Japan Itinerary - Questions

Old Apr 27th, 2005, 07:10 AM
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Japan Itinerary - Questions

Hello everybody. I've been reading these boards for a while gathering info on what I think will be an amazing trip to Japan for my gf and I.

I'm going to list our itinerary and if you could provide some feedback, that would be much appreciated! (i'm mainly worried about transit times - will there be enough time to get to the cities/towns and be able to truly appreciate them?)

5/18 - Land in Narita, stay in Tokyo
5/19 - Tokyo
5/20 - Tokyo (ryogoku tickets - when should we go to see the main matches - don't want to be there all day)
5/21 - leave for magome mid-afternoon (spend night in magome)
5/22 - forward bags to tsumago, hike to tsumago (spend night in tsumago)
5/23 - leave mid morning for matsumoto. spend day in matsumoto, leave for nagano(spend night in nagano)
5/24 - Explore Nagano, leave for Kyoto (stay in Kyoto)
5/25 - Kyoto
5/26 - Kyoto
5/27 - Kyoto (day trip to Nara)
5/28 - Kyoto (day trip to Himeji)
5/29 - check out of kyoto. leave for koya-san (spend night in shojoshin-in)
5/30 - leave late morning/early afternoon for hiroshima (stay in miyajima - will there be enough time for this?)
5/31 - explore miyajima (mt. misen) and hiroshima. leave for ???
Night of 5/31,6/1,6/2,6/3 - Unsure of where to go, what to see. what are some things that we really should see that we've left off? we're thinking of traveling north again to dewa sanzen, but we might need to do a stop over somewhere along the way since we'll be at hiroshima during the day on 5/31. ideas?
Night of 6/3 - travel to Nikko (spend night in Nikko)
6/4 - explore Nikko. leave for tokyo (spend night in Tokyo).
6/5 - day trip to kamakura (spend night in tokyo).
6/6 - leave for hakone (late morning, explore) (spend night in hakone) (surprising gf with a night at Hakone Ginyu)
6/7 - leave for tokyo after breakfast. party in tokyo (stay in tokyo).
6/8 - go home.

so what do you guys think?

thanks in advance for help to the questions i've written above. im seriously indebted to you all....
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Old Apr 27th, 2005, 04:04 PM
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I think that you are right: it is going to be an amazing trip.

On 5/20 you should try to get there at 1PM or 1:30. Get your ticket and find your seat then find the line for the chanko nabe. You ought to be in your seats by 1:55PM. Then watch some bouts, go get some souvenirs, but be back at 3:55 as the main action is between 4PM and 6PM. You definitely want to see the last few matches of the day. Stick around after the last match to see the closing ceremonies. You can see some pictures of the Ryogoku Kokugikan and the January tournament at http://www.billk.org (scroll down to get to the sumo pix). There are a couple of pictures of Matsumoto-jo on another page.

In your routing, you would be doing some backtracking, to some extent, to get to Kyoto. Consider going Tokyo- Nagano- Matsumoto- Kiso Valley- Kyoto.

If you stick to your current itinerary up to May 24 then you should consider staying over a night in Kanazawa and pushing the rest of your planned schedule back a day or so (i.e. use one of your unplanned 5/31-6/3 days then). There are some nice onsen up near Nagano and in Ishikawa-ken. Have you considered the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route (find info on this at www.jnto.go.jp and elsewhere).

I highly recommend going to Matsuyama after Hiroshima (or before). Take the (non-JR) hydrofoil just before sunset. I see that you found time for Matsumoto-jo and Himejijo, so you definitely out to consider visiting the great castle of Matsuyama. Also, go for a soak at Dogo Onsen (you and gf may be able to get a private bath, else pay extra for the relaxation room and meet there in your yukata after bath). I recommend Hotel Patio Dogo in Matsuyama.

Looks like you could use a 21-day JR Pass, but a 14-day pass might work depending on your plans for June 1-3.

You can visit Kamakura on your way to/from Hakone, unless you've got a full day planned for Kamakura.

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Old Apr 27th, 2005, 04:17 PM
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Another option is Tokyo- Matsumoto- Kiso Valley- Kyoto- Hiroshima- Matsuyama?

then Kanazawa- Nagano- Tokyo.

Kanazawa- Shirakawago- (Takayama)- Nagano- Tokyo.

You could skip one night in Kiso Valley. The main temple in Nagano can be visited in a couple of hours. Like you are planning for Matsumotojo. You could stop at Himejijo enroute to/from Hiroshima.

On May 30, you probably ought to just go straight to Miyajima if you are leaving Kyoto in the afternoon.-
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Old Apr 27th, 2005, 04:23 PM
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Ok, one more thing. Routing from Nagano to Kyoto is via Matsumoto, Kisoji, and Nagoya, so you would be backtracking. It would be about a 4 hour trip.
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Old Apr 28th, 2005, 06:13 AM
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Unfortunately, I can't make changes to the itinerary in Nagano, Tsumago, and Magome, b/c the baggage forwarding service (for the hike from magome to tsumago) is only on the weekends during this time of the year. I know there will be some backtracking, but you gotta do what you gotta do, right?!

I think we're gonna scrap hiroshima and shikoku. instead, our plan is this:

wakayama (koya san, 1 night) -> osaka (1 night, since we won't visit as a day trip from kyoto) -> kanazawa (1 night)

from here we want to travel to the north. suggestions on where to travel from here? (we definitely want to go to dewa sanzan, but the direct trip from kanazawa to there would be tooooo long).
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Old Apr 28th, 2005, 08:23 AM
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From what I have read the baggage service you are talking about only operates in July and August.

Tsuruoka and Dewa Senzan are far from everywhere. You could fly to Akita and then take a train down.
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Old Apr 28th, 2005, 10:11 AM
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When I was in Magome, 4/14/05 I believe, a Thursday, I was fortunate to have stayed at the same inn as a Japanese woman who spoke some English and who was also intending to walk from Magome to Tsumago the next morning. We walked together, but first, we brought her backpack to the post office to have it sent on to Tsumago (where she was staying the next evening.) I know I had read about a luggage delivery service (it may have been from tourist info. office in one town to the tourist info. office in the next town that only operated during the summer months), but perhaps the post office is another option.

I was in Hakone the night before and had sent my luggage (thru the luggage delivery system) on to the airport in Nagoya, because I did not want to deal with my suitcase any longer. It was ridiculously overpacked, even though I thought I packed light. It was a great decision, my suitcase was right there waiting for me -- it is a great system.

One last comment on the Magome/Tsumago post offices. They both have ATMs that accept foreign ATM cards. The one in Magome was not operating when I was there, but I was very happy to find the one in Tsumago.

Enjoy your trip!
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Old Apr 28th, 2005, 10:19 AM
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i just discovered this sleeper train from kanazawa to aomori. its called Nihonkai and leaves at 930pm the day before and arrives in aomori train station at 8:30am the following morning.

sounds like a hot idea (get to see the coast, im guessing), but do you guys know if the JR Pass is valid on this sleeper? if not, its back to the drawing board....
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Old Apr 28th, 2005, 10:20 AM
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oooooh. i just found out that the sleeper trains are operated by the JR group. i hope this means i can use my JR pass on them!
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Old Apr 28th, 2005, 10:27 AM
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i guess i can't edit my messages above.

i read some more on the sleeper trains, but they require separate purchases (can't use my JR Pass on them). I dont think it will be worth it for me. I'll have to find some place to go to between all these places....
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Old Apr 28th, 2005, 05:47 PM
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I think you can ride the sleeper train, you just have to pay the sleeper supplement. One reason it is called a sleeper is because it travels overnight. You would not see the coast or anything for that matter. I suppose it would be still dark when the train reached Morioka which is where you would want to get off to get the Akita shinkansen to Akita and then the train down to the Dewa Senzan.

A much better option, if you wanted to go that way would be to take the Akita shinkansen all the way from Tokyo or Omiya. It is an enjoyable ride, lots of rice paddies along the way. A quick stop at Sendai to visit Matsushima would be a good idea. Also, you could stop along the way at Kakunodate. It is just a couple of stops west of Akita. There is a nice JR hotel right at the station. Visit the samurai houses. If you want to stay longer you could go up to Nyuto Onsen (this would be a great place to take the gf to stay overnight at a ryokan).

Other option is the Yamagata shinkansen. Not as scenic as the Akita shinkansen. From Yamagata you would transfer to trains bound for Tsuruga and Sakata.

From Kanazawa, I guess you would take the LEX to Echigoyuzawa to get the shinkansen to Omiya. Or go to Nagano, stay over, then the Nagano shinkansen to Omiya. Connect at Omiya to head north.

The last option is the "long" trip via non-shinkansen trains from Kanazawa. There are a few stops of interest in northern Nagano-ken.

Simple would be to fly to Akita from Osaka, then take the train south, eventually to Akita and then fly from there to Tokyo. Those two flights would cost about $225 total using the tourist fares offered by ANA or JAL.
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Old Apr 28th, 2005, 05:51 PM
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correction: there are no shinkansen stops west of Akita because there are no tracks on the Nihon Kai. Kakunodate is east of Akita.
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