Itinerary Feedback and train advice

Sep 6th, 2019, 07:45 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 18
Itinerary Feedback and train advice

Hello! My DH and I are traveling with our kids (age 9,6) in Japan the last week of Nov and first week of Dec for 14 days during fall foliage. I have researched and come up with the following itinerary. I am hoping it is not too much moving around. I have also been trying to figure out (*using all the suggested websites) if JR pass is best option or not.

- Are we moving too much, should we cut out a city or just make Nara a day trip? I don't want to make the mistake of too much travel time, not enough time in each spot. I thought spending the night in Nara would give us more of a fell than a day trip, but is it worth the hassle of switching hotels?

- With my calculations, i *THINK* we are at about an even break if we did a 7 day JR pass vs no pass. I am thinking we would do a pass from day 4 - day 10. separate ~$250, JR pass $270. IF about equal is it best and easiest to do the JR pass?

- are both Kanazawa and Takayama different enough to keep on the schedule?

- should we spend the night of Day 9 in Takayama and then head to Tokyo on the morning of Day 10 instead of leaving Takayama in the evening of Day 9?

Thanks for your feedback.

Day 0 : Arrive late afternoon in Osaka (Kansai Airport) ; sleep in KYOTO
Day 1: KYOTO
Day 2: KYOTO
Day 3: KYOTO - possible day trip to HIMEJI?
Day 5: Travel to NARA (early morning) - Spend day in Nara
Day 6: Travel to KANAZAWA (morning); afternoon in KANAZAWA
Day 7: morning in KANAZAWA; late afternoon/early evening to TAKAYAMA (~2.5 hrs via Toyama by train)
Day 9: TAKAYAMA; Travel to Tokyo that late afternoon/evening (~4 hrs)
Day 10: TOKYO : Last day of JRpass
Day 11: TOKYO - Kamakura or Nikko Day Trip?
Day 12 : TOKYO
Day 13 :TOKYO
Day 14 : Morning in TOKYO : Fly Out early evening (NRT airport)

rblcali is offline  
Sep 6th, 2019, 09:40 AM
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 315
Some of your plans make no sense at all.
By my calculations, using a pass versus regular tickets (adult, unreserved seat) you still fall a couple thousand yen short of breaking even on a 7-day pass. But your Days 3-4 should be reversed if you are on a pass. Arashiyama is part of Kyoto and the savings are next to nothing. And that's assuming you go by JR in the first place. If you go from Kyoto to Himeji by bullet train round trip, it would cost •9,500 which is quite substantial. Plus Kyoto to Nara is •710 one way - but if you decide to go to Nikko after getting to Tokyo, it would make more sense to just pay regular fare for Nara and use the last day of your pass for the Nikko day trip, which round trip would be close to •10,120.

The other issue is going from Kanazawa to Takayama. You can do it as you wrote, using JR trains. The other option is to take a bus (not covered by the JR Pass) and visit Shirakawago along the way. It only takes a couple of hours to see the place and it is quite memorable to see the old farmhouses, which are still used today.
You don't need to cut Nara as a day trip - in fact, your kids would especially like feeding the deer at Nara Park. The Todaiji Temple there is also one of the very best in Japan, if not at the top of the list, period. More importantly you should be careful about your time in Kyoto - after seeing temples and shrines and more temples and shrines, your kids' eyes are likely to just glaze over. Adding some variety is important, plus your 6-year old is probably not going to have that much stamina over the day running from one place to the next.
As far as your travel pace and switching hotels, you know that better than anyone. But since you'd have to go back to Kyoto to go on to Kanazawa, I don't see the point of getting a hotel in Nara. Kanazawa and Takayama are totally different in their appearances and attractions. For Kanazawa, skip everything else if you are forced to, but don't miss the gorgeous Kenrokuen Garden.

I highly suggest you use Hyperdia to check rail fares, schedules and transfer info. Under "More Options", with a full JR pass, be sure to uncheck the Nozomi box since you can't ride that train using the pass.
Adastra2200 is offline  
Sep 6th, 2019, 01:28 PM
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 367
Switch Himeji to day 5 and start the JR Pass then (so itís valid days 5 - 11) and covers Himeji, Kanazawa, Takayama, Tokyo, Nikko. Do the arithmetic to make sure itís worthwhile. Kyoto to Saga Arashiyama is •240 so a waste of a JR Pass day.

Stick to the train to Takayama and save yourself the hassle of the bus to Shirakawago (currently the most over-hyped destination in Japan). Just go to Hida no Sato when youíre in Takayama.

In Kyoto, for a change of pace, your kids (and you .... we did) may like the Kyoto Railway Museum.
tt7 is offline  
Sep 6th, 2019, 04:50 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 21,573
Originally Posted by rblcali View Post
are both Kanazawa and Takayama different enough to keep on the schedule?
I thought them incredibly different! That said, you are, IMO, spreading yourselves thin with this itinerary. IMO, a first stay in Kyoto / Nara typically merits 6 full days. The Kanazawa / Takayama loop easily mertis 5 full days, with or without Shirakawa-go. Only 2 days for Tokyo itself seems very little, and that gives you only one day trip from there. Your trip, your decision.
kja is offline  
Sep 8th, 2019, 09:13 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,625
You won't see much fall foliage. Maybe in Kyoto at the beginning. Am pretty sure it is too late in Kanazawa. Definitely too late for Takayama or after that.

It makes sense to me to spend the night of Day 5 in Nara. You go to Nara station in the morning of Day 6 then just make a train connection at Kyoto on your way to Kanazawa that day. If you return to Kyoto on Day 5 then you would have to go from Kyoto station to your lodging that night and back to the station in the morning.

Yes to going from Takayama to Tokyo on Day 10. That would give you two full days (3 nights) in Takayama. Better would be to leave Kanazawa on Day 8. You would then have 1 full day in both Kanazawa and Takayama, leaving Takayama on Day 10.

Even better would be to just drop Takayama from your itinerary.

Last edited by mrwunrfl; Sep 8th, 2019 at 09:16 PM.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Sep 10th, 2019, 07:16 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2012
Posts: 18
Thank you ALL for your suggestions! I have been re-looking at the schedule as I REALLY do not want to rush us, but also want the balance of seeing more of the country than KYOTO and TOKYO and surrounding areas. So I have come up with the following new itinerary and cut TAKAYAMA. Please comment and let me know if this looks better balanced.

Day 0 : Arrive late afternoon in Osaka (Kansai Airport) ; sleep in KYOTO
Day 1: KYOTO
Day 2: KYOTO
Day 3: KYOTO - day trip to HIMEJI;
Day 4: KYOTO
Day 5: NARA
Day 6: Travel from NARA to KANAZAWA with noon arrival; afternoon in KANAZAWA
Day 9: morning travel to Tokyo; afternoon in Tokyo
Day 10: TOKYO - Kamakura Day Trip?
Day 11: TOKYO
Day 12 : TOKYO
Day 13 :TOKYO - See Kabuki show at 4:30pm?
Day 14 : Morning in TOKYO : Fly Out early evening (NRT airport) in TOKYO

This allows:
3 days in KYOTO
1 day in HIMEJI
1 day in NARA
2.5 days in KANAZAWA
4 days in TOKYO

- I want to do a Ryokan stay, where would you suggest inserting this?

Other travel option I am thinking about:
- taking a day somewhere fun for the kids (waterpark or other unique experience we would all enjoy, please suggest!) instead of day at HIMEJI or KAMAKURA or taking a day from somewhere else
- not doing HIMEJI and adding a day to NARA; does NARA need 2 days?
- not doing HIMEJI and adding TAKAYAMA back in and rearranging to have 2 days in KANAZAWA and 2 days in TAKAYAMA

- I really do not want to go overboard with seeing too many Temples as my kids will quickly lose interest. Hoping this itinerary give us good options at each place to have a good balance.

Once this is finalized, I will go back to pricing out the JR train option.

rblcali is offline  
Sep 10th, 2019, 05:16 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 21,573
In general, I think this itinerary gives you a less rushed experience.

For a ryokan, you probably only want 1 night, so with your current plan, consider Nara. But since you are giving both Kyoto and Nara relatively little time, consider visiting Nara as a day trip from Kyoto and planning your ryokan stay for either Kyoto or Nara, at either the beginning or end of your time in that area. That would give you a bit more flexibility in finding a ryokan that meets your needs without adding another change of hotels to your itinerary.

I'm not sure how you are counting, but I think you have 3 days in Tokyo (days 11, 12, and 13), not 4 days, although you do have a bit of a day there on your day 9. I'm not sure that makes any material difference; just thought I'd mention it in case I'm missing something.

How much time Nara -- or any other place -- "needs" is an entirely subjective decision. The only way I know to answer that kind of question is to do research, decide what you want to see and experience, and estimate how much time those priorities will make. And then you need to fit that in with your other trip priorities.....

The same applies with your decision about what places to include and what to skip. One thought to consider: It is easiest to fly into or out of Osaka (Kyoto) and Tokyo, so those places are most easily included in a future trip. If you think you might return, it might therefore make most sense to shortchange one of them, rather than any of the harder to reach destinations. Just a thought.

And are you aware that using all caps is like screaming? PLEASE STOP!!!!
kja is offline  
Sep 14th, 2019, 07:51 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,625
I have to think this is a better plan because you took my advice to move to Nara and to drop Takayama. On another day, I might have suggested that you drop Kanazawa to keep Takayama.

As kja suggested, you need to plan out your visits to figure out how much time you need for your destinations. You need to do this now for Kanazawa and Takayama. Just give us an idea of how you would spend those 2.5 days.

When you do post your JR travel costs please do it in yen, not dollars, because the yen price won't change.

Giving us the yen price that hyperdia shows helps us figure out your route and train options. (Kyoto-Himeji roundtrip could cost $100 or quite a bit less)
mrwunrfl is offline  
Sep 14th, 2019, 08:24 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,625
Nara is the logical place for a ryokan stay, given that it is one night. Optionally, send luggage from Kyoto to Kanazawa and just take what you need for the one night you need for Nara. Go to Nara in the morning and drop off your luggage and then go visit the deer park, Todaiji, etc. Return to the ryokan to check in and have dinner. Head to Kanazawa the next morning after breakfast.

You have three train options for your day trip to Himeji: JR rapid, Limited Express, and shinkansen.

Go to hyperdia for a Kyoto-Himeji search, departng at 8:00 AM, uncheck Bullet Train, uncheck NOZOMI. You will see:

JR Special Rapid Service for HIMEJI
Take time: 95 Minutes
Total:• 2,270
(stay on the same train at Osaka)

Take time: 91 Minutes
Total:• 4,190

Now do the same search but check Bullet Train, check NOZOMI, and uncheck Limited Express, uncheck Ordinary train. This will show your shinkansen options.

Take time: 52 Minutes
Total:• 5,270

The JR Rapid train does not have reserved seats. The prices above include reserved seats for the Ltd Exp and shinkansen.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Sep 14th, 2019, 08:41 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,625
To make a long story short:
Kyoto-Himeji-Kyoto is about •4,500 to •10,500
Kyoto->Nara -> Kanazawa is about •8,100
Kanazawa-> Tokyo is about •14,000
mrwunrfl is offline  
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