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Japan itinerary review: 14 days; first timers

Japan itinerary review: 14 days; first timers

Old Aug 4th, 2016, 05:09 AM
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THR
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Japan itinerary review: 14 days; first timers

Hi everyone,

We are embarking on our first trip to Japan in late June 2017 (a little way off, but I am starting all of the research now). Perhaps not the most ideal time, weather wise (given rain, humidity, heat), but that is the only time of year we will get the opportunity, so better then than not at all!

I am generally pretty good at trip planning and researching, but I must say that I am finding Japan a little overwhelming. It seems so vast and diverse.

By way of background, we enjoy the typical sightseeing activities (visiting a few temples and highlights of the region), lots of dining/good food, visiting local markets, etc. We are not into significant hiking (although do like seeing aspects) or art, and shopping is not a major drawcard.

We don't like to do too much travelling/moving of hotels, and prefer a slower pace.

Our plan thus far (apologies for formatting):
Day .5, Friday, 16 June 2017: Leave Sydney to fly to Tokyo (Narita), arriving ~ 5pm.
Day 1, Saturday, 17 June 2017: Tokyo (... + day trips)
Day 2, Sunday, 18 June 2017: Tokyo
Day 3, Monday, 19 June 2017: Tokyo
Day 4, Tuesday, 20 June 2017: Tokyo
Day 5, Wednesday, 21 June 2017: Tokyo
Day 6, Thursday, 22 June 2017: Fly Tokyo to Hiroshima (overnight Hiroshima)
Day 7, Friday, 23 June 2017: Miyajima
Day 8, Saturday, 24 June 2017: Train to Osaka
Day 9, Sunday, 25 June 2017: Osaka
Day 10, Monday, 26 June 2017: Train to Kyoto
Day 11, Tuesday, 27 June 2017: Kyoto (visit Nara on one day)
Day 12, Wednesday, 28 June 2017: Kyoto
Day 13, Thursday, 29 June 2017: Kyoto
Day 14 (13.5), Friday, 30 June 2017: Train to Tokyo via Takayama, fly to Sydney (approximately 7pm)

Where we have transport options, obviously we have allocated losing ~ 1/2 a day; where I have mentioned one location, we will spend both day and night there, unless we are doing a day trip.

Anyone who reviews this will probably think I am a bit lost:
- Too much Tokyo?
- Too much travelling between Day 6-8 (and 10)?

We were thinking it is easier to fly to Hiroshima and backtrack to Tokyo than the other way (noting that we must fly into and out of Narita and cannot open jaw).

Thanks anyone for your feedback!
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Old Aug 4th, 2016, 06:32 AM
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Too much time Tokyo (unless you plan to include day trips to Kamakura and/or Nikko in there) and no where near enough time for Kyoto (2 1/2 days by my count above, factoring in your day trip to Nara)

The bullet train from Tokyo to Hiroshima (with a quick change of trains in Osaka) was only about 5 hours when I took it 3 years ago (albeit in the northbound direction.) When you factor in time to arrive early at the airport, security, etc. it might be almost the same amount of time, with less stress and cost, to train it down to Hiroshima.

IMO, Tokyo itself needs perhaps 3 days for a first visit, but Kyoto by itself deserves at least 5. I like that you are spending the night on Miyajima, so don't change that. While I didn't hit Osaka on my first trip, I plan to visit there one evening from Kyoto next spring to walk around the Dotembori (sp?) area and have dinner but that's it. Most of the Japan pros around here are not big Osaka fans.
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Old Aug 4th, 2016, 08:37 AM
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It's a personal preference but Osaka didn't do much for me, though we gave it a good try - two nights there on our first visit and one on our second - so personally I'd drop the overnights there or reduce to one. You could easily do a half day visit from Kyoto, including an early evening dinner in Dotonbori, if you like.

As Minnbeef has said, I'd give Tokyo less time and Kyoto more more more. You could easily fill 3 whole days in Kyoto without even seeing half of the top sights, let alone day trips from there to Nara, Osaka and there are also other day trip options like Uji, Yamazaki (if you like whisky) and Kobe.

Yes to an overnight in Miyajima after your visit to Hiroshima - assume the full day ahead of the stayover and a good amount of the following day as well if you can.

We took the train directly from Hiroshima back to Tokyo, as Minnbeef said, it took about 5 hours and was wonderfully easy, relaxing and with lovely views from the train.

I'm confused by the "via Takayama" in your last day??
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Old Aug 4th, 2016, 09:45 AM
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That's a good start, except that the "via Takayama" part is wacky.

To your two questions:
Yes, maybe too much Tokyo time.
No, not really, but Osaka doesn't really need to be on your itinerary.

But you will figure out why I gave those answers as you do more research, and perhaps will disagree.
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Old Aug 4th, 2016, 09:46 AM
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More Kyoto. Less Tokyo.

Include Nikko.

There is no bloody way to go to Takayama and then to your flight home. Even the japan-guide.com instructions note that you'd have to go from Kyoto to Takayama (35+ min to Nagoya, 140 min to Takayama = THREE HOURS trip) and then to go from Takayama to Tokyo, which is nearly a four-hour trip, and then to Narita (another 70 minutes). The options on Hyperdia.com (learn to use it) from Takayama to Narita are about 360 minutes - that's SIX hours.

Either go to Takayama from Tokyo and sub it for the Hiroshima/Miyajima part or skip it.
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Old Aug 4th, 2016, 11:00 AM
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Maybe "Day 14 (13.5)" means leaving Kyoto on the 13th, spending that night in Takayama, and on the next day, day 14 going to the airport.

That's not good because of the travel times and effort and the lack of time in Takayama.

You can scratch Osaka and use those days for Takayama but would need to rearrange.

You could put 2 or 3 nights in Takayama after Tokyo.

Takayama to Hiroshima is a long trip, over 5 hours. That is too long for me and I'd try to find another way. But if you bite that bullet then it would make the rest of your trip -Miyajima to Kyoto to airport- easy enough.

Another way would be Tokyo- Takayama- Kyoto- Hiroshima/Miyajima and then fly to Tokyo on Day 13.5
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Old Aug 4th, 2016, 11:30 AM
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Which airport are you using?

By rail, Miyajima to Tokyo or Tokyo Haneda Airport would be at least a six-hour trip. Miyajima to Narita Airport by rail would be over 7 hours.

The rail+air trip would be about 6 hours. Maybe more depending on how early you think you need to get to the gate before the flight.
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Old Aug 4th, 2016, 12:00 PM
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>

Disagree. I'm thinking the OP is saying it's 13.5 because they're just getting half a day due to the flight home. And if that's right, there is NFW they can pop by Takayama.
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Old Aug 4th, 2016, 12:39 PM
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Thank you everyone. I knew I would get some excellent responses - and they all are.

In retrospect, the Takayama is clearly wacky (it was my intent above to go via there on the way to Narita). I thought I read that as an itinerary proposition on Japan-Guide, but I must have misread that, as I cannot see that even in the suggested itinerary as I re-look at it. So I will rethink that entirely.

Will definitely reconsider the number of nights in Tokyo, and look at add more to Kyoto. Also take on board the suggestion to do Osaka from Kyoto, rather than staying there (taking those two nights and adding to Kyoto immediately adds more to Kyoto).

The flight to Hiroshima would have been from Haneda: my primary reason for looking at flying was because of the Yokoso JAL option, but perhaps train is more sensible (scenic, easy, etc). And the reason for going Hiroshima first, and then back towards Tokyo via Kyoto, is that we fly from Narita, and the flight times from Hiroshima (if we were to go there last) to Narita aren't ideal; transferring from Haneda would obviously be a hassle.

That said, I am happy to follow the more traditional path and train from Hiroshima to Tokyo on our last day (our flight leaves at 7pm). (As someone correctly noted, it is day 13.5 as we leave at 7pm, so obviously need to be at the airport early; and now it seems a transit day entirely.)

Thank you all so much for your feedback, it really is appreciated. I will rework the above itinerary!
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Old Aug 4th, 2016, 06:11 PM
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Another opinion that that’s a LOT of time for Tokyo, even with day trips! And conversely, you have far less time in Kyoto and Nara than I think ideal for a first visit (I think at least 5 or 6 days there make most sense).

If you can reach Hiroshima in time, consider staying overnight in Miyajima rather than Hiroshima – it is a delightful place, and much nicer without daytrippers.

Are you sure that Osaka is a higher priority than other options? It may well be, but for many of us, it is not, so just checking…

I also agree that trying to see Takayama, en route from Kyoto on your way to a departure flight makes no sense.

If you haven’t already booked your flights, consider putting all of your time in Tokyo at the end of your trip so access to Narita isn’t a problem. If not, book into Kansai and out of Narita or vice versa.

MinnBeef has given you some great info about trains vs. flights.

Please spend some serious time with japan-guide.com – the single best resource on traveling within Japan with which I am familiar. And as a 2nd excellent option, the JNTO web-site.
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Old Aug 4th, 2016, 07:21 PM
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Thank you kja (and everyone else above again!). We will re-work it so that we can stay in Miyajima rather than Hiroshima.

Our main purpose of staying so long in Tokyo is to partake in many of the michelin star restaurants, celebrate a birthday, plus day trips on a couple of days. And we intend on staying in a nice hotel (MO or RC) there and just relax (MO have a reasonably good 'long stay' six night rate).

However, I will take all of the feedback re the length into consideration, and I think I will add a day onto it so we can travel more leisurely back from Hiroshima (vicinity) to Tokyo for our return flight from NRT (as we are travelling on award redemptions, we have no flexibility on airport choice).

(The only cost of the additional day is one less day before we return to work.)

In complete agreement re the Osaka option: we will just do a day trip there from Kyoto. So that has freed up some time.

I am working on a revised itinerary now that reflects all of the above.

I shall heed all of your expert advice; it is very much appreciated!
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Old Aug 5th, 2016, 01:42 AM
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Glad you are reworking the itinerary, and adding another day too. I don't think you will regret it.

For fine dining, there are some amazing restaurants in Kyoto too - we enjoyed several high end kaiseki dinners on this trip and our best was this one, that we were invited to. Unbelievably amazing. http://www.kaveyeats.com/2016/06/cap...oya-kyoto.html

(That's also an incredible place to stay if you're looking for high end, relaxing, special).

I hadn't spotted that you were over-nighting in Hiroshima rather than Miyajima - yes do swap that to overnight on the island. It's lovely to be there when the day-trippers have left, you'll be able to enjoy walking in the area, seeing the floating gate at both low and high tide (you can walk out onto the sand right up to the gate). A traditional ryokan would be a good choice here.
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Old Aug 5th, 2016, 09:53 AM
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>> travel more leisurely back from Hiroshima (vicinity) to Tokyo

a stop in Nara could do that
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