Japan Itinerary - please help!

Sep 22nd, 2015, 12:30 PM
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Japan Itinerary - please help!

Still in the structuring phase of my April trip with my mom (for her 70th bday)...will ask activity questions after the framework is sorted...

Could you weigh in on the order of this and how many days allotted, as well as help me figure out if I should book Boston-Tokyo round trip or into Tokyo/out of Osaka in terms of timing...

April 1 - arrive Tokyo 4pm (would like to stay in Shinjuku...don't think we can afford Park Hyatt...thoughts?)

April 2 - Tokyo

April 3 - To

April 4 - Tokyo

April 5 - Tokyo to Takayama STAY THE NIGHT IN TAKAYAMA??

April 6 - Tokyo

April 7 - Tokyo to Hakone, stay overnight

April 8 - Hakone to Kamakura (is this great? should we go elsewhere? Izu peninsula?)

April 9 - Temple stay in Koyasan (Shojoshin?)

April 10 - temple to Kyoto stay at ryokan 1 (Hotel Mume has no room. Looking for first 2 nights suggestions)

April 11 - Kyoto at ryokan 1

April 12 - Kyoto @ ryokan 2 (Shiraume has room only for 12, 13, 14...)

April 13 - Kyoto @ ryokan 2 - day trip somewhere?

April 14 - Kyoto @ ryokan 2

April 15th - fly home to Boston on JAL - leaving from Tokyo? Or from KIX...?? How does this timing work?

Please chime in with thoughts about the order in which we are visiting places as well as the places themselves (though I realize some people prefer longer in Kyoto than Toyko, etc)...For example, is Kamakura better as a day trip? Ideally, we'd make a late morning flight on the 15th, but this is probably not possible (?). There is a flight at 4pm but it's more expensive...thanks for your help!
BostonWriter is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2015, 12:49 PM
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If you can fly home from KIX it will save you time and money.

In the Shinjuku area, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency and liked it. It's only a few blocks from the Park Hyatt (but much less expensive).

Do you know what you want to see/do/experience in Tokyo? You have a fair amount of time there. If there are not a lot of "must-sees" for you, you might be able to add another destination or spend another night in Hakone, for instance. We much preferred Kyoto to Tokyo and spent 6 nights there. Do you have to have a ryokan for both stays in Kyoto?
Kathie is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2015, 12:57 PM
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Hi - A bit more about the trip: I am 43, good health, interested in hands-on experiential rather than commerce. My mom (about to be 70, good health) loves design, culture. Hoping for good mix of traditional and fun - a hike, temples, interesting/offbeat a plus. For hotels/ryokan hoping for a mix of simple and higher end, def. want to experience onsen and ryokan... as much hands-on (classes, tours, tastes, dancing, flower arranging, painting as possible).

Of course I want to see the temples and shrines and generally soak up the atmosphere of Tokyo. I thought we'd do a soba noodle class, combining with kitchenware market area...that sort of hands-on way of experiencing a culture and place. We could shorten our stay, but maybe taking a full day in Kamakura is the answer?

My mom will get tired if we spend too many nights/days going from place to place, but I want to make sure we see a range...thoughts?

And we don't NEED to be in a ryokan for all the nights in Kyoto, but I thought it would be interesting...maybe it's better to start with a hotel on the first 2 nights and then switch (and if so, which hotel?). THANKS!
BostonWriter is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2015, 01:20 PM
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A couple of thoughts... How will your mother be with sleeping on a futon on the floor? In a ryokan, that's the bedding you will have. We stayed in a machiya house in Kanwazawa and enjoyed it. The futons were comfortable, but it was difficult having no place to sit that felt comfortable - floor chairs were not for me. I actually decided against a temple stay because of my back problems.

Do you have any Hyatt points? There are lovely Hyatts in Japan. You might want to get a Hyatt credit card from Chase - you get two free nights at any Hyatt and then accumulate Hyatt points for dollars spent. There is no foreign exchange fee on the card. You could even stay at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo if you wanted to with those two free nights.

There are plenty of Japan experts here who will help you out.
Kathie is offline  
Sep 22nd, 2015, 05:40 PM
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Your mother is a lucky woman!

"Tokyo to Takayama STAY THE NIGHT IN TAKAYAMA??"

I could be wrong, but as I read the information on japan-guide (an EXCELLENT and very easily searchable resource on just about anything you might want to know about Japan), I think its 4 or 5 hours EACH WAY from Tokyo to Takayama:
And I regret that I gave Takayama only 1.5 days.

If you are looking for day trips from Tokyo that take you into the mountains, you might want to consider Nikko instead:
And if you do that, yes, do consider an overnight stay. Many people visit Nikko as a day trip from Tokyo, but with an overnight, you can see Kegon-no-Taki and a bit of Lake Chuzenji, too:
And since you mention an interest in walks, the first mile or so of the Kanmangafuchi Abyss is actually quite an easy walk that I thought quite pleasant:

Like Kathie, it seems to me that you have a LOT of time in Tokyo, particularly in comparison to your time in Kyoto. Entirely your call! FWIW, I had 6 full days in Kyoto / Nara, and wish I'd had more. The modernity of Tokyo appealed to me far less, and I spent almost all of my 1.5 days in the city itself visiting its more traditional sections. YMMV.

"Temple stay in Koyasan (Shojoshin?)"

I was very pleased with Shojoshin-in, which still gets good reviews. Do not miss Ukono-in! Try to plan a long walk at / near dusk -- it is incredibly evocative as the setting sun angles through the trees and as the lights within the grounds come on.

"leaving from Tokyo? Or from KIX...?"

I agree with Kathie -- if you can fly into Narita and out of Kansai, or vice versa, you won't have to backtrack.

"is Kamakura better as a day trip?"

I don't usually like day trips, but Kamakura is one of the places that really made sense to me as a day trip! And I was very glad that that's how it visited it.

"as much hands-on (classes, tours, tastes, dancing, flower arranging, painting as possible)."

You might consider options at the excellent Edo Tokyo Museum in Tokyo:
and the Kyoto Handicraft Center in Kyoto:

"we don't NEED to be in a ryokan for all the nights in Kyoto"

Kathie raises some really good points. Too, ryokan can involve a substantial investment of time. Traditional ryokan generally serve very elaborate meals -- which can be a truly wonderful experience!, but which can mean that you need to be at the ryokan by 5 p.m. or so with plans to stay there the rest of the evening. So keep that in mind when planning your time.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2015, 04:02 AM
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About the flights: There's one non-stop flight a day from Japan to Boston, on Japan Airlines leaving from Narita at 6.00pm. If you're traveling in economy (as I gather the OP is), it's really a lot, lot better to choose this flight than anything that requires transfers. If you are coming from Kyoto, you can catch this flight by taking the train from Kyoto, leaving Kyoto around 12.30 (or 12.00 if you're on a JR rail pass). You can also take a flight from either KIX or Itami airport to connect to the NRT-BOS flight, but you'd have to leave Kyoto at about the same time as if taking the train all the way.

As for the ryokan, please pay close attention to Kathie's comments, especially about floor-level seating. I generally enjoyed my 2-night stay at Hiiragiya ryokan in Kyoto, but I was not at all comfortable sitting at mealtime. (I'll be 70 in 2 years.)

If it's in your budget, an excellent alternative to a traditional ryokan in Kyoto is a place called Hoshinoya, which combine many of the best parts of a ryokan stay with some of the comforts more familiar to Westerners. I haven't stayed at the Kyoto branch of Hoshinoya, but understand that it's every bit as excellent as the Karuizawa one where I have stayed and will return to next year.
DonTopaz is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2015, 06:50 AM
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I spent the equivalent of 2 1/2 days touring Tokyo and if it wasn't for the Kappabashi kitchen supplies district and the Edo Tokyo museum, I would have been a little bored. There just isn't that much there to see and do. The fish market is fun but you get there early in the day to see it and have sushi and by 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. it's time to move on. But to what? As others have noted, you do have day trip options to Nikko or Kamakura (both of which I considered but didn't do.) I like Kathie's idea of adding an extra day to Hakone. I had the equivalent of 3 days in Hakone and really enjoyed it. One also cannot have too many days allocated to Kyoto. I was there 4 days and still never made it to Arashiyama (sp?) or shopping in Gion.
MinnBeef is offline  
Sep 24th, 2015, 04:01 AM
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Hi - What about this order/length of stay in each place? Still unsure about Takayama - would love to go (and possibly see Kanazara) but it's far - and I worry about too many stop tiring my mom out...Can you help me trim Tokyo or make more sense of my timing?

April 1 – arrive 4pm – night time food tour

April 2 – Tokyo – all day explore, sushi dinner?

April 3 – Tokyo – asakusa area for shrine, soba noodle class, kitchenware outing

April 4 – day trip from Tokyo to kamakura

April 5 – Tokyo – Department stores (leave for Hakone in afternoon??)

April 6 – to Hakone, hopefully Gora Hanougi but res open in November

April 7 – Hakone

April 8 – Hakone to Kyoto??

April 9 – Kyoto??

April 10 – To Koyasan, stay in Shojoshin if possible, temple visit, hike

April 11 – ?

April 12 – Kyoto – Shiraume (we have reservation, check in 3pm, dinner there)

April 13 – Kyoto – Shiraume

April 14 – Kyoto – Shiraume

April 15 - home (either train to Tokyo for late flight or Kansai)

Alternately, go from Tokyo to takayama, takayama to Kyoto
BostonWriter is offline  
Sep 24th, 2015, 08:07 AM
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If your flight arrives at Narita about 4 pm, it will be 6 pm or later by the time you get to your hotel. Do you really think you and your mother will be up for a night time food tour?

I don't understand dividing your time in Kyoto. It means you have more total travel time and no opportunity to settle in and just enjoy Kyoto. Can you go from Hakone to Koyasan (sorry, I haven't been there so don't know the logistics)? Then when you go to Kyoto you can just stay there (even if you do need to change lodging).
Kathie is offline  
Sep 24th, 2015, 12:33 PM
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Kathie - I would love to just be in Kyoto, but it seems very far from Hakone to Koyasan...anyone have suggestions of reordering so I wind up in Kyoto at the end of the trip, without having to break it up? Thanks.
BostonWriter is offline  
Sep 24th, 2015, 02:24 PM
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FWIW, I think you should wait to visit Takayama until you can give the combination of Takayama and Kanazawa at least 4 full days. JMO.
kja is offline  
Sep 24th, 2015, 03:11 PM
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I think I would rearrange this trip entirely. Start in Tokyo. Take a day trip to Kamakura or Nikko (not both). Go to Hakone for two nights. Got to Takayama for two nights, then head to Kyoto. Spend two of your nights in a Ryokan, and two in a hotel or inn for the remainder of your time in Kyoto (*see my reason below). Fly home out of Osaka .

If you really want to go to Koyasan, I'd skip Takayama. Go from Hakone to Osaka for a night, then to Koyasan. Save kyoto for the end and fly home from KIX.

*While my DH and I LOVE staying in Ryokans, they are all about the food, the grounds and the baths. You are paying for a huge breakfast and a huge dinner each night. After two nights, you get pretty sluggish. Also, the food is often very similar, so after two days of it, we like to try somewhere else in town. We always try to alternate one or two night Ryokan stays with either western or Japan style places that don't include the big meals.
lcuy is offline  
Sep 24th, 2015, 10:28 PM
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My advice:
Don't go to Takayama unless you spend two nights. This opinion is based on travel times.

You are right that Hakone-Kyosan is too much in a a day (it is over 5 hours and a bit complicated).

lcuy suggested an option of staying in Osaka between Hakone and Koyasan. Another option to consider on that plan would be Nara instead of Osaka.

"we don't NEED to be in a ryokan for all the nights in Kyoto"
I suggest that you don't WANT to be in a ryokan for all the nights in Kyoto. In a way, a ryokan in Kyoto is not just lodging but is a destination in itself.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Sep 24th, 2015, 10:45 PM
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Oooh, I like mrwunrfl's suggestion to stay in Nara before Koyasan! Even though most people visit Nara as a day-trip from Kyoto, there's plenty to see -- I thought it easily worth 2 full days.
kja is offline  
Sep 24th, 2015, 11:17 PM
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But really, if you think about it, the idea of spending a night in Osaka (lcuy) or Nara (me) between Hakone and Koyasan is no better than splitting the time in Kyoto (OP). They would all be
"positioning" stays for Koyasan.

You go to Kyoto spend a night or two. Leave your bags at the station or at the hotel that you will return to and you don't have to take much more than a fresh set of underwear to Koyasan for the night.

It seems like splitting the stay in Kyoto is a bad idea, but it really is not.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Sep 24th, 2015, 11:34 PM
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OTOH, you would get some time in Osaka or Nara if you stayed there enroute to Koyasan. And you'd have that without the backtracking that daytrippers from Kyoto would have.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Sep 25th, 2015, 06:56 AM
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You have gotten some great advice here from the experts!
Kathie is offline  
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