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nycmary Jul 30th, 2014 12:43 PM

Japan in December
My husband and I are going to Japan the last two weeks in December. We will have 14 full days on the ground. So far, we plan on spending
5 nights (4 days) in Tokyo including two day trips to Kamakura and Yokohama. Wanted to go to Nikko and maybe hike Mt Takao but the weather maybe too cold. Thoughts?
3 nights or 4? nights in Kyoto - is Nara worth a day trip
2 nights Hiroshima - one day visiting Miyajima - wanted to stay for a night - how is the weather there in December?
Last night back in Tokyo
I have 3/4 nights after Hiroshima unaccounted for: what I wanted to know is where can we go to do some hiking/outdoor activities/nature where there is warmer weather and no snow and easy to get to from Hiroshima? I know Iriomote-Jima or Yakoshima might work but they seem pretty far away in terms of time getting there. Any ideas for me?

Also, looking for a good hotel/ryokan or combination for Kyoto. I'm not sure I want to stay in a Ryokan for more than one night - but would like to hear some opinions on this.

Also, the best way to get around from city to city? train, car?
Anyone know any good hiking guides for us? Other guides in some of the cities?
Want to visit an osen, any recommendations for a great experience in the places we will be going?

Am I leaving anything out? I don't want to spend too much time jumping around but at the same time, I won't be back to Japan anytime soon.

Thanks for your help.

VolCrew Jul 30th, 2014 02:20 PM

I was just there last week and would say Nara is worth the train ride from Kyoto for a day trip. Several temples, nice park, easy to reach from train station.

In Kyoto, I stayed 5 nights at the Century adjacent to the train station. It is the smallest hotel I stayed in during my trip, but it should be okay for a few nights. I liked being right beside the station so I could shop and catch the transportation easily.

Kathie Jul 30th, 2014 03:00 PM

You will want to get from place to place by train. The Japanese Rail system is really remarkable.

We spent 6 nights in Kyoto and loved it all. We didn't even have time for Nara. So i'd suggest you add more time to Kyoto.

You might want to consider Hakone for view of Fuji, hiking and onsen.

You might find our report from Nov 2013 useful:

photos are at

Craig Jul 30th, 2014 03:20 PM

I would also recommend more time in Kyoto and yes, Nara is worth a day trip. We stayed in a Ryokan 2 hours outside of Kyoto so can't comment specifically. I would definitely recommend doing it for 1 night and then staying in a hotel (the Hyatt Regency is a pretty good choice). Our November report is here:

kja Jul 30th, 2014 05:20 PM

I'll add my voice to those saying you would do well to consider adding time to Kyoto. And I thought Nara (and nearby Ikaruga) worth 2 full days, rather than just a day trip.

Can you fly into Narita and out of Kansai or vice versa so you don't have to backtrack?

Some info on visiting Japan in winter:

and some info on hiking:

Prachuap Jul 30th, 2014 06:31 PM

I did 4n Kyoto. Was enough. Saw everything I wanted. Did a daytrip to Nara and it was worth it.

Usually 4n is enough to see a fair bit unless the city is really large and Kyoto isnt that big.

Not sure about hiking. Let google guide you.

Kavey Jul 30th, 2014 11:00 PM

I'd also add more time to Kyoto, and if you're able, you can do an overnight in Nara, unless you'd rather not move around.

Not only is there LOADS to see in Kyoto, basing yourself there is good for day trips to Osaka and Kobe, if you like, and we also did a half day to Yamazaki for the whisky distillery (a few hours really, not very far at all) and next time we'll do half day for Uji (for green tea).

If you like the idea, you could also do an overnight trip to Koyasan to stay a night in a temple. We did this in 2012 and really enjoyed it. We stayed in Shojosin-in.

VolCrew Jul 31st, 2014 06:13 PM

I spent 5 nights in Kyoto and it was way too long for me.

BTW, if you want to go see the Imperial Castle there, you have to have a reservation. How do you get a reservation? You have to go to the ticket office. Then you have to stand in line to request a reservation. They give you a card to complete, which you cannot do when you receive it at the ticket desk. You have to get out of line, go to the back and fill it out, then get back in line.

There is no guarantee that you would be able to get in during a day trip. I went with a Japanese companion and we could not both get in. They had one spot left, so I took it. They had already put out the sign saying the tour was full and turning people away for the next day.

Kathie Jul 31st, 2014 06:49 PM

VolCrew's response just goes to show that we are all different.

VolCrew Jul 31st, 2014 07:23 PM

Kyoto's December might be more to my taste. It was murderously hot and humid there two weeks ago.

nycmary Aug 2nd, 2014 05:43 AM

Thanks for all your replies. Has anyone been to Izu Peninsula? If so, is it worth visiting in December? Is the trip long? Also, Kanazawa sounds lovely but would it be good to visit in winter. Also, so far my itinerary is Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, if I add Kanazawa will the travel be too much like hopping around.

Also, since I'm traveling Christmas/New Years I've heard I need to get train tickets in advance. How do I do that? I'm thinking of the Green Car tickets. Are they worth the expense?
Thanks for your help!

cmstraf Aug 2nd, 2014 09:12 AM

I agree with Kathie, Craig, kja--I'd plan more time in Kyoto. We spent 8 nights there on a 3 1/2 week trip in 2008, then a final ninth night after Koya-san, Miyajima and Hiroshima. It was not too much. Though Kyoto is not an easy city, it is magnificent. We stayed at the Westin, well-located. Ask for a renovated room and if you can get a deluxe room it looks to be like it would be worth the difference. Many places in walking distance.

First class tickets were well worth the expense for us. I'd cut back on Tokyo, but that may be because we were there with jet lag. What we did was 3 nights Tokyo, 1 night Hakone, 8 nights Kyoto, 1 night koya-san, 2 nights ryokan on Miyajima, a final night and day in Kyoto.

Some things take planning in advance. Most special is the Moss Temple in Kyoto, a $30 temple and garden that is truly magical. You need to reserve by snail mail in advance. I think I sent japanese currency in cash, can't remember.

Also very special the Miho museum designed by IM Pei one hour outside of Kyoto in mountains. Interplay of beauty of nature, of architecture and of art one of my top travel/art experiences ever

cmstraf Aug 2nd, 2014 09:13 AM

ps Our day trip to NIkko was major disappointment: crowded like Disneyland on Memorial Day.

Kavey Aug 2nd, 2014 09:44 AM

Miho Museum has been on my list ahead of both trips to Kyoto and we've still not been. I'll be back though, so I'll get there eventually. I love the photos I've seen.

kja Aug 2nd, 2014 11:07 AM

"if I add Kanazawa will the travel be too much like hopping around."

IMO, Kanazawa deserves a minimum of 2 days; depending on your interests, 3 would be better.

mrwunrfl Aug 2nd, 2014 12:55 PM

nycmary, there is plenty in Tokyo that you don't need a day trip to Yokohama unless you have a specific interest there.

I visited Izu but only to go to an onsen at a ryokan. Izu is pretty easy to get to - not far from Tokyo. Was very nice, but I did not stay. Would like to go back and stay a couple of nights. I don't recommend it for you.

>>ps Our day trip to NIkko was major disappointment: crowded like Disneyland on Memorial Day.<<

Am curious about when you visited. Was it a Saturday during peak fall colors on a national holiday?

>>VolCrew's response just goes to show that we are all different.<<
Tis true. I would add that we all have different experiences depending on circumstances as VolCrew revealed later. Circumstances like "murderously hot and humid" definitely can affect one's experience.

mrwunrfl Aug 2nd, 2014 01:09 PM

nycmary, here is a good weather stats website that I learned about from Kathie:

Am not suggesting you do this but if you wanted visit Okinawa prefecture then it could fit into your itinerary.

There are nonstop flights from Hiroshima to Naha, Okinawa. ANA, I think, has a daily nonstop. There are nonstops from Naha to both Tokyo Haneda and Tokyo Narita airports.

kalihiwai2 Aug 2nd, 2014 02:51 PM

You have a good itinerary. Some thoughts....
Condense your Kamakura, Yokohama day trip to one day.
You have to face the realization that you can't "do it all", and hope for a return.
That being said you may want to replace the Kamakura/Yokohama day with a overnight to Nikko.
Your Tokyo stay is really shortened a day by your arrival recovery day where you might want to take it easy and not hit the ground running
If you are going the rail pass route which is a good option, you could add Kyushu and Nagasaki or Fukuoka/Dazaifu on the extra days and work back through Hiroshima.The islands off Fukuoka are little traveled and offer warmer weather hiking. Check the >Fukuoka Now< website.
Kyoto is a must but you could spend all two weeks there and barely scratch the surface, same with Tokyo. Check Japan Guide and mark the main sights you'd like to see in four days and leave it at that. Nara may have to be on another trip. The southern islands would probably require too much travel time but the Northern Kyushu area offers a lot of what you might enjoy.
Check out some of the Kyushu trip reports here on the Fodor's Forums. mrwunrfl's idea of in Japan air travel could work for you, some good budget options. Have fun

nycmary Aug 6th, 2014 03:21 PM

Thank you all for your help. I have added a day to Kyoto and I am now looking into going to Fukuoka for the final 3 days (maybe spending one night in Beppe at a Ryokan). As a result, I can omit the last night in Tokyo and fly direct from Fukuoka to Tokyo Narita in the morning for our return flight home.

Any recommendations for places to stay in Fukuoka? Kalihiwai2 - I checked the website you recommended - some good ideas for day trips - any particular island that you think would be worth visiting?

Also, any recommendations for hotels in Hiroshima?

And lastly, I am interested in getting tickets for the Green Car - can I get them in advance? Everyone says that the end of December is heavy travel season so I need to make sure I can get from place to place and not be shut out. Can anyone help me with this?

Again, thanks everyone, this has been so helpful.

kja Aug 6th, 2014 03:39 PM

"any recommendations for hotels in Hiroshima?" -- I didn't stay in Hiroshima, but stayed on Miyajima instead. I was very pleased with Momijiso:

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