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Japan, round two - the planning begins...

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I'm in the early stages of planning my trip for spring 2016. We're looking at starting sometime in late-March or early-April. The trip will run approximately 30 to 35 days, not including intercontinental travel, and we will be visiting Japan, Australia, and possibly an island in the South Pacific.

This will be our second time in Japan. On our first trip, back in 2011, we visited Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, and Nara. In addition, I've experienced Tokyo on a couple other occasions while transiting Japan. The goals of this trip are to see some Japanese castles, more temples and gardens, ride the bullet trains, and hopefully get a glimpse or two of sakura in bloom, and we're looking at 2 weeks for this portion of our itinerary.

Right now we're thinking...

4 nights in Tokyo - We want to revisit some of our favorite sights, check out one or two that we haven't seen already, and do a day trip to Kamakura. I've stayed near the Hanzomon subway station on a couple of occasions and out on Odaiba on one. The Hanzomon area worked well in that it is centrally located and it wasn't too busy in the evenings, which was perfect, although we want to try a different neighborhood this time. Budget is around US$200 a night. Any suggestions / your own favorites? One of us is also thinking about Yokohama, for a day trip or possibly on the way back from Kamakura - is the harbor area similar to Odaiba? is it compact enough for perhaps an evening stroll?

1 or 2 nights in or near Nagano, for the Jigokudani snow monkeys - We're unsure about this one, depending on timing. What has the snow situation been in past years in mid- to late-April?

4 nights in Kanazawa - Based upon what I've read here and elsewhere, I'm thinking two full days in the city and perhaps one day trip, if we're up for it. We're gravitating towards Gokayama, but have read good things about the Noto peninsula. Is Noto worthwhile for a day visit, or are we better off saving it for when we have more time?

3 or 4 nights in Okayama or somewhere nearby - We're interested in visiting Himeji Castle, Korakuen, and Kurishiki. How is Okayama as a base if our goal is ease to get around among these areas, or would you recommend one of the other towns? As we are fairly fast-pace travelers, would 4 nights be overkill or would there be enough to keep us reasonably occupied?

Looking forward to your suggestions and feedback, and, as always, thank you.

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