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Japan questions on Nikko,Fuji,Tokyo,Kyoto

Japan questions on Nikko,Fuji,Tokyo,Kyoto

Old May 10th, 2016, 07:26 PM
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Japan questions on Nikko,Fuji,Tokyo,Kyoto

My mom would like to have a 5 day family reunion to celebrate her 80th birthday at Tokyo in July. My 19 year old daughter,16 year old son and I are gonna to fly from Boston to join her!! My mom booked a package with a Taiwanese agent for Tokyo (7/7-11)but my kids and I would like to explore a few places other than Tokyo too. We'll fly into Japan via Tokyo Narita (7/3) and out via Kyoto (7/13).

I think my son would love Endo Wonderland and Nikko also seems terrific, so I plan to head to Nikko from Narita airport directly. Our flight lands at 3:30 pm. Would it be doable to take a train? I am also thinking of renting a car. I would appreciate everyone's thoughts and comments. Is this too ambitious? Maybe I should stay overnight around the airport and drive early morning.

My daughter is fascinated by climbing Mt Fuji so I thought we will drive to Mt Fuji on the 6th. My daughter can do the famous sunrise hike while my son and I will either check into a hot spring hotel or maybe a hut at 7th station where I think we can see sunrise without summitting the peak. I feel that my daughter needs a guide although she is on trail crew in college and took first-responder class. I am a little worried about altitude sickness for myself but hope staying overnight at the 7th station would not be too painful. If anyone has any comment, I would love to hear

After Fujisan, we will drive or return the rental car and take the train to Tokyo on the 7th. I would appreciate any comment on whether driving or train is better. My mom's flight lands around 5:30pm and we'll spend the next 4 days together with a tour group before she flies out on the 11th. My kids and I will have only a little over 1 day at Kyoto. We will probably sign up for a walking tour to maximize things that we an see

My final question is whether we should stay at Kyoto, Osaka, or an airport hotel for the night before our international flight? Our flight is at 10:10am and I would not want to miss it

Any comments are welcomed

Thanks!! Elisa
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Old May 11th, 2016, 01:19 AM
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Congrats on the birthday celebrations.
Seeing Edo Wonderland would be a unique experience, and Nikko is a top destination. But unless you arrive well rested and are familiar with Japanese driving laws/habits etc, I don't see that jumping into a car in a place you don't know after an exhausting long flight around the world is such a great idea. Renting a car makes more sense going someplace isolated and where there is little traffic. I honestly think taking it easy and getting lots of rest after you arrive makes more sense - by the time you'd arrive in Nikko after your plane lands, going through Immigration and Customs, and driving all the way there, it would nearly be dark anyways.

As for Mt Fuji, you can climb it if you want the experience, but there is no real view while you are on it - the lovely pictures of Fuji are taken from Hakone or the Fuji 5 Lakes area, and may be more rewarding than slugging it up the mountain.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5200.html
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6900.html
Whatever works best for you though.

You are only going one way from Tokyo to the Kansai area, but with the trip to Nikko, using the Narita Express train into Tokyo, the Haruka train to Kansai International (I presume you leave from there; Kyoto has no airport), plus a few other small trips, you could break even on a 7 day JR Rail Pass, which is very convenient.
http://www.japanrailpass.net
As for Kyoto, I suggest you skip the tour and just do it yourselves according to your own interests. The Top 3 sights in Kyoto are the Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion), Kiyomizudera Temple, and the Fushimi Inari Shrine. Kinkakuji only takes 30-40 minutes to see, and that's without rushing, Kiyomizudera could be done in 1-2 hours, and Fushimi Inari could be the same or more if you want to romp over all the trails. Fushimi Inari is open 24/7 though so you could fit it in when there are fewer crowds in the early morning or evening if you wish. It's also very easy to reach from Kyoto Station down the Nara Line. If you like a very early start, the 2 Honganji Temples open around the crack of dawn and are within walking distance of Kyoto Station - they have some of the most fantastic wooden structures in the world. Subway is a good way to get around but the network is not extensive and there are not many places close to subway stations. In your case though there are 3 people, and taking a taxi to some places would be quick, convenient and economical, given that you have little time. I suggest you look through the sites below and pick and choose what you like best. Design your own itinerary - it suits you better than someone else's!
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2158.html
http://www.ar.jal.com/world/en/guide...y/see/central/
https://goo.gl/uo1z5p
http://www.kyoto.travel/

If you still have some energy, then after the temples of Kyoto close down around 5 PM, you can zip over to Osaka for the evening. At night the city comes alive and has some great places to see, such as Dotonbori, plus the night views from the Umeda Sky Bldg and Abeno Harukas Bldg are stunning.
https://goo.gl/glc1A9

And if you can possibly squeeze it in, take a couple of hours at least, and go see Nara - it is also one of the crown jewels of traditional Japan, and while a lot of temples might turn into a blur at the end, the Todaiji Temple in Nara Park will be one place you won't forget for the rest of your life.
https://goo.gl/Aw1y2o

For your last night, it is up to you - you could do it either way, depending on if you're night owls or early risers. You should be at the airport before 8AM, and if seeing a bit of Osaka appeals to you as I described, you could see Kyoto, move to Osaka for the evening, overnight there and then go to the airport the next morning. Up to you though.
If you choose not to get the JR Pass for some reason, then the Icoca & Haruka discount ticket may help you.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2359_icoca_haruka.html
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Old May 11th, 2016, 08:10 AM
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I agree wholeheartedly with Aastra - I would not rent a car. Japan has such a superlative train system, there is no need for a rental car for what you want to do. And I'd recommend Hakone rather than climbing Fuji, as you can do hiking and see great views of Fuji. Climbing Mt. Fuji isn't what you or I would think of as mountain climbing - there is no technical climbing, and during the season, the climb consists of following a long line of people up the trail. Google "photo of people climbing Fuji" to see what I mean. After looking at the photos, I expect your daughter would prefer to do something else.

I also agree that you can see Kyoto independently rather than with a tour. Going independently means you get to choose which places to visit. Our favorite was Arashamaya, but do your research so you know what you want to see. Here are our photos of Japan, which may help: http://www.marlandc.com/Japan-2013
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Old May 11th, 2016, 08:43 AM
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>

Train train train. I would not drive at all.

First, the Japanese drive on the wrong side of the road like the Brits and the Aussies and the Irish.

Second, you are an illiterate in Japan (unless you know how to read Japanese) and the English translations or Roman lettering on Japanese signs is small - easy to miss stuff.

Third, cost - rental cars won't be cheap and the petrol costs are high. It's more than $1.05/liter, and 3.8 liters per gallon. This is during an oil glut - if supply constrains between now and your trip, the petrol costs will jump.

Fourth, consider a 14-day JR pass. The way your trip will shake out, you likely will not be able to make a 7-day work because you'll have uncovered days and the days that are covered won't be fully utilized. The 14-day pass is not 2x the cost of the 7.

Here's what a 14-day pass will cover:

Narita transport to Tokyo station --> shinkansen to Utsunomiya --> local line to Nikko. There's no direct transfer to Nikko from Narita.

Nikko line to back to Tokyo station.

Shinkansen (not Nozomi) to Odawara and back to Tokyo (further train to Hakone is by private railway).

All JR local trains in Tokyo and Kyoto.

Hikari shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto.

Limited express Haruka from Kyoto or Shin-Osaka to Kansai.

You can price all this out on Hyperdia.com. Ultimately, I think you may be better off buying all your rail trips a la carte.
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Old May 11th, 2016, 08:58 AM
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Next, your Kyoto trip.

>

That's subjective.

The Golden Pavilion is a pavilion covered with gold leaf set out in the middle of a pond. It is picturesque and . . . a bit boring. You can't go in, you can only perambulate around the pond, look at the pav, and watch the carp fight the turtles for food scraps.

The Fushimi Inari shrine is outstanding and it is not far (short train ride, local private railway) from Kiyomizudera. Both are on the other side of Kyoto from the Golden Pav. Nijojo is the castle that housed the various Shoguns.

If it's rainy, go to Sanjusangendo Temple and get kanonized.

Bear in mind: to get to KIX from Kyoto before 8, you'll need to catch a 6:20 Limited Express Haruka from Kyoto station. The ride is about 90 minutes; the ride from Osaka is about an hour.
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Old May 11th, 2016, 12:57 PM
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Well, let's just say that's a lot of people's "subjective". I'm not saying those are my personal Top 3 favs (they're not, though I love Fushimi Inari) but pick any Kyoto guidebook, video guide etc and chances are the title photo will be one of those 3 places. They are the icons of the city. Just saying.

Secondly, the 14 day pass *would not pay off* without extensive side trips. By what I listed above, a 7 day pass would break even, and not by much. So advocating a 14 day pass makes no sense at all.

--

On another note (Kathie), it is not "Arashimaya" - it is Arashiyama.

As an addendum, please be aware that you'll still catch a bit of the rainy season, and at the very least you will be hit by some extremely muggy weather. If you're not used to high humidity, it can he very tiring and troublesome. Have enough sunblock with you too - in Japan it is quite pricey, and make sure that you keep yourself well hydrated.
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Old May 11th, 2016, 01:33 PM
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Oops - thanks for correcting my spelling.

We all have our favorites. I always appreciate hearing what others' favorites are before I go. Especially in a place like Kyoto with so many temples to visit.
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Old May 11th, 2016, 06:07 PM
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Kathie, Adastra and Bigruss,

Thank you all for the amazingly useful information. Kathie's photos are very special! There are so many beautiful places. I wish I have more time in Kyoto but I made my flight reservation in January and my siblings only reached an agreement this month on the dates of family reunion.

It seems that you all think driving is a bad idea. Regarding reading road signs, I am from Taiwan originally and can read traditional Chinese. I think I can guess 25% of Japanese in a sentence. Anyway, I started to learn to understand how trains work and have a few more questions. First, my flight lands at Narita at 3:30pm and have to go through custom. can I make a train at 5:38pm (from the airport to Nikko)? Also, when I check at hyperdia.com (what a helpful website!), it seems that often there are multiple transits for a trip. Does that mean I have to get my luggage out at those stops and get on to a different train? With jet lag, I am afraid that I might sleep through a transit... Maybe It is wiser to take the train next morning so I don't wake up somewhere unknown : )


I also priced out each train rides on hyperdia.com. The cost for 7-day pass ($267) plus a couple isolated tickets for 3 people turn out to be similar to the price of renting a car for 3-4 days plus a few isolated tickets. The car will have English GPS...

For Fuji, I have to talk to my daughter again and show her a photo that people just drop on the path to the peak because of altitude sickness! Hakone seems to be a great alternative : )

At Kyoto, here is my current thought. We will arrive in the afternoon of the 11th and will go to Kiyomizu Temple to see sunset and then Gion for a simple meal. On the 12th, I will rent a taxi to visit Fushimi Inari, Arashiyama, Nijo Castle and optionally Kinkakuji Temple. My son loves castle so we have to go to Nijo castle. I wish I have another day to visit Hikone Castle, Himeji Castle, Nara, or Osaka, but it will have to be next time : ) At night, we will check into an hotel at Osaka Kansai Airport. This way, I do not have to worry on the 13th whether I will miss the plane : )

I hope it is not going to rain : (
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Old May 11th, 2016, 09:32 PM
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Again, unless you fly in Business/1st Class, or are lucky enough to be able to sleep well in Cattle Class, you are likely to arrive an exhausted zombie - Boston to Tokyo is a very long flight! So while normally doing your traveling at night to maximize your daylight time for sightseeing is the most efficient, I suggest you take it easy and get a good night's rest.
Besides, you are going to Tokyo anyway, as you can see on Hyperdia, and every orange Tra you see means yes, you are transferring and dragging your bags with you.

About the car rental, you may not be considering that driving in Tokyo can be like going to the dentist. In many areas it really is like a moving parking lot. Plus you need to think of the cost of fuel, the freeways are anything but free, and drop off charges can be very stiff if you leave the car at a different office than where you first rented it. Take the train or bus and save your sanity.
Also for Kyoto, Kiyomizudera closes at 6PM sharp on weekdays, and sunset in Kyoto for July 11th will be about 7:13PM, so you won't be able to enjoy it there. You might want to go to the Kyoto Tower or somewhere if that's what you want (and while I'm not a pessimist, an overcast or rainy day is a fair possibility in Japan).

Interestingly, the places you now want to visit will need a taxi the least - it's easy to get to Fushimi Inari and Arashiyama by the JR train from Kyoto Station, and Nijo Castle is one of the few good places very close to a subway station. You could catch a taxi from there to get to Kinkakuji though, which is more out there. BTW, Nijo Castle is not so much a castle as your son is probably thinking - it has big historical importance and a beautiful garden, but not the layout of your typical 'castle'.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3T1nUADdus0
It is though a very nice place to visit. Himeji however is by far the best surviving original castle in the country.
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Old May 11th, 2016, 11:46 PM
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Driving is easy in Japan (though we're from the UK and drive on the same side, we've drive all around the world, on both sides and the side is probably the most minor aspect of driving in another country). The max speeds are really low, Japanese drivers are very polite and follow the rules. All of that said, it doesn't make sense at all for your itinerary and I totally agree with the advice to use the trains. Driving is good for more rural areas, and areas where there are not frequent trains or buses that work with your planned itinerary. But for Nikko, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hakone, trains are good. And I wouldn't want to drive in Tokyo anyway.

If I understand correctly, you have 3 nights at the start, then the package booked from Taiwan, and then just 2 more nights at the end?

What is the itinerary / content of the package, that may impact what recommendations make most sense?

Don't over-estimate how much you can do in limited time, even though the trains are super cool, you don't want to spend most of your time in transit rather than seeing or doing.

I adore Kyoto, so if your package doesn't include it, I'd definitely want as many nights there as possible. You can also see Nara, Uji, Osaka, Kobe from there, or do an overnight trip to Hiroshima/ Miyajima, though I think your available time is too tight for that.

We just visited Nikko but I was feeling poorly so we didn't see all the sights. We didn't include it on our first or second trips to Japan, and wanted to see it properly this time but looks like we'll need to back on trip 4, whenever that might be. But if you are going to Kyoto, you could skip Nikko if you wanted to, the temples are not remotely the same but at the same time there are wonderful ones to see in Kyoto too so you will still experience some magical temples and their environs.

Mount Fuji, I can't comment on climbing, that's not my thing. Hakone is the traditional place from which to view, though our 2 night stay yielded no views, not only of the peak but we didn't even see Fuji at all - too much very low and thick cloud. Hakone is still lovely, especially for a traditional ryokan / onsen experience within reach of Kyoto.
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Old May 12th, 2016, 12:12 AM
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Your daughter might enjoy this video
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1uqNsj2Ubw
Good links to Fuji outfitters/information

Also this one has some good tips
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZQWtSgcO4w

You may have to decide how to split what amounts to be 3 days before your tour starts, 1 Nikko/ 2 Fuji or vice versa.
I'd limousine bus from airport to a Asakusa hotel, then next day consider Tobu Nikko free pass to Nikko. Good hiking near Lake Chuzenji and Senjogahara Marsh
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2358_002.html
Then back through Tokyo to Hakone /Fuji using Fuji Hakone Free Pass
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2358_014.html

Consider using the luggage forwarding service to free you from hauling suitcases through stations and streets. Send luggage from first hotel to your hotel on the 7th and travel light with packs or small bags with a fews nights change. Lets you be more flexible to see sights and be spontaneous.
Your hotel staff can help with forms when you check out, usually not more than $25 per bag, nice to have them waiting for you at next hotel.
http://www.kuronekoyamato.co.jp/en/p...in/index2.html

Not too much time in Kyoto but plenty of good advice on what to see.
You will want to come back
Have a great time
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Old May 12th, 2016, 07:53 AM
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Tokyo is the most populous metro area in the world and the city itself is physically about 85% the size of New York. No way I'd drive there. No no no.
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Old May 12th, 2016, 08:09 AM
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"On the 12th, I will rent a taxi to visit Fushimi Inari, Arashiyama, Nijo Castle and optionally Kinkakuji Temple."

You will never be able to visit those all in one day. They are scattered on all sides of the city. While I did not make it to Arashiyama on my trip to Kyoto in 2013, I will visit there next year and everyone typically devotes a full day to just it. Fushimi Inari was my favorite shrine/temple and it is on the completely opposite end of town from Kinkaku-ji. With planning, you could probably visit it and Kinkaku-ji on the same day, although I shudder to think what a taxi from one to the other would cost you. Just for the four priority sites you've listed for the 12th, I think you'll need a hair over 2 full days.
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Old May 12th, 2016, 08:30 AM
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Yes, that's an ambitious day!!! Hard to visit Arashiyama in less then 3-4 hours (including travel time to and from central Kyoto) and we spent a couple of hours visiting Fushimi Inari. If you're happy to do a long day, you could head to Arashiyama early, go to either Nijo Castle or Kinkakyuji in the afternoon and head to Fushimi Inari to arrive at least half an hour before sunset, a glorious time to visit because of the low and golden light (assuming it's not raining or very overcast).

And I've not come across services that offer rentals of chauffeured cars / taxis by the day, I don't even know if you could do that let alone how much it would cost. But it's easy to get a different taxi each time anyway, I would say, so don't let that worry you overly.
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Old May 12th, 2016, 09:43 AM
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We used taxis to get around, but just picked up a new one at each place. It was never hard to get a taxi at any of the places we went in/around Kyoto.
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Old May 12th, 2016, 07:19 PM
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Thank you all so much for the great ideas and tips!! It just darn on me that instead of going to Nikko/Fuji first, I should go to Kyoto for 3-4 days first. After that, I can join my mom at Tokyo for 4-5 days and then spent 1-2 days at Fuji before flying out at Osaka. I am going to sit on it for a little. If I buy JR pass, the additional cost was not that substantial.

I have a couple questions on JR pass though. Does it cover local trains from Shin-Fuji Station to Fuji-5 lake area? Also, it has different price for green, reserved, and unreserved seat. Is unreserved seat too risky?

Does it sound stupid if I take a train from Narita to Kyoto on the evening that I arrive Japan? I am be at Kyoto by 9:30 pm : )

By the way, there are companies offering taxi tours at Kyoto - very pricy...
http://www.yasaka.jp/english/limousine/rates.html
http://www.kyotodailytours.com/kyoto...taxi-tour.html
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Old May 13th, 2016, 04:13 AM
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I forgot to reply to Kavey's question on my Tokyo itinerary for the 5-day tour package. Because of the kids in the family reunion,we have 1 day for Disney and 2 other days include picking cherries, Asakusa, Senso-ji, Karuizawa (Shiraito Fall), and Tokyo sky tree. The 1st day will be a late arrival for my mom and the 5th day my kids and I will leave for Fuji. I will probably sign my daughter up for a Fuji climbing tour from Tokyo. My son and I will take a train to overnight at Hakone or directly to Fuji. I will probably pass Disney : )
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Old May 13th, 2016, 07:28 AM
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I think you idea of going to Kyoto directly on arrival makes a lot of sense and will make your itinerary better.
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Old May 13th, 2016, 08:02 AM
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>

No.

The JR pass categories are ordinary or green. Green is first class and unnecessary because the ordinary class is roomier (and cleaner) than the usual steerage seating on a plane.

There is NO ADDITIONAL CHARGE FOR RESERVED SEATS WHEN YOU HAVE A JR PASS, you just need to reserve the seats. Go here for more: http://www.japanrailpass.net/en/about_jrp.html

And JR passes are good on JR trains only. If the Shin-Fuji to five lakes line is not a JR line, you pay extra.
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Old May 13th, 2016, 01:39 PM
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Something to think about if seeing Mt Fuji is a critical part of the trip. We were in Hakone for an overnight 2 years ago and never saw Mt Fuji. As I write this, I am on Lake Kawaguchi and the views of Fuji are constant and magnificent, it is quite close by, so I would suggest staying in this area. There is less sightseeing but you are more likely to have clear views.
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