Japan Itinerary Questions

Jul 3rd, 2007, 09:30 PM
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Japan Itinerary Questions

I know there have been dozens of posts like this, but each of us is different, so here's mine!

I expected to take a tour of Japan, but reading here everybody seems to think this is an on-your-own country. Since we don't travel light, that would mean renting a car.
So consider that in reading my itinerary.

Also, consider that I don't really know about any of this stuff -- it's just words on paper -- so let me know if I'm visiting something really not worthwhile and also if I'm bypassing something that's a "must see".

And a final consideration would be that we're interested in castles, shrines, temples, gardens, and architecture -- medieval stuff -- and certainly not nightlife or shopping.

So, here goes

Day 1 - Depart

Day 2 - Arrive in Tokyo

Day 3 - Tokyo - Meiji Shrine, Asakusa Temple, Nakamise Shopping Arcade (very unsure about this one)

Day 4 - Day trip to Kamakura (Great Buddha at Kotokuin Temple) and Hakone (Lake Ashi and cable car ride to top of Mt. Komagataki)

Day 5 - Drive to Matsumoto and see castle there along with the Japan Folklore Museum, then night at Takayama

Day 6 - Explore Takayama, visit the Kusakabe Heritage House, and then out to the Hida Minzoku-Mura Folk Village and back to Takayama for the night.

Day 7 - Scenic drive to Shirakawa then on to Kanazawa. Explore Kanazawa and night there.

Day 8 - Kenrokuen Gardens and the Ishawa Prefecture Crafts Museum then on to Fushimi Inari Shrine and then on to Kyoto.

Day 9 - Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji - Temple of the Gold Pavilion, Heian Shrine and Garden

Day 10 - Day trip to Nara - Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Shrine

Day 11 - Downtime in Kyoto

Day 12 - Drive to Hiroshima. Miyajima Island (Itsukushima Shrine)

Day 13 - Hiroshima (Shukkeien Landscape Garden, Peace Park, and Memorial Hall)

Day 14 - Travel to Kurashiki (Ohara Art Gallery)

Day 15 - Himeji Castle and then on to Osaka

Day 16 - Depart for home
Robert_Brandywine is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2007, 09:53 PM
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It sounds like a well thought out itinerary. It should be a nice trip. I would encourage you to consider renting a car very carefully, as it's not an inexpensive undertaking, and it can be quite inconvenient at times having a car.

The price of the car and gasoline (regular unleaded ¥139/liter, high octane ¥150/liter just today in Kanazawa, been that price for a few months now) might be quite shocking, as well as highway tolls which are unbelievable (Kanazawa to Osaka around ¥7000, slight variation depending when you get on the highway). You say you don't travel light, so you'll need a bigger car, which will cost you. Parking is also seldom free in city hotels, though they will give you a discount rate.

Traffic can also be horrific around the big cities, with many kilometers of completely stopped traffic not being uncommon. We have a navigation system that shows us traffic jams and alternate routes...but I read Japanese well enough to use it. English navigation are available but I've not seen an English system that is as up to date with maps as the Japanese.

Printed maps in English are hopelessly out of date and lacking in detail, making navigation with them harder than navigation without them. Prepare to be lost often, as signs are inconsistent...in that sometimes there are signs, and sometimes there aren't signs. Usually they have some English though.

While I won't say driving will be impossible, I will encourage you to think about it carefully. Train travel is faster and more relaxing. Between train and a couple of buses you can get everywhere you want to go easily and efficiently. It's only a two week trip...how much luggage will you need? If you have really a lot, you could either cut down a lot, or you could plan on sending bags ahead using delivery service (they arrive next day, cost averages about ¥2000/bag).
KimJapan is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 12:59 AM
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I too would reconsider having a car in Japan for all the reasons Kim Japan has noted.
mjs is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 04:57 AM
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What about the places we're seeing. Is that a good list?

Robert_Brandywine is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 01:17 PM
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I know everybody says to do Kamakura as a day trip from Tokyo but I must disagree. We were just there in April and spent two nights in Kamakura and it was by far the highlight of the trip (we were also in Kyoto, Nara and Tokyo). There is so much to see there and everything is very accessible. It's a great place to walk around and you can see just about everything on foot. I would not combine Kamakura and Hakone into one day trip, you will see nothing and spend the entire time traveling.
laurieco is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 01:57 PM
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I think the places are fine and the itinerary well thought out. It's just the car I suggested thinking about.
KimJapan is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 02:31 PM
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These are all worthwhile places to visit, but this looks more like the itineray of a packaged bus tour that will speed you from one place to another.

If you are going to do this, you may as well go on the tour, because the rushed schedule and the stress of driving- not to mention the expense of tolls, gas, car, parking- does not sound like a nice intro to Japan to me!

If you really want to drive, I'd do it only part of the way- maybe up in the mountains- then take the train to the remaining cities. You will be able to zoom along on the Shinkansen, from my experience a LOT faster than driving.

If you really can't handle lightening your luggage, do as Kim says and send your bags ahead.
lcuy is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 03:26 PM
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Your itinerary looks good, just nix the car rental except maybe from Takayama to Kanazawa if you must. We travel heavy when in Japan and always send our bags ahead of us. Here is a site explaining it somewhat, very easy to do and reliable.


I would take a train everywhere except maybe Takayama to Kanazawa. There you could either catch the bus or rent a car.

Day 4 I would drop Kamakura and just do Hakone, as laurieco mentioned Kamakura is worth a nite at least and Hakone will take you a full day. See a guide to Hakone below:


All the other areas you mention are easily accessible by the train . Looks like you have a fun trip scheduled....enjoy!

hawaiiantraveler is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 05:14 PM
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Bingo! lcuy you win a prize!! Remember I said these places were just words on paper to me? That's because this itinerary is just Globus Tour's "Highlights of Japan" with the "Hiroshima Extension".

I think I will just go with the tour. Rushed it will be -- but I don't have to worry about driving or catching trains and it sounds like I'll be seeing some good stuff.
Robert_Brandywine is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 09:17 AM
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As others have suggested, the trip you are describing should be rather easy to do on your own without a car - just plan on forwarding your luggage from city to city. I also agree that it would be hard to visit Kamakura and Hakone in one day unless you are with a tour, and then I wonder what, really, you will see in either place. I must admit, though, that I'm not fond of tours - I like the freedom of doing things at my own pace. And by the way, trains in Japan are amazingly easy to negotiate! Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Jul 8th, 2007, 01:48 PM
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I am not aware of Globus Tour's contents, but you may want to check out if you'll get to actually visit all destinations included, or if some of them are mere "drive-through"/"viewed from the coach" variety.

The only bit you may find difficult to replecate on your own would be Day 4-5. I don't think you can travel dirctly from Hakone to Matsumoto unless you either drive (scenic, but still takes time) or go back and change via Tokyo.
W9London is offline  
Jul 8th, 2007, 02:18 PM
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Taking the tour sounds like the best option for you. It is an itin that will keep you on the move, so the less you need to be concerned with the logistics the better for you, I think. It is a "highlights" tour.

From Matsumoto to Takayama the shortest route is by road. That means by bus if you didn't have a car. Or it means driving on somewhat winding mountain roads all the way from Matsumoto to Takayama to Kanazawa, starting on your 5th day in Japan.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Jul 8th, 2007, 03:34 PM
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Had to check to make sure but note that the tour visits location and specific sites associated with all of the periods of Japanese history from 710 to 1868 (Nara, Heian, Kamakura, Muromachi, Momoyama, and Edo periods) and beyond, including WWII. The term medieval doesn't apply to Japan but there are some parallels between the Middle Ages and pre-Edo Japan. I think.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Jul 8th, 2007, 03:43 PM
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With what you want to see and your luggage situation, a tour sounds like a good idea if you are willing to sacrifice the freedom to choose how long is spent at each place and choosing your own hotel.

We were in Shirakawa-go one day last fall and met some people who were on a tour..don't know which company though. They had just arrived in S-go, and were to gather for lunch in 20 minutes, and would depart immediately after lunch. They had 20 minutes to have a look around, that's it. They were disappointed, to say the least.
KimJapan is offline  
Jul 9th, 2007, 02:18 PM
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Hmm, there is no need for the tour to stop at the Takayama Hida Minzoku-Mura Folk Village if it is spending a proper amount of time in Shirakawago.

Also, really would want to stop at Kamikochi enroute from Matsumoto to Takayama.

mrwunrfl is online now  
May 9th, 2014, 02:25 PM
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Wow, I can't believe it has been seven years since I asked about Japan. I finally got around to making the trip, and just got back. Because we now have pets, we cut the trip down to just 8 days, and only went to Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, and Nara.

My observations: Probably the best site to see was Nikko National Park and specifically the Toshogu Shrine Complex. This is very exotic and set in a beautiful hilly forest location. Second best was just Tokyo in general. This is the only city I've seen that I would actually want to live in because it is so clean and free of graffiti, litter, and crime. There's lot to do there. Seeing Mt. Fuji was nice, too, but the cable car ride and trip on Lake Ashi were nothing special. The day tour we took to Nara was just too rushed and I'd consider a private car and driver and your own time schedule for anyone going there.
Robert_Brandywine is offline  
May 9th, 2014, 02:33 PM
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Oh, I forgot, I did an onsen bath at the hotel in Hakone, and that was really interesting. I had no one to tell me what to do so sort of aped the Japanese (they probably thought I was a perv the way I kept checking up on what they were doing!).
Robert_Brandywine is offline  

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