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Japan: which stop to add between Tokyo and Kyoto

Japan: which stop to add between Tokyo and Kyoto

Apr 27th, 2019, 05:34 PM
  #1  
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Japan: which stop to add between Tokyo and Kyoto

I am in the beginning stages of planning our first trip to Japan with husband and 1-2 kids (one kid is young adult). We would stay in Tokyo and Kyoto for 4 and 3 night each (maybe 1-2 more) but looking for a third base town in between the two for a 3-night stay that has things to offer (nature/history, possibly day trips; picturesque villages are a special bonus as we will have enough of city experiences in Tokyo to last us a couple of years ) and is within direct reach via public transport from a "prior" stay (possibly Takayama?). Thank you for your suggestions.

Last edited by weekend_celebrations; Apr 27th, 2019 at 05:37 PM.
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Apr 27th, 2019, 06:23 PM
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Just quick and others will chime in . . . But 3 nights is nothing for Kyoto. And your 4 nights in Tokyo (if after international flights) will net you 3 partially jet lagged days. If you have 3 nights to play with I'd add 2 to Kyoto and 1 to Tokyo (or all 3 to Kyoto)
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Apr 27th, 2019, 06:35 PM
  #3  
kja
 
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I agree with janisj that your time in Kyoto and in Tokyo is very short. For example, many people want 6 days for a first visit to Kyoto / Nara.

As a rule, I think Takayama best if paired with Kanazawa for a loop of 5 nights; YMMV.

You have a TON of options -- Miyajima and Hiroshima; Hakone; Nikko and Lake Chuzenji,...

If you haven't already done so, please spend some time with japan-guide.com!
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Apr 27th, 2019, 07:16 PM
  #4  
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@Janisj, true, but for me, jetleg lasts days if not weeks and I fight it with sleep meds, so not a consideration when i plan my itinerary. and while some people like more days to explore in depth, our travel style is faster. we do not need to explore everything there is to place, but instead we typically like to experience several things that give us a true feel for a place (looking for those true experiences means months of research which i love!) and then moving to another place. I do want to have a base in 3 places in Japan so would appreciate advice on that third place - especially if someone did a similar trip.
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Apr 27th, 2019, 07:33 PM
  #5  
kja
 
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Originally Posted by weekend_celebrations View Post
I do want to have a base in 3 places in Japan so would appreciate advice on that third place - especially if someone did a similar trip.
Have you ready any of the many, many, MANY planning threads or trip reports on this forum?
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Apr 27th, 2019, 08:21 PM
  #6  
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Originally Posted by weekend_celebrations View Post
we typically like to experience several things that give us a true feel for a place (looking for those true experiences means months of research which i love!).
Care to share your research strategy? I do some rather extensive research, and would still not say I've ever gotten "a true feel for a place" in anything less than a half year. ;-)
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Apr 27th, 2019, 08:48 PM
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>>and while some people like more days to explore in depth, our travel style is faster. we do not need to explore everything there is to place, but instead we typically like to experience several things that give us a true feel for a place (looking for those true experiences means months of research which i love!<<

I can move fast too -- but Kyoto has more wonderful sites than almost any city I've ever visited. For a city of about 1.5 million people -- it has more 'must see's' than cities 10X its size. And the variety is really amazing. It isn't a case of see one temple you've seen them all. For a first visit - 5 full days would barely scratch the surface.
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Apr 27th, 2019, 10:43 PM
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I do tend to agree with the comments above re lack of time in Kyoto especially,. We spent five full day there and still had to be pretty selective in what we chose to see. However, only you know your own travel style and Japan is one of the few places in the world where faster travel is entirely possible.

Takayama I feel would make a nice contrast to Kyoto and Tokyo, especially if you are interested in food. We spent a couple of days there at the mid-range Sumiyoshi Ryokan and loved both the Ryokan and the town. Some details and photos on our blog @ https://accidentalnomads.com/2008/04...ans-miso-sake/

We went there from Nara which I suppose is another option although it wasn’t my favourite place in Japan.
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Apr 28th, 2019, 01:21 AM
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On my first trip to Japan in summer 2017, I spent 9 nights straight in Kyoto. On my second trip to Japan in summer 2018, I spent 10 nights in Kyoto and for the summer 2019 trip, I just added 3 extra nights to Kyoto and now it will be 11 nights. By having a base in Kyoto, it doesn't only mean that one has to stay in Kyoto.

On my 2017 trip, I had my private guide/driver drive me to the country side as I hire him for 4 hours and only for one day. The rest of what I want to do, I do on my own.

On the 2018 trip, I asked him if he could drive me to Wazuka as I wanted to go there. It's a tea-farming town and I wanted to go to the local restaurant for lunch of which was delicious and I saw no tourists there. He was happy to go as he mentioned that he hadn't been in Wazuka for a decade. We also drove aorund Kyoto and then he threw in a great viewing point on a hill and we did it all within 4 hours and back to my Kyoto hotel.

Kyoto is an excellent base to explore other areas and without having to pick up and move. Last summer, I also jumped on the local train (560 yen) and went to Osaka and then later took the train back to Kyoto. And this summer I plan to take a day trip to Kobe as one of the workers, at my hotel, lives in Kobe and commutes to work each day and said that I should just take a day trip there. Plus, I have already contacted my personal guide/driver and he will drive me to the Miho Mueum and also do some other things on that day. But, at the end of the day, it's back to Kyoto and to my hotel room and not having to wait until a 3PM check in time to a hotel elsewhere. But, to each his own.

Happy Travels!

Last edited by Guenmai; Apr 28th, 2019 at 01:24 AM.
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Apr 28th, 2019, 05:16 AM
  #10  
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kja and I hope it was at least partially a question (and not 100 a sarcasm which i am not a huge fan of on travel forums even if it is a price you need to pay for advice)))- there is no recipe that would fit everyone - and there should not be. Travel is obviously a deeply personal experience- like dating (you can have a “feel” for a person on first date, in a few days, or- on a different level- in a few years and sometimes looking back all you needed to know your learnt on that first date))). If you feel that you have not gotten a "feel" for the place in 6 months my research practices will certainly not be of service to you. (although I am sure you have had your "moments" during the 6 months.)..Some travelers prefer moving countries and staying put and planted for years at a time – (“expiating”) -to fully experience the place. I just met one such travel blogger (and family woman) on my trip to Moscow. And yet- who can tell me looking me in the eye that my son, my mom and my dear (recently departed) Dad did not get a feel for Japan (and TIME OF THEIR LIVES) on their trip through Japan with Globe tour group changing not 3 but 8-9 bases in 12 days?? My point is, lets share information that we know and be tolerant to different travel styles (Moscow and Boston-New England advice, anybody? after all, I have spent more years than I care to admit in each base)

(Here is my son’s Japan trip report BTW from our family blog -it does give me a “feel” I wish for but lacks practical information as they moved on a tour bus-hence my need to start this thread http://celebratetheweekend.com/ameri...-japan-part-1/)
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Apr 28th, 2019, 07:33 AM
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>> My point is, lets share information that we know and be tolerant to different travel styles<<

No one is trying to change your travel style -- we are trying to explain that Kyoto is sort of a special case.
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Apr 28th, 2019, 08:53 AM
  #12  
kja
 
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Yes, it was a question, and no, I was not trying to change your travel style. I found your comparison to a first date is interesting. I agree that important cues are often are there. I would add that they are sometimes (if more rarely) deeply misleading, so I prefer to think that a short encounter can give me an impression that may serve my purposes, rather than a "true feel." Maybe we're simply using the terms differently. Thanks for taking the time to respond.
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Apr 28th, 2019, 12:47 PM
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For a first visit to Japan, 4 nights each in Tokyo and Kyoto will give you an adequate overview of both cities. Perhaps it will pique your interest in a more in depth return visit.

You don't mention when you are traveling, but if during the Spring or Fall a possible in between stop given your interest are the villages of Tsumago and Magome. These are former post towns that lie along the historic Nakasendo Highway which linked Kyoto and Tokyo during the Edo period. They have been nicely preserved to retain their historic ambiance and it is a leisurely 2-3 hour scenic walk between the two. A one night stay at a traditional Japanese inn in each town would be best. Luggage forwarding service is available as are walking guides which may or may not be necessary. Check the Japan-Guide for more information.

You will have a great time regardless of where you choose as an in between visit.
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Apr 28th, 2019, 01:24 PM
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@curiousgeo thank you for your suggestions about the towns- staying in ruyokans is on my agenda! as to time, i have a crazy dream of possibly visiting just pre-Olympics and catching an event or two but if that does not work out- then april school break.

@janisj point taken about Kyoto, thank you.

@kja- i think we made amends)) of course we all mean different things at these fleeting forum discussions. As to research, quantity does not always lead to quality...I remember i only had 6 nights for an (overseas) Amsterdam trip and being me (luckily, my H shares in my travel style although we have different real-life personalities)- i could not spend it all in one place of course...and spent months researching several day trips...read through Rick Steve's forum and lists, books- I always buy travel books- still had doubts/trips not finalized...so when already in A-Dam i met a Russian woman in a cafe who lived there (was married to a local guy)- she was vouching for the Zans-Shans open air exhibit (which was one of the choices on my list). so the scale tipped and i gave this place a precious day of a 6-night trip and was soooo disappointed not my place!!! But typically what i mean by a "feel" is doing things in each place that are true and authentic to it, that you cannot do the same way in other places...it does not mean getting very familiar or knowledgeable about the place or visiting everything there is to see.. (although I do learn quite a bit, especially because as a travel writer, i need to put it all in perspective)... My speciality is offering people practical and fun itineraries and explaining logistics that don't come easy (the rest they can find in travel books).


Last edited by weekend_celebrations; Apr 28th, 2019 at 01:29 PM.
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Apr 28th, 2019, 03:13 PM
  #15  
kja
 
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Thanks for sharing your strategy. If you are seeking "things in each place that are true and authentic to it, that you cannot do the same way in other places," I still think you might want more time in Kyoto, but your trip, your call. I'm sure you'll enjoy your trip no matter what you decide.
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Apr 28th, 2019, 07:15 PM
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Both Tokyo and Kyoto are actually made up of many towns and villages that are quite different, all of them true and authentic in their own way. I often spend a couple of nights in a hotel in one area, then switch to a ryokan in a different district to feel like I've stayed in two different places.
In addition, there are lots of towns near Kyoto that you can visit as day trip or to spend a night or two, such as Osaka, Nara, Himeji, Arashiyama, Kinosaki.
Nagoya, Shizuoka, Hakone are all in between Tokyo and Kyoto, but I don't find any of those particularly interesting or authentic. Shima, Shimada, Takayama, Matsumoto, and Hiroshima are all towns that I like (and our kids enjoyed), but will take some extra travel time to get there.
I see you are thinking of Spring break or early summer ( you mention the Olympics). Suggestions for a great place in the heat and rain of early summer are not at all the same places that I'd recommend in the spring, and you need to take into account the golden week holiday and Cherry blossom crowds in the spring as well as the incredible crowds that the Olympics may generate.
As you said travel is very personal, and none of us here know you. I would suggest that its pretty hard to have a bad time in Japan no matter which cities you visit, as long as you have done your research to find great lodging and it has sights that you think you'll enjoy while there.
I wouldn't stress over finding "true and authentic"; with the exception of Disneyland, Japan has many layers of authentic. There's traditional Japan, modern Japan, weird only-in- Japan, high tech Japan, rural Japan...Actually even Disneyland and Sea are pretty true to Japan, and certainly not like any of the other Disney lands!

Last edited by lcuy; Apr 28th, 2019 at 07:18 PM.
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Apr 28th, 2019, 08:01 PM
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That’s a great reminder from lcuy about Kyoto and Tokyo being made up of towns and villages. Something I think we forget as these separate places have merged into a larger city. And it’s true many have distinct characteristics and ambience found only at those locations.
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Apr 28th, 2019, 08:09 PM
  #18  
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I agree!
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Apr 29th, 2019, 05:21 AM
  #19  
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@Icuy, "Shima, Shimada, Takayama, Matsumoto, and Hiroshima are all towns that I like (and our kids enjoyed), but will take some extra travel time to get there"
-thank you for your comment and suggestions. When you say these towns take extra travel time to get to- would the train connection from Tokyo and to Kyoto not be direct?
thanks.
Also, If Tokyo/Olympics becomes part of our trip, then we are talking mid-July for the rest of the trip.
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Apr 29th, 2019, 07:11 AM
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Matsumoto To Takayama

From Tokyo, take the train to Matsumoto, there are lovely villages one can see from the train. It's a 2 and 1/2 hour train ride on the fast train, at Matsumoto where I would have booked in a hotel previously I would then get around to seeing the castle and the art gallery there (some great calligraphy), great food there too, spend the night - then if it's the time of year when Kamikochi Mountain is open (it closes over winter), I would get up very early, catch a train to Shin-Shimashima where you then take a coach to Kamikochi (it all takes only about 2 and half hours), and then after quickly checking in your luggage at a luggage storage facility, find out about onward travel to Takayama, obtain a rudimentary map of a three-hour trek from Taisho Pond to Myojin Bridge and set off - it's a lovely day's outing. Get back for your bus to take you to Takayama (take sandwiches to eat on your walk - and breakfast: from the station is okay).

Arriving late afternoon/ evening in Takayama, having booked into a ryokan where they serve Kaiseki dinner, I'd get there in time for that with 2 nights booked in to Takayama. Then next day, I would go to a butcher that sells one the fabulous Hida beef, and lets you grill it on his premises, eat lunch and dinner there with some beer and sake, all in between a bit of sight-seeing, and the next morning set off early either by bus or by train to Kyoto, about 5 hours away.
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