Japan travel itinerary

Nov 20th, 2007, 08:51 PM
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Japan travel itinerary

We are planning a three week trip to Japan (first time) next fall. We would like the best possible combination of maximizing foliage and minimizing crowds. Suggestions? We have all of October and November to choose from, will be traveling with miles and need to decide soon.

Other questions: Is it crazy to fly to Tokyo then go immediately to spend 2 nights recovering from journey in Hakone, then go back to Tokyo for 5 nights. Our current itinerary is

2 nights Hakone
5 nights Tokyo
3 nights Takayama
6 nights Kyoto
1 night Koya-san
2 nights Kurashiki
2 nights Hiroshima
1 final night in Osaka before plane?

Additions or subtractions? What about Shirakawa-go? We would like to balance city/country, nature/culture, old/new, East/West. Is it worth it to take a Japanese course for 3 week stay? Thanks, cms
cmstraf is offline  
Nov 20th, 2007, 09:14 PM
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Overall, it's a typical itinerary that includes a bit of the most popular places.

Your only two "country" stops are Hakone and Koya-san. Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka are all huge cities. Takayama and Kurashiki are small cities that both have small areas of preserved historical districts, but they are not countryside villages at all.

Shirakawa-go is on of our favorite spots for a day trip from Kanazawa. In fact, we were just there last week on Sunday. Autumn leaves were peak the day we were there, and very beautiful. The area around Shirakawa-go and Gokayama is very nice, and is really country, though only an hour drive from Kanazawa. A night in a minshuku is Shirakawa-go is very nice...you get to see the village after the tour buses are gone, which is very nice. The local food is delicious, especially the beef and the miso and tofu.

The Tateyama Alpine route and Kurobe Dam area offer stunning views and beautiful scenery complete with comprehensive public transportation...in fact, private cars (except those of residents) cannot go there. That might be another non-city type place to consider.

October is too early for foliage except in Hokkaido and maybe the Japan Alps up high. We are now seeing leaf color in Kanazawa this week, but strong wind and rain (typical for November) will have leaves on the ground very soon.

Getting to Hakone on the day of arrival may not be possible. It is also not a direct trip...it will require multiple change of trains and over 2 hours of travel time...variable changes and time, depending on where in the Hakone area you are headed. Personally, we limit travel when we arrive in Japan and spend a night in a hotel before returning home to Kanazawa because it's a long flight and the last thing we want to do is travel more on trains with jet lag and suitcases.
KimJapan is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 07:04 AM
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Hi, cmstraf -

Sounds to me like a reasonable itinerary for your interests, and KimJapan's comments are (as always) to the point.

If you aren't already planning to do so, you might consider including a visit to Miyajima while in the area of Hiroshima - I would imagine it would be stunning as the leaves turn.

I did not take a Japanese language course before my trip, but I did try to learn some basic words and phrases and I would encourage you to do that (whether through a course or not). I had no trouble getting by with English, but people seemed to appreciate that I had made the effort to attempt basic communications and I felt much more comfortable than if I hadn't known a few words.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 07:12 AM
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cmstraf - I recently did that transfer from NRT to Hakone.

My plane from JFK came in well before its scheduled time of 3:40 pm. I had plenty of time to buy my N'ex Suica ticket, and Hakone Free Pass at the JR office before I made the 16:43 N'Ex to Shinagawa.

There you must transfer to the Nagoya shinkansen that stops at Odawara. Those two trips are about one and a half hours.

Then I took a bus at Odawara to Moto Hakone where I was staying. That ride was close to fifty minutes. So it is doable. The worst part for me was the bus ride - it is a local type bus with many stops but the route is hilly with twisty turns and I really started to feel ill.

I'm not sure if I would do it that way again but it is possible if your plane arrives by about 4 pm. I came in before the new immigration policy so I don't know if that will cause a great delay or not.

Mara is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 06:14 PM
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Thanks--we will definitely add Shirakawa-go to our plans, also Miyajima. Do you think that Kurashiki is worth the trip? Does the lack of foliage in October make for sunnier weather and less crowds? I will go look up the Tateyama alpine route and the Kurobe dam area in our guidebooks.

cmstraf is offline  
Nov 21st, 2007, 09:06 PM
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October generally has nicer weather...risk of typhoon but not nearly so cloudy and overcast. This year, November has been especially cold and gray and wet in Kanazawa. We had first snow on Monday, which is very early for snow here. Today it was 3 degrees C when I went out at 10:00 AM...brrr.
KimJapan is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2007, 09:59 AM
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> Do you think that Kurashiki is worth the trip?

It depends on what you want to see and do! I spent 2 nights / 1.5 days there and used it as a base for Himeji and Okayama. I found Kurashiki's canal district charming and unlike other areas in Japan that I visited. It is very small, and can be seen in a few hours. If you enjoy art, the Ohara Museum has a wonderful collection. Himeji-jo is amazing and well worth seeing, but you can see it from Kyoto. The Korakuen garden in Okayama is lovely, although I must admit that I prefer Kenrokuen in Kanazawa. I'm very glad that I stoped in Kurashiki, but don't know if I would have stopped there rather than (say) Kanazawa.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Nov 24th, 2007, 05:54 PM
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Yes! I'd vote for Kurashiki too...it fits what most foreign visitors (and japanese!) think of as "Old Japan", the canal and its buildings...the shrine...and art museum...nice little city...
I stayed there camping once years ago and camped in the shrine grounds...with peacock screams waking me up every dawn...
AmandaH is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 02:34 PM
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For Kim Japan:

Would you reccommend Kanasawa over Takayama?

Does anyone have any thoughts about the idea of flying into Kyoto, spending 6 nights there, then on to Koya-san, Kurashiki and Hiroshima before backing up and traveling to Takayama, Hakone and then finishing with 6 nights in Tokyo? At this point, we are leaning toward traveling the second 2 weeks in October and the first in November, though have not totally ruled out other options.

cmstraf is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 03:24 PM
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Kanazawa is a bigger city than Takayama. It also has some old areas, and is very nice with a lot to do...actually, we've lived in Kanazawa for 12 years. Kanazawa gets tourists, but not as many as Takayama. You can see one of Japan's top 3 gardens, Kenrokuen. 3 geisha districts (with working geisha still), a samurai district with winding roads with high walls and canals (you can enter one old samurai house), a local market (Omicho Ichiba), several museums, some great restaurants and ryokan (though there are not really any great hotels...they are fine, not great), castle, many temples and shrines. Within a 1 hour drive are Gokayama/Shirakawa-go, Yamanaka Onsen (nice town with many baths and nice onsen ryokan), a nationally famous onsen town called Wakura Onsen - gorgeous seaside location with top place to stay Kagaya.

While I liked Takayama just fine, in 12 years we've visited once for 2 nights, and have not been back...it failed to wow us. We expected a traditional town as we had read about in the guidebook...but it's a city with lots of tourists visiting limited areas, so it's crowded and feels contrived. I wouldn't go out of my way to go there, but I would go out of my way to visit some other places, Shirakawa-go and Gokayama for example. Magome and Tsumago, Kurobe, Tateyama, Miyajima, they are other places that are worth the effort.

Takayama and Kanazawa...if you are looking for small town, neither will be it. If you want country, the other places I mentioned are better.

You can't fly into Kyoto, but international flights go to Kansai International Airport KIX. Domestic flights go to Osaka and Kobe. You could do an open jaw into KIX and out of NRT to save on travel time at each end of your trip.

In late October, you will likely be too early for autumn color everywhere except perhaps Hakone if you are lucky. 2 weeks ago, Shirakawa-go had nice color. This past weekend, we saw some nice color on the road between Kanazawa and Nagoya...maybe next week will be better still.
KimJapan is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 05:01 PM
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With three weeks I would do something like this. Of course you could add or sub nights

Plan to start your 3 weeks or so in early Nov.

Fly into KIX if possible and out of NRT open jaw

6 Nights Kyoto
1 nights Koya san
2 nights Hiroshima and Miyajima
1 night Kurashiki
4 nights Kanazawa/S Go.....
2 nights Hakone
5 nights Tokyo
Fly out of NRT

You could go to Hakone earlier if in time to see the fall colors
Check here if you want some time frame reference to coordinate your Koyo(colorful leaves) viewing time


hawaiiantraveler is offline  

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