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Peter_T Feb 29th, 2016 09:54 AM

Itinerary help
Hey everyone, I'm planning a two week trip to Japan and would love to hear any comments or suggestions you have about my itinerary!

Arrival at Osaka Airport late afternoon. Night bus from Osaka to Hiroshima.
1- HIROSHIMA (Sleep in Hiroshima)
Heiwakinen Park (Peace Memorial Museum, Hall for the Atomic Bomb Victims). Honkawa Elementary School Peace Museum. Atomic Bomb Dome. Hiroshima hypocenter

2- HIROSHIMA (Sleep in Hiroshima)
Hiroshima Museum of Art. Hiroshima Castle. Shukkuein. Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum. Central Park. Mitaki-dera

3- MIYAJIMA (Sleep on Honshu right next to Miyajima Port)
Itsukushima Shine. Senjokaku. Miyajima giant rice scoop. Mount Misen hike. Daishô-in. Momijidani Park. Folk Museum. Crafts Museum. Shinomiya Shrine. General walk around.

4- IWAKUNI morning + MIYAJIMA (Sleep in Hiroshima)
Kintai Bridge. Kikkō Park (Iwakuni Art Museum, Kikkō Shrine, Chokokan Museum, Kikkawa Hiroyushi statue, Tosenji, Kikkawa Museum, Mekata residence). Iwakuni ropeway + castle. Uno Chiyoda Birthplace. Shiinoohachimangu Hongu if time.
Miyajima whatever I didn’t have time to do the day before.

5- KURE morning + HIROSHIMA (Sleep in Hiroshima)
JMSDF Submarine museum. Yamato Museum. Irifuneyama Memorial Museum. What else?
Fukuromachi Elementary School Peace Museum. Rai Sanyo Shiseki Museum. Former Bank. Hondori Street (Animate + Jump Shop)

6- HIROSHIMA (Sleep in Hiroshima)
Futabanosato Historical Walking Trail (Includes Waterworks Museum and Peace Pagoda). Museum of Contemporary Art and Hijiyama Park if time. Shimizu Gekijo Theatre

7- KURASHIKI half day + OKAYAMA (Sleep in Okayama)
Ohashi House. Kurashiki City Art Museum. Kanryuji. Chi Shrine. Archaeological Museum. Kake Museum. Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft. Japan Rural Toy Museum. Momotaro Museum. General walk around. How much does a boat ride down Kurashiki river cost, and is it worth it?
Okayama Castle + Korakuen.
Order may be inverted since I’m coming from Hiroshima with Shinkansen.

8- KIBI PLAIN + HIMEJI (Sleep in Himeji)
Bike ride through Kibi Plain from Bizen-Ichinomiya Station (not until Soja, just past Kibitsu Jinja to see the Momotaro sites)
Himeji Castle + Kokoen. What else? Are the art museums in Okayama worth going to? I’m already going to three in Hiroshima and a few others later on, so… I’m thinking maybe spend another day in Okayama / Himeji area, but I don’t know what else there is to do in these two cities really…

9- NARA (Sleep in Nara)
Nara Prefecture Art Museum. Kōfuku-ji. Sarusawa Pond. Nakatanidou. Gangō-ji. Naramachi Mechanical Toy Museum. Kasuga-taisha + Wakamiya Shrine + Kinryu Shrine. Kasugayama

10- NARA (Sleep in Nara)
Tōdai-ji + Todaiji Nigatsudo. Isui-en Garden. Narahimuro Shrine. Yoshiki-en Garden. Nara National Museum. Ukimidō. Mount Wakakusa Grass Hill. Byakugoji Temple
Do I have time to do all this in Nara in two days?

11- KYOTO (Sleep in Kyoto)
Fushimi Inari (hike to top). Sanjusangendo. Kyoto National Museum.
I would like to start the hike up Inariyama very early so I can see the shrine and gates at the bottom without interruption and people. I can buy stuff when I come down if needed. I know I could add more here but I’ll be tired. My hostel is really close to the National Museum. How long would it take to walk from the National Museum to Kiyomizu-dera? I know there’s a bus, but I prefer to walk :)

12- KYOTO (Sleep in Kyoto)
If I’m in the mood, the Philosopher’s Path. If not, then just Kyoto Station (skyway) + tower. Afternoon Gion area (including Shôren-in + Chion-in + Maruyama Park. I’ll be around until I can go to Gion corner -show starts at 6pm-. Yasaka Shrine afterwards, I want to see it after dark)

13- KYOTO (Sleep in Kyoto)
Arashiyama / Sagano (Gio-ji, Bamboo grove, Togetsukyo Bridge, Tenryuji, Okochi Sanso Villa, Jōjakukō-ji Temple, Rakushisha Poet’s Hut, Adashino Nenbutsu-ji, Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, Sagano Scenic Railway round route if time)


Since Osaka has the International Airport, I will come to Japan through Osaka many times on other trips, so I can slowly see the city bit by bit at a time (which is why I’m not giving it a proper full day). Hiroshima and Nara are two personal favourites and though I understand that many people do them as day trips, I would prefer to spend more time there than in Kyoto. I would like to leave Kyoto for another trip when I’ll be doing South Kansai and the Biwa Lake area, I’m really only going there since I had a few empty days and I wanted to settle down in one place (I easily get tired of moving between cities) and there’s a lot to do in Kyoto. Although I will be taking it easy since I’ll be doing a lot of walking throughout the trip, Kyoto is my rest time haha. Note that I will be back to Kyoto, but I probably won’t go to Okayama, Himeji or Kurashiki again so I’m willing to take a day off Kyoto and add longer time to any other place.
And I was looking at different passes, particularly for Hiroshima travel, but none seem to pay off. I will only be taking the shinkansen between Hiroshima-Okayama. Do you know of a pass or something that could help with travel costs? (Last time I was mostly around the Kantô area, so I have no experience with this).
I’m pretty sure of my itinerary up until day 6, from day 7 onwards it’s a bit more open to change. I hope you can help me out or comment your opinion on this!
Thank you! :)

someotherguy Feb 29th, 2016 06:04 PM

This is a very thoughtful itinerary. You plan to do far more than I could, but I assume you are young and fit. I think you'll have a great time.

Here are a couple of ideas for consideration.

Since you will be in Kure, take the ferry from there (right by the Yamato museum) to Matsuyama on Shikoku. A very interesting and pleasant place with a fine castle. Then on to Imabari--another fine castle. From there, a bus over the bridges (forgotten the name) to Omishima and the Oyamazumi Shrine. This is a beautiful shrine, one of the best I've seen, but the highlight is its museum, which contains 80% of all the NT armor in Japan. Truly astounding. I visited as a round trip from Imabari, but I assume you can continue to Honshu. You'd have to lop a few days off your Kyoto stay to fit that in.

And if you intend to return to Kyoto later, I'd suggest more time in Nara: visit the really ancient temples: Horyuji, Yakushiji, Shin Yakushiji (excellent statues). And then other places around there: Iga Ueno (ninjas, Basho's home), Asuka (prehistory), Sakai (keyhole tomb, Sen no Rikyu memorabilia), Kishi (stationmaster cat)... Oh, and don't forget Uji.

kja Feb 29th, 2016 07:49 PM

Could be a great trip! But I must admit that I am not commenting on your specific plans -- they are, I'm sorry to say, far too detailed for any effort I am willing or able to put into them, especially because you will, I think, need to adjust them.

- I'm not sure you need two nights for Hiroshima and Miyajima. IME, 5 or 6 hours is enough for the A-Bomb Domb, Peace Park, and Peace Museum. If you can reach Hiroshima in a timely way, that should give you plenty of time to go on to Miyajima by late afternoon (the latest you ryokan will allow).. But you DO need to reach Miyajima by late afternoon, so see what your itinerary requires....

- Kurashiki / Okayama -- I enjoyed Kurashiki, and found it a good base for Okayama and other destinations. I was disappointed by Okayama's Korakuen; JMO. And I used Kurashiki as a base for Himeji and Kokoen -- a plan that worked for MY interests and MY ultimate decisions about passes. YMMV.

Fushimi Inari is open 24/7 , so you can see it after other things close.

OK, I give up -- too many questions for which ONLY you and decide. Sorry! I'm going no further, but wish you well.

I'll be happy to comment on a revised or streamlined itinerary should you choose to provide one. (And if you do, please do so on THIS thread, rather than starting a new one!) And please tell us WHEN you plan to travel.

Peter_T Feb 29th, 2016 09:52 PM

Sorry, I forgot to mention it’ll be the first week of July (I know it’s rainy season but it’s the only time I can travel haha. Last time I went was also during tsuyu so I know what to expect!)
I would love to go to Imabari! I was kind of leaving that for when I do the Shikoku henro, since I would be doing tourism around the island at the same time. I was actually looking at cycling the Akinada Island chain, but Etajima seems to be the closest bike rental place I found and not very convenient. If I linked it together with the islands from the Shimani Kaido I could easily find a bike (say I take a ferry to Matsuyama and add Matsuyama and Imabari to the list, then starting the Shimani Kaido from there taking a detour along the Tobishima Kaido and up to Onomichi), but that would take up a lot of time since there’s so much to do on the islands and in onomichi and imabari, I’d probably have to change everything around!
I will take a day off Kyoto and spend it in Nara. There is so much more things to do that I have pinpointed on my map in Nara Prefecture!
Thanks for the comments!

CaliforniaLady Feb 29th, 2016 10:35 PM

Kyoto is a sweat bath in July. There is no way you can do all that hiking and walking on day 11, unless you are super-human. I'm a pretty fit lady, and I could barely stand the humidity when we were there in July, and my son got sick from the heat. If you insist on running around in Kyoto in July, at least drink lots of water, and wear a hat.

Regarding your itinerary, I would not break up my five nights in Hiroshima with a one night stay in Miyajima. Is there any way you can put Miyajima at the beginning or the end? Also, while in Hiroshima, I suggest seeing a baseball game if the team is playing one of the nights you are there. It's such a hoot to see a Japanese baseball game.

Kavey Feb 29th, 2016 11:23 PM

I don't know Hiroshima well, so can't comment on your plans for the city, other than that it looks as though you know it well and have a strong plan on what you want to see.

But I'm wondering whether you can extend to give a little extra time to Miyajima, and at least do the overnight on the island itself? Before deciding, do check what time first and last ferries of the day are, as you may find you can't spend as long a day on the island as you plan, depending on the schedule. It's worth being able to enjoy the island at different times (and tides, for the floating gate) and be able to relax during your hikes around the island, rather than be rushed.

I don't think it's a problem to break your time in Hiroshima with the Miyajima visit since they are so close in any case, plus you can, if you want, stay in two different locations / hotels in Hiroshima.

I adore Kyoto, so glad to hear you'll be going back for another trip to enjoy it more. I think that's a great idea.

Hope you have a marvellous trip and particularly look forward to reading your thoughts on Hiroshima when you get back, as you'll be visiting lots of places I've not read others talk about.

Peter_T Mar 1st, 2016 02:51 AM

When I say I’ll get to Fushimi Inari early I mean I’d like to be there at around 6-7am (I wake up early when I’m traveling), I’d do the walk mainly during the morning before it gets too hot. I’m guessing it will be fine inside Kyoto National Museum since it’s indoors, so I’ll only have to suffer the walk from Sanjusangendo to Kiyomizudera :)
The start of July isn’t as hot as the end of July / August though, so I’m sure I’ll be fine. The vending machines’ cold drinks will help me out if needed!
I was thinking about going to see a baseball game, but since I’m traveling solo and don’t really like crowds (or baseball much either :P ), I’ll probably be satisfied by looking at the stadium from the outside haha. Baseball is pretty popular in Hiroshima though, from what I’ve been reading.
I put Miyajima in the middle so it will feel like I’m still based in Hiroshima city since I don’t really like moving around. If I add it to the start I’ll be too tired from the plane and bus to enjoy it properly (which is why day 1 doesn’t have too many activities anyway) and if I add it to the end I’ll feel like I’m rushing too much doing Miyajima-Iwakuni-Kurashiki-Okayama-Himeji all one after the other only one day each. I did something similar when in Tokyo with a night off in Kamakura and returned to the same hostel afterwards, I enjoyed the change of pace but not enough to feel like it was a completely different place. Also I can leave my suitcase in the hostel in Hiroshima since I’m only away for one night. Saves me having to go to the Miyajima hostel in the morning and leaving my suitcase there, I can just go straight to Miyajima.

The first ferry to Miyajima is around 7am, the last back to Honshu around 10pm, so I’ll be able to see the Torii both high tide and low tide and the city during morning-afternoon-evening. I think that if I get one of the first ferries and one of the last back to the hostel, I’ll have time to see the area properly and do all I want to do with no rush (in a day and a half). Miyajima is a pretty small island actually. If not I can take a while after some Hiroshima activities to go back. My hostel is literally right next to the port to Miyajima on Honshu, it’ll take me a minute walk to get a boat there and back. The hotels on Miyajima are a bit too expensive for me (the cheapest one I found around 7000yen, the hostel I chose around 2500yen) and the campsite seemed a bit complicated to organize. I think I’ll enjoy taking the ferry four times, it isn’t expensive hahaha
Thanks for the comments and suggestions!

shelleyk Mar 1st, 2016 04:24 AM

We did exactly what you describe in your last paragraph....took an early ferry to Miyajiima and a late ferry back to Hiroshima. It worked perfectly for us. We checked the tide tables so we had an idea when low and high tides were. We had a whole day and part of an evening on the island, hiked, and saw the tori at both high and low tides.

Peter_T Mar 1st, 2016 10:35 AM

I don’t have too much money so I’m going for the cheapest option I could find in each case when it comes to transportation.
Osaka - Hiroshima: Willer Express (night bus ¥3500)
Hiroshima - Okayama: Ryobibus (¥2900)
Okayama - Himeji: JR Sanyo Line ¥1500
Himeji - Kyoto: Non JR trains ¥1,580
Does anyone have any experience with these buses and trains?

If taking the Shinkansen from Hiroshima to Okayama, would I pay ¥3020 or ¥5500? Do I have to pay the seat price if I have no reserved seat?
I’m doing Kyoto before Nara because going Himeji-Kyoto-Nara-Osaka is apparently cheaper that doing Himeji-Nara-Kyoto-Osaka.

I decided to spend the night after day 8 in Kyoto instead of Himeji (I found a hostel that gives a good discount if I stay there for more than two nights haha). Also that way I can start the morning in Kyoto without having to change cities.
Days 9 / 10 will be full days in Kyoto, day 11 I’ll leave Kyoto early to go to Nara, stopping at Fushimi Inari along the way. I then have the rest of day 11 + days 12 / 13 in Nara-ken. I’m still working out my Kyoto/Nara itinerary though, I’ll probably have a couple of questions about Nara :)

someotherguy Mar 1st, 2016 10:39 AM

There are some odd lacunae in your itinerary--for example, there's a famous shrine up the hill by Himeji that you seem not to know.

Are you doing all your research online? If so, you might want to get this print guidebook: "Gateway to Japan" (Kodansha Guide) by June Kinoshita, Nicholas Palevsky. It is far and away the best guidebook to Japan, but is out of print and used copies often go for $100 so keep checking the online resellers and snap it up when a reasonably priced copy comes along.

A really encyclopedic guide (also out of print) is "Japan Inside Out (A Personally Oriented Guidebook)" by Jay, Sumi, and Garet Gluck.

Peter_T Mar 1st, 2016 10:56 AM

Would you by chance be talking about Senhime Tenmangu Shrine? I will spend most of day 8 in Himeji and will be visiting this Shrine along with other places I’ve found.
I have a couple of guide books and lots of tourism magazines about Japan, but I do do most of my research online because I can find information more in depth and quicker. I’ll look out for the book just in case though!

someotherguy Mar 1st, 2016 12:20 PM

I beg your pardon, I meant temple, not shrine: Engyoji on Shoshazan. It's 1,000 years old but has recent fame as one of the locations in "The Last Samurai".

Speaking of history, I highly recommend this podcast series:

Peter_T Mar 1st, 2016 01:55 PM

Have you been to Himeji? It seems like you know what you’re talking about. I had read about Mt.Shosha but discarded it since I didn’t care much for the movie haha. But with further research it seems very interesting, it definitely looks worthy of a detour to go there. Also it seems to be one of the 33 temples on the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage! I’ve added it to my list.
I was wondering though, I’ve heard that Himeji Castle has become very popular in the last years and sometimes there are long queues to get in. I was thinking about starting the day at Himeji Castle, already waiting at the door at opening time so I wouldn’t have to wait. How true is that though? Should I be worried?
In Himeji City I basically want to visit the castle + Koko-en, the Hyogo Prefecture Museum of History, Otokoyama Hachimangu and Okayama Senhime Shrine with a walk down Senhime no Komichi and the Village Mall / district (old part of town). They are all close by around the castle though, so I can walk between all these places.
Hmm… If I visited Himeji city after doing my bike ride in Okayama (day 8), I could stay the night in Himeji like in my original plan and hike Mt.Shosha the next morning before heading to Kyoto in the afternoon.
Ahh, I have to rethink this again, I’m getting ahead of myself. I want to go everywhere but I don’t have time! :P
I’ll post an update of the itinerary when I have it more figured out…

That podcast is great, by the way! I’ve just been looking through a few of the episodes, I’ve downloaded a few of the first ones so I can listen to them during the day. Thank you for telling me about it!

someotherguy Mar 1st, 2016 03:40 PM

Yes, I've been there, but it was many years ago, before the recent renovation. It was a different world in those days, with just a handful of visitors.

Japanese tourism was up 47% last year alone:

My recent experience is that the top sites are often crowded, but one step down and it's OK. For example, in Nikko the Toshogu Shrine was a madhouse, but all the other places there were just fine. And at his other shrine (in Shizuoka), there were just a few people.

kja Mar 1st, 2016 04:25 PM

"I can leave my suitcase in the hostel in Hiroshima since I’m only away for one night."

True! And another wonderful option is Japan's excellent luggage-forwarding option so you only need to take an overnight bag with you. Luggage-forwarding is called takuhaibin; here's the info:

"I’ll leave Kyoto early to go to Nara, stopping at Fushimi Inari along the way."

That could be a great idea. An alternative would be to visit Fushimi Inari in the early evening, when almost everything else is closed. You can get sunset information here:

someotherguy recommended a great out-of-print guidebook, "Gateway to Japan". Another really good, out-of-print guidebook is "Japan Solo," which had not only great information, but the best maps I found in advance of my trip. I see it for sale once in a while....

Re: your time in Nara -- I could be mistaken, but I think you are being ambitious, so it would probably be to your advantage to think through your priorities in advance, just in case. And FWIW, I particularly enjoyed Horyuji and Chuguji, both of which are just a bit outside of Nara in Ikaruga. You might look them up to see if they interest you before finalizing your plan for the area.

You are going to have an amazing trip!

kja Mar 1st, 2016 07:35 PM

Also, re Himeji-jo -- like someotherguy, I was there before it's recent renovation, at a time when far fewer people were traveling in the area. I would think your plan to get there in time for opening should work, but of course, I can't guarantee it. If it helps, IME, many tour groups hit popular places between 9 and 10:30 a.m., so I would probably aim to either get their earlier or later -- but again, I could be wrong. For a question as specific as what time is currently best for reaching Himeji-jo, you might consider posting on the forum -- I found the responses there extraordinarily helpful when I planned my time in Japan.

Peter_T Mar 1st, 2016 11:21 PM

Hôryû-ji and Chûgû-ji are also on my wish list (Hôryû-ji is one of the 7 Great Temples of Nara, Chûgû-ji has a statue which is said to have one of the “top three smiles of the world” along with Mona Lisa and the Sphinx), and they are both one next to the other. Unfortunately they are a bit out of the way so I may not have time to catch the train + bus to get there.
What I usually do is bring with me a list of places I’d like to go to with their opening times and prices and maps even if they aren’t on my itinerary so I can add something to my list if I have extra time. It’s very useful since usually my itinerary changes in situ and I can change it around easily.
All the places I mentioned going to in Nara are around the Nara Park area and I can get to each by foot between them and from the station and my hostel. I too think maybe I’m being too ambitious though.
I’ve heard great things about Takuhaibin, but it might be a bit too expensive for my liking. Are there lockers at Fushimi Station?
I’ve tried the japan-guide forums and trip advisor forums, but this one gas been the most useful so far…

Kavey Mar 2nd, 2016 01:54 AM

I agree, those ferries will give you enough time to enjoy Miyajima during a long day there. Sounds perfect! Enjoy!

kja Mar 2nd, 2016 06:26 PM

Yes, the Miroku Bosatsu -- the statue at Chugu-ji -- is extraordinary, and the chance to see it was my primary reason for going to Chugi-ji and Horyu-ji. I chose to give up a little time in Nara to make time to see these places, and I have NO regrets about that choice. But, of course, I have no idea what I gave up by taking that fork in the path! Given what I am inferring about your interests, I would NOT skip the Nara National Museum, Kofukuji treasure hall, Kasuga shrine (or its lantern-lined walk), Todai-ji, or Naramachi. How to balance your other priorities is, obviously, your call, and (of course) I may be mistaken in my inferences about your interests.

At least in 2006, there were lockers at Fushimi Inari station of the Keihan line -- I'm not sure about the other line (which is close enough for you to easily use the lockers at the Keihan line, even if traveling on a different line), or whether the lockers are still there.

CaliforniaLady Mar 2nd, 2016 09:36 PM

Regarding the question about lockers at train stations, there is no guarantee that a locker in your needed size will be open. I have seen almost all of the lockers full at busy stations.

In Japan, I never put myself in a situation where I am dependent on the lockers being available. I have used them on occasion, but only for small items that I could carry with me anyway.

You can typically check your belongings at any museum, including electronics and cash. I have left large amounts of cash in my purse at some museums in Japan, and I would not dream of doing that in any other country.

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