Japan itinerary help.

Old Feb 3rd, 2011, 05:27 PM
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Japan itinerary help.

Planning a possible last minute trip to Japan, I have the following itinerary drafted and I'd like feedback/comments from fodorites.

Day 1, Arrive Haneda, overnight near Haneda airport (flight arrives late at Haneda).
Day 2, Validate 7 day Japan Rail pass and travel from Haneda to Hiroshima. Sightseeing in Hiroshima. Overnight Hiroshima.
Day 3, Day trip to Miyajima, overnight Hiroshima.
Day 4, finish sightseeing in Hiroshima, depart for Kyoto, overnight Kyoto.
Day 5 Kyoto sightseeing, overnight Kyoto.
Day 6 Kyoto sightseeing or day trip to Himeji or the Bamboo Forest (see below), overnight Kyoto.
Day 7 Finish Kyoto sightseeing if need be, travel to Tokyo, overnight Tokyo.
Day 8 Since this is the last day my rail pass is valid, either make a side trip from Tokyo or stay in Tokyo, overnight Tokyo.
Day 9 Tokyo, overnight Tokyo.
Day 10 Depart Japan.

I know this itinerary is tight (timewise), I have been to Tokyo many times and I don't plan on doing any specific sightseeing in Tokyo.

In Kyoto I've seen some sights on previous visits, I specifically remember the Golden Pavillion (Kinkaku-ji) and the Rock Garden (Ryōan-ji) . On this trip I am interested in visiting the following sights in/near Kyotobr /> Ginkaku-ji, Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kitano Tenmangu or the Kyoto Botanical Gardens (for plum blossom viewing) and Kinkaku-ji (time permitting).

I have some questionsbr />
Is there anywhere I stop enroute from Tokyo to Hiroshima and leave my luggage in left luggage and have a stroll around, just to break the long train journey? Or, am
I better off just flying from Haneda to Hiroshima on JAL?

Is Himeji castle worth visiting at it is partially closed for renovations. Is the Bamboo forest a better choice for a day trip? I have been to Nara and didn't plan on returning on this trip.

I am trying to add a few extra days in Japan so I can travel from Kyoto to Kanazawa, Takayama and Shirakawa-go enroute to Tokyo. Any comments/suggestions will be appreciated. Thank you.
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Old Feb 4th, 2011, 08:55 AM
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If you have the option then fly into Hiroshima

Latest news on Himeji-jo
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3501.html

Adding days for Kanazawa, Takayama and S Go sounds like a great idea to me

Aloha!
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Old Feb 4th, 2011, 10:27 AM
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> Is there anywhere I stop enroute from Tokyo to Hiroshima and leave my luggage in left luggage and have a stroll around, just to break the long train journey?

Okayama? Korakuen is not far from the train station, which had luggage storage lockers when I was there a few years ago.

> Is the Bamboo forest a better choice for a day trip?

If you mean the bamboo forest in Arishiyama, it's actually in Kyoto:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3912.html#bamboo

Hope that helps!
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Old Feb 4th, 2011, 03:44 PM
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A night in Miyajima would be really nice - rather than Hiroshima....
A good budget inn is: http://www.morinoyado.jp/english/index.html
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Old Feb 4th, 2011, 05:22 PM
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Because you have to change trains at Shin Osaka maybe it would be worthwhile to stash your luggage in a locker at the station and visit Osaka. hawaiiantraveler might be able to suggest a way to spend several hours (Osaka-jo or Spa World come to mind).

My first thought for a stop was Gifu to visit the (small, reconstructed) Gifu-jo on its lofty perch.

If you fly to Hiroshima just take the bus, don't go the JR route. The Granvia Hotel is next to the shinkansen side of Hiroshima station. Very convenient for train travel. Average tourist hotel. It is a JR hotel so you can get a discount with your pass (but probably find a better rate if you book in advance). The RIHGA Royal Hotel is better located and nicer and you can get some very good rates online at their website.
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Old Feb 4th, 2011, 06:52 PM
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Many thanks for the replies and the links.

I have been to Osaka on previous trips and was thinking of travelling to Kobe on the first day, instead of Hiroshima and travelling to Hiroshima the following day. Just want to avoid a long train ride the day after my long transpacific flight, even worse, if I fall asleep on the long train ride and miss my stop I'll have some problems to deal with.

If I do stay overnight in Kobe i would include a visit to
Plum forest in Ayabe Mountain (http://www.hyogo-tourism.jp/english/...harima_02.html) as I am in Japan during plum blossom season.

I have read of recent heavy snow in Kanazawa, Takayama and Shirakawa-go that has caused train delays, it sounds like this year's snow fall is more than what the region gets most years and I'm not certain it's wise to visit the area. If I am stuck there for a day or two that could really throw things off.

I checked on the renovations for Himeji Castle and the castle is currently enclosed and not visiable, so I think I'll skip this stop.

I will look at the possibility of flying to Hiroshima, which saves time.

I had considered an overnight in Miyajima, but decided I can visit late enough in the day to see the tori at night (as the days are shortish in late Feb/early March), and I really want to minimize moving my luggage around.


I have a question, I'm looking at two possible departure dates, one that would have me in Kobe/Hiroshima/Miyajima over the weekend, the other possible travel date would have me in Kyoto over the weekend. Are any of these places best not to visit over the weekend?

I've never bought a Japan Rail Pass, any suggestions on how I can make the most of my pass with the itinerary I have drafted?

Thank you.
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Old Feb 4th, 2011, 08:43 PM
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http://tbone.biol.sc.edu/tide/tideshow.cgi
Miyajima high tide seems to be at 11 am and 11pm more or less according to above site...

If you fly from Tokyo to Hiroshima, then you probably won't get your money's worth from a JR Pass although it's close if you make a side trip or two, I guess...

Once you get into March and April then it's harder to get a room in Kyoto on the weekend because it's sakura season but February shouldn't be an issue - I'm saying this from looking at the Toyoko Inn website....when I booked the last weekend in March, only one of the four Toyoko Inns had availability...and this was the middle of December when I booked my room.
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Old Feb 5th, 2011, 04:27 AM
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This time last year, when I had to make the long journey from Tokyo to Hiroshima via JR, I stopped off at Himeji to visit the castle, and on the way back to visit the Kyoto Manga Library. Both times I stored my luggage at the station lockers. (I lost my locker key in Himeji, but that's another story.)
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Old Feb 5th, 2011, 05:50 PM
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Snow is pretty much gone now in Kanazawa. Trains back on schedule as of last Monday night. Chance of being stuck in this area on any day of the year very slim. Happens, but extremely rare. Now that it's February the big snow should be over. Shirakawago iss beautiful in winter and easily accessed by public bus or private car from Kanazawa. Trip takes about an hour.
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Old Feb 5th, 2011, 10:09 PM
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Thank you the replies.

KimJapan thank you for the update on the weather, I do understand it's virtually impossible to know how weather will affect ones travel plans. You've now got me thinking of adding Takayama and Shirakawago into my schedule again.

I've booked a one way flight from Tokyo to Hiroshima, so that frees up one day and I am able to leave one day later from Japan and I wondering if I'll have enough time for Takayama and Shirakawago.

Here's my reworked itinerarybr />
Day 1, (Saturday) arrive HND.
Day 2, (Sunday) am fly to Hiroshima, sightsee Hiroshima, overnight Hiroshima.
Day 3, (Monday) day trip to Miyajima, overnight Hiroshima. Validate Rail Pass today.
Day 4, (Tuesday) am take train to Kyoto, sightsee Kyoto, overnight Kyoto.
Day 5, (Wednesday) Kyoto sightseeing.
Day 6, (Thursday) Kyoto sightseeing.
Day 7, (Friday) am travel from Kyoto to Takayama via Nagoya.
Day 8, (Saturday) day trip to Shirakawago from Takayama.
Day 9, (Sunday) Takayama sightseeing, depart for Tokyo via Nagoya. Rail Pass expires.
Day 10, Tokyo.
Day 11, Depart Japan.

I've read that some attractions in Hiroshima are closed on Mondays, I'd like to know if shops, etc will be open on Sunday, I plan to do my Hiroshima sightseeing the day I arrive.

I know that timewise I will only two half days in Takayama, one of which will be a Sunday, are most things open on Sundays?

Are the shops, etc in Shirakawago open on Saturday? I am particularly interested in the open air museum, I've checked there opening hours and they close at 4 pm in winter. I'd need to take the first bus from Takayama at 8 50 am and I plan on taking the 4 pm or 5 20 pm bus back. I have the telephone number for the bus company, I know the 5 20 pm bus needs to reserved in advance. Do the operators speak English for me to make a reservation, or it is best to wait until I arrive in Takayama and ask the tourist office to make a reservation for me.

On day 9, am I better off staying longer in Takayama and travelling to Nagoya, and buying a train ticket the following day for Tokyo.

I know Kanazawa is famous for handicrafts, as I haven't iuncluded Kanazawa in my itinerary I'm wondering if stores in Takayama may sell the same good quality traditonal handicrafts.

Any advice will be appreciated. Thank you.
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Old Feb 5th, 2011, 11:25 PM
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Shops in Shirakawa-go are open every day. No problem. They all sell basically the same stuff, none of which is especially enthralling imo. There is one great shop on the main street next to the big sake shop that sells all sorts of beans snacks, and they also sell a small variety of decorative mobile type things that are unique and nice.

Takayama and Kanazawa do not have the same things for crafts. Kanazawa has very good gold leaf craft, as well as pottery, fabrics, lacquerware, that you will not find in Takayama. If it is shopping you want, Kanazawa is far superior to Takayama. I think Kanazawa also has much more to see, and has easy access from Kyoto.

Actually, I'm not so crazy about Takayama anyway. It is not a village but a small city that has an old preserved section. Even for our first visit there 15 years ago, we were disappointed by the "citiness" of it, and it has only grown in the last 15 years. Everything is open on Sundays as it is a big day for shopping and sightseeing.

The Nouhi bus company...no English that I've ever heard of. You could ask someone to call from your first hotel. You need reservations for all of the buses, as if they are full, they are full and you won(t be able to get on.

February 13 and 19, Shirakawa-go has a light up event, from 5:30 to 7:30. Various houses have lights in the white shoji windows, snowmen and other snow sculptures have candles in them. It's really beautiful so if you are in the area on those days I'd venture to say it(s even worth reworking your itinerary for. We will make the drive over next Sunday for it in fact. If you want to see the light up, Nouhi bus doesn(t work unless you do a lightup tour in Japanese. In that case, renting a car in Kanazawa for the day is certainly an option, it(s an easy drive, and you would be free to explore Gokayama too, which I like better as it(s less full on touristy than S-go.

The Open Air Museum offers soba making with eating it afterwards for guests. It's fun. Reservation required, perhaps 3 days in advance. There are several houses in the village itself, not the museum area, that you can enter and look around. The Wada-ya is the most well kept, and also perhaps the best example of a wealthier family's home in the area. It is behind my favorite restaurant, Irori.

As far as Hiroshima shops, rest assured that shops are open on Sundays...biggest shopping day of the week all over Japan.
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Old Feb 6th, 2011, 09:35 AM
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I am one who likes Takayama (and Kanazawa) and not much of a shopper but would say that Kanazawa would be the better place for shopping for crafts.

I like the itinerary that you have vs staying longer in Takayama and overnighting in Nagoya, I think you have enough time to see some of the sights in Takayama on day nine before leaving for Tokyo. Takayama is a small city and easily walkable.

Going to Shirakawago via Kanazawa would certainly a good alternative. That is how I got to/from S-go in January a few years ago. Had to take the train to Takaoka and then bus (cityd bus) up to S-go. Long, slow ride and it was late but worth it. I would not be concerned about too much snow, especially given what KimJapan wrote, but also becasue I was impressed by what I saw of the snow-clearing operation up there. You will want to have the right footwear for the visit.

One change I can suggest is to spend a night at a gassho zukuri in Shirakawago. I was the only guest one night at Koemon. They have boots available for guests to use and big enough for me. For dinner, the couple that owns the place, their english-speaking daughter went to a restaraunt in a nearby town where we also had a soak in an onsen.

On Saturday, you could leave your luggage at your Takayama hotel or at a locker at the station and just take what you need for the overnight. This would take time away from seeing Takayama and making the trip back to Tokyo that day longer. So this is not a strong reccomendation.

6 more hours to the Super Bowl, cant stand the wait.
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Old Feb 6th, 2011, 09:46 AM
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Thank you, KimJapan for your detailed answer.

I plan on leaving on the last weekend in Ferbruary for Japan, unfortunatly, the Shirakawa-go light up event will not work with my travel dates.

While shopping is not a priority it's getting harder and harder to find traditional handicrafts (I find too often souvenir store sell too many products that come from China), and I do plan on buying a souvenir or two, it I find something that I like.

I had thought of Takayama as a base as the buses from here to Shirakawa-go are more frequent than from Kanazawa. I can validate my pass a day later (on day 4) and change the last few days to include Kawazana, if so day 7 to 10 would be as followsbr />
Day 7, am depart Kyoto by train for Kanazawa, sightsee Kanazawa, overnight Kanazawa.
Day 8, am depart Kanazawa by train for Takayama, sightsee Takayama.
Day 9, day trip from Takayama to Shirakawa-go using the Nouhi bus, overnight Takayama.
Day 10, travel from Takayama to Tokyo by train via Nagoya, overnight Tokyo.

I know that this itinerary would have me moving around a lot on my last few days in Japan, in Kanazawa, Shirakawa-go and Takayama I am particularly interested in the old traditonal artitechture and Museum of Traditional Crafts as well as a gold leaf demonstration in Kanazawa. Don't plan on visiting the gardens in Kanazawa, which I know the city is famous for.

I'd like to check that the rail sectors I'd need for the above itinerary are all covered by the Japan Rail Pass, here's the route I plan on using my rail pass for:- Hiroshima - Kyoto - Kanazawa - Takayama - Tokyo. I have been checking trains schedules on Hyperdia, each time I check only the JR box for any of the above routes I get a "route isn't found" message, I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.
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Old Feb 6th, 2011, 09:54 AM
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mrwunfl, we must have been typing at the same time, thank you for your reply. Enjoy the Super Bowl, and fodors.com is a great place to spend the time waiting for the big game!

I would definitely like to include Kanazawa, and I think the only way to do this is to change the last few days to the itinerary I've posted in my last post.
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Old Feb 6th, 2011, 05:16 PM
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thanks, at halftime i am not enjoying it much.

you wouldn't take the train to Takayama and then bus to S-go. just bus from Kanazawa (or Takaoka if the Kanazawa bus is not running). then bus to Takayama and train to Tokhyo.
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Old Feb 6th, 2011, 05:21 PM
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kanazawa to s-go via takayama is, roughly, going south, east, north, west. vs just east.
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Old Feb 6th, 2011, 05:45 PM
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i agree with mrwunrfl, I think, do the trip to Shirakawago on the way from Kanazawa to Takayama or vice versa. You can stay from 10 am to 2 or 3 pm depending on which bus you take - this is from Kanazawa and going to Takayama. When I went last spring unfortunately it was pouring rain and the 3 hours I stayed there were more than enough to see the restored houses - I didn't go up to the lookout point because of the nasty weather....
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Old Feb 6th, 2011, 06:26 PM
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Thank you for the replies.

I had considered travelling Kanazawa - Shirakawa -go - Takayama on the same day. However, I couldn't figure out what to do with luggage in Shirakawa - go. I know I could send it with one of the shipping services if need be, but I'd prefer to travel with my luggage and store it in Shirakawa - go when I am sightseeing there. Mara, what had you done with your luggage if you stopped in Shirakawa - go enroute from Kanazawa to Takayama or vv.

I have checked the bus schedule and there is a 8.45 am bus from Kanazawa to Shirakawa - go that arrives at 10 am, I would need this bus if I am to stop in Shirakawa - go enroute, how far in advance will I need to make a reservation, I guess the earliest oppourtunity I will have to make a reservation is when I arrive in Kanazawa, which is the day before I travel Kanazawa to Shirakawa - go.

Also, if I do this, I'd need to make sure I can cover Kanazawa sightseeing the day I arrive from Kyoto.
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Old Feb 6th, 2011, 07:09 PM
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There are lockers where the bus stops in Shirakawago and the tourist office right there will keep it as well - maybe ¥500 - but I just had a small wheeled bag - I travel light....
I went in the middle of April and made my reservation two days before when I got to Takayama - I wouldn't think there would be much of a problem the end of Feburary....
I've never used the luggage transfer as I travel light....
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Old Feb 6th, 2011, 09:28 PM
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Thank you, Mara.
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