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Japan - first draft itinerary for fall 2023 - feedback appreciated

Japan - first draft itinerary for fall 2023 - feedback appreciated

Old Mar 16th, 2023, 12:41 PM
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Japan - first draft itinerary for fall 2023 - feedback appreciated

I’ve roughed out a plan for our my husband’s and my trip to Japan for autumn 2023. We’ll be arriving October 21 and will have a total of 26 nights. We are interested in getting a taste of traditional cultures, exposure to some scenic vistas, and enjoying some of the dynamic energy of the cities, especially Tokyo. I’m trying to avoid too many stops and staying away from 1-night stops.

We fly into Haneda and out of Osaka (ITM).

I’ve heard that the Noto Peninsula is beautiful and feels very “away”. If we do stay here, it would probably be the one place I’d rent a car.

I’m back and forth on including Koyasan but it sounds special enough to include it. Given that we are flying out of Osaka, it seems to make sense to include a brief stay in Osaka. It’s not a lot but it will give us a taste and make it easier to get to the airport.

Tokyo - 6
-day trip to Kamakura
Matsumoto - 2
Takayama -3
Kanazawa - 3
(Noto Peninula )2
Kyoto - 6
Koyasan - 2
Osaka -2

What do you think? Too many places? Consolidate any of the stays? Anything missing that we should include? I realize Japan has been very busy since it reopened and this is pretty much all on the tourist route, but are there any places we should see that are less busy?

If we dropped Koyasan and Osaka, and ended in Kyoto, I’d add the days to a few of the other stops. Would that be wiser? Or is Koyasan special enough to include?

Thanks for your feedback!

Last edited by progol; Mar 16th, 2023 at 12:52 PM.
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Old Mar 16th, 2023, 02:51 PM
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I would recommend including Koya-san, but be careful about which temple you chose for the overnight.

I don't see any reason to stay in Osaka if you don't especially want to - you are flying out of KIX, right? There is an airport bus to/from Kyoto - https://www.kate.co.jp/en/. I stayed in Nara as well as Kyoto on my last trip, but you can do it as a day trip from Kyoto. Actually, you could go Kanazawa/Noto - Nara - Koya-san - Kyoto.

Consider an overnight in Shirakawa-go on the way to Kanazawa - or at least a stop. Don't miss the Art Nouveau museum in Takayama. Add a day trip to Nikko from Tokyo.
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Old Mar 16th, 2023, 03:00 PM
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That looks good. Your last day is Nov 16?

You could move Kyoto to be last for two reasons. It is good to have the long stay at the end and it would be right around peak fall color in Kyoto. It is farther from ITM than Osaka. I would not like going ITM->Kyoto after 12-hours+ of traveling, but the trip to ITM airport would be ok (depending on flight departure time).

If I ever make it to Koyasan I think it would be 1 night at most. I have not been to Noto. I think that would be fun and less touristed.

If you dropped elsewhere you could add to Kanazawa. Day trip (maybe with that car) to Shirakawago. Maybe train to see Kurobe Gorge but I would recommend an overnight in Unazuki Onsen. I did that (i will have to check, maybe it was two nights) and stayed at a very Japanese hotel ryokan with onsen. By very Japanese I mean the style of the place as well as the guests (I think there were one or two other gaijin). That was well into November and the gorge trip was quite cold. It certainly can be a longer stay if you wanted to make stops and explore the gorge.

The one thing to think about is getting frrom Matsumoto to Takayama to Kanazawa. One way is by train, going around mountains twice. Like a McDonalds M or an S-kinda route. Or you can go straight across in a line by bus or car. Or a combination. In the case of going by road you would have Kamikochi, Hirayu Onsen and that mountain around there, and Shirakawago.

"Hirayu Onsen and that mountain around there" - lol, I was thinking of the Okuhida area between Kamikochi and Takayama.
Okuhida Travel Guide - What to do in Okuhida (japan-guide.com)
there's a scenic vista for you

Last edited by mrwunrfl; Mar 16th, 2023 at 03:24 PM.
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Old Mar 16th, 2023, 04:47 PM
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Thanks, thursdaysd and mrwunrfl,

I would prefer to end in Kyoto, but am still unclear how we’d get to Koyasan if coming from Kanazawa/Noto. I would prefer to avoid driving a car, so it looks like a bit of a trek to get to Koyasan. That’s why I thought we’d stay in Kyoto first and end in Osaka, but I prefer your recommendations if the travel isn’t too difficult.

I’ll look at your suggestion for the ryokan and the onsen. They sound wonderful and the type of off the beaten path I’d like to include.
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Old Mar 16th, 2023, 05:11 PM
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For Noto you pick up and return the car in Kanazawa. You will take the limited express train from Kanazawa south to Kansai region, but beyond Kyoto:
Kanazawa
Osaka -2

Koyasan - 2
Kyoto - 6


Or Nara instead of Osaka, as thursdaysd suggested. I would go with Osaka, though. Part of the reason for the stop is to set you up for going to Koyasan from there (using the public transport available). It breaks up the trip from Kanazawa to Koyasan which is not simple.

OTOH, if you did have two nights at Koyasan then you would have lots of time to get there from Kanazawa that day and then you would have a full day and night and some more the next day for Koyasan.

In any case, I would ship luggage to the destination after Koya and then just take a backpack there for the night or two.

Last edited by mrwunrfl; Mar 16th, 2023 at 05:14 PM.
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Old Mar 16th, 2023, 05:31 PM
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Thanks, mrwunrfl. It’s something to think about. I definitely prefer ending in Kyoto and Osaka is not really a priority for this trip. While I’m sure there is plenty to see, we’ll have plenty of big city life, and I’d rather avoid it. Nara is a thought.

I’m looking at Okuhida and am very intrigued. I might consider dropping Koyasan altogether and including this area instead. It’s certainly easier to get to! I’m still trying to contain the trip and not have too many stops or 1/2 night stays.
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Old Mar 16th, 2023, 07:05 PM
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I would spend a couple of nights in Kamakura. It was a favorite place of ours and there is so much to see so it deserves at least one full day. A day trip from Tokyo will hardly do it justice.
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Old Mar 17th, 2023, 02:59 AM
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Originally Posted by laurieco View Post
I would spend a couple of nights in Kamakura. It was a favorite place of ours and there is so much to see so it deserves at least one full day. A day trip from Tokyo will hardly do it justice.
laurieco, thanks. Iím considering a stay there but will definitely include a day trip if we donít. Iím really trying to keep the number of stops limited.
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Old Mar 17th, 2023, 06:41 AM
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Originally Posted by progol View Post
laurieco, thanks. Iím considering a stay there but will definitely include a day trip if we donít. Iím really trying to keep the number of stops limited.
When in Kyoto, do try and get to the Miho Museum. You can take a bus from Kyoto, it takes about an hour. One of the highlights of our trips to Japan.

https://www.miho.jp/en/
eta: the link to English doesnít always work for some reason so maybe you can choose English from the main site
https://www.miho.jp/

Last edited by laurieco; Mar 17th, 2023 at 06:44 AM.
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Old Mar 17th, 2023, 07:05 AM
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Originally Posted by laurieco View Post
When in Kyoto, do try and get to the Miho Museum. You can take a bus from Kyoto, it takes about an hour. One of the highlights of our trips to Japan.

https://www.miho.jp/en/
eta: the link to English doesn’t always work for some reason so maybe you can choose English from the main site
https://www.miho.jp/
Thanks, Laurie. Neither of the links worked but I did a search and was able to find it and then access the English page. But I went back to my link and couldn't get in. It looks like it's reopening today after 3 months closed so may take a while for the website to work effectively.

Last edited by progol; Mar 17th, 2023 at 07:07 AM.
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Old Mar 17th, 2023, 08:04 AM
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You are getting some good ideas. Do think about the sending luggage ahead -- we did that a couple times and it was easy and no issues.
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Old Mar 17th, 2023, 08:23 AM
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Thanks, yestravel! Lots of good ideas and I'm SO torn...

I'm really intrigued by Okuhida, mrwunrfl's recommendation, and it looks very accessible, too. I'm working that into our itinerary. I'm also considering laurieco's suggestion of staying in Kamakura, and am thinking it might be a good place to start the trip. So my current rough draft looks like this:

Kamakura - 3
-Hakone day trip
Tokyo - 5
Matsumoto - 2
Okuhida - 2
Takayama - 3
Kanazawa - 3
Noto Peninsula - 2 (rent car for this stretch only)
Kyoto - 6

I think we have one too many 2-night stops and would consider eliminating one of them. I'm leaning toward eliminating Kamakura, and keeping it as a day trip from Tokyo. I'd prefer to balance out the very popular places with quieter places, so like the idea of Okuhida and Noto Peninsula. We could, conceivably, do a day trip from Kanazawa, but that doesn't sound as interesting.

Thoughts?


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Old Mar 17th, 2023, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by progol View Post
Thanks, mrwunrfl. Itís something to think about. I definitely prefer ending in Kyoto and Osaka is not really a priority for this trip. While Iím sure there is plenty to see, weíll have plenty of big city life, and Iíd rather avoid it. Nara is a thought.

Iím looking at Okuhida and am very intrigued. I might consider dropping Koyasan altogether and including this area instead. Itís certainly easier to get to! Iím still trying to contain the trip and not have too many stops or 1/2 night stays.
True, good thinking, you do have a lot of big city. Japan has tons of natural beauty. There is a lot of it in the Japan Alps.

You have two legs to travel: Matsumoto to Takayama and from there to Kanazawa. The "M" route would be by train, going via Toyama on both legs.The train ride between Toyama and Takayama is supposed to be very scenic, one of the best in Japan. I read about it before a typhoon wiped a bridge or something but I don't think the routing has changed. The other train change on that route would be at Nagano. I remember having quite a view on the train from Matsumoto as it got close to Nagano.

The "S" route would go via Toyama and Nagoya, or vice versa, riding the length of the Takayama Line between Toyama and Nagano. No backtracking to Toyama.

The trip would be on limited express trains and shinkansen.

The other way, straight across the Alps by bus/car would give you Kamikochi, Okuhida area, and on the other side of Takayama would be Shirakawago. I pretty strongly that you get reserved seats on the buses in advance (because I freaked out a bit when I got to Kamikochi and immediately got a bus reservation to Matsumoto several hours later and the bus was almost sold out (the bus did have jump seats for the last couple people who didn't have reserved seats)). The bus seats in Japan not being near as comfy as train seat.

Kamikochi can be a day trip from Matsumoto or a stop for a few hours on the way to Takayama. (I think someone was staying in Kamikochi, maybe ms_go, and I hope to see a trip report about it). There is a loop: bus from Kamikochi and then the ropeway up the mountain and then hike down to Kamikochi. I think it could be a day trip.

Okuhida could be a day trip from Takayama. Shirakawago could be a day trip from Takayama or Kanazawa. It is popular as a day trip - by the busloads. Staying overnight in a gassho zukuri, after the day-trippers leave and the tour bus parking lot is emptied, would be quite worthwhile. At least, I loved it, in snowy January with not many tourists to start with. There is a very scenic viewpoint that you can't miss..

Takayama is a town with easy walking/biking and you can see the main sights in one full day. Hida no Sato is up a hill to the west, you can bus up and walk back. There is a shrine path east of town that I think is a bit hilly, IDK if it qualifies as a hike or walk.

Here are some links to one place I mentioned. Your timing would be better than mine for fall colors (which might also mean more tourists). Stay in Unazuki Onsen or day trip from Kanazawa, it is between Toyama and Kanazawa.

Kurobe Gorge Travel Guide - What to do in the Kurobe Kyokoku (japan-guide.com)

Autumn Color Reports 2019 - Kurobe Gorge: Starting to Change (japan-guide.com)

It is pretty, but it is a gorge, so not much in the scenic vistas department


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Old Mar 17th, 2023, 08:58 AM
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I just saw your revised draft itin. Going from the airport to Kamakura is not a good idea, imo. You could do it (I would not) but Tokyo first makes more sense.Three! nights there is three too many (for me). Ok, Hakone might be an easier day trip from there than from Tokyo. Actually, getting to Hakone was just a one train ride from Shinjuku (Odakyu Romance Car) was pretty easy and getting from Hakone to Kamakura involved two or three local trains (two JR and the Enoden, IIRC). But I was delighted by the three little girls that sat with me on the one local train.
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Old Mar 17th, 2023, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by mrwunrfl View Post
I just saw your revised draft itin. Going from the airport to Kamakura is not a good idea, imo. You could do it (I would not) but Tokyo first makes more sense.Three! nights there is three too many (for me). Ok, Hakone might be an easier day trip from there than from Tokyo. Actually, getting to Hakone was just a one train ride from Shinjuku (Odakyu Romance Car) was pretty easy and getting from Hakone to Kamakura involved two or three local trains (two JR and the Enoden, IIRC). But I was delighted by the three little girls that sat with me on the one local train.
Why isn’t it a good idea? I thought it would be a more relaxing place to adjust to the time and culture. You don’t like Kamakura or is it a hassle from the airport? It looks like it’s an hour away which isn’t bad.

Edited: So I see it requires several transfers, so you’re right, it isn’t a good idea. I’ll go back to starting in Tokyo then and forget this idea of starting in Kamakura.

Last edited by progol; Mar 17th, 2023 at 09:12 AM.
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Old Mar 17th, 2023, 09:29 AM
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It is that extra travel from the airport that made me gasp at the plan - but I was thinking Narita. But, ok, from Haneda it could be just a bus to Ofuna and then a train. Getting to a Tokyo hotel could be more difficult (or easier). I suppose it could be a more relaxing place (tho relaxing is more for the end of the trip, imo, but I get the idea). It would be easier to go from Tokyo to Matsumoto than from Kamakura, just the Super Azusa L'Ex from Shinjuku. My first few trips I did want to get out of Tokyo, or skip it altogether, for less hyper places but have come to enjoy Tokyo and it would be my first stop. But this is not my trip: it is up to you, of course.

Where are you planning to stay in Tokyo.
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Old Mar 17th, 2023, 09:36 AM
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The three uniformed little girls got on the train with a woman. One girl sat next to me, the other two facing me, and the woman across the aisle.

The girl on the left was bold and asked me three questions while the other two giggled and the woman looked on.

She asked in English:
Where are you from?
What is your name?
What do you?

She was pleased with each answer: America, Bill, computah. It was so cute, am thinking yet again: omg I love this place.

Last edited by mrwunrfl; Mar 17th, 2023 at 09:38 AM.
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Old Mar 17th, 2023, 09:54 AM
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Japan has a brilliant baggate delivery service: Takuhaibin (Takkyubin) - Delivery Services (japan-guide.com)

I move around a bit. I take one large bag and one small bag or small backpack. Arrive Narita and send the big bag from there to Kanazawa. Take the small bag for two days in Tokyo. Reunite with big bag and use it for a couple days in Kanazawa. Take fresh clothing for two days from big bag and put in small bag. Ship big bag to the stop after next. Towards the end the big bag gets sent to the airport a couple days in advance. With two people, I think I would be combining clean clothing into one bag, travel with that, and shipping the other ahead. Something like that.
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Old Mar 17th, 2023, 09:55 AM
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Where are you planning to stay in Tokyo.”

I haven’t narrowed it down, but either Ginza, Asakusa or by Tokyo Station.

I like the idea of Asakusa, since it sounds a bit more traditional and a little less expensive. Ginza and Tokyo Station sound easiest And more convenient. We’re not high end travelers - generally mid-range (which varies with location), but I do like comfort and decent amenities.

Any recommendations?

Last edited by progol; Mar 17th, 2023 at 10:10 AM.
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Old Mar 17th, 2023, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by mrwunrfl View Post
Japan has a brilliant baggate delivery service: Takuhaibin (Takkyubin) - Delivery Services (japan-guide.com)

I move around a bit. I take one large bag and one small bag or small backpack. Arrive Narita and send the big bag from there to Kanazawa. Take the small bag for two days in Tokyo. Reunite with big bag and use it for a couple days in Kanazawa. Take fresh clothing for two days from big bag and put in small bag. Ship big bag to the stop after next. Towards the end the big bag gets sent to the airport a couple days in advance. With two people, I think I would be combining clean clothing into one bag, travel with that, and shipping the other ahead. Something like that.
Now thatís creative! Iíll have to figure out if we can work the baggage-forwarding like that.
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