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I'm bad at planning - review and advice needed

I'm bad at planning - review and advice needed

Feb 2nd, 2017, 05:05 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2015
Posts: 9
I'm bad at planning - review and advice needed

Hello everyone!
First of all, thank you for taking your time to read this

General info:
- I'm a student travelling together with my friend, we are both girls and I would really welcome your advice on ...everything? Yea, pretty please. I tried to do my research and I will continue to do so, however, I would be very happy to get opinions from third parties.
- We will be travelling in August (I know, so hot and humid!! Sadly, no other date is possible)
- I really want to see some awesome/beautiful/memorable summer festival while in Japan (except for Awa Odori in Tokushima. It IS a really great festival and I really recommend it - however, I have already been there - so if possible, I would like to try something else, even if very similar)
- We plan on buying JR Pass for 14 days (21 is too long)

We will fly in OSAKA (so Osaka has to be on our schedule; luckily - Universal Studios, Osaka Aquarium, Osaka Castle, Namba area... not bad place to visit, it seems)

*JR pass activate*

1) Then travel to MATSUE (Adachi Museum of Art looks so awesome! Also original castle there. I heard the Samurai district is closed, though. Daytrip to Izumo and if we are feeling fit, also another daytrip to Mount Daisen)

2) From there we will go to TAKAMATSU (the Sanuki Takamatsu Matsuri is there from 12-14 August. I heard the firework is on 13, so we would like to arrive on 13 and stay until 14, during the day I think Ritsurin Koen is a must-see)

3) From there we will go to KANAZAWA (Mainly for Kenrokuen. Is there anything else you would recommend in Kanazawa and its area? I'm thinking of a day trip to Shirakawa-go)

4) From there we have to go to NIIGATA (why? Well, honestly, only one reason - our friend is staying in Niigata at that time. Otherwise, I don't think it's at all interesting...? We will probably spend only 1 night here)

5) From there we will go to TOKYO (for about 3 days)

6) And from Tokyo, oh gosh, we would like to just basically sleep on train for many hours and travel all the way to BEPPU (we will relax in some beautiful ryokan afterwards and visit the hells)

7) And from there we have to go to FUKUOKA
*JR pass finished - the end*

Any thoughts? Is it okay? Foolish? Please be honest - something you would cross out or something you would exchange/add? For example, I'm having doubts about Matsue. It's kind of out of the way - on the other hand, the city looks lovely and that castle and Adachi museum is really luring me in, damn).
I also need to work out how to split the 14 days of JR pass into these cities... if you have any opinions on that, it would be welcome.

Also both me and my friend have already been to Japan, that's why I left out Hiroshima, Himeji, Nara and Kyoto. I would love to leave out Tokyo as well - but my friend hasn't been there yet, so in my not so happy but considerate opinion it's a total must-include.

Sorry for the long message, I hope there is someone who was able to read through all this

have a brilliant day
will_travel is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2017, 06:09 AM
Join Date: Jul 2008
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We enjoyed two days in Kanazawa. Instead of a day trip to shirakawa-go, you may consider going to takayama, which was one of our favorite cities. There is a folk village which is beautifully located on a picturesque lake, where you can see the same style farm houses.
dgunbug is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2017, 11:03 AM
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Thank you dgunbug!
Takayama... good point! After some searching, I found out that you can get to Takayama from Kanazawa via JR train (with a transfer in Toyama), so that's kind of an advantage for Takayama - because we will have the JR pass (while Shirakawa-go is connected only by buses).

Did you go there on a day trip from Kanazawa, or did you spend the night night in Takayama? I would love to hear more about it, because you said it's one of your favourite cities
will_travel is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2017, 12:15 PM
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We spent two nights there. Beautiful little city with very picturesque views.
dgunbug is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2017, 01:33 PM
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No reason to visit Osaka unless you want to do so.

Of course there is plenty to do in Kanazawa other than "just" Kenrokuen:
I regret that I gave it only 2.5 days. And as dgunbug mentioned, if you have any interest in Takayama, it makes sense to pair them:
I would recommend 5 days / 5 nights for these two cities.
kja is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2017, 02:34 PM
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kja: I hope that I didn't offend Kanazawa in your eyes! Of course I realise there are many things to do in Kanazawa, that's why I asked for recommendations (from my experience, some spots have tons of great things written about them - but if you actually go there, you might discover that it was just a beautiful-angle photo and good language, not a reality... while some other more interesting places might be overlooked)

And our airplane lands in Osaka, so that's why we are going to spend at least a full day there, kind of to wake up after the flight.

Anyways, thanks to you and dgunbug I have definitely decided on abandoning trip to Shirakawa-go in favour of sleeping over in Takayama (and more time in Kanazawa itself)
will_travel is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2017, 06:11 PM
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No offense taken whatsoever! I just am not inclined to think I can predict what you might enjoy.
kja is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2017, 06:12 PM
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Oh, and no reason to "abandon" Shirakawa-go -- the bus from Kanazawa to Takayama stops there for a few hours.
kja is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2017, 07:19 PM
Join Date: Sep 2014
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Actually, it only takes a few hours to see Shirakawago, and one of the highlights is staying overnight at a farmhouse there.
Since you asked...here are some August festivals:
Aug. 2-7 Aomori Nebuta
August 3-6 Akita Kanto Matsuri
Aug 5-7 - Niigata fireworks festival
Aug 15 - Shoro Nagashi (Spirit Boat Procession) Nagasaki
Aug 16 - Daimonji, Kyoto
Mid-Aug. Mitama Matsuri, Gokoku Jinja Fukuoka
And some other and smaller ones here:

Matsue is a nice place, but very time consuming to get to, so if you are going to go there, it makes sense to put some time into it. You can always branch out - you mentioned Izumo and the Adachi Museum, but there are also the sand dunes in Tottori, the Iwami Ginzan mine, plus Tsuwano is a quiet and quaint but lovely place to spend a day. You may already have seen the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, but the Taikodani Inari Shrine also has a lot of the charm yet virtually no crowds.
Tsuwano also has a sad history of a Christian martyr site, but it too is worth seeing.

Takamatsu is one of the most interesting cities on Shikoku. You mentioned Ritsurin which absolutely should be seen.
But there is a lot more as well. Yashima, Shikoku-mura, the islands just offshore, etc. And in Kotohira, you can take one of the best half day hikes in your life.

For Niigata, it has the festival above, and lots of natural beauty if you want to rent a car...otherwise not much. But Sado Island is always a possibility.
Tokyo to Beppu is a brutal 7½ hour train trip. You might want to break that up with a stay in between. Or, while you naturally want to squeeze the most value out of your rail pass, you might want to just use ANA's Experience Japan Fare and fly for 10,800 yen about US$95 straight from Tokyo to Oita Airport in about 90 minutes. You'd land on the Kunisaki Peninsula, which has some excellent off the beaten trail places, like the Rokugo Manzan temples
and the Usa Jingu Shrine.

For Beppu, you're already aware of the onsen and Hells, but there is also the Takasakiyama Monkey Park/Aquarium nearby, which are also very good.

Finally, save some time for Fukuoka too. The ramen is very famous and eating at one of the stalls (yatai) by the Naka River in Nakasu is a great way to spend an evening. The Nanzoin Temple is an absolute must-see place in the area as well.

Since you are already well aware of the brutal August heat and humidity, you might just want to consider escaping it by going way up north to the Tohoku area. The festivals in Aomori and Akita are very big and famous. And walking down the Oirase can be one of the most memorable experiences you'll ever have in Japan.
Adastra2200 is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2017, 08:43 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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you might not now it right now but you need to go to Izumo Taisha (that is if you go to Matsue, which I think is a great idea).

A 14-day pass covers 13 nights, so:

Place - # Nights
Matsue - 3
Takamatsu - 2
Kanazawa - 3
Niigata - 1
Tokyo - 2
sleeper train - 1
Beppu - 1

works out.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2017, 12:09 AM
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Posts: 9
kja: Oh, glad to hear that! And yea, I almost feel that way, too - not abandoning. But sadly, there is one reason: time So I will rather devote few more hours to either Takayama or Kanazawa. It's not my last time to Japan, hopefully.

Adastra2200: Thank you so much for your detailed message!! It really got me thinking. So thank you for the tips and inspiration.

As for Aomori Nebuta, I had been previously considering it! But then I found http://www.japan-talk.com/jt/new/aom...northern-Japan mentioning "gang activity". I would like to believe that it's no longer an issue, however, it was quite a surprise! Just... wow. But now my friend doesn't want to go there, and I guess that's a fair enough decision.

Yea, the Tokyo to Beppu part worries me. But if we use the sleeper train, it might be quite an experience and I won't feel like the travelling time is wasted - if we will be sleeping. I do admit that I have not thought of using airplanes while in Japan! How foolish. That ANA's Experience Japan Fare sounds like a pretty good deal. So I will probably use that as a back-up plan - because the sleeper train goes once a night and I have heard that it might get booked up weeks (!) in advance. And if I'm not wrong, it's impossible to make reservations until we exchange the JR Pass - so if we discover on "day one" that it's full, airplane might be a life-saver. If we have to take the airplane and therefore arrive to Oita, I must say that the Rokugo Manzan temples look magnificient! (However, we will have no car and the taxi seems quite expensive for just two people - not to mention that my japanese currently isn't at its best level).

mrwunrfl: now this is funny! Yesterday, I actually came up with the same numbers! O.O Wow. That felt good to see, haha. I have decided to squeeze in Takayama between Takamatsu and Kanazawa, though. I'm thinking of doing that by removing one night in Tokyo and buying the ticket between Beppu and Fukuoka (= another day of JR pass) - that one's not so expensive (¥3,540).

Anyway guys, thank you for all your messages. I'm meeting with my friend today, so we will discuss everything
will_travel is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2017, 12:33 AM
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Now, this is a completely different question, but I'm wondering:

how do you guys plan train routes? I assume everyone gets the timetable from hyperdia?
So I'm wondering, from your experience - if hyperdia finds me a route with a transfer, is it..."intelligent" system? What I mean is - are the transfer times generally manageable and corresponding to the reality?
(so for example it found me a route, but there is only 14 minutes for the transfer. Is that okay? I never had to worry about transfers before...)
will_travel is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2017, 01:41 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
In Kanazawa, we loved Kenrokuen, really blew us away. I was also utterly captivated by Omichi market, we went twice and I would have gone a third time if we had more time. We also loved a little museum we visited, Port Ono Karakuri Museum, a charming place to while away an hour. We drove but I think there are buses from the town centre. I didn't love the tea districts here, I think historical areas in Kyoto and Takayama are far more charming. I would say 3 nights would be good here if you have it but two is a real minimum.

Takayama was a favourite of ours on our first trip to Japan, we did two nights and could easily have done three, but two would be fine. Loved the historical districts, we were there for the autumn festival which was amazing, the morning markets were ace and I adored the Hida beef we enjoyed while there.

Osaka, I don't get it, I've been twice and it's never really won me over. I did enjoy the food market there too, though, far less crowded than Nishiki. And the cup noodle museum is my kind of silly thing too, I loved that. Am not into theme parks enough to spend any valuable Japan time on them but that's just personal preference.

Am I right that Kyoto is not on your itinerary? Personally I'd drop your Kyushu segment (and visit that region more fully another time) and ensure you have time to appreciate what you do visit, and of course KYOTO!

Kavey is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2017, 09:10 AM
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>>are the transfer times generally manageable and corresponding to the reality?

Yes, unless you are one who has difficulty with walking or using stairs.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2017, 10:22 AM
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Transfers seem to work like clockwork and there was almost always elevators or escalators which made life easy with luggage.
dgunbug is offline  
Feb 4th, 2017, 12:06 AM
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Yes on our first trip I had been worried about a few of the transfers as time between them was short BUT Hyperdia not only gives you the times, but which platform number you'll arrive in to, and which one your departing train goes out of, so it's not like you have to waste any time trying to find the information boards and work out where to go. You just make a beeline for the platform number for the departing, which are clearly signed. In most cases there were either escalators or a lift available instead of using stairs, and we made even the brief transfer windows with plenty of time to spare. I don't do running, at ALL, even without luggage, so we were never walking at more than a regular walking pace -- brisk for me is normal speed for most!
Kavey is offline  
Feb 4th, 2017, 10:33 AM
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mrwunrfl, dgunbug and especially Kavey: Thank you! Luckily, I have no issues with stairs - however, I'm a no fan of stressful running all over the platforms (and especially with a luggage!), so reading the info here relaxed me quite a bit.

In the end, I have re-worked the itinerary a little bit (okay. A LOT. Because the previous one went down, up and all the way down again... which, while do-able, quite probably wasn't the best approach) and now I'm looking at this:

0) Start in TOKYO (about 4 nights, I guess)
- Definitely. We bought the airplane tickets today. It' quite rare feeling to be happy about spending so much money through one purchase. But I'm so happy right now!!! Sorry, haha)


1) Tokyo ---> NIIGATA(1 night)
- I'm simply in for a surprise there.

2) Niigata ---> KANAZAWA (2 nights)
- Kenrokuen, Omichi market etc

3) Kanazawa ---> TAKAYAMA (2 nights)
- Hida Folk Village, generally enjoying the place and its views

4) Takayama ---> OSAKA (2 nights)
- Honestly, Osaka hasn't charmed me either. But I think it will be nice change from the traditional places - stroll through Namba area and visit the Universal Studios. Also good place to break up the train travelling, if we are not interested in Kyoto)

5) Osaka ---> MATSUE (3 nights)
- Adachi Museum of Art, original castle, Izumo, Iwami Ginzan Mine, Taikodani Inari Shrine/Tsuwano (sadly will skip Tottori, because by a pure coincidence, my friend has already been there - but otherwise, she has seen nothing in that area it was one strange out-of-the-way trip... but thanks for hte mention, Adastra2200! I had no idea about place like that in Japan O.o Your post was very informative)

6) Matsue ---> BEPPU (2 nights)
- ryokan, hells, Takasakiyama Monkey Park

7) Beppu ---> FUKUOKA (probably 1 night)
- the ramen, oh yes! Been there, done that. Will absolutely do again, though! Also Nanzoin temple

This way, the travelling distance between the cities seems reasonable. I ditched Takamatsu, as I have decided to come back for Shikoku as a whole (instead of just one city) at some other time.

What do you guys think? Kyoto was excluded on purpose (of course - the city is lovely and I believe there's always something to see. BUT I already spent quite a few days there and my friend has been over very very recently, so I will just leave it for another time. Even this way there's still too much to see in Japan)

ALSO I have ONE more night to add (during the JR pass duration). Where would you put it? Personally, I'm considering Okayama - because we have to transfer there from Matsue to Beppu anyway (which is otherwise rather long train journey).

Well anyways - thank you for all your help and also for reading. I admit that even just writing it out like this has helped me a lot, so I hope that you people here on the forum don't mind...
will_travel is offline  
Feb 4th, 2017, 10:46 AM
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Yea, almost definitely Okayama it is.
will_travel is offline  
Feb 5th, 2017, 12:02 AM
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I had missed the bit about you both already having spent time in Kyoto, so sorry, so now that makes sense!
Kavey is offline  
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