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Itinerary and accommodation advice!

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Mar 10th, 2012, 08:01 AM
  #1
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Itinerary and accommodation advice!

We are travelling to Japan on March 29th with our two girls, 4 half and 2 half years and would like to get input on how to maximize our time and cherry blossom viewing in Tokyo and Kyoto and also advice on itinerary ad accommodation. Our girls are good travelers, used to travel from a very young age.

Re accommodation, would appreciate suggestions on 3-4* clean and comfortable accommodation but would like to splurge here and there for a bit of luxury especially for a few nights at a ryoken.
Being our first time to Japan and due to the short time I have to plan and book accommodation, am feeling quite nervous especially because its cherry blossom season. With the limited research I did, I came up with the following itinerary.

Thursday 29th – arrive in Tokyo in the afternoon– explore Ginza and surrounds for an early night.
Friday 30th - Disney Land
Saturday 31st –day trip to Nikko OR Kamakura – which is better??
Sunday 01st – Morning visit Tsukiji fish market,Bf at sushi zanmai
Asakusa area – Senso Ji, Nakamise- dori
Shibuya Area – Shibuya crossing, Meiji Jingu shrine , Yoyogi/shopping

The following few days uptil Kyoto, I am not sure whether to opt for central Honshu or hiroshima/miyajima but would love to see some alpine scenery (snow for the girls) if possible. May be rent a car? Or should we save central Honshu for another visit?

Monday 02nd – Train to Nagoya and then to Takayama. Night in Takayama?
Sanmachi suji, Higashiyama, Hida-no-sato
Tuesday 03rd – Do the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpen route or go to Kamikochi?
Wednesday 04th – Kamicochi exploring - light hiking (is this area open for hiking by early April?)
Thursday 05th – Kamikochi or Kanzawe? train/car to Matsumoto?
Friday 06th – Matsumoto – Matsumoto castle

Saturday 07th – Morning train to Kyoto. – Gion area (Hanami Koji/Shim bashi)/Ponto-Cho
Sunday 08th – Kiyomizu-dera, Maruyama-koen, Yaska-jinja, Chio-in, Ginkaku-ji, path of philosophy, Nanen-ji, Honen-in, Kinkaku ji, Ryon-ji
Monday 09th – Day trip to Nara – Nara koen, kofuku ji, isui-en, Todai-ji
Tuesday 10th – Arashiyama area – tenrya-ji, bamboo grove, okochi-sanso,
Wednesday 11th - nishiki market, fushimi Inari, evening Train to Tokyo

Thursday 12th – Ueno Park and Shinjuku gyeon for Cherry blossoms
Friday 13th – Day trip to Mt Fuji, kawaguchi-ko??
Depart Tokyo in evening at 6pm

Any and all advise from the experts on japan will be very much appreciated!!
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Mar 11th, 2012, 02:16 PM
  #2
kja
 
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Sounds like a lovely trip! It also sounds very ambitious to me, particularly with children. It might be helpful to give some thought to your options if you find you can't fit everything in.

I can't comment on most of your plans, but will add what little I can.

> Saturday 31st –day trip to Nikko OR Kamakura – which is better??

They are very different. I think Nikko might provide a better contrast to other things you plan on seeing.

> Sunday 08th – Kiyomizu-dera, Maruyama-koen, Yaska-jinja, Chio-in, Ginkaku-ji, path of philosophy, Nanen-ji, Honen-in, Kinkaku ji, Ryon-ji

I think this day is WAY too busy. As I recall, I spent closer to 2 days visiting the places you list for that one day.

> Friday 13th – Day trip to Mt Fuji

I don't think of Mt. Fuji as being a day-trip, but perhaps I am mistaken. If you haven't already seen it, this site is very helpful:

tp://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2172.html

Enjoy!
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Mar 11th, 2012, 03:10 PM
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WE traveled to Japan when our kids were 3 and 5 (and many times after that). You are doing way too much, especially with such young children. You've allowed no time for eating, naps, or playing at parks.

I would not go to Disneyland on my first real day in Japan. Although the excitement may give you all extra adrenaline, I have a feeling the lines and stress (hurry, hurry) may cause it to be forgotten in a big blur later. I'd do this on Wed the 11th or Thursday the 12th. This would probably be less crowded days and would have the added benefit of giving them a memorable ending to the vacation, rather than the highest point (for kids) at the beginning..

I'd skip Tsukiji market entirely. You can't watch the fish auction anymore, and it is really not a safe place for children. Lots and lots of carts and little trucks zoom all over the place. you really have to watch your step and be agile to dodge the traffic.

If you must go to Tsukiji, go later and have breakfast, then walk to the gardens nearby and catch the boat from there (they start about 10:30 or 11:00) and enjoy the ride up the river. They end in the Asakusa area, so combine the two for a full day.

With the kids, I'd do Kamakura over Nikko. Take the trains to the station before Kamakura proper and walk into town along the path with the big Buddah and temples. it is relatively flat and a relaxed journey. Unless you are going on a bus tour Nikko involves a lot more walking up hills. It may be cold and rainy, and the ride up to the waterfalls and lake can be difficult for those prone to carsickness.

Here is what I'd recommend based on an actual trip when our girls were 5 and 7. (We didn't do Disneyland, as we went to Lotte World in Seoul after Japan)

29- arrive. Relax and wander till an early bedtime.

30-Asakusa area – Senso Ji, Nakamise- dori, Shibuya crossing, Meiji Jingu shrine , Yoyogi/shopping Maybe do the the boat up the river to or from Asakusa.

31-Kamakura

1 -Tokyo, then late train to Matsumoto

2- Matsumoto castle & town

3 & 4-Kanazawa. Go to the (Kenrokuen?) park. They have a nice children's play area. Our kids favorite memory of that trip was this playgound, where it started snowing (we're from Hawaii), then warm drinks in the concession stand. They also loved the gold leaf exhibition and we did some other children's craft thing, though I don't recall what it was.

5 & 6- Takayama. Perhaps stay at an inn here, as I recall there are some less expensive ones than other cities. Visit the float museum, Hide no Sato, and one of the merchant home museums. We found that the fishing supply and toy shops above the old street were fun to explore and the little popping firecracker balls we found there gave our kids another great memory. There are places to hike here if you feel the need to get out in the woods.

7- Kyoto

8- Kyoto

9-Day trip to Nara to see the deer

10-Kyoto, train to hotel near Disneyland

11-Disneyland

12-Tokyo

13- Tokyo. Leave for airport around 2pm.

Japan is one of those places that you do not need to "go somewhere" all the time. It is still foreign looking, and such a child centered society that just wandering, looking in shops and temples and snacking along the way is quite exotic to children, and adults too.
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Mar 11th, 2012, 10:58 PM
  #4
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thanks for the suggestions.

the reason for visiting Disneyland early on was to have more time for cherry blossom viewing when we return to Tokyo. what do you think?

I will revise the itinerary and repost for further feedback.

For Honshu, still a bit confused as to how to do it. should we visit kamikochi or skip that for Kanazawe? is it better to hire a car for this part of the itinerary? Takayama and matsumoto already confirmed.

will cancel mt fuji day trip for more time in tokyo.have more time in Kyoto for relaxed sightseeing - do we need to have a guide in Kyoto?

thanks!!
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Mar 11th, 2012, 11:17 PM
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kja
 
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> should we visit kamikochi or skip that for Kanazawe?

I can't answer that for you. I ended up skipping Kamikochi because other things were of higher priority for me.

By Kanazawe do you mean Kanazawa? I'm glad I visited Kanazawa. I had about 1.5 days there and did not see everything I had hoped to see. I think at least 2 days, if not 3, would have better suited MY interests.

> do we need to have a guide in Kyoto?

No, you don't need a guide. Some people like to work with a guide. I did not use one, but I do a LOT of advance research and I prefer to have time to enjoy things in solitude.
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Mar 12th, 2012, 06:25 PM
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Getting to/from Kamikochi would be by car or bus. There is no train. I think that the very beginning of April might be too early to go to Kamikochi (cold, bare trees, snow).

Monday the 2nd, you would be taking the train from Tokyo to Takayama. It is 4 hours or more by train, with the connection. So figure if you left your hotel at 9AM you would be in Takayama, checked in, and ready to tour at 3PM. So you would have 2 or 3 hours to see the sights of Takayama. And then you are planning to leave the next day, ok at least Kamikochi would not be far.
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Mar 16th, 2012, 03:39 AM
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thanks for the replies everyone! I
(and the kids) have just recovered from a really really bad flu (and so worried now that I lost another week without planning for the trip!!)so here's the revised itinerary after considering all your input.
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Mar 16th, 2012, 04:42 AM
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29th - arrive in Tokyo 2pm - base in Shinjuku area?

30th - DISNEYLAND - not saving it for later cos they will be excited to do it ASAP

31st-Day trip to Kamakura

01st-late BF at Tsukiji fish mkt, boat to Asakusa area/Yoyogi

Still need help to iron out the route from tokyo,matsumoto,takayama,kanzawa to Kyoto. whats the best way to route it in terms of transportation? and where do we rent the car and return it?

02nd-train to matsumoto. see castle 1N in matsumoto or go to kanzawa?

03/04th - Kanzawa

05th/06th - drive to Takayama/explore Takayama

07th-Train to kyoto - explore Gion area

08/09th - Kiyomizu-dera, Maruyama-koen, Yaska-jinja, Chio-in, Ginkaku-ji, path of philosophy, Nanen-ji, Honen-in, Kinkaku ji, Ryon-ji.

10th-Day trip to Nara

11th-Kyoto

12th - morning train to Tokyo - Ueno park or other parks for HANAMI. (is this too late? )

13th -explore Shibuya area..Ginza?
depart tokyo late at 5pm.

How does it look now?
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Mar 16th, 2012, 04:47 AM
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Sorry, I still got Kanazawa wrong. Yes, thats where I meant.
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Mar 16th, 2012, 10:41 AM
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Lcuy, thnx for all the info, esp re the kids activities, my older girl will love crafts etc, so will look into that in kanazawa tourist center and in Kyoto handicraft centre.
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Mar 16th, 2012, 12:40 PM
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You should start looking for places to stay NOW. You might have to build your itinerary around what you can get.

Yes, your schedule looks alot better by taking lcuy's advice. It still looks like a busy schedule but only you and your kids know how well you travel. If you are looking to rent a car you can use this site. I have rented from Toocoo before and they are reliable and have GPS in their cars. The Nissan rentals will have English GPS systems in their cars. You can pick up from one city and drop in another but of course drop rates will apply. See their explanations and charges for dropping in different cities/prefectures.

http://www2.tocoo.jp/?file=rentcar_i...in&asp_id=0001

You might rent in Kanazawa and return there after making your rounds in the mountains (Matsumoto,Takamoto, etc)and head to Kyoto via train from there. See this site for travel options throughout the Chubu region.

http://www.japan-guide.com/list/e1104.html

April 12 will still be good for hanami in Tokyo although past peak. You would be remiss to miss the beautiful cherry blossom spots of Kyoto since you will be there in prime time. See here if you haven't already.

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3951.html

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2011.html

Use www.hyperdia.com to figure your train schedules and figure if a JR Pass is good for you(probably yes). You need to buy your voucher in the US before you leave for Japan.

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2361.html

well back to work,lol I will be back if I can think of anything else.

Aloha!
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Mar 16th, 2012, 12:42 PM
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oh, you would need an International Drivers License to drive in Japan easily available at any AAA in the US
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Mar 16th, 2012, 01:11 PM
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Most Tokyo school holidays this year are March 24 -April 4. Since Disneyland will be much more crowder than normal through April 4, I'd at least chose a hotel that can purchase tickets for you in advance. They do sell out on occasion.
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Mar 16th, 2012, 06:29 PM
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> How does it look now?

Better! Enjoy yourselves, and please report back!
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Mar 17th, 2012, 06:33 AM
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thnx so much everyone.

ooh Easter school break. didn't realise that! will then swap the last day in kyoto to tokyo and move things upwards.

so its better to pick(and drop off) the car from Kanazawa and not Takayama. I thought that Takayama or matsumoto looks the better option..but this is just looking at the map.

if a car is not workable, would it still be doable in bus/train?

lcuy, any rec on the ryokan stay for Takayama?.

now going to check on possible hotels!!all suggestions most welcome for comfortable 3-4* with occasional splurges for more luxury.
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Mar 25th, 2012, 10:10 PM
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its 1.c in matsumoto and 2.c in takayama - does this mean there is snow in the area(quite clueless re snow as we are from sri lanka).
would this make things difficult if you have never driven in snow before. should we opt for bus or train rather than hiring a car for the matsumoto/takayama/shirakawa-go/kanazawa travel?


also looking at the jr pass vs individual tkt pricing on hypedia, kanazawa to kyoto/ kyoto to nara return/ kyoto to tokyo, the invidual tkts cost less. can i go by the prices on hypedia?
our tokyo to matsumoto/kamakura retun is outside the 7 days so that will have to be separate anyway.
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Mar 26th, 2012, 09:22 AM
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Yes, about hyperdia. You don't need a JR Pass for that itinterary.

Driving in snow and ice in the mountains of rural Japan is not a good idea if you don't have experience in driving in snow and ice in mountains. I wouldn't do it and I learned how to drive in a hilly place (Pittsburgh) that gets a fair amount of ice, snow, and freezing temps.

What I would want to see, if I were to do that, would be continuous temps below freezing. That would allow the road crews to clear the road and the snow on the ground would stay frozen. When the temps go over freezing the sun melts the snow and the melt runs over the road overnight. Or, the sun comes out and melts the snow and then, during the daytime, the shadow of a mountain drops the temp low enough to freeze the water on the road. And all that description assumes that the road was clear of snow.

I don't know if the question has been asked/answered but I will ask it: are the buses running between Matsumoto and Kanazawa? I was in Kanazawa once in January and had to take a train to Takaoka to get a bus to Shirakawago. Either the bus from Kanazawa wasn't running or the road from Kanazawa was closed, or both. I don't remember.
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Mar 26th, 2012, 09:27 AM
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I should mention that the bus from Takaoka did not meet it's schedule. It was not a pleasant trip, maybe I was tired, but it was just a city bus, not a comfy coach.
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Mar 26th, 2012, 09:59 AM
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You are leaving in a couple of days right? Check in at this site when you are there for latest weather information in Japan.

Japan has had a lot of late snow storms this past winter (its spring now) and in the mountains you never know..... You just need a plan b if plan a is impossible due to weather.

http://www.jma.go.jp/en/week/

Aloha!
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Mar 27th, 2012, 06:12 AM
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thanks for the replies.

getting to matsumoto on the 1st April and hoping to drive from there. oh- so driving is not a good idea?! have absolutely no experience with snow, but fine will hilly/windy roads. i guess we will have to bus it then. i was hoping we'll get to really explore the are in a car though!

plus tocoo car rental doesn't have english gps in matsumoto
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