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Help Kathie plan her first trip to Japan

Help Kathie plan her first trip to Japan

Jan 26th, 2013, 01:56 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,899
Help Kathie plan her first trip to Japan

This seems to be the year for those of us who haven't been to Japan to make the leap. We are now working on a plan for two weeks in Japan in November. We know we want to start with 3 nights in Tokyo and end with 5 nights in Koyto.

Here is what Hawaiian Traveller recommended:
Tokyo - 3 nights (Hyatt)
Kanazawa - 3 ights
Koyasan - 1 night maybe 2
Nara - 2 nights
Kyoto - 5 nights

I'm not so sure about a single night in Koyasan - I would tend to add a night if we could, or cut it and add one more night to Nara. We are most interested in temples and gardens. We will want one stay in a roykan/onsen somewhere and I look forward to your suggestions about where.

We would love to overlap a bit with other Fodorites traveling to Japan, but I don't know yet if that will work out. We will be making our flight reservations in the next week or so, so will have firm dates and firm number of days/nights by then.

I've ordered recommended guidebooks and have lots of research to do. I'd appreciate any suggestions you might have.
Kathie is offline  
Jan 26th, 2013, 02:56 PM
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I like this plan! I particularly like that you are spending 2 nights in Nara in addition to your 5 nights in Kyoto - that's what I did, and I was very glad to have had that much time in the area.

I found one night on Koyasan sufficient for my needs and interests, and I would urge you not to cut it from your plans - it is magical! Be sure to visit Okuno-in, preferably at dusk or dawn (or both!)

I found Japan Solo the most helpful of the many guidebooks I used. I believe it is out of print, but maybe you can find a used copy somewhere?

kja is offline  
Jan 26th, 2013, 03:05 PM
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Wow, it really is the Year of Japan here in Fodorville. I love it!

Happy to hear you'll be there around the same time as us. Here's the hoping for a little overlap so we can all grab a sake together and talk all things travel!

Best of luck planning -- I'll be following this thread closely!
filmwill is offline  
Jan 26th, 2013, 03:49 PM
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Kathie, our dates are 10/22 - 11/6. Rhk and HT are arriving a couple of days later. As you know filmwill is arriving a couple of weeks later. I have actually been looking at spending a night in Nara and now I see you are looking at 2. Am I missing something?
Craig is offline  
Jan 26th, 2013, 07:20 PM
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I think one night in Koyasan is fine, but do be careful about which temple you stay in.

I didn't visit Nara, but I really enjoyed visiting Ogimachi, Takayama and Matsumoto between Kanazawa and Tokyo. Can you manage more time?
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 26th, 2013, 08:10 PM
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We are at the very beginning of figuring out this trip. We l prefer not to have any single night stays, but so far the vote seems to be to do a single night at Koyasan. Thursdays, please recommend a temple to stay in. I worry a bit about the sleeping arrangements being so hard that I'll be in pain the next day.

Craig, we like to linger over temples, castles and gardens. Nara looks to have plenty to keep us occupied. The problem with a first trip to Japan is to get some variety, but to get enough depth of experience to appreciate it. It's a difficult balance.

I do hope our dates will intersect with other Fodorites, and we'd like to experience the koyo somewhere along the way.
Kathie is offline  
Jan 26th, 2013, 08:21 PM
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I vote for two nights at Koyasan - if you are coming from Kanazawa it is almost a five hour trip - by the time you get there you won't have much time to look around and then you need to check out in the morning to continue to your next stop. Koyasan is a pretty out of the way place - even from Shin Osaka it takes almost two hours. I wouldn't shortchange yourselves there - quite a bit to see in addition to the cemetery....

I spent two nights there as I came from Miyajima and went on to Tokyo afterwards....
Mara is offline  
Jan 26th, 2013, 08:32 PM
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looking good
rhkkmk is offline  
Jan 26th, 2013, 08:35 PM
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Koyasan is a tough call. For some visitors it's a highlight. For others it a disappointment (reasons I've encountered are too touristy, uncomfortable, felt fake, food a disappointment, too expensive for what you get). It's actually a minority of people in my experience who loved their time there. There are other options for temple stays that can be explored.
KimJapan is offline  
Jan 26th, 2013, 08:53 PM
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In Koyasan, I was very pleased with Shojoshin-in:

When I was there (2006) this particular temple was not too touristy, was extremely comfortable, felt authentic, and served truly outstanding cuisine (some of the best food I ate in Japan, and I trust you realize that means it was very tasty indeed). It was worth every penny, even though I was on a fairly tight budget at the time. The temple and its grounds were gorgeous and the monks could not have been more gracious. It was a highlight for me in a trip that held many highlights.

Although one needs to check out in the morning, you can leave your luggage with them while you explore the area. And as Mara says, there is a great deal more to see than just Okuno-in.
kja is offline  
Jan 27th, 2013, 12:04 AM
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Given the amount of time it takes to get there I would recommend two nights in Koyasan. It truly is a magical place. We stayed at Eko In which was in avery good location not far from Okonuin ( make sure to visit at night) There is a "free" English speaking guide service in the town which we found to be excellent ( donation ) . Like you, I was a little concerned about the effects of sleeping on the floor on my back but just ask for an extra futon. I found it very comfortable and slept like a baby.

Kyoto was amazing. You could easily spend a couple of weeks there and not see it all. Nara was ok but I much preferred Takayama. The ryokan we stayed in there was a highlight of our time in Japan.
crellston is offline  
Jan 27th, 2013, 12:09 AM
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Kathie I think you are spending too much time in Kyoto and I wonder why Kanazawa is so interesting.

Anyway, you are leaving out very important places such as Hiroshima and Miyajima.

I also did a two weeks trip to Japan in 2007. Check out my travelowgue:
and the pics:
amln is offline  
Jan 27th, 2013, 05:03 AM
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I was in Japan in November a few years ago, and it was the perfect time to go. The weather was sunny and cool, and the fall colors were amazing. Our itinerary worked well for us (we are interested in gardens, museums, temples, etc. and not at all in shopping):

11/12 arrive Narita. Keio Plaza Hotel, Tokyo
11/13 Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo sights
11/14 Tokyo. Hakone (do on weekday) day trip
11/15 Tokyo. Hama Rikyu Garden, Asakusa. Asakusa, Sensoji Temple. Tokyo National Museum. Edo-Tokyo museum.
11/16 Tokyo. Day trip to Nikko
11/17 Tokyo. Day trip to Kamakura
11/18 Tokyo. Meiji Jingu Shrine and Harajuku
11/19 Train to Kyoto (peak fall color in Kyoto around 11/18-19). Kyoto Brighton Hotel
11/20 Kyoto. walk through eastern Kyoto. Sanjusangendo Hall. Kiyomizu Temple.
11/21 Kyoto. Temple of the Silver Pavilion. Philosopher’s Pathway. Heian Shrine. Tyoanji Temple. Golden Pavilion. Kyoto Handicraft Center. Tenjin-san market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.
11/22. Train to Kurashiki. Night in Kurashiki. Hotel Nikko Kurashiki
11/23 Train to Hiroshima (1 hr), then ferry (45 minutes) to Miyajima. Stay at Momiji-so ryokan.
11/24 Morning on Miyajima-see park, then ferry to Hiroshima. Night in Hiroshima.
11/25. train Hiroshima to Kyoto. Hyatt Regency Hotel.
11/26 Kyoto. Day Trip to Nara
11/27 Kyoto: day trip from Kyoto to Miho Museum.

I did not originally plan to break up our stay in Kyoto. Despite planning this trip many months in advance, I could not find any hotels in Kyoto for the weekend in November we planned to stay there. I should emphasize that "any". I started looking at 3-4 star hotels, then expanded to 5-star and 2-star, then expanded to absolutely anything and there was NOTHING. November is a peak travel and wedding month in Japan in general and Kyoto in particular. The only reason we stayed in the hotel we did (Brighton) is because that is all I could find (it was very nice, but location was a little out of the way), and we took the weekend trip to Hiroshima because I couldn't find any place to stay in Kyoto for that weekend. We hadn't originally planned to go to Hiroshima, but it ended up working out well, and I particularly enjoyed going to Miyajima-see park and staying in the ryokan in the park.

One other note: We really enjoyed the day trip to Hakone. You might consider staying there overnight and then going on to your next stop rather than doing it as a day trip from Tokyo.

Hope this helps!
jat is offline  
Jan 27th, 2013, 06:05 AM
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Kathie - I'm afraid I can only help with where NOT to stay in Koya-san (Rengejo-in):


I agree with KimJapan that it's a slog to get to, and if you're sure you'll be back you could easily skip it on a first trip. However, you should have an easier time than I did finding temples and ryokans to stay in as there are two of you.

Are you Art Nouveau fans? If so, don't forget the museum in Takayama:


Also, do make use of the Greeter service. The full-moon-watching ceremony my Greeter took me to outside Kyoto was a highlight of the trip.

amln - I found plenty to do in Kanazawa. Besides the big and beautiful Kenrokuen gardens, which can easily occupy most of a day, there is a well-presented historic section, with houses to visit and assorted activities, and a good market. Maybe helped that I found some delicious okonomiyaki at Kotatsu - I ate there twice and was greeted as a regular the second time. (And Kanazawa is home to a lovely Fodorite family.)
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 27th, 2013, 08:03 AM
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Thanks to all of you for feedback and suggestions. This is a first trip to Japan. We obviously won't cover all of the highlights!

I'm not sure about Koyasan, but appreciate other suggestions from you if we choose to substitute another place for it.

As far as too much time in Kyoto, when I planned my first trip years ago, I was going to spend a week there! I'm not sure there is such a thing as too much time in Kyoto.
Kathie is offline  
Jan 27th, 2013, 11:29 AM
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Great first plan!

If not sure about Koyasan means you will save it for another trip you might use that time for an Izu ryokan night or two on your way back to NRT(if you will be going this route).

Your last night in Japan could be spent at one of these places with easy train access back to Narita for your evening flight back to the US. Linda and I have been to Amagiso with its seven waterfalls, abundant hiking trails and river side rotenburo and have always wanted to experience the service, shear beauty and luxiurious futon(no back aches here) at Arai which we have planned in that long list of places to see that we all have.



Just throwing out suggestions

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Jan 27th, 2013, 11:39 AM
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HT, you are reading my mind. It will be complicated to fly out of KIX or ITM, while we have a non-stop between Seattle and Narita. So I was going to ask where we might stop between Kyoto and Narita for an overnight. Both of the places you mention look fabulous, though I hesitate to ask how much they cost.

Keep the ideas coming!
Kathie is offline  
Jan 27th, 2013, 02:55 PM
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There are generally very good connections ITM to NRT international flights, but you should book it as one ticket to get the protection of single ticketing in the event of misconnect. ITM is much easier than KIX because it's both smaller and closer.

You could also do Tokyo on each end of your trip like a sandwich.
KimJapan is offline  
Jan 27th, 2013, 05:01 PM
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> I'm not sure about Koyasan, but appreciate other suggestions from you if we choose to substitute another place for it.

Others have already mentioned Hiroshima / Miyajima, and Takayama. You could also consider Nikko and Lake Chuzenji.
kja is offline  
Jan 28th, 2013, 06:30 AM
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Fodorites are the best! Thanks for so many great suggestions. I have lots of research to do and I'll be back with more questions.
Kathie is offline  

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