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Help please Japan trip FAST approaching.

Help please Japan trip FAST approaching.

Mar 4th, 2019, 07:07 PM
  #1  
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Help please Japan trip FAST approaching.

In less than 8 weeks we値l be in Japan, I have booked nothing and am not even 100% sure of where we want to go.....aargh, I知 finding Japan planning a real challenge (Japan guide, Lonely Planet and the JNTO site notwithstanding). We fly in and out of Narita and have 14 nights and days on the ground. To complicate this trip further, we will be arriving at the start of Golden Week when all of Japan is travelling.

So far my thinking is to spend 5 nights in Tokyo (the first night we arrive early evening) 4 nights in a country area, then 5 nights in Kyoto before flying to Narita for our evening flight home.

In Tokyo I致e pinpointed Shinjuku as a likely area to stay, so we are near a choice of eateries and bars. Do you prefer somewhere else that fits the criteria?

For the middle of the trip I知 thinking central Honshu, around Takayama or Matsumoto or Kanazawa, or a combination. The fourth day of this section will be a special anniversary, so an Onsen is in order. What area would you recommend ? Any Onsen recommendations?

In Kyoto I知 torn between staying in the downtown area or Higashiyama, what would you suggest ? Again, we壇 like to be near many dining options.

I would like to use trains for most of the travel, but the JR Pass is doing my head in. From what I can see, I would also need to buy a JR West pass. Is that right ? I cannot make Hyperdia work for me.

We池e a couple of sixtyish Australians and this will be our first trip to Japan, although it may not be our last. We are fairly fit, like to walk, like a mix of city and country, history and modern, food, culture, natural environments and prefer home style accommodation to luxury chains.

Domo arigato.
sartoric is offline  
Mar 4th, 2019, 07:35 PM
  #2  
kja
 
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Just a few thoughts for your consideration:

I think you have already booked flights? If not, opt for into Tokyo and out of Osaka or vice versa. And if you must fly out of Narita, consider putting your time in Tokyo at the end of your trip.

5 nights in Kyoto is not much for a first visit. IME, many people find 6 full days for Kyoto and Nara a reasonable time for a first visit to Japan. YMMV.

In Tokyo, I知 glad I stayed near Ueno Park, and if I hadn稚 stayed there, I would have looked for something in Asakusa. That said, I really think that where to stay in Tokyo is best based on what one wants to do with one痴 time there its large enough for transportation times to matter.

In Kyoto, I prefer to stay in the Kawaramachi district, in part because of ease of access to restaurants, but also for ease of access (by foot or public transportation) to sites.

IMO, Kanazawa and Takayama are best seen in a combination of at least 5 nights. I知 not sure that meets your needs very well, but of course, you can see and enjoy a bit of one or the other if that痴 what you want.

If you do add time to Kyoto / Nara, a few days at a ryokan in either Miyajima or Hakone might suit your interests. Other options include a night or two in Koyasan, a night or two in Nikko.

As you note, Golden Week is fast approaching. Consider booking rooms ASAP!
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Mar 5th, 2019, 05:22 AM
  #3  
 
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Among your "Takayama or Matsumoto or Kanazawa, or a combination", and with only 4 nights, I'd suggest Takayama and Kanazawa for 2 nights each. Takayama for its unique mountain village feel, and Kanazawa for its rich culture in the past, the Kenroku-en garden, and the fresh sushi (try mori mori sushi, but it also has a branch in Kyoto too.)

What is giving you trouble with HyperDia | ???? ???? ??? ???? ??? ??????? ? Add all your train fares and compare it with the cost of a 7-day JR Pass to see if one is a better value over the other.

Post again if you need hotel suggestions for Takayama and Kanazawa.

Last edited by Reading54; Mar 5th, 2019 at 05:26 AM. Reason: add more text
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Mar 5th, 2019, 09:14 AM
  #4  
 
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Are you aware that the Emperor Akihito is abdicating the throne on April 30 and the Crown Prince being elevated during Golden Week? You may want to adjust your itinerary on those dates to be away from extra crowds.
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Mar 5th, 2019, 12:53 PM
  #5  
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kja, the flights were bargains and are not changeable. I put Tokyo at the start for two reasons, I think we’ll be knackered enough after a nine hour flight to not want to back up and spend another few hours in transit to Kyoto, and also Golden Week....I read that a lot of Tokyo residents head overseas, making it maybe slightly less crowded. Thanks for the suggestions of Ueno Park and Asakusa I’ll look at those.

Reading54, yes, that’s probably what we’ll do with Kanazawa and Takayama. Hyperdia seems to want the actual station name, which I don’t know, and I use an iPad, so the font is tiny. The JR pass seems to get us to Kanazawa, but then they’re private lines to Takayama and on to Kyoto. I’ll keep playing with it at the risk of pulling all my hair out. Yes please to the hotel reccos. Ryokan if possible.

Happytrvlr, ahh, no, I didn’t know that. We arrive in the evening of the 29th. This is what you get for jumping on bargain basement fares.

Thanks so much for your help everyone.

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Mar 5th, 2019, 04:13 PM
  #6  
tt7
 
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Originally Posted by sartoric View Post
Hyperdia seems to want the actual station name, which I don稚 know, and I use an iPad, so the font is tiny. The JR pass seems to get us to Kanazawa, but then they池e private lines to Takayama and on to Kyoto. I値l keep playing with it at the risk of pulling all my hair out.
Hyperdia has a pre-defined list of station names; when you start typing in a station name, it should give you a drop-down list that gets more defined the more you type. Some station names are obvious and straightforward - Tokyo is Tokyo and Kyoto is Kyoto; however there are a number of variations of Shinjuku - so it's usually "Shinjuku(JR)" that you're looking for. Similarly, if you go to the Bamboo Grove outside Kyoto, you probably want to go to Saga Arashiyama .... however, Hyperdia wants "Sagaarashiyama" - all one word.... and so on.

Here are a couple of Hyperdia links --

Kanazawa - Takayama

Takayama - Kyoto

Just change the date, time, origin/destination etc. in the above links to suit whatever trip you're trying to research. Note that if you're using a JR Pass, you need to leave the Nozomi box unticked (as you can't use a JR Pass on a Nozomi Shinkansen) and usually also the "Private Railway" box as you can't use a JR Pass on non-JR trains. You'll see from the above links that you can use JR from Kanazawa to Takayama and from there to Kyoto. If you get the standard JR Pass (・29,110 for 7 days, ・46,390 for 14 days), that covers the whole of Japan (so no need for a JR West pass). The JR Pass is usually only worthwhile if you do enough long-distance travel. When in Kyoto, are you planning on any day trips such as Himeji or Hiroshima? Those sort of trips help to make the JR Pass worthwhile.

In the Hyperdia output, under the name of each train, you'll see a "Train timetable" and an "Interval timetable" link. These will show you (respectively) (a) where and when the train stops and (b) all the trains for the day on that route. When looking at the fares, make sure you're looking at the "Total" fare at the top of each set of trains and not the fare that appears in the "Fare" column - that's just the base fare and doesn't include any limited express/seat fee. If you have any problems with specific station names, please let us know.
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Mar 5th, 2019, 04:56 PM
  #7  
kja
 
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Originally Posted by sartoric View Post
Yes please to the hotel reccos. Ryokan if possible.
Staying in a ryokan can be a wonderfully memorable experience, and one I highly recommend. But not for more than a night or two -- at least for the better ryokan! The experience involves exquisite meals, so you generally need to be at the ryokan by 4 or 5 p.m. to prepare for a meal that will take most of the evening. Breakfast is also a leisurely culinary experience, if one that takes two hours or less.
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Mar 5th, 2019, 06:20 PM
  #8  
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tt7, that’s excellent thank you. I think I might have to drag the lap top out for a bigger screen.

kja, perhaps guesthouse might have been a better term to use. We definitely want at least one Onsen ryokan experience, but not every night !
sartoric is offline  
Mar 5th, 2019, 06:25 PM
  #9  
kja
 
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Originally Posted by sartoric View Post
kja, perhaps guesthouse might have been a better term to use. We definitely want at least one Onsen ryokan experience, but not every night !
Yup -- an important distinction! And onsen are a bit different than ryokan....
You might want to search japaneseguesthouses.com for your options.
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Mar 6th, 2019, 02:50 AM
  #10  
 
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Well, well Sartoric...off to the 'Land of the rising sun'. Congratulations. My two week trip ( including work) some 15 years ago would be of little help to you. Let me give it a try. I've been following your interesting tour of the Indian sub-continent and have enjoyed your narrative and admired your style of travel. Will be following you all too keenly here.I loved Kyoto spent a most of my time there and stayed in a Ryokan throughout.
As mentioned above an Onsen is a Japanese hot spring and these baths are frequently around the springs in traditional Inns which offer lodging facilities too.Famously covered on NatGeo ,The Shibu Onsen ,is one of famous and unique Hot Spring resort located in Nagano. Especially Jigokudani Noen Koen (Jigokudani Wild monkey park) is the only hot spring where you can see wild monkey enjoying a dip in the sub-zero temperatures.
I remember spending some time is in the Akita Perfecture.I'll dig it out for you. There are a string of onsens in the nyuto mountains which are away from the 'usual' tourist circuit..Its northwest of Tokyo. Some of which are listed below if you do plan to include it in your scheme of things. Taenoyu, Ganiba, Ogama, Magoroku,Tsurunoyu ( said to be one of the oldest,where I stayed)

TSURUNOYU ONSEN???????????????????
秋田_乳頭温泉郷の秘湯・黒湯温泉

I'm told one can buy an ;Onsen Passport' and try out Nyuto Mountain’s hot springs
RYOKAN STORIES | Welcome to the forest of the beech.

There are plenty in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture too.

The Ryokan on the other hand are traditional Japanese Inns with tatami floor rooms, futon beds , Chabudai with Zaisu chairs orzabuton cushions and communal baths (urban 'onsen').The experience nevertheless is good.

www.nyuto-onsenkyo.com/english/eng_ganiba.html
inquest is offline  
Mar 6th, 2019, 04:09 AM
  #12  
 
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Hi Sartoric, it is 11 years since we were in Japan so my recollection may be a little hazy but I am in the process of tentatively planning a visit in the autumn. We were there during Golden Week and didn’t find Tokyo too busy at all - things may have changed!

We enjoyed two nights in Takayama which was enough to explore the town. The food was excellent there as it seemed to be a major centre for Hida Beef, Sake and Miso ( possibly my all time favourite ingredients. We stayed at Sumiyoshi Ryokan there which used all of those ingredients to great effect in their Kaiseki dinners. Some photos on our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com/category/asia/japan/

We used te JR Pass most of the time but Koyasan and Takayama were the two places we had to buy non JR tickets for part of the journeys.

PS I sympathise with your planning dilemma. Even though we have been before I have been pulling my hair out (not that I have any to pull!) in the many decisions and possible options. If you do make it to Kanazawa, would love to hear your thoughts as it is very much on our list.
crellston is offline  
Mar 6th, 2019, 07:04 AM
  #13  
 
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tt7 has already given you a very good explanation on using Hyperdia.com. Using a lap top with larger screen may help.

JR trains will take you between Kanazawa and Takayama (through Toyama), as well as from Takayama to Kyoto.

Hotels in Takayama are busy all year round, especially on weekends. I did not stay at a traditional ryokan but a modern hotel with an onsen on the top floor. Hotel Spa Alpina Hida Takayama is a 5-min walk east of the Takayama train station. I liked it. Make sure you read the room size in square meter (or square foot) and choose a larger twin-bed room.

For Kanazawa, I'd suggest staying near the train station for easy coming and going. The city's bus systems is very convenient and frequent from the train station to tourist sites. Hotel Nikko Kanazawa , ANA Crowne Plaza Kanazawa, Daiwa Roynet Hotel Kanazawa are all reputable chains.
Reading54 is online now  
Mar 11th, 2019, 12:59 AM
  #14  
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Hey, great to “see” you again inquest. Hope you’re travelling well and thanks for those ryokan links. We slept on a futon for at least two years, so they don’t scare me too much, (although, it was 25 years ago, and I may be older now).
Crellston !! great to see you too, envious of your South American journey. I’ll be sure to let you know about Kanazawa, my friend lived there for a couple years, so I hope to get to some lesser known spots based on her reccos.
Thanks again Reading54. Laptop will be dragged out tomorrow and fingers crossed, I’ll work out Hyperdia. Good tips on room size and more importantly bed size ! I’ve got a booking in Tokyo with small double bed, fortunately it’s fully cancellable.
sartoric is offline  
Mar 16th, 2019, 12:27 AM
  #15  
 
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Sartoric, you will love Japan it's an amazing place. My four weeks there some years ago was one of the best trips I have ever had and it is high on my list of places to return to.

If you decide to do both Takayama and Kanazawa (both of which I loved) consider stopping over for 2-3 hours at Shirakawa. We found it quite easy to break the trip there and were able to store our bags at the bus station while we wandered around.

In relation to Kyoto we found staying at the Kyoto train station worked well. It depends on your priorities of course. It certainly doesn't have the ambience of elsewhere in Kyoto but as we were doing two day trips (Nara and Arashiyama) it meant we were right on the spot to leave and in terms of getting around Kyoto itself we found it quite useful. Kyoto's public transport system is heavily bus orientated and so we just went downstairs and there was a bus to take to whatever area of Kyoto we wished to visit and, at the end of the day, we could jump on virtually any bus passing as they all seemed to end up at the railway station. My comments here have to be taken with a large grain of salt as it has been about 10 years so they might be completely out of date. I'm sure someone will correct me if they are. Ambience and immediate local attractions in walking distance of course may be more important to you than anything else which is quite understandable. As we had several weeks we were able to get our 'ambience fix" at other places which were cheaper and opt for convenience in Kyoto.
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Mar 18th, 2019, 08:57 AM
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We have always flown both into and out of Tokyo because the deals have been so much better, the extra to open jaw hasn't been worth it.

I really like Tokyo as a place to acclimatise and we usually split our time there between start and end.

We did stay in Shinjuku on our very first trip and liked it a lot, but the station is crazy and you really need to make sure you know which exit you want for your hotel or you'll walk a lot of extra miles. We didn't have any issues but I've read others who have. It's a good area for a gentle introduction to Japan, modern with plenty of places to eat out and great transport connections.

I disliked Ueno when we stayed there, wouldn't stay again. Can't put my finger on it other than that it was like some of the meh areas you find in Europe right near a station, not as nice or charming as other areas, for me. I'd only stay if I had a real hankering to spend a lot of my time sightseeing in this locality.

We also did Tokyo station area once, I'd not choose it again, it felt the most global / least Japanese out of the places we've stayed in Tokyo. Yes lots of places to shop (not interested) and eat (definitely interested) but soulless, for me.

Our favourite place is still Asakusa, which has a great mix of both modern and more traditional Tokyo, lots of charm, busy yes but we just find it more fascinating. Plus I can't miss Kappabashi dori anytime I go!

Yes, agree with Kja, if you can give yourself more time in Kyoto, do it, you won't regret it. We also prefer staying around Kawaramachi, within striking distance of Nishiki market and all the shopping areas near there (plenty of great eating options) but also near to Pontocho and Gion, and great transport links for bus and metro. We can heartily recommend Shiraume Ryokan here, which others have stayed at on our recommendation and also loved. On our first trip we did 2 nights there and the rest at a regular western hotel.

Takayama is a great place for 2-3 nights, another good place to do your ryokan stay though not specifically onsen. Great historical district, wonderful temples, fabulous morning markets and oh my the Hida beef, equally excellent but less known internationally than Kobe, and so so good.

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Mar 18th, 2019, 10:04 PM
  #17  
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Thank you shandy, it’s great to hear the Kyoto Station area might suit and bus transport works for us. I take on board your thoughts for Shirakawa, but I think we’ll be on the train to make full use of the JR pass.

Thank you Kavey, good to hear you enjoy Tokyo. I’ll keep looking in the Shinjuku area. Kyoto advice appreciated too. I have booked a Ryokan in Takayama for one night, and despite being vegetarian may relax the rules for Hida beef.

I feel like we’re heading into this trip almost totally unplanned. Sometimes that works out well though, fingers crossed.
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Mar 19th, 2019, 04:03 PM
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Great advice from Kavey about knowing the correct station exit to use for your hotel and sightseeing in general. This is true not only for Shinjuku, but for all the other major Tokyo stations as well, which stretch out for considerable distances with multiple exits. It’s easy to to go out the wrong side of the station and be blocks away from where you intended to be.
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Mar 20th, 2019, 12:33 AM
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Originally Posted by curiousgeo View Post
Great advice from Kavey about knowing the correct station exit to use for your hotel and sightseeing in general. This is true not only for Shinjuku, but for all the other major Tokyo stations as well, which stretch out for considerable distances with multiple exits. It’s easy to to go out the wrong side of the station and be blocks away from where you intended to be.
Yes, we did this a couple of times, and now I try to have a good understanding of which exit we want ahead of getting to the station!

On another note:

For our first Kyoto trip we did 5 nights, of which 2 we spent in Gion and the other 3 at Kyoto Station (in the Granvia, which we got a very cheap deal on at the time). It was handy doing both but in our subsequent two trips (6 nights and 7 nights) we stayed in Kawaramachi, and prefer it. It's great for finding local breakfasts and dinners without having to go too far...
But Kyoto station is good for transport for the day trips out of Kyoto (on different trips we have been to Yamazaki distillery and Uji, had plans but failed to go to Kobe, and it's easy to get to Osaka etc. too).
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Mar 20th, 2019, 12:57 AM
  #20  
 
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Kavey, I’ve done the same thing myself lol. The extra 10-15 minute walk gets old really fast.
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