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illini1022 Jan 2nd, 2017 02:44 PM

Itinerary feedback: Tokyo to Fukuoka, 14 nights early April
 
I know this is the high season so I'm hoping to firm up this itinerary soon and start booking some accommodations. We fly into Tokyo and out of Fukuoka 15 nights later. The 14 day JR pass probably will be worthwhile? I'm thinking the Cherry Blossom season is variable enough that it isn't worth planning around - if it happens, it happens. Based on the feedback of friends, Koyasan is on our must do list at the moment unless we hear strongly otherwise.

Quick background: My wife and I are both 30, and have traveled a fair bit including trips where we pack light and move around frequently. I don't want to overdo the stops but we are comfortable moving around. We want a well balanced trip: we're into big cities, small/quiet areas, hiking, temples, history, food, etc.

Day 1: Arrive in Tokyo, spend the night.

Day 2: Tokyo

Day 3: Tokyo (maybe daytrip to Nikko?)

Day 4: Tokyo (since we do like to explore big cities, I'm thinking this day makes sense.)

Day 5: Take an early train to Hakone and spend all day/night. Hoping to do some light hiking and catch nice views of Fuji.

Day 6: Travel to Kyoto, spend night

Day 7: Kyoto

Day 8: Kyoto

Day 9: Kyoto?

Day 10: Travel to Osaka, spend night

Day 11: Osaka to Koyasan, spend night

Day 12: Koyasan to Osaka, spend another night in Osaka?

Day 13: Osaka to Hiroshima (Stop at Himejei on way?), spend night in Hiroshima

Day 14: Hiroshima to Fukuoka

Day 15: Fly out of Fukuoka

All feedback is welcome, including any of your favorite things to do in any of these places. Things start to sound a little hectic towards the end but it still seems doable based on distances and travel times. We could cut a night out of Kyoto but I'm not sure where it would be more worthwhile to spend it?

Thanks so much.

kja Jan 2nd, 2017 04:48 PM

Should be a great trip, no matter what you decide! Here are my thoughts:

Many people visit Nikko as a day trip from Tokyo. I was glad to spend a night there, as it gave me sufficient time to see Kegon-no-Taki, a bit of Lake Chuzenji, a bit of a hike along the Kanmangafuchi Abyss, etc.

Is it possible to visit Hakone for just an overnight and still experience it? I honestly don’t know….

While it clearly depends on what you want to see or do, 3 or 4 nights for Kyoto is, IMO, decidedly on the short side. I am not alone in thinking that a first visit to Kyoto / Nara easily merits 6 nights. Your call.

For me, a night on Koyasan was a highlight of a highlight-filled trip to Japan. As I understand it, the experience of Koyasan differs dramatically as a function of the particular temple in which one stays. I highly recommend Shojoshin-in, which still gets great reviews.
https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ryokan-single/
While in Koyasan, don’t miss Okuno-in at dusk – so evocative! ☺

Yes, by all means, visit Himeji en route to Hiroshima if you can. If the timing works for you, consider spending a night on Miyajima instead of (or in addition to) Hiroshima.

As already noted, I, personally, would ADD time to Kyoto, rather than cutting from it. But again, it depends on what you want to see and experience.

Have you discovered japan-guide.com? If not, I strongly recommend that you spend lots of time with it!

And since you plan to move around a lot, consider taking advantage of Japan's excellent luggage-forwarding option. Luggage-forwarding is called takuhaibin; here's the info:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2278.html

Enjoy!

thursdaysd Jan 2nd, 2017 05:49 PM

In two trips to Japan I have yet to visit Osaka, but I'm not a fan of big cities (always excepting London). Still, I wouldn't put those one-nighters in even if I was. Himeji is worth seeing, although I'm not sure it's worth the hassle with the crowds to go inside. Very nice garden next door.

CaliforniaLady Jan 2nd, 2017 08:07 PM

So you're going all the way down to the island of Kyushu, and you're only going to spend one night? I would do a more balanced itinerary between the two islands. Nagasaki is fascinating, and I would vote for it over Osaka and Hiroshima. Also, you need at least two nights in Fukuoka, so you can go a day trip to the temples and museum at Daizaifu, which I enjoyed. If you stay a third night, then you can take the fun, local train north to see Moji town in Kitakyushi.

In Tokyo, I would spend one long day seeing the city, and then I would do back to back day trips to Nikko and Hakone. If you find yourself dazzled by Tokyo, then you can always take an evening train from Tokyo to Kyoto, thus giving you another full day for Tokyo.

So here is what I would do with fourteen nights:

Four nights Tokyo (with day trips to Hakone and Nikko)

Four night Kyoto (day trip to Nara)

Three nights Nagasaki

Three nights Fukuoka

Kavey Jan 3rd, 2017 01:02 AM

Assuming this is your first trip to Japan and you have just 15 nights, I would not bother with a single night visit all the way to Fukuoka with that being your only Kyushu stop. Fukuoka is a nice little city but has few attractions that would merit that round trip, though of course there is enough to see and do for a day or two as part of a wider Kyushu itinerary. I would set Fukuoka aside and visit in the future when you can explore more of Kyushu. Unless the open-jaw flight (in to Tokyo and out of Fukuoka) is particularly cheap, I'd drop that plan, personally. Instead I'd either stick with Tokyo for arrival and departure, or fly out of Kansai International airport in Osaka instead.

Osaka, I have visited twice (during two of my 3 trips), each with overnights, determined to work out why so many people express adoration of the city, but I confess I still don't get it. I really liked the food market there - far less crowded with tourists than Nishiki in Kyoto (though I'd still not miss Nishiki). The famous Dotonbori district really is just a neighbourhood with lots of neon signs, and unless you're into bars / clubs there's not much to recommend it. We did enjoy a little trip out to the cup noodle museum, and I hear the aquarium is a good one for those who enjoy them. The knife museum in Sakai was a disappointment for me. Personally, I'd give it one night tops, and only because it makes the transfer to Koyasan easier. If you get there after lunch, that half day/ evening is plenty to get your Osaka taster. I wouldn't bother staying another night on the return from Koyasan.

With the nights saved, I'd add one more into Kyoto - there's a LOT to see and do in Kyoto itself plus there are so many potential half-day and day trips from there including Uji, Nara, Yamazaki (if you like whisky), Kobe...

Also, for Hakone, I think a single night may not really be worthwhile, so move that Fukuoka night to Hakone instead.

CaliforniaLady Jan 3rd, 2017 07:06 AM

To the OP, do you already have your plane tickets? I was working on the assumption that you already do, whereas Kavey assumed that you did not. I assumed that it is set in stone that you are leaving from Fukuoka, which is why I suggested spending more time on Kyushu. Please clarify--and it's 14 hotel nights, not 15, correct?

I agree with Kavey that Fukuoka is not full of sights, but the two day trips I mentioned are worth doing. If you are leaving from there anyway, then you should see them. Kyushu has a nice vibe, and wonderful regional foods. For example, mizutaki is a wonderful chicken soup from Fukuoka.

BigRuss Jan 3rd, 2017 07:24 AM

I don't get the itinerary at all - it's Tokyo, Kyoto, Kansai region and then setting foot in Fukuoka. Makes no bloody sense.

Easy enough to do Tokyo, Kyoto (Osaka is LITERALLY 20 minutes by train from Kyoto, why stay there when Kyoto is a better tourist destination?) and time in Hiroshima/Miyajima (yes, see Himeji Castle) and flying back out of Kansai International.

illini1022 Jan 3rd, 2017 07:50 AM

Thanks for all the responses. Everyone has suggested I cut nights from Osaka so that seems like an easy decision.

I see I've stirred the pot with my confusing Fukuoka decision. I can shed a little more light on how this came to be. My flights are booked, but I may have flexibility to tweak the itinerary.

I wanted to visit Hiroshima and at that point I was looking for the closest point of departure, using award miles. I couldn't get anything directly back to the states from Tokyo so in any case, my itinerary involves flying out of Japan to Seoul, and then continuing on from Seoul back to the US.

With that being the case - I could have flown Tokyo - Seoul, Kyoto - Seoul, Fukuoka - Seoul, or a number of other possibilities. Knowing that I would be in the Hiroshima area I wanted to minimize back tracking and it seemed like Fukuoka was a decent option for a departure city? It doesn't seem like it would be any closer to fly out of Kyoto or Osaka?

As I mentioned, I do have the flight from Fukuoka booked but it may be possible to change that leg if there was a compelling reason to do so. I don't think I was able to find a flight from Hiroshima to Seoul that worked. Thoughts?

Thanks again.

BigRuss Jan 3rd, 2017 02:53 PM

It happens, but you could've flown from Kansai International to the US. KIX is outside Osaka and easy to reach from Hiroshima (shinkansen to Shin-Osaka, Kansai Regional Express to KIX).

Adastra2200 Jan 3rd, 2017 03:31 PM

Let's start from the beginning. No, you won't make a 14 day rail pass pay off going one way from Tokyo to Fukuoka. Not even close.
As others have said, it's not really worth going to Kyushu for just Fukuoka. But that said, there ARE a number of good places there - it's just that most people are unaware of them. The Nanzoin Temple for example is one of the finest you'll ever see in Japan, yet it's virtually unknown to the outside world.
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?lis...7ayvBAbOn8-028
In addition, you'll find 2 more Great Buddhas in the prefecture, perhaps the most of any prefecture in Japan.
http://www.thejapanfaq.com/fukpic.html
But honestly, Nagasaki is the most interesting city on the island, and no other place offers such a variety of places given its history with China and the West. It would be well worth seeing both if you go to Kyushu - it's not worth 3 nights in Nagasaki and 3 more in Fukuoka, but it is certainly worth some time if you really want to leave Japan out of Fukuoka.
I can't speak about the routing - if you're using FFM and can arrange it the way you like; there are very cheap flights on Peach from Nagasaki to KIX if you can arrange to leave from Osaka.
If you want to see Nikko, look into getting the Tobu Nikko Free Pass.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2358_002.html
And for Koyasan, there's the Koyasan World Heritage Ticket.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2358_012.html
Plus if you're going to Japan in early April, that is typically cherry blossom season - there are many great places, but the bigger the population, the larger the crowds. Here are some more famous places for them:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2011.html
The shibazakura near Mt Fuji are also a sight to behold but it starts around mid-April.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6919.html

kja Jan 3rd, 2017 04:17 PM

As for flying out of Fukuoka vs. Tokyo: For me -- and I think it is a very personal choice -- I would prefer not to go somewhere unless I can visit it. So even if the trip to Fukuoka would be about the same length as the trip to Tokyo, it would be adding a destination, which would -- for me -- mean trying to fit in the time to see it. In contrast, if you can fly out of Tokyo, you aren't adding exploration time. And if the timing works, you could consider pushing on immediately upon your arrival in Tokyo, even if it means getting somewhere quite late. You'll be tired, but you would probably be tired under any circumstance! And if you can do that, then you could put all your time in Tokyo at the end of your trip, thereby cutting one change of hotels from your itinerary. But pressing on doesn't work for everyone -- just an idea.

CaliforniaLady Jan 3rd, 2017 08:32 PM

Your flights are fine as is, considering that was all that was available for award bookings. I assume you are using an Aadvantage award, so the change fee would be $175 for each of you, assuming you could find a better routing. On my last trip to Japan, I flew into Fukuoka, and left from Tokyo, and it worked out well.

So I would proceed with the best itinerary based on your interests, heading north to south. The group consensus here is that you need to allot more time to Kyushu, but how you do that is a personal decision.

In any case, what is your interest in Hiroshima? If it's mostly for the peace museum, the one in Nagasaki is quite similar, and the city is more interesting. All of Hiroshima got destroyed, whereas only the northern part of Nagasaki got hit. I vote for a substitution here, but of course, it's all up to you.

illini1022 Jan 3rd, 2017 08:39 PM

Assuming I don't mind using Fukuoka as my strange departure city, do you think it makes sense to include Hiroshima on this trip?

If I was going to change Fukuoka to Kansai (big IF depending on what I can pull off with booked tickets), maybe I would only stay in Tokyo, Nikko, Hakone, Kyoto, Koyasan?

Does that make much more sense to people that trying to squeeze in Hiroshima or is there some logic to my original plan?

kja Jan 3rd, 2017 08:45 PM

I haven't been to Nagasaki, but will say that I found Hiroshima extraordinarily moving -- the A-Bomb Dome, Peace Park, and Peace Museum were each, for me, quite different and powerful and thought-provoking.

As suggested above, I thought your initial itinerary overly ambitious. Trimming it to Tokyo, Nikko, Hakone, Kyoto, and Koyasan would, IMO, make much more sense that trying to squeeze it all in. JMO.

kja Jan 3rd, 2017 08:46 PM

BTW, I don't think you've said anything about your time in Seoul. How long do you have there? Is that negotiable at all?

illini1022 Jan 3rd, 2017 08:53 PM

Just same day layovers there in Seoul unfortunately, and those long flights from Seoul to/from ORD are very fixed. If anything, I can play with Seoul to/from Japan at the moment.

I do want to visit Hiroshima but could accept cutting it out of this trip if I'm being overly ambitious. Cutting out Hiroshima and simplifying travel would justify changing my flights but I don't see a compelling reason to change the Fukuoka departure if I keep Hiroshima, even if Fukuoka serves as little more than a port of departure.

kja Jan 3rd, 2017 09:02 PM

Sounds like you know the options that make sense to you! No bad choice, from my way of thinking -- just a difficult one.

CaliforniaLady Jan 3rd, 2017 09:39 PM

If you're on an Aadvantage award, you would not be allowed more than a twenty-four hour stopover in your international gateway city, which, in this case, is Seoul.

Kavey Jan 4th, 2017 06:28 AM

CL is right that I hadn't realised your flights were already booked.

Given that flights are indeed booked (and your explanation of why you chose the cities you did makes sense, given the limited options available using airmiles) then yes, I agree that you should not drop Hiroshima. If you can do an overnight night on Miyajima in conjunction with Hiroshima, I'd recommend it - you are less likely to backtrack to visit this location again having seen Hiroshima on this visit and Miyajima really is a charming place to visit, I would class it as not-to-be-missed if already visiting Hiroshima.

I agree with Adastra that Nanzoin Temple near Fukuoka is well worth visiting if you are already in Fukuoka - we had a rental car and self-drove on the way back into Fukuoka after an itinerary taking in some of Northern Kyushu and were very glad we stopped there. I'm sure public transport would allow you to visit readily, if you decide to allocate any time to spend sightseeing in Fukuoka, as opposed to treating it purely as a departure point.

In my opinion, there's a lot to be said for treating Fukuoka as a departure point *only* rather than as a destination on your itinerary. This allows you to focus your sightseeing on Tokyo and Kansai regions, as you can always include Fukuoka in a future trip to explore Kyushu.

Just a little reminder that you will have a wonderful trip no matter which places you keep in / drop - so don't let the decisions stress you out - enjoy the planning and know that your trip will be fabulous.

illini1022 Jan 4th, 2017 09:54 AM

What do you think about Revision 2 here?


Day 1 - Arrive Tokyo 11am
Day 2 - Tokyo
Day 3 - Tokyo
Day 4 - Tokyo
Day 5 - Travel to Hakone, spend night
Day 6 - Second night in Hakone
Day 7 - Travel to Kyoto, spend night
Day 8 - Kyoto
Day 9 - Kyoto
Day 10 -Kyoto
Day 11 - Travel early and spend night in Koyasan
Day 12 -Koyasan to Hiroshima (stop at Himeji for castle)
Day 13 - 1/2 day in Hiroshima, spend night in Miyajima
Day 14- Miyajima and travel to Fukuoka
Day 15 - - Afternoon flight out of Fukuoka


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