Japan Itinerary Review

Jan 24th, 2017, 09:06 AM
  #1  
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Japan Itinerary Review

Our family (two adults, two children ages 8 and 10) are very much looking forward to our first trip to Japan!

We would greatly appreciate any input on our proposed itinerary:

May 20: Depart Atlanta

May 21: Arrive Tokyo

May 21-May 25: Tour Tokyo. We plan on attending the Sumo tournament on May 23.

May 25: Train Tokyo-Matsumoto after breakfast. Visit Matsumoto Castle. Onward train/bus to Kamikochi. I'm unsure of when last train/bus from Matsumoto to Kamikochi is, but we need to be at our ryokan by about 5p. I'm not sure if we can do all this in a day. Overnight in Kamikochi.

May 26: Hiking in Kamikochi. This area looks beautiful and we love to hike. Overnight in Kamikochi.

May 27: Train from Kamikochi to Kyoto after breakfast.

May 27- May 31: Tour Kyoto. Day trip to Nara.

May 31 afternoon: train to Tokyo

June 1: tour Tokyo

June 2: depart Tokyo-Atlanta in afternoon.

I believe we can just do a 7-day Rail Pass for May 25-May 31.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
knoxnick37919 is offline  
Jan 24th, 2017, 09:40 AM
  #2  
 
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To check whether a pass will be worthwhile use hyperdia.com
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 24th, 2017, 10:18 AM
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A few thoughts:

1. I think you have a bit too much time for Tokyo. Assuming that you are not planning any day trips to Kamakura or Nikko, you are showing 4 full days for touring Tokyo (the 22nd-24th) and the 1st. I understand wanting to be back in Tokyo on the 1st for a full day before your flight the next, so I would recommend taking one full day from Tokyo at the front of your trip and adding it to Kyoto itself. On my first trip, I had 3 1/2 days for Kyoto and didn't make it to Nara. For my second trip in March, I'm allocating an additional 3 full days for Kyoto itself plus a solid 1 1/2 days for Nara. Bottom line: If you are looking for traditional Japan, you will much more readily find it in Kyoto and Nara than in Tokyo.

2. Your day trip to Matsumoto and on to Kamikochi fees doable from my experience but you will need to research train and bus schedules ahead of time. As I recall, the train from Tokyo to Matsumoto was 2-2 1/2 hours. From the train station, it's a brisk 15m walk to the castle if you don't get lost. 30m if you do. I spent 45m along just taking photos of this beauty from all angles before even going inside, so I'd allow yourself at least 2 hours for the castle if you are bothering to make the trip. I stayed overnight in Matsumoto and took a morning bus to Kamikochi so can't advise on last bus of the day options. But again, you should be able to research this with a little googling.

3. On your days of "afternoon train to Tokyo", etc. I'd advise to not waste your mornings sleeping in or lounging around. Rather, use that 1/2 day to visit a temple, hit Nishiki market, etc. Granted, your style of travel may vary but the beauty of train travel vs. air is that as long as you aren't a super nervous traveler, arriving at the train station even 30m before your departure gives you plenty of time to find your track and stop. Japanese trains truly run like clockwork, so no wasted time like at an airport. Don't just write off those days as travel only--you will be losing valuable touring time.

All in all, I think your itinerary looks pretty good, taking into account my suggestions above.
MinnBeef is offline  
Jan 24th, 2017, 12:45 PM
  #4  
 
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Stay in Matsumoto your second night in the alps, not Kamikochi. You're going to need to be closer to the train. The ride from Matsumoto to Kyoto will take a good bit since it's mostly on a limited express, not shinkansen.

I understand why you're doing the travel from Tokyo on 5-25 and back to it on 5-31. But you should use Hyperdia.com to determine if the JR pass will even be worth the expense. You may be as well off with point-to-point tickets unless you're taking day trips west of Osaka.
BigRuss is offline  
Jan 24th, 2017, 01:04 PM
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Another option for the end of the trip is to spend the last night in Narita rather than Tokyo, arriving early afternoon. There's a castle with a good park, and plenty of shops and restaurants. Narita airport is one stop away on the Keisei train line.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 24th, 2017, 05:34 PM
  #6  
 
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"Stay in Matsumoto your second night in the alps, not Kamikochi. You're going to need to be closer to the train. The ride from Matsumoto to Kyoto will take a good bit since it's mostly on a limited express, not shinkansen"

I completely agree with Big Russ. That is exactly how I did it, albeit 2 nights in a ryokan up in the Japanese Alps, with a wonderful rotenburo.
MinnBeef is offline  
Jan 24th, 2017, 06:49 PM
  #7  
kja
 
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Sounds like a wonderful trip! I love that you are giving yourselves a nice chunk of time in Kyoto / Nara.

I can understand MinnBeef’s recommendation to shift a night from Tokyo to Kyoto, but think it really depends on your preferences and whether you plan to make any day trips from Tokyo. FWIW, Nikko and Kamakura are each well worth the time, IMO.
kja is offline  
Jan 24th, 2017, 11:13 PM
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Your itinerary sounds good, with the proviso MinBeef made about taking one Tokyo night and putting it into Kyoto. I'd agree totally.

For the hiking, I'm not a hiker, so can't comment on that, but wondering if there are other rural stops that may be a good match for you, though not near to Matsumoto so maybe not...

For example, we did an overnight in Miyama, about 40-60 minutes north of Kyoto, staying in a gorgeous traditional wooden village home with bamboo thatch. The group that look after rental can organise walks, bike rides and cultural activities (such as cooking or the bamboo craft workshop we did) according to your interests. May be a good area for hiking, it's certainly beautiful and rural and much closer to one of your existing city stops. But as I say, I'm not a hiker and haven't been to Kamikochi.
Kavey is offline  
Jan 25th, 2017, 07:44 AM
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I agree with adding time to Kyoto generally - I shill enough for Kyoto to deserve serious compensation from its tourist department. But this is a JR pass issue for you. If you determine the JR pass is a necessity, then you're probably going to need to keep your dates as stated above. If the JR pass is going to not save you money or only save you a little bit of scratch, then you can ditch it and add a day to Kyoto.

Do go to Nikko. Google Tobu Nikko for deals.
BigRuss is offline  
Jan 25th, 2017, 08:37 AM
  #10  
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Thanks for all the great advice! I'm going to research some of these suggested options.
knoxnick37919 is offline  
Jan 25th, 2017, 10:26 AM
  #11  
 
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That is a good plan. A JR Pass will save you some money on this itinerary and it will be quite a convenience for a group of 4 pax.

I think it is a great idea to stay in Kamikochi. That area is beautiful and your second night there is quite worthwhile given your interest in hiking. That second night gives you a full day to explore without any schedule to move to Matsumoto or Kyoto.

Am pretty sure that your plan to visit Matsumotojo on the way to Kamikochi will work out. An option is to visit there on the way from Kamikochi to Kyoto.

Be aware that the Kamikochi buses have reserved seats, so it is better to get them sooner than later. It is good that you are not traveling on the weekend when seats are more in demand.

You picked a good day to go to the sumo tournament, a weekday and several days before the last day. You don't want the most expensive tickets unless you enjoy sitting on the floor for hours. The seats on the lower part of the upper level are quite comfortable. You don't need to get there before noon. Arriving at 1PM is the right time for me. But, no matter when you arrive, you do need to stay until the end, at 6PM. Do go for the chanko nabe (sumo stew).
mrwunrfl is online now  
Jan 25th, 2017, 11:09 AM
  #12  
 
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... a full day to explore without any schedule pressure ...

Also, consider this for that day: www.japan-guide.com/e/e5943.html

I highly recommend going to a baseball game in Tokyo. Get seats in right field.

You don't need to take away from Tokyo or Kamikochi and you don't need to add to Kyoto and Nara. I think your timing is right for a family with children.

Here is the japan-guide page about hiking: www.japan-guide.com/e/e2427.html where you will notice that there are hiking options near Tokyo. We had a good report here about a Mt Takeo hike that sounded great.

Notice that on that page that Kamikochi is rated as "*** best of the best" of Japan. Hiking in Nikko is "** best of Japan". Hiking in Kamakura is also mentioned with no *s
mrwunrfl is online now  
Jan 26th, 2017, 04:57 AM
  #13  
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Thanks again! I love all these ideas!
knoxnick37919 is offline  
Jan 26th, 2017, 12:00 PM
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<>

Do you mean for the Giants, the Swallows or both? Tokyo has more than one team.
BigRuss is offline  
Jan 27th, 2017, 08:01 AM
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BigRuss: yes.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Jan 27th, 2017, 09:55 AM
  #16  
 
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Osaka is another option for a baseball game. It is a good, not great, baseball option when staying in Kyoto.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Feb 1st, 2017, 12:17 PM
  #17  
 
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You appear to be an experienced traveller so might appreciate the option of a multi-destination itinerary. There are non-stop flights Atlanta-Tokyo but I'd immediately continue on from Tokyo to Osaka-Kyoto (KIX airport) for your first destination. Then, coming home, you would have the comfort of a non-stop from Tokyo to Atlanta. It would save the time and money of retracing your steps. As you probably know, it's necessary to use a multi-city search function.
Southam is offline  
Feb 1st, 2017, 10:46 PM
  #18  
kja
 
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I think Southam makes a good suggestion, although I would call that an "open jaw" flight (found by using multi-city flight options). I recommend that even for novice travelers!
kja is offline  
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