kyoto, although I wouldn't. It's about 2 hours of travel each way between Kyoto and Nagiso, plus a bus trip). As suggested above, play with the hyperdia.com site to check travel times and see what works best for you.
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Old Feb 10th, 2016, 12:49 PM
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>

And then some. Kyoto is great.
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Old Feb 10th, 2016, 04:07 PM
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If I am reading your itinerary correctly, it looks like a lot of days listed as Kyoto, you will actually be somewhere else, like Osaka (2 different days), Kobe, Kiso Valley. So I actually think you don't have enough time in Kyoto itself. There is so much to see and do in Kyoto! We had 6 nights in Kyoto and didn't see/do everything we wanted!
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 01:29 PM
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You seriously don't need to spend two days in Osaka out of your days in Kyoto. And Osaka Castle is a rebuild, unlike Nijo-jo which the US didn't bomb to smithereens.

Osaka Castle is interesting for its exhibits relating to Tokugawa Ieyasu, who founded the Tokugawa shogunate, but it's not original (the elevator was one of my first tip-offs).
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Old Feb 11th, 2016, 02:25 PM
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It's true that the main keep of Osaka castle is a reconstruction, but it was not due to WWII. It was destroyed (by fire) in 1868 during the Boshin War and reconstructed in 1931. Much of the rest of the castle (stone walls, some gates, several Edo-period buildings) are intact and original and the scale of the place is awesome.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2016, 03:07 PM
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Wow, great feedback from all! I have booked my stay already but am pretty flexible in terms of the places i can/able to visit. I have put a few of them as placeholders, but completely agree that Kyoto has too much to offer, so I may not really be able to do all that I have put in there. Although i have put in Osaka in there, I am planning to skip it or do that only one of the days instead of 2 so I can spend more time in Kyoto.

Re. Kiso valley, if I skip this, would I be missing much? I already know I will go to Japan for a 2nd vacation so maybe can it another time?

Also Mt Koya, is this covered under the JR pass or will i need a separate Heritage Pass to go there?

Thanks a lot for your suggestions all.. I am a little over a month away from making this trip and will put in my final itinerary in a few days.

Cheers
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Old Feb 23rd, 2016, 05:46 PM
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For information on getting to / from Koyasan (or anywhere else in Japan!), go to that destination on japan-guide's web-site and click on "Getting there and around" near the top.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4904.html
Short answer = as I understand it, it is not covered by the JR pass as it is not on a JR line. You don't NEED a Heritage Pass, but getting one would save you money.

FWIW, my understanding is that one's experience of Koya-san varies a lot with one's choice of temple. I was very pleased with Shojoshin-in, which still gets great reviews.
https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/...n=Shojoshin-in
The other one that I've seen recommended with any frequency is Eko-in. https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/...?ryokan=Eko-in

While on Koya-san, don't miss Okuno-in!
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4901.html
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