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Itinerary/tips for 2-3 weeks in Japan in Nov.

Itinerary/tips for 2-3 weeks in Japan in Nov.

Old Aug 16th, 2017, 08:01 AM
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Itinerary/tips for 2-3 weeks in Japan in Nov.

Hi guys, I need some advice on an itinerary and whatever tips you have. I'm planning a trip this autumn from the mid-atlantic to Japan. Traveled extensively, never to east Asia, have been wanting to see Japan for a while. I hear the climate is quite similar to Washington DC, so November should be great for walking (fine with walking anywhere from 5 to 10 miles a day - although preferably not 10 a day every day), dry and cool. Would love to see some beautiful foliage.

About me:
-Young athletic man
-love to run and walk
-like art, music, archaeology, technology, some video/computer games, language, sports, love food/cooking, traditional arts, factory tours, books, bazaars/markets, produce, shopping, interesting shops, hiking.

I want to really get a good feel for Tokyo and therefore am thinking about spending 6-9 nights there. Don't want to be rushed, want to get a good mix of major sites that I also have an interest in (the crossing, asakusa, tsukiji market, akiba, daytrip to Nikko etc) but also whatever else seems interesting as I do my research (so far, odaiba island, a couple of museums, maybe a concert venue/concert, another daytrip baseball etc - would love your suggestions). However, since I also live so far away, I feel the need to see several different places in Japan in case I don't get a chance to go back soon. So I'm thinking 2-3 weeks for that reason (jetlag too). The best fares I'm finding are into Haneda and out of KIX, so that'll probably be my route (JR pass worth it?)

Things I absolutely want to do/see:
-Tsukiji market
-Odaiba island
-eat fantastic food (I know you don't have to break the bank to do this in Japan)
-hike for a day or two at least - intrigued by Kiso valley but the path looks a bit too short/easy (Tsumago-Magome)
-Stay at a ryokan/onsen
-spend some time in nature/mountains out of the city
-Kansai region (Osaka seems like an interesting city even if I only spend a night or two there)
-Tours of factories (sake, beer breweries) - whatever is interesting and available!
-See a Japanese castle (possibly Himeji)
-Spend time doing/see uniquely Japanese things (example: ryokan, sake brewery) that you can't do or see elsewhere
-At least one night in a capsule hotel

Things I am interested in, not as sure about:
-Alpen route/Tateyama mtns to hike and experience nature (in November, not going for the snow walls)
-Feel like I "should" see Kyoto and see more traditional architecture since I'll be very close
-Nara, perhaps a night there, perhaps a daytrip, thoughts?
-If not Tateyama, where else can I possibly spend a night or two between Tokyo and Kansai that I can be in a more rural/non-urban setting? Nagano prefecture seems to have a lot of beautiful places, any suggestions?
-Nagano itself. Worth my time? I do have a soft spot for less-touristed spots and minor cities where you can get a less hectic and more local feel while still having city amenities. Open to other suggestions as well.

I'm an experienced traveler (will be traveling alone, mostly in hostels), so I do enjoy spending more time in fewer areas instead of checking the boxes and moving on (ex: 2 nights Paris, rush to Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triomphe etc and then rush to 1 night in London to see everything...). I realize how much time and effort it takes to move from place to place, even by train and while in a different way I love train stations and airports, I don't want my trip to be spent mostly in them. I like having time to revisit areas I liked and mull around more residential or not as "on the map" areas even in big cities, but because of distance and financial/time restraints want to balance that with seeing more than just Tokyo/Kyoto. Can you please help me out with some possible itineraries and tips?
ji3 is offline  
Old Aug 16th, 2017, 09:02 AM
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A problem is that the mountain areas close down in mid November. I can recommend Kamikochi, which closes on the 15th: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6040.html

Maybe a plan would be to start your holiday early in November, get in your mountain visits, then descend to the lower levels and cities.

The Nakasendo extends beyond Tsumago and Magome (I've done that section and didn't find it particularly interesting).

There's the Kumano Kodo, being discussed here: http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...erary-help.cfm

Japan Guide has a whole section on hiking: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2427.html
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 09:57 AM
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Too early to tell about a JR Pass for your trip. Pro baseball season will be over, but I think there is some college baseball then. The November grand sumo tournament, the Kyushu Bassho, is held in Fukuoka.

Nagano city/prefecture is a good idea. The Zenkoji in Nagano city is pretty amazing.

Matsumoto is a stop you should consider. It is not far from Nagano or Tokyo and has a terrific castle. It is also close to Kamikochi and is at the top of the Kiso Valley.

There is a Toyota factory tour near Nagoya (which is at the bottom of Kiso Valley).
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 11:25 AM
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Six to nine nights in Tokyo would be WAY too much for me, but it might be just the right amount of time for you.. I'd gladly spend that much time in Kyoto. Our Japan trip was in November, and we saw beautiful koyo in Kyoto, Hakone, and just a bit in Tokyo and Kanazawa.
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 12:16 PM
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Kathie - how did you like Hakone? Did you hike/walk at all while there? How was the foliage and weather last November?

I do really like big, sprawling cities!

mrwunrfl! - Matsumoto looks very nice, maybe even more beautiful than Himeji in pictures! How do they stack up, would just one of them be sufficient and is Matsumoto generally less busy (I hear Himeji can get swamped with school groups)? Thanks for the factory tour tip, that sounds like something I might like. Baseball and Sumo would be nice, but I can live without. I'll gladly trade those for milder weather. Kumano Kodo looks like it might be the perfect replacement for Kiso.

someotherguy - Kamikochi looks stunning, and with my schedule, I may be able to swing the 13th and 14th (would I be fine if I departed the morning of Nov. 15th?). I can't get to Japan any earlier than Nov 6th or so, but was planning on spending a week or so in Tokyo first - would it make sense to arrive at Haneda, go to Nagano prefecture for a night or two of hiking, come back to Tokyo for a week and then go to Kyoto, Osaka etc? Worried about jetlag and how much I'll feel like hiking day 1 or 2. Thanks for those links, it looks like Hakone might be a nice way to do onsen/ryokan hot springs and hiking all in one go. How do you feel about Hakone if you've been? Seems like there's nice hiking in Nikko, too. Is it worth an overnight?
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 03:16 PM
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Matsumoto-jo is listed as a National Treasure of Japan. Himeji-jo is that as well as a World Heritage Site. If you must visit a castle and can visit only one then Himeji-jo is the one.
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 03:26 PM
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Wow, a choice between Matsumoto Castle and Himeji-jo. After having seen both I don't think I can choose. I'd find a way to see them both. FWIW, they're both always swamped with Japanese school groups.

Definitely go to Kamikochi if you can. I absolutely loved it there and wish I could've spend more time there.

Wherever and whatever you do, you'll love Japan.
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 06:32 PM
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Magome, Tsumago and Narai in Kiso Valley are preserved post towns. You might be interested in old traditional woodern architecture there.
Alpine Route isn't very good in November. Kumano Kodo is more recommended. From Matsumoto/Kamikochi you could take the bus to Shin-Hotaka Ropeway and climb to the pyramid peak from the top station.
Between Himeji and Hiroshima you may consider Naoshima Art Island, Shimanami Kaido and Saijo Sake Town.
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 06:34 PM
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You should have a wonderful time no matter what you choose!

Some thoughts:

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

Likewise, many people visit Nara as a day trip from Kyoto or Osaka; I spent 2 full nights and 2 full days in Nara, and would have liked more time there.

Have you considered Koya-san for a night?
Or Hiroshima and a night and good part of a day on Miyajima?

Himeji-jo is awesome.
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 06:55 PM
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The best cure for jetlag is to get out in the daylight (or sunlight if you are lucky) so hiking in Kamikochi could be just the thing. OTOH I appreciate you might not feel up to it first day. So how about starting with a couple of days in Matsumoto, then Kamikochi, then tackle the big cities.

Norikura Kogen is a neighboring upland of Kamikochi. I've not need there but there's a recent trip report on these forums.

Matsumoto is one of the 12 original castles (as is Himeji). If you want to see a really unique one, and take a good hike to get there, try Bitchu-Matsuyama

For an alternative to the Nakasendo, there's the Yamanobe-no-michi Trail: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4189.html . I've not done it, but I have been to many of the sights. It starts near Asuka (which was the capitol before Nara, which was the capitol before Kyoto) and that area is full of history and rural charm.

BTW. There's a guy called mfedley who has excellent blog entries on Japan-Guide and has been to a lot of places. It's worth browsing for ideas. Here's his take on Asuka: http://www.japan-guide.com/community...ey/report-3043
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 08:27 PM
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Yamanobe-no-michi is entirely different from Nakasendo. Late November isn't very good time to visit Asuka anyway.
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Old Aug 16th, 2017, 10:56 PM
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I'll give you a few observations. But first, thanks for organizing your hopes and plans so succinctly.

The first question is regarding a JR Pass. With an open jaw ticket you are thinking of, it is much more difficult to make a pass pay off. If you go from Tokyo to Kansai, adding a side trip to Hiroshima back to Kansai can make up the difference for a 7 day pass, but if you are planning to travel for 2-3 weeks, it gets a lot more problematic. A series of regional passes might serve you better.
You need to finalize your plans more in order to see what method of transport best suits you.

I'd also agree with the above that you really don't need 6-9 days in Tokyo. You can use Tokyo as a base though for some good day trips. Nikko was mentioned, plus if you like some hiking and mountain scenery, there is Takao, Mitake, Okutama, and on the Boso Peninsula, Nokogiriyama.
Nagano makes a great choice - although November will be getting quite chilly. Karuizawa is not too far though and offers more scenery. Kamikochi as said will close. It's not a day trip location, so you'd need to be en route to somewhere.
Since it hasn't been mentioned, have you considered seeing Kanazawa? And also stopping by Shirakawago?

Another nice thing of your timing is you can see a lot of the autumn colors. There are some very impressive places to see if you can fit them in.
You should also consider seeing some off the beaten path places. Rail is one way to get there, but for very long distances, cheap air fares are another great alternative.
Both Kyushu and Shikoku are worth considering, as well as Okinawa.
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