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Japan in April - Any place for Serendipity

Japan in April - Any place for Serendipity

Mar 4th, 2006, 05:12 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 551
Japan in April - Any place for Serendipity

I almost have my itinerary in place but there are are a few things to clarify, mainly concerning transport. So here goes:

Day 1 - Arrive 10am after overnight flight from Australia. I'm usually fairly useless this first day so will probably just head to hotel (Hotel Excllent Ebisu) check in and freshen up and explore local area. I figure it will take a couple of hours at least to clear customs, get limousine bus etc. Maybe make it to Shinjuku if I feel up to it.

Day 2 - Sunday so it's Harajuku, maybe the flea market etc. Leaving this fairly unstructured as I have friends to catch up with. Will I be able to validate my JR pass on a Sunday?

Day 3 - Super Azusa to Matsumoto for lunch and quick viewing of Matsumotojo. On to Tsumago and overnight in minshuku.

Day 4 - Explore Kiso valley further, train to Nagoya and then to Kyoto. Staying at Palace Side Hotel which my friends recommended.

Day 5-7 in Kyoto. I haven't allocated specific days except for the 21st which is Toji market, but plan to do a day trip to Okayama and maybe Ohara. Another definite on the itinerary is Arashiyama which I've missed on previous visits to Kyoto. I'd like also to get to Fushimi Inari but am wary of trying to cram too much in.

Day 8 and 9 to Kanazawa . I'm booked at Murataya Ryokan. I'm still debating whether to try to visit Ninja dera. Can this wait till I get there to book?

Day 10 to Shirakawa-go where I stay overnight in gassho- style minshuku. I'm not sure whether to leave Kanazawa on the early bus so as to explore S-go on arrival and leave the following day on the early bus so as to have more time in Takayama, or arrive late and leave late. Or arrive early leave late. Apparently I will have to have busses booked rather than play this by ear.

Day 11 to Takayama - Rickshaw Inn

Day 12-15 This is where I haven't really planned anything specific. At first I was planning to head back to Tokyo and do day trips to Hakone and Yokohama and this is still what I will probably do. Day 15 will be the start of Golden Week so I need to get it booked sharpish.

Having done some calculations, I'm about breaking even on a 14 day rail pass though pay as you go might be cheaper if I used unreserved compartments. I'll probably go with the pass just because it's so convenient, even on the JR lines in Tokyo.

My main question is, just how imperative is it to book seats in advance? Particularly the Nagoya - Kyoto; leg there are so many trains and I don't know how long I'll want to spend in Kiso valley. I don't want to be in a rush to catch a particular train when there'll be others later. Previously I have booked, either online or as soon as I reached Tokyo and hated the anxety of having my eye on the watch and allowing time to get to stations (always too generous, spent much time on railway platforms) so I wonder if I really needed to.

The other part that's worrying me is the buses to and from S-go. Will it be OK if I book seats as soon as I arrive in Kanazawa or should I get it done as soon as I get to Tokyo? Or online?

The other thing I haven't really planned is back ups if the weather is against me.

I've got so many ideas so far on this board and would love your feedback and suggestions. What have I missed out or forgotten? I'll probably be a bit late for sakura most places
but hopefully Takayama at least will wait for me
eigasuki is offline  
Mar 4th, 2006, 09:00 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,034
Ninja-tera...you can wait till you get there to book the tour...couple of things about it I don't like though. One, they outright refuse to offer tours in English in spite of the increasing demand. And, they refuse to allow anyone to have an interpreter...they will not allow any talking or even whispering translation during the tour. That's the main thing. But, they also are not community minded...the local elementary school has experience days for the students, and local businesses allow small groups of children to come visit and conduct simple interviews...Ninja-tera has not allowed the children to visit, ever. The other temples in the area, of which there are many, do allow the children to visit. So, Ninja-tera isn't a place I recommend.

It's also not a big deal if you miss it. It sounds better than it really is.

Train seats...if you don't book them in advance, it is not the end of the world at all. Non-reserved cars are an option all the time. Even if the seats are all occupied, you can stand until one opens up. You can always ride the train, you just might not be able to sit. Unless you are travelling during a peak travel period like Golden Week, school holidays or Obon, then you'll be OK. If you don't mind cigarettes, the non-resesrved smoking car is typically quite empty. You can also make all of your reservations when you arrive in Japan.

I think you might be misunderstanding train fare prices. The cost of a reserved seat is around 500 yen..varies just a little bit. The fare that you pay for the trip is the FARE + CHARGE on hyperdia...not just FARE if you don't have a reservation. Using non-reserved cars will save you very, very little.

If you wanted to see cherry blossoms, consistently, it's been peak during golden week in S-go. You might want to arrange to be there at the end of your trip. Bus reservations to S-go can be made in Kanazawa.
KimJapan is offline  
Mar 4th, 2006, 09:49 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,146
That's a great itinerary.

What day is day 1. You mentioned that one of your days is the start of Golden Week. You could say that GW starts April 27 or 28 because that is when people start traveling (I think).

If it is coming out close, then definitely get a JR Pass. For a long trip like that, when you have multiple stops, then the JR Pass would be worthwhile even if it cost a bit more than how you add up the individual tickets. For that much use, you will benefit from the convenience of it and you won't have to make as many financial decisions (you won't be concerned with the cost of the ticket or the seat res, you just show your pass).

DO NOT get a reserved seat to Kyoto until you get to your Kiso Valley departure station and don't worry about it (for the reasons that KimJapan mentioned). You'll be able to get a reserved seat on the limited express train to Nagoya and a reserved seat ticket for the shinkansen to Kyoto at that time. A lot of people will be getting on/off the shinkansen at Nagoya so I think you will probably get a reserved seat especially since you will be getting it in Nagiso or somewhere in the valley an hour or two before the departure from Nagoya.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Mar 4th, 2006, 04:27 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 551
KimJapan, I think I may have been assuming the two prices on Hyperdia were for the fare and the reserved seat as they are in Europe. That makes the JR pass seem much more worthwhile. First time I went to Japan solo I had a JR pass which didn't really pay for itself $ wise but was so convenient it was worth it. Second time I was based mainly in Tokyo and didn't have one, so got quite adept with ticket machines etc.

But I don't have to scrimp, wait for slower, cheaper trains if I have the pass. Just have to shop around for best deal now.

Thanks for making me feel better about risking getting shinkansen tickets as I go. There aren't too many trains through Nakatsugawa so that will be the determining factor. Is it worth a short stopover in Nagoya to see the sites there? I'll have sent main luggage from Tokyo to Kyoto by Takyuubin and only have small overnight bag with me.

I leave the 29th which is a Saturday so not officially Golden Week but being a Saturday maybe people will be on the move. Only trip of consequence I do that day will be to the airport so guess I will get my Narita Express ticket organised beforehand.

I have already booked accommodation so I don't think I'll be changing the order at this stage in hope of catching sakura - fingers crossed!

Thanks so much for your input. Glad to know Ninja dera isn't a "must-see". I know my basic level Japnese may not be up to the task but thought it might be agood challenge - I'm sure it will be challenged enough anyway.
eigasuki is offline  
Mar 5th, 2006, 12:37 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,146
The only risk you would be taking would be to risk not having a reserved seat. Doesn't mean you won't get a seat. I think it is probably less of a risk on the train from Nakatsugawa.

Here is an example of the fare and charge. Nakatsugawa to Nagoya has a "Total amount of money" of 2940 yen. That total comer from a "fare" of 1280 plus a "charge" of 1660. The "charge" consists of a limited express surcharge of 1160 and a reserved seat charge of 500 (the 500 yen charge that KimJapan mentioned. The minimum you would pay for that trip on that train would be 2440 (the fare plus the surcharge) since the reserved seat fee is optional.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Mar 5th, 2006, 05:52 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 551
Yes I think that part is clear now, I'll wing it with the trains for the most part.

Now as regards the weather it will be mild for the most part - to coolish. So will a jacket over short sleeves be enogh for Tokyo with something warmer for the Alps be in order? Will I need my polar fleece enough to justify carting it around? I'm assuming it will rain at least some of the time so I plan to bring a rain jacket which rolls up quite small and folding umbrella. Will it be the light kind of rain which lets you continue with most plans or soaking, run-for-cover rain? It's been a while since I've even seen rain!
eigasuki is offline  
Mar 17th, 2006, 04:06 PM
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Posts: 551
Not sure if I should start a new topic for this but here goes...

I will be catching up with friends while in Tokyo. One of these friends has asked me to stay with her and her young family. I have already booked accommodation and really would prefer my independence. I'm sure she is just asking out of kindness. Would I offend her if I declined her offer and just visited for one day?

Also is there anything interesting we can do on that day near to where she lives in Tokorozawa? She has a three year old son so I don't want to do anything too taxing but don't really want to spend too much of my short time in Tokyo just sitting around and playing with a small child. Does that make me sound too awful? I really do look forward to seeing them- he had just starting walking last time I visited and I was able to capture some of those first steps on video for them (pity it was useless cos my camera was PAL but the thought was there and I still have the video)
eigasuki is offline  
Mar 18th, 2006, 01:22 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 26
you can validate your JR Pass at Narita Airport - just tell them the date you want to start using it.

from Guess Who (who's also going to Japan in July!!)
japanfreak is offline  

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