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Japan - first timer - itinerary help please!

Japan - first timer - itinerary help please!

Old Aug 28th, 2016, 04:37 AM
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Japan - first timer - itinerary help please!

Hi! My hubby and I just booked a last minute, impulsive trip to Japan! We are experienced travellers but haven't been to any countries in Asia except for Singapore and Hong Kong.
We have 12.5 full days in the country (plus travel days). We are there for the first 2 weeks of October.
We fly in and out of Tokyo.
I am completely at the beginning of investigating our itinerary but at this stage thinking Tokyo- Kyoto- Osaka with day trips to Mt Fuji.
I'm after any advice regarding recommended time in these destinations, neighbourhoods to stay in and 'must do' tourist activities.
We enjoy good food, walks, photography, exploring and history. We like being independent but happy to do good day tours and walking tours etc. We'd prefer to see a few destinations properly than several in a rush!
Our budget will be ok to stay in decent hotels in central neighbourhoods.
As I research more, I will have more specific questions but any starting tips would be welcome and appreciated. Thank you!
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Old Aug 28th, 2016, 09:19 AM
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Of the destinations you list, we found Kyoto the most interesting. We had a bit longer for our trip, and spent 5 full day (6 nights) in Kyoto and didn't see everything on our list. We opted not to go to Osaka, just not enough time.

When you say you want to go to Mt. Fuji, what do you mean? Are you looking for fabulous views of Fuji or do you want to climb it? We went to Hakone for the wonderful views of Fuji. We spent two nights there and felt it was time well-spent.

Do you have any hotel points? We found Japan to be an excellent place to use our Hyatt points.

We found no need for day tours.

Happy planning!

our trip photos: http://www.marlandc.com/Japan-2013
Kathie is online now  
Old Aug 28th, 2016, 09:59 AM
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If you haven't already done so, consult japan-guide.com -- the single best resource for information about Japan. You can also look at the many, many planning threads on this board, as your questions are very common ones.

Like Kathie, I skipped Osaka and thought 6 days the bare minimum for Kyoto and Nara. And like Kathie, I found no need for day tours.

Japan is delightful - enjoy!
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Old Aug 28th, 2016, 03:01 PM
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And what does that mean in real terms - e.g., dollars or yen?

You may get far more bang for your buck in an airbnb or homeaway rental - there are ton(ne)s in Tokyo and Kyoto.

And yeah, go to japan-guide.com and use it liberally. Also use hyperdia.com to check train routing to wherever you want to go.
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Old Aug 28th, 2016, 03:02 PM
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It's all up to what appeals to you of course. Many people do what you suggest, and split their time between Tokyo and the Kansai Region (Kyoto/Nara/Osaka/Kobe etc). But don't feel like you should be locked down to the beaten path.

Obviously you're not going to be climbing Mt Fuji, unless you are experienced mountaineers. Climbing season for the general public is Jul-Aug. So you need to decide what area you will go to. Some choose the Hakone area, while others pick the Fuji 5 Lakes.
Some Odakyu passes can save you some money.
Like the answers above say, you don't really need to focus on Osaka. But you should not ignore it completely either. Since you are already seeing Tokyo, you can largely skip Osaka during the day. But after the temples of Kyoto close down around 5PM, you can easily zoom over to Osaka for the evening. At night the city comes alive and has some great places to see, such as Dotonbori, plus the night views from the Umeda Sky Bldg and Abeno Harukas Bldg are stunning.

I would suggest 3-4 days in Tokyo are about enough, with the rest of your time in the area for some good day trips. You already mentioned the Fuji area. You also might like a day trip to Nikko and/or Kamakura.

I'd also say doing it yourself is the better way to go - forget the led by the nose tours.

If you want to take the 50/50 route that many do, than there are a couple ways to do it. The cheapest way into Tokyo is by the 1000 yen bus.
But there is also the Keisei+Metro package which is worth noting:
That together with a japanican ticket to Kyoto and back gives the fastest way there and at a lower price than the JR Pass.
For the Tokyo area, there is the Tobu Nikko Free Pass, Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass, and Tokyo Wide Pass to help you.

However, if you use the Narita Express just once, that with the trip to Kyoto and back makes a 7 day pass pay off - and if you add in a day trip to Nikko for example, and even a day or half day to see Himeji (with Japan's finest castle), you can really start to reap some big savings.

There's also a standalone 2-3 day Tokyo subway day pass that can save you a lot:
Kyoto also has a good 500 yen bus day pass.

So consider each of these and choose which you like better, if you want to go that route.
Lastly, while I use Japan Guide a lot and it's generally up to date and accurate, you shouldn't solely rely on that alone or any other single site. One of the best things you can do is check out the official city websites - most have their own tourist info pages and include sights listed nowhere else.
For Tokyo, have a look at:
and for Kyoto:
and be sure to include at least a half day for Nara as well - it has some of Japan's best sights.
For hotels, it depends on what you are happy with, but if you'd like a budget-friendly choice, there are many business hotel chains across the country that are clean, decent, inexpensive, and conveniently located. Many even throw in breakfast for free. Look at Toyoko Inn, Superhotel, Comfort Inn, Route Inn, Dormy Inn etc. And if you can, stay at a Japanese inn (ryokan) for a night - it is a great experience. Prices range from moderate to sky high, so do some research.
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Old Aug 28th, 2016, 06:03 PM
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I'm not sure I've found one person who's raved about Osaka. I plan to visit Dotomboti as an evening dinner trip from Kyoto when I return to Japan next spring, but I've yet to hear of a compelling reasons to give it precious day time.

With 12.5 days for a first trip, I'd do something like:

2.5 days Tokyo
5 days Kyoto
2 days Nara (didn't go on my first trip but it's in trip #2 itinerary
1 day to visit Himeji from Kyoto
2 days Hakone to (hopefully) view the majestic Fuji-San

Be sure to come back to us with more questions after you assemble a first draft itinerary. I wouldn't dawdle. Hotels are already filling up fast, so time's-a-wastin.
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Old Aug 29th, 2016, 12:28 AM
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I am so grateful for all of your suggestions, I really am. Thank you!! Frantically researching and will come back soon with a draft itinerary!
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Old Aug 30th, 2016, 09:38 AM
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It's easy to underestimate how much there is to see and enjoy in and near Kyoto, so I would give yourself at least 4 or 5 nights there, and more to allow for day trips and half day trips out to places like Nara, Osaka, Uji, Yamazaki, Kobe...

You could also do two day / one night trip out to Hiroshima and Miyajima, which is a wonderful experience.

Likewise, you might enjoy a 1 night overnight trip to Mount Koya (known as Koya-san), the spiritual centre of Shingon Buddhism - you can stay overnight in a temple and observe prayer in the morning, and experience a traditional shojin ryori (monks' cooking) meal.

If you want to do all of that, then that along with a few nights in Tokyo, would be a lovely itinerary.

Some advise not to split your Tokyo nights, but for all three of our trips we've appreciated having one or more nights in Tokyo on arrival and then at least two back there before departure.
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Old Sep 4th, 2016, 10:44 PM
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Hi everyone
I posted this potential itinerary as a reply in another post, but wanted the people who have already assisted me to have a look as well... so sorry if you see this twice.
At this stage I am considering:
Day 1: Flying (arrive Narita 7pm)
Day 2 / 3/ 4/5 - Tokyo, leaving Tokyo late day 5.(Booked 4 nights in Tokyo already - thank you Expedia sale)
Day 6/7 Maybe Hakone - not sure as yet though
Day 8/9/10/11 - Kyoto with a side trip to Nara (overnight?) and an evening in Osaka
Day 12/13 Back to Tokyo, flying home on the evening of day 13.
How does this sound?
Apart from Tokyo, other parts can be changed!
Thank you!
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Old Sep 4th, 2016, 11:38 PM
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The OP has started a new thread -- please post THERE, not here!
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