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Japan: Itinerary drafted, looking for recommendations

Japan: Itinerary drafted, looking for recommendations

Mar 22nd, 2012, 04:24 AM
  #1  
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Japan: Itinerary drafted, looking for recommendations

Hello everyone,
I've now drafted a provisional itinerary for our October trip, which is as follows.

Day1 Arrive Tokyo early evening
Day2 Tokyo
Day3 -> Takayama
Day4 Takayama area
Day5 -> Nara
Day6 Kyoto
Day7 Kyoto
Day8 Kyoto
Day9 Kyoto
Day10 Kyoto -> Mount Koya
Day11 Mount Koya -> Osaka
Day12 Osaka -> Hiroshima & Miyajima
Day13 -> Tokyo
Day14 Nikko (day trip from Tokyo)
Day15 Tokyo
Day16 Tokyo
Day17 Tokyo
Day18 LEAVE

The reason we have 2 nights in Takayama area is that we're planning to combine seeing the town with an onsen experience, and there are a number of options in that area.

At the moment, we have Nara as immediately after Takayama, to keep all our nights in Kyoto together, but the other option is to first go to Kyoto, spend one night there, then head out to Nara for a night, and return to Kyoto for the rest of our stay. That may be better in terms of time available to spend in Nara, but may make Kyoto hotel booking slightly more complicated. Thoughts?

On day 12, we're currently planning to visit Hiroshima and overnight in Miyajima but a friend recently suggested swapping that to visit Miyajima and then visit/ overnight in Hiroshima. Her point was there is very little to do of an October evening in Miyajima. Any thoughts on this?

We will likely to do some short trips from Kyoto that I've not listed, but also take it easy and enjoy the city, and also do some shopping there too.

In Tokyo, I've listed the main day trip we're planning, the rest of the time is for the city itself.

If you have any recommendations for accommodations, restaurants and sightseenig please let me know.

Our plan is to splash out for a few nights, accommodation wise (probably onsen/ Nara and Mount Koya) and look to reduce spending elsewhere. We're torn because I like the idea of traditional Japanese accommodation but know that my hips will thank me for beds higher off the ground, and I really do like an ensuite bathroom. Will forego it for few nights, yes.

Likewise, on food, we're not able to spend the 20,000 yen kind of price tag that many good restaurants charge, so we'll splash out once or twice (in addition to the ryokan/dining option one or two nights) and welcome recommendations for those splurge nights, but looking to really spend far far far less the rest of the time.

We'll be buying a 14 day Japan Rail Pass, which is also why Nara is right after our arrival back in Tokyo.

Anything I'm missing or should take into consideration?

THANK YOU!
Kavey is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 04:34 AM
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Is this Africa's Kavey?

Not an expert on Japan but in October you will be there during the Cherry Blossom and it should be beautiful. Hope the resident experts will give you some fantastic recommendations!
Hanuman is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 06:34 AM
  #3  
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Yeah it's me! Hello!

I think cherry blossom is in spring, so April/May but I think we'll be there for fall.
Kavey is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 07:03 AM
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You've done your homework it seems by the looks of your itinerary.

Yes cherry blossoms are in the spring but you may experience the "koyo" or the fall colors. I have written a couple of trip reports on the koyo of Japan and if you are interested click on my screen name, you may pick up a few tips.

From your present plans you may see colors in the mountains around Takayama and almost assuredly around Nikko if you go on up to the Lake Chuzenji area. The Irohazaka Hwy up towards Chuzenji-ko would be fabulous if your timing is right.

I would do Nara after Kyoto. Easy to get to Koyasan from Nara. Your JR Pass will be almost useless to you on the way up to Koyasan and is not very user friendly throughout the Kansai region. Depends on what you want to see. See here if you haven't already about the transport system up to Koyasan. Use the toggle switch to/from and click Nara.

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4904.html

Over nighting on Miyajima is a good idea and renting a ryokan is the way to go there along with Takayama. I would see Hiroshima first then take the ferry to Miyajima and explore the island before checking into your ryokan. You can leave you luggage with your ryokan upon arrival on the island then go off to explore till check-in time. You won't have much time with only a day but if that's all you have then.....

Have you seen this site for ryokan rentals throughout Japan? I have used them often with fabulous results.

http://japaneseguesthouses.com/index.htm

Let me know if you have more questions.

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 07:06 AM
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I didn't think so but it looks like a 14-day pass works (I did a quick check of fares for Tokyo-Takayama-Hiroshima-Tokyo, which basically is your JR route, and came up with approx 50,000 JPY > the 45000 pass.

I agree with your friend about Miyajima being dead at night. OTOH, you could find a nice ryokan (like Momijiso) for one traditional ryokan night.

Day 11 I would consider going straight on through to Hiroshima, but what you have probably gives more time to spend at Koyasan.

The only onsen in Takayama is at the Green Hotel. It is possible to visit the onsen baths there without staying there. Gero onsen is a 42 min train ride from Takayama and on your route to/from Takayama.

Kyoto-Nara-Kyoto is a good option. No big deal in making two reservations for Kyoto. You would be able to leave bags at your Kyoto hotel and just take the minimum you need for the overnight trip to Koyasan. This would add a trip from your hotel to Kyoto station (as opposed to just traveling through Kyoto to Nara, as you have it on Day 5). But you would have more time in Nara this way and you would be in Kyoto, so easier to get to Hiroshima/Miyajima.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 07:11 AM
  #6  
 
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take the minimum you need for the overnight trip to Koyasan Nara

And Takayama-Kyoto would be a ~3-hour trip vs Takayama-Nara at ~4-hours.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 08:50 AM
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Hawaiian traveller, thanks, yes I've been spending a lot of time surging th web plus picking the brains of friends who've been to Japan.

When you say JRPass won't be of use to get to Koyasan, am assuming I can use it to get to the cable car station, and it's just the cable car and the bus at the top which won't be covered, is that right?

And yep, Japanese Guest Houses site is one I'm planning to be using, will get some bookings made as soon as the itinerary is nailed down in final version.



Mr Wunrfl

I've set my itinerary to use the 14 day pass from our arrival to Day 14 (Nikko) and then pay single trip back to airport on last day.

However, I could instead pay single trip from airport into Tokyo on arrival, and then use the 14 day pass from day 2 to day 16, allowing me to move Nikko a day or two later, which may work better.

Any thoughts?

Regarding the Hiroshima / Miyajima overnight choice, any thoughts on pros or cons for each?

Have found some other accommodations at Takayama that do have onsen spa, for example, my favourite which was hoping would be a splurge night, is the Hidatei Hanaougi, however they're not accepting bookings whatsoever, no matter how hard I try, so am looking at alternatives...

Good to know re splitting the Kyoto stay.
Kavey is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 09:24 AM
  #8  
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Also, does anyone know the JapanHotel.net booking service? Reliable, accurate, any experiences? THANKS
Kavey is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 09:26 AM
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If leaving from JR Kyoto station on the JR pass this would be your route. You would have to pay starting from the Shin-Imamiya station in Osaka.

You would take a JR special rapid train from Kyoto Station to Osaka Station (30 minutes, departs every 10-15 minutes) and change to the JR Osaka Loop Line (inner loop) to Shin-Imamiya Station (15 minutes, frequent departures). The entire trip is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

From Shin-Imamiya Station take the Nankai Koya Line to the Gokurakubashi terminal station. A few limited express trains operate directly to Gokurakubashi (80 minutes, 1610 yen, five per day). Otherwise take an express or rapid express train (100 minutes, 850 yen, departs every 10-30 minutes), most of which require a transfer at Hashimoto Station along the way.

At Gokurakubashi, transfer to the cablecar which travels up the mountain to Koyasan. The ride takes about five minutes and costs 380 yen. From the top station, it is a ten minute bus ride into the town center (280 yen to Senjuinbashi bus stop). Note that it is not permitted to walk along the street which connects the cablecar station with the town center. To save money consider using a Koyasan World Heritage Ticket or Kansai Thru Pass explained here:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2357_005.html

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2358_012.html

The Kansai thru pass can be used for some of your time in Kyoto and would make transport from Nara or Kyoto much easier as you would be able to utilize the Kintetsu or Nankai lines. Figure out which pass or what method would be better for your itinerary.

There is also the airport limosine bus service which I frequently use with service door to door for a lot of hotels in Tokyo and the vicinity. No need to carry your bags around. If you buy a round trip ticket they have a pass and metro deal that will get you a Tokyo Metro(subway)pass. See here for details:

http://www.limousinebus.co.jp/en/

http://www.limousinebus.co.jp/discou.../en/index.html

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 09:30 AM
  #10  
 
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Have found some other accommodations at Takayama that do have onsen spa, for example, my favourite which was hoping would be a splurge night, is the Hidatei Hanaougi, however they're not accepting bookings whatsoever, no matter how hard I try, so am looking at alternatives...

Lots of Japanese ryokan and hotels do not take bookings till 6 months beforehand so try later in April to make those reservations.

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 09:49 AM
  #11  
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They've said they would not be taking any direct reservations for those dates, and have handed full availability to japanican but I think not open for booking until closer in than 6 months...
Kavey is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 07:29 PM
  #12  
kja
 
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sounds like a lovely trip!

> Day5 -> Nara
Day6 - ... 9 Kyoto
Day10 Kyoto -> Mount Koya

I love that you are planning to spend a night in Nara! So many people visit it only as a day trip. I like hawaiiantraveller's idea of going from Kyoto to Nara to Mt. Koya if the times work right for your schedule.

> On day 12, we're currently planning to visit Hiroshima and overnight in Miyajima but a friend recently suggested swapping that to visit Miyajima and then visit/ overnight in Hiroshima.

I'm very glad that I visited Hiroshima on the way to Miyajima. I found Hiroshima to be a very powerful place that stirred deep emotions. Spending a night at a ryokan on Miyajima (I stated at Momijiso, which mrwunrfl also mentioned) was - for me - the perfect place to allow me to reflect upon what I had seen and experienced, decompress, and refocus my attention on the many, many things there are to treasure and savor in this world. Just my take on it. I'm sure people differ in their responses to these places.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 08:17 PM
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>>However, I could instead pay single trip from airport into Tokyo on arrival, and then use the 14 day pass from day 2 to day 16, allowing me to move Nikko a day or two later, which may work better. <<

That is a good idea, to start the pass on day 2, better than train from Hiroshima to Tokyo and the next day a day trip to Nikko. But it would be valid days 2-15 (not to 16).

But maybe you meant to type days 3 to 16 as your validity dates. That might/would be even better. But you do have a non-JR train option, Tobu, to get to Nikko. I would consider that if staying in/near Asakusa, even if your JR Pass is still valid. But staying in, say, Shinjuku, I would use JR.
Here is some info: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/rtg/pdf/pg-302.pdf

You would be able to get your pass validated on day 2 (or day 1) for travel starting on day 3. That is, you can get it in advance of your first valid travel date, if you want.

ht gave good advice about taking an airport bus to your Tokyo hotel. Keisei train might also be a good option depending on where you are staying.

I agree with kja about Hiroshima. Your plan is not unreasonable, I think, but is a bit of a rush. I like Hiroshima.

Something to think about: go from Koyasan to Hiroshima (not Osaka, not Kyoto) on day 11. Spend a night in Hiroshima and a night in Nara. Then the long travel day back to Tokyo on day 13. Then Nikko on day 16.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Mar 22nd, 2012, 08:22 PM
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Nikko can, of course, be saved for your next trip. I've done that several times! Been debating about making it a day trip but really want to spend a night or two there.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 01:17 PM
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Many thanks, your input is really helping me think this through.

In response, yes I did mean day 3 to 16 for JRPass validity...

Current draft below.

Day1 Arrive Tokyo early evening
Day2 Tokyo
Day3 -> Takayama
Day4 Takayama
Day5 Takayama -> Kyoto
Day6 - Nara
Day7 Kyoto
Day8 Kyoto
Day9 Kyoto
Day10 Kyoto -> Mount Koya
Day11 Mount Koya -> Osaka
Day12 Osaka -> Hiroshima -> Miyajima
Day13 Miyajima -> Tokyo
Day14 Tokyo
Day15 Nikko (day trip from Tokyo)
Day16 Tokyo
Day17 Tokyo
Day18 LEAVE

Next question, in terms of the train tickets I need to buy outside of the JRPass fortnight, is a single journey between the airport and Tokyo cheaper or more expensive than a return journey between Tokyo and Nikko?

I'll also need to think about whether we buy single tickets for the different Japan underground systems/ buses or day passes.

For info: I have hip/back problems so can't walk long distances, so do rely on public transport more than some travellers...
Kavey is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 01:29 PM
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Oh, re Nara, sorry meant to reply to that...

Am lucky to have some great friends who have helped me already in shaping what I have so far.

One friend of mine is half Japanese and recently spent 2 months there, having visited many times before. He overnighted in Nara on his last visit and recommended we do that, he said that being there in the evening, being able to walk around the temple areas without crowds, was very much worthwhile.
Kavey is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 02:08 PM
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Oh, one more question...

Currently have 4 full days in Tokyo (excluding evenings of arriving back, and the day we're out at Nikko).

Have 3 full days in Kyoto (on same basis, excluding evening arrivals).

Should I swap that, one more day in Kyoto and one less in Tokyo?

For info, though it's horrible word, I enjoy quaint. By quaint I mean charming, real history, beauty, small boutique shops and attractions... I understand I may well enjoy Kyoto even more than Tokyo, though there is plenty for me to do in both.

Any thoughts on that?

x
Kavey is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 02:12 PM
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Figuring that your JR fare from Nikko will cost 5430 yen one-way. 2520 fare + 2910 seat res fee. You can find your fares and train schedules on www.hyperdia.com

Single fare on the NEX from Tokyo to NRT would be around 3000 yen depending on where you are staying. If on the east end of Tokyo you may want to take the Keisei Liner back to NRT with information here:

http://www.keisei.co.jp/keisei/tetudou/skyliner/us/

or NEX info here:

http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/nex/index.html

If using the NEX you should get the NEX/SUICA package. A SUICA card is a prepaid card that can be loaded with more yen and used as your subway/metro, bus of ferry fares all over Japan. You can also use for fares on JR trains (except shinkansen) see here for details:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2359_002.html

Your fares up and down Koyasan can be paid in cash and are explained in my earlier post above.

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2012, 04:37 PM
  #19  
kja
 
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> Day15 Nikko (day trip from Tokyo)

I was very glad to spend a night in Nikko. If you want to see the spectacular Kegon no taki (let alone Lake Chuzenji) in addition to the main temples, it would make for a very, very long day trip. Whichever way you choose to visit it, if you have any interest in Japanese screens, consider making some time for the little museum in Nikko.

> Nara ... being able to walk around the temple areas without crowds, was very much worthwhile.

Absolutely! And also to have some time there in the morning, before tour groups arrive.

If you have any interest, be sure to visit the treasure hall of Kufukuji (exquisite statues) and the national museum (an excellent selection of statues and other arts with very informative signage highlighting changes over time).

> Currently have 4 full days in Tokyo (excluding evenings of arriving back, and the day we're out at Nikko). ...Have 3 full days in Kyoto (on same basis, excluding evening arrivals). ... Should I swap that, one more day in Kyoto and one less in Tokyo? ... For info, though it's horrible word, I enjoy quaint. By quaint I mean charming, real history, beauty, small boutique shops and attractions...

I think you might want to consider that. Given your definition of quaint, I believe you will find much of Kyoto enjoyable. Only one or two segments of Tokyo fit that definition (which is not to say that Tokyo isn't fascinating - it is!) For perspective, my primary goal was to experience historic Japan. I spent 4 days in Kyoto, counting a few hours in Ohara, but excluding Nara, Uji, Himeji, etc. I did not see everything I would have liked to see in Kyoto. I spent 2.5 days in Tokyo (excluding time in Nikko and Kamakura). I hope to return to both, but I have no regrets about the way I divided time between these locations. It is such a personal choice, though!!!
kja is offline  
Mar 24th, 2012, 01:58 AM
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Just went back to

"But you do have a non-JR train option, Tobu, to get to Nikko. I would consider that if staying in/near Asakusa, even if your JR Pass is still valid. But staying in, say, Shinjuku, I would use JR.
Here is some info: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/rtg/pdf/pg-302.pdf"

This also seems much cheaper than JR price/ reservation from Tokyo to Nikko.

And we ARE planning to stay in Asakusa...
Kavey is offline  

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