Japan in January, a revised plan

Sep 10th, 2019, 05:17 AM
  #1  
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Japan in January, a revised plan

Following a number of comments, mainly re the massive increase in tourist numbers in places like Kyoto on this forum and from friends and family who have spent a lot of time in Japan, I have reconsidered our itinerary. As they say, I used to be indecisive but now I am not so sure

Our original plan was Kyoto 4/Kinosaki Onsen 2/ Tokyo. Quite happy to retain Tokyo as there appears to be loads that we haven’t seen or done.

My current thinking is to embrace the winter weather and to spend time in smaller towns in the mountains in ‘destination type” staring at snow and sky from steaming hot onsens and staying in traditional Ryokan and Minshuku.

We have been to Takayama before in spring but a long time ago and imagine it will seem radically different (and perhaps less crowded) in winter. Loved the sake, hida beef and miso there!

I would plan to either, activate a 7 Day JR pass on arrival at Haneda and use it until our return to Tokyo or , as suggested by mrwunfl in another post, fly to Komatsu on a cheap fare direct from Haneda. We could then pay for the train to Kanazawa and activate the pass when leaving Kanazawa.

At present our route looks something like this:

Kanazawa - 2 nights
Takayama - 2/3 nights
Okuhida Onsen- 1 night
Shirakawa-go or Gokayama - 1night
Tokyo - 3/4 nights (possibly a side trip to Nikko)

I will spend time on Hyperdia to check whether a 7day JR pass is viable (or any other pass anyone can recommend?)

Any thoughts on the use of time, order of the route, transport (especially the logistics of getting to and from Shirakawa-go / Gokayama) or anything else would be greatly appreciated.
crellston is offline  
Sep 10th, 2019, 05:29 PM
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kja
 
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FWIW, I sincerely regret that I gave Kanazawa only 2.5 days, and those were very long, full, busy days and in late May, when days were MUCH longer than when you will be there.

I'm sure more knowledgeable people will weigh in, but I trust you've seen the expert information on how to get to Shirakawa-go / Gokayama on japan-guide.com:
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5953.html
And BTW, I seem to remember one person reporting on a plan to stay in that area one night, and having reserved in advance, only to find that the reservation was for a place impossibly distant from the bus stop during a storm or other inclement weather and having one of those it's-only-value-is-as-a-travel-nightmare-story experience. So let me wish you luck in advance!

I think I've already mentioned that I'm glad I spent a night in Nikko. And again, I was there during a time when daylight hours were much longer. YMMV. And if you do spend a night in Nikko, you might take a look at the Turtle Inn Annex. It's nothing special, but the views were lovely and its small onsen was a delight.
kja is offline  
Sep 10th, 2019, 08:28 PM
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We went to Shirakawa-go as a 1/2 day trip from Takayama. There is a bus that goes hourly that only makes one brief stop. You don't need long there, it takes two hours or less to tour the old houses, and then you can grab a quick bite before heading back to Takayama. We ended up returning on an earlier bus than planned, and there was no extra fee for changing our bus tickets. That should allow you to add a day somewhere else, and you'll do less schlepping.

The bus does not have "restroom" facilities, so hold the green tea for breakfast.
CaliforniaLady is offline  
Sep 10th, 2019, 09:55 PM
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Thanks for the link KJA, having read it, CaliLady’s suggestion of visiting Shirakawa-go as a half day trip from Takayama, seems an attractive option - "less schlepping" is always good! having said that, this being a short trip, I am planning it as an experience, rather than destination based trip and a night in one of those houses does sound like an experience and we have had more "travel-nightmare-story-experiences" than I can remember so one more probably won’t hurt!


I will take a detailed look at what there is to see in Kanazawa but given our likely travel timings, I think we will have one full and two half days there and our MO is not to try and see everything but be pretty selective - what were your highlights KJA?

I am very keen to spend at least one night in an Onsen Ryokan in Okuhida Onsen so need to see how that fits in with travel plans ( I think there are regular buses from Takayama somit shouldn’t be too problematic).

The other thought I had was that I have always liked the idea of hiking part of the Nakasendo Trail between Tsumago and Magome. I think it can be done in two nights so I may take a look on Japan Guide for travel info and, if I drop the overnight in Shirakawa-go and one in Tokyo, maybe I can fit it in.

Thanks for the insights so far.
crellston is offline  
Sep 10th, 2019, 10:16 PM
  #5  
kja
 
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Highlights of Kanazawa ... oh my, so many! Kenroku-en for sure, lots and lots of time there. The garden and an authentic private tea ceremony at Gyokusen-en. The fascinating niches and crannies of Myoryu-ji. Learning about the making of yuzen at Nagamachi Yuzenkan. Lovely Nomura-ke. Beautiful, unusual, Dutch-inspired Seisonkaku. The glorious collections of arts and crafts at the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts and Ishikawa Prefectural Museum for Art, and browsing shops selling affordable, high quality Kanazawa crafts. (By plan, I did most of my shopping for friends and family in Kanazawa -- it has some exquisite and unusual craft traditions.) Oyama Jinja. Just roaming the city -- along the Sai Gawa, through its preserved geisha districts, Nagamachi, the area near Kanazawa-jo.... An outdoor onsen on the rooftop of a hotel I can't, in good conscience, recommend in light of recent reviews.... (You did ask for just what I considered the highlights of my time in Kanazawa! )

Last edited by kja; Sep 10th, 2019 at 10:45 PM.
kja is offline  
Sep 15th, 2019, 11:23 PM
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If you flew to Komatsu airport then you would just take a bus to Kanazawa.

From Kanazawa your best route would be bus to Shirakawago, bus to Takayama, bus to Okuhida.

From Okuhida you would have three options to get to Tokyo:

1) return to Takayama by bus and then take JR via Toyama or Nagoya or

2) continue east by bus to Matsumoto (maybe stop at Kamikochi) and then the JR Super Azusa L'Ex that goes to Shinjuku or

3) take the express bus from Hirayu Onsen to Shinjuku.
https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/highwaybu..._en/#timetable

I enjoyed a January night in Shirakawago.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Sep 15th, 2019, 11:57 PM
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Very useful information and thanks for sharing.
katimiller is offline  
Sep 16th, 2019, 09:07 AM
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Originally Posted by mrwunrfl View Post
2) continue east by bus to Matsumoto (maybe stop at Kamikochi) and then the JR Super Azusa L'Ex that goes to Shinjuku
That won't work. Kamikochi, it turns out, is closed from Nov 15 to mid-April and the road/bus that goes there from Hirayu Onsen is seasonal.

I believe the other road from Hirayu to Matsumoto is open year-round, so the express bus to Shinjuku is probably still an option. There is a bus that takes that road and terminates in Matsumoto.

Here is some more Nohi info, including a map. In addition to the Shinjuku express bus there is one that goes to Fujigoko.
https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/takayama_access/

Last edited by mrwunrfl; Sep 16th, 2019 at 09:10 AM.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Sep 16th, 2019, 01:10 PM
  #9  
 
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I spent the night in Shirakawa-go (walking distance from the bus stop, lol), but I wouldn't say it was a particularly special experience if you are/have stayed in other Japanese style rooms. There might be the advantage of fewer tourists around.
thursdaysd is offline  
Sep 16th, 2019, 04:42 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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I noticed this bus pass: https://option-ticket.mitsuboshi-kaidou.com/
mrwunrfl is offline  
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