Japan 3 weeks April 2025 Itinerary

Old Apr 3rd, 2024, 05:38 AM
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Japan 3 weeks April 2025 Itinerary

Hello Fodor's Friends. I am asking for your help with planning a 3 week itinerary to Japan beginning on April 5, 2025. We will be extending this Japan trip from previous visits to New Zealand and Australia. Our flight will be from Sydney to most likely Haneda in Tokyo. We are not usually interested in Art museums ,more driven by the sights and experiences of the country. Obviously visits to the many Temples and Shrines, experiencing the food, gardens and a ryokan or two. We are in our early 60's and are planning on using public transportation. I have read some of thee very informative comments on Progol trip report and am grateful for some of the knowledge you passed along. We will appreciate any and all help in planning our trip. So far something like Progol trip but 4 to 6 days less time.

Tokyo 6 days, and we may be flying overnight and arriving early morning on first day. Stay in Asakusa
2 day trips? One to Mt. Fuji region
Matsumoto 2 or 3 nights
Shinhotaka Onsen Yarimikan 2 nights
Takayama 3 nights
Kanazawa 2 nights
Kyoto 6 nights, dy trip to Osaka , Himeji Castle
Not sure of return flight but that will obviously determine our last day location.

I have read a number of the Fodor's threads and we are trying to mix the big city and the less busy sights. Not sure if this beginning trip idea makes sense or is realistic. Looking forward to your comments. MCS

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Old Apr 3rd, 2024, 05:47 AM
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I’m so glad you enjoyed my trip report and found inspiration in it!

Given your time frame and the outline you’ve developed, I would only stay in Matsumoto for 2 nights and I would add at least one more day to Kanazawa. Kanazawa is a medium-sized city but the main areas for touring are relatively close together and could easily fill 2 days and more.

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Old Apr 3rd, 2024, 07:29 AM
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>> makes sense or is realistic
yes.

Popular day trips from Tokyo include Nikko (Tobu train from Asakusa is under 2 hours each way), Hakone (Fuji-Hakone National Park), Fuji Five Lakes (Fujigoko). Emphasis on popular. All of those are worth at least one night. Also Kamakura.

The Matsumoto stop is unnecessary (woiuld rather go up to Okuhida from Takayama). Alternatives include Kusatsu Onsen, Kurobe Gorge and onsen town, Shirakawago. Also,the stop progol made in Fukui area.


Takayama Festival Apr 14-15. Golden Week starts Apr 29, 2025.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2024, 10:34 AM
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Thanks Progol and mrwunrfl. I learned so much from your TR and how detailed mrwundrfl your information was. We are a bit nervous about the language barrier and the train travel between sights . Having your TR really helped us to approach the big city and countryside stops. I have read that Matsumoto is a pretty village and obviously a visit to the Matsumato Jo Castle. I am still getting my grips on the travel times between locations. Just google maps between Tokyo and Takayama or Matsumato would be a half day travel? We like you Progol hate 1 night lodging and do not want to do this especially with our unfamiliarity of the country and the language issues on our end.
We were thinking of doing a few day trips from Tokyo and Kyoto and you listed the ones we have read about mrwundrfl.
Tokyo 6 nights
Matsumoto 2 nights
Okuhida Yarimikan 2 nights
Takayama 3 nights
Kanazawa 3 nights
Kyoto 6 nights
I realize this is super early on but initially I am just gauging the travel route and sensibility. Progol, please in your honest opinion, what part of your itinerary or stops listed above made you wish you had more time and which one if you had to do it over would you possibly change? I hope that is a fair question. I know I did not include the village that you took a flier on and the pictures made it look quite serene and enjoyable. Thank you both so much in advance. MCS
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Old Apr 3rd, 2024, 11:37 AM
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>> I have read that Matsumoto is a pretty village
it is a city of 240,000 people

Ogimachi, Shirakawago, is a village and pretty

some timetable sites. Be sure to set the time of day correctly (default is current time in Japan)
West Japan Railway Company - Timetables, Route Maps, and Station Maps (westjr.co.jp)
Route Search - Japan Transit Planner | Norikae Annai (jorudan.co.jp)

rome2rio is also useful

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Old Apr 3rd, 2024, 12:23 PM
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<<
Tokyo 6 nights

Matsumoto 2 nights
Okuhida Yarimikan 2 nights
Takayama 3 nights
Kanazawa 3 nights
Kyoto 6 nights

I realize this is super early on but initially I am just gauging the travel route and sensibility. Progol, please in your honest opinion, what part of your itinerary or stops listed above made you wish you had more time and which one if you had to do it over would you possibly change? I hope that is a fair question. >>

I like your itinerary a lot - especially since it mirrors mine😉

Honestly, there is no place I would’ve eliminated. My husband and I loved our trip. I think we both found Tokyo a bit overwhelming, especially since it was our first stop and we were adjusting to the jet lag, but we loved staying in Asakusa. We could see the Sensoji temple before it was too crowded and go elsewhere during the day when it became super-crowded.

We loved all the other stops, including Matsumoto. The castle is superb and our day trip to Narai was a delight. The bus trip from Matsumoto (2 buses) to Yarimikan was surprisingly easy. I wouldn’t eliminate Matsumoto but perhaps it’s the least “quaint” town on the list outside of Tokyo, though it definitely has its own charms. And the bus trip from Matsumoto into the Japanese Alps was a beautiful ride. Again, I haven’t been to other places in Japan, but as a first trip, it was a wonderful mixture of large and smaller cities, and a taste of the mountains. And the onsen experience is wonderful.

We loved our stay in Kyoto, too, though it’s impossible to separate it from our stay at the wonderful Hotel Mume. You may have seen this place mentioned elsewhere, too, but the personal attention from the charming owner and her staff made the experience as special as it could be. I really liked Kyoto though I know it’s also very crowded at the main sites (avoid the popular sites or go very early or very late if you hate crowds!). I’m planning a second trip to Japan and keeping Kyoto largely because we want to return to the same place. It’s returning to see old friends now.

There are many other options but I was happy with what we did.


Last edited by progol; Apr 3rd, 2024 at 12:28 PM.
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Old Apr 4th, 2024, 03:57 AM
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Your itinerary looks great!

On our first trip to Japan in autumn 2012 we did:

Tokyo 2 nights
Takayama 2 nights
Nara 1 night
Kyoto 5 nights (split 2 in ryokan and 3 in Western hotel)
Mount Koya 1 night
Osaka 1 night
Hiroshima+ Miyajima 1 night
Tokyo 4 nights

Of the above, we didn't warm to Osaka (though we tried again on a later trip, still not a favourite at all for us).

We loved everything else!

Happy to answer anything I can if you are interested!

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Old Apr 4th, 2024, 02:32 PM
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Progol, MrWunrfl and Kavey. Very much appreciate your comments. Progol I see you are returning for a second trip. Your level of trip planning and sharing your trip report has made us feel much more comfortable about our trip. You are correct in that I read a bunch of travel blogs on the best 3 weeks and it felt very rushed. so thank you. I mentioned Matsumoto as a charming village and reread your comments about a wonderful small city, I got carried away. Mrwunrfl, I believe we would visit one of the folk villages as a day trip like Progol. Kavey, I thank you for your itinerary as we will most likely be heading back to US via Tokyo. We will be looking to fly into Minneapolis and I have not researched other options . I'm yet to research leaving Kyoto and most likely a afternoon departure I would think I could train to airport.
I would appreciate your thoughts on a destination that you think should be included in this trip, in place of or added if we could extend 2 days? As always thank you for your comments.MCS
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Old Apr 5th, 2024, 12:33 AM
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Originally Posted by mcsles
Progol, MrWunrfl and Kavey. Very much appreciate your comments.
rogol. Kavey, I thank you for your itinerary as we will most likely be heading back to US via Tokyo. We will be looking to fly into Minneapolis and I have not researched other options . I'm yet to research leaving Kyoto and most likely a afternoon departure I would think I could train to airport.
I would appreciate your thoughts on a destination that you think should be included in this trip, in place of or added if we could extend 2 days? As always thank you for your comments.MCS
On our first trip we returned from Miyajima to Tokyo, I don't have the data to hand now but I think with the ferry, train to the Hiroshima bullet train station, and then the bullet train back to Tokyo I think was around 5-6 hours travel. Very doable as much of it was on the bullet train relaxing.

In Kyoto:
  • Do include a day trip to Nara, it's beautiful. We overnighted there in a ryokan and loved it. I have a blog post on that ryokan.
  • Also, if you're into tea, maybe a visit to Uji, though it's not a must do, we enjoyed a few hours there and it's easy to get to from Kyoto.
  • Likewise, another half day trip if you're into whisky is to the Yamazaki whisky distillery, which we loved. I can find our blog content on that if you want more info?
We enjoyed both Takayama (on our first trip and we deliberately coincided with their annual autumn festival) and Kanazawa (third trip). Of the two, Takayama's historical districts are far more extensive and for me more appealing. And the hida beef is amazing. In Kanazawa we adored Kenrokuen (garden) and the food market in particular.

For us, even though it was a fair bit of convoluted (but not difficult or stressful) travel to get there, the one night we spent in a temple on Mount Koya was magical. Walking in the cemetary was a highlight of the trip. I have a blog post about that experience too. Just ask for any you want, I don't want to spam with links.

We did visit Hakone on the third trip and I didn't love the lake, with it's weird pirate ships, it wasn't a highlight for me BUT it was also a weird time in that the trees were very bare, no blossom yet, we couldn;t see Fujisan. Our posh ryokan was nice but very spendy and certainly nowhere near our favourite in our various trips. If I go to that region again I'll focus on some of the other locations that afford a view of Mount Fuji instead I think. But many do love Hakone so don't dismiss it because of my comments!
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Old Apr 5th, 2024, 09:21 AM
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Kavey, thanks so much for all this information. I am definitely interested in some of these day trips. We were thinking of using Tokyo to day trip to possibly Nikko and or Mt. Fuji area as well. Nara visit from Kyoto and possibly Osaka? and or Himeji. However at 2 plus hours one way that Castle visit may not happen. The Koyan visit sounds very interesting and reading more about Nara it seems to offer a lot of sights. I don't know the best way to include these areas. It looks like Nara and the Koyan temples are 3 plus hours apart. Would Nara be a place that you would recommend an additional 2 nights stay? i am sure we could make it back to catch a late afternoon flight to US. Your comments and wisdom are so welcomed. MCS
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Old Apr 5th, 2024, 10:32 AM
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Kyoto to Himeji
Time required:0:43 Price: 5,800 on the shinkansen
Time required: 1:33 Price: 2,310 Special Rapid Service

Kyoto to Osaka 28 min
Nara to Osaka 46 to 55 min
Kyoto to Nara 45 min
those fares are 600 - 800 yen

Osaka to Himeji 64 min 1520

You could visit Himeji in the morning, Osaka in afternoon/evening, back to kyoto for the night. use a 1-day rail pass
JR Kansai Area Pass (japan-guide.com)

That pass can also be used to get to Kansai Airport on the limited express

West Japan Railway Company - Timetables, Route Maps, and Station Maps (westjr.co.jp)
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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 02:45 AM
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Mrwunrfl, thank you so much for your information on the train travel and routes . That helps me plan our days in each location. If you had 2 extra days where would you travel to from Kyoto as a day trip or possibly another place to stay? Thanks. Also how far in advance do you purchase rail passes?
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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by mcsles
We were thinking of using Tokyo to day trip to possibly Nikko and or Mt. Fuji area as well. Nara visit from Kyoto and possibly Osaka? and or Himeji. However at 2 plus hours one way that Castle visit may not happen.
You can visit Nikko from a Tokyo, and another great day trip is Kamakura.

Mount Fuji I reckon most people would overnight rather than try and do as a day trip but see whether anyone else has feedback on that?

I have somehow failed to visit Himeji thus far, to my regret!

Originally Posted by mcsles
The Koyan visit sounds very interesting and reading more about Nara it seems to offer a lot of sights. I don't know the best way to include these areas. It looks like Nara and the Koyan temples are 3 plus hours apart. Would Nara be a place that you would recommend an additional 2 nights stay? i am sure we could make it back to catch a late afternoon flight to US. Your comments and wisdom are so welcomed. MCS
Nara and Osaka are both really easy from Kyoto. Of the two, if I were giving overnight status to only one it would be Nara but I think I'm in a minority there, most people like Osaka more than we did. This may be coloured by how much we loved our Nara ryokan.

You can't really combine Nara and Koyasan. Both are worthy of an overnight or two. Koyasan I think is practical to day trip. Note that most temple stays bed rooms are not en suite. We got around that by booking a hanare residence at Shojoshin-in, big enough to house several people but we booked it just for us and thereby had our own private bathroom. It's also the nearest temple to the cemetery.

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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 02:56 PM
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Kavey, mrwunrfl. I thank you for your train times and helping me to decide what is doable from my 2 long stay locations. Kavey , it really helps to give me your experiences on Nara and Osaka. We are probably thinking a day trip to see Himeji Castle and a lunch walk in Osaka. Saurabhkashyap1621, I can't thank you enough for your detailed itinerary and loads of information within each of the days you described. This is almost exactly what we were thinking for our holiday and it is so kind of you to put this much effort to help make our visit special. Our sincere thanks to all of you. Now I will digest and read more. Best, MCS

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Old Apr 7th, 2024, 04:36 AM
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A few more thoughts … I rarely see this mentioned for Takayama, but the Higashiyama walking course, a lovely walk of 3.5km through temples and shrines just above the town, was one of our favorite activities. A wonderful stroll and not crowded at all.

We didn’t go to Shirakawa-go, but instead went to the Hida Folk village, a quick and easy bus ride to the site, and a lovely place to experience a range of different styles of historic buildings. The lines for the buses to Shirakawago were huge and we were just as glad not to go, at least for the day.

And more thoughts…while I plan to do 1 or 2 day trips on my next trip to Kyoto, there is so much to see within the city and just wandering is also just so much fun. I also notice that the places recommended for Kyoto are the most well-known sites that are also known to be very crowded much of the time. We didn’t go to any of them, preferring to visit the less famous and, happily, less crowded places, and I encourage you to search out those places. And Philosopher’s Path is a place that isn’t mentioned here but is lovely (sometimes crowded, sometimes not - we were there when it was delightfully peaceful) and there are many temples to explore along the way.

Also, consider contacting one of the many volunteer guide organizations in Japan that sponsor free guides for the city. These are generally retirees who are passionate about their cities and want to share it with others. We had one for Tokyo and one for Kanazawa (and I recommend more than 2 nights for the city). This is a way of meeting locals and getting a flavor of a place through someone else’s eyes and it’s a great way to connect. Once you contact the organization, you’ll receive a name of a person assigned, who’ll be directly in contact with you to determine your interests and make a plan. These were
wonderful experiences.
https://www.japan.travel/en/plan/lis...unteer-guides/

I couldn’t find an organization for Kyoto, so we did a pay what you wish tour there which was excellent. I believe I mentioned this in my trip report but don’t have the name of the group at my fingertips now!

Last edited by progol; Apr 7th, 2024 at 04:43 AM.
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Old Apr 9th, 2024, 12:18 AM
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Second Progol's recommendation to use Goodwill Guides, or other similar organisations. We did this in Fukuoka and had such a wonderful experience.
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Old Apr 9th, 2024, 12:23 AM
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Originally Posted by mcsles
Kavey , it really helps to give me your experiences on Nara and Osaka. We are probably thinking a day trip to see Himeji Castle and a lunch walk in Osaka.
For Osaka, as well as walking around and eating in Dotonbori, we enjoyed walking through the city's food market, Kuromon Ichiba. It's a covered market, and btw there's a fresh fish and seafood store there which also sells excellent sushi and sashimi both to takeaway or to eat in. Very fresh and was very well-priced when we went, long time ago, mind. Also, we loved the DIY kushikatsu restaurants in Osaka, where you have a pot of hot oil at the centre of the table and cook your own skewers. I think it's an Osaka speciality. As is their local variation of okonomiyaki. We also visited the cup noodle museum in Osaka which I enjoyed, there's a bigger one in Yokohama should you prefer. Also enjoyed the little bridges and architecture of Sumiyoshi Taisha, probably Osaka's most famous shrine.

As I say, we didn't love Osaka but we did give it a good go and enjoyed these aspects of it!






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Old Apr 12th, 2024, 05:06 AM
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Kavey, Progol thank you for the goodwill guide tips. Well I currently have a basic itinerary and I found lodging in each area, however 5 of 6 spots have emailed back that I should check back in November or December to book a room for April, 2025. While that makes sense, the Onsens in Okuhida are fully booked over a year in advance. So now I have a few questions about this :
Tokyo 6 nights with side trip to Nikko, Kamakura day trip, maybe even Mt Fuji
Matsumato 2 nights
Okuhida Onsen 2 nights. All are booked at one year out? We read about this Yarimikan Onsen from TR and also Moon Japan guidebook. We were planning at staying at Antique Inn at Takayama so I would think we could skip the Okuhida mountain experience? Also our arrival in Takayama is April 15 for 3 nights. This is right at the time of the Float parade, Sanno Matsuri Festival. i"m thinking that could be a very crowded time but I am not sure if this is a great thing to see or a bad time to be in the city?
Kanazawa 3 nights
Kyoto 6 nights

So I would appreciate your comments on how I might shuffle this itinerary. The mountain region on April 13 for a traditional Onsen experience or another 2 night stay as we will be visiting one in Takayama. Best, MCS
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Old Apr 12th, 2024, 05:28 AM
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mcsles,
It’s very unlikely that the ryokans are booked a year in advance. Typically, many places in Japan only start to book 3 to 6 months out, particularly the smaller places such as the ryokans. I had written to several of the places I was interested in and they wrote back telling me when I could begin to make reservations. That’s not to say that some places don’t book up much earlier but many don’t. This was the case for both Sumiyoshi (Antique Inn) and Yarimikan - I had to wait until the days were open for booking.

If you’re able to be in Takayama during the spring festival, I would do it, though I understand accommodations are much higher and it would definitely be more crowded. But it’s also a top festival and, I’d think, a wonderful experience. But I do understand wanting to avoid crowds. Perhaps because you’re planning to go to Takayama during the festival, though, I wonder if the accommodations are booked up already. I don’t know the answer to that.
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Old Apr 12th, 2024, 08:02 AM
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>> All are booked at one year out?
No. They are not.

>> check back in November or December to book a room for April,
That was good advice. You are right: it does make sense.

You could check for availability sooner for some places. Thinking international chain hotels I checked on availability at Hilton Tokyo and the farthes out you can get today is Feb 25. After that date it shows "sold out".

Crowne Plaza ANA Kumamoto can book up to March 28. This place is near the station and typical for the brand, I guess. I just remember there was a wonderful lady who checked me in, Saori, IIRC.

Nikko Kumamoto is accepting reservations through September, at the moment. So, 6 months out, for this Japanese hotel brand.

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