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travel_12 May 13th, 2016 05:39 AM

Kyoto in July - is it a bad idea???

I got help from this forum on an upcoming trip to Japan in July.
We are a family of 3 with a 6 year old, first time visitors to Japan. We land on day 1 evening in Narita, have days 2 to 5 and then fly out of day 6 morning again from Narita.

Options so far are to go to Tokyo and surroundings (Nikko/Hakone) or Kyoto. Although a few mentioned that Kyoto is farther away. While I was looking at places, what struck me is that there are a lot of warnings in the forum about the weather in both places.

Please help - is Kyoto/Tokyo in July a bad idea?? I really hope this does not ruin our vacation.
What are alternatives at this point given that tickets are booked?

Kathie May 13th, 2016 06:33 AM

July is not a great time to visit Japan as it is hot and humid. So while I'd not advise someone to visit Japan in July, you already have tickets. So go and make the best of it. Make sure you plan plenty of breaks in air-conditioned spaces and drink plenty of water.

It does pay to check weather before you book a trip. I use which gives historical averages - high and low temperatures and rainfall - for my trip planning.

Have you looked at a map? That will help you see where these places are in relation to Tokyo. Japan has perhaps the best rail system in the world, which makes the places you listed accessible. But it still takes time to get from place to place.

Also, do utilize which is probably the best resource on Japan on the web.

Peter_T May 13th, 2016 07:36 AM

There are many things to look forward to if you are travelling in July (personally I love to go to Japan during rainy season). Even visiting Japan during the summer is better than no Japan at all!
If it’s the start of the month it won’t be obnoxiously hot, just enough to wear short sleeves. The rain at this time of the year comes and goes without much warning, but it’s usually just a drizzle and isn’t too annoying. You might coincide with Tanabata Festival (usually 7th July, but 7th August in some cities), if you’re in Tokyo I think they do a parade/celebration in Asakusa near the temple at around 9-10am that might interest you.
If it’s mid/late July then it does start to get humid and hot as Kathie said.
July also has many hydrangeas that look beautiful and everything is very green and lively. You can probably have a swim too, if you’re going down to Kamakura from Tokyo.
Have some mosquito repellent with you and enjoy!

travel_12 May 13th, 2016 07:45 AM

Thank you, thats encouraging.
We are there in mid-july :-(

Kyoto just seems too lovely to miss. But if its going to be really uncomfortable, I'm wondering if we should head out to the Japan alps. Getting to the Alps seems more difficult (multiple connections, takes longer than Kyoto etc.) though.

shelemm May 13th, 2016 05:39 PM

The sun can really beat down on you, so carry a parasol in case you need it. Under cloud cover, I think the weather is not a problem. I would not hesitate one bit to go in the summer. I've done it three times. I find Shanghai and Hong Kong far mor problematic at that time of year.

Boveney May 13th, 2016 06:14 PM

You have four days on the ground in Japan, so not a lot of time to travel around.. Yes, it's will be the tail end of the rainy season and hot (average July high in Kyoto is 88, 82 in Tokyo and it's not the heat, it's the humidity! ). But you should still have a great trip. We travelled a lot in Asia with our children through infancy to young adulthood and as I'm sure you know, the secret is to balance 'sight seeing' with fun/down time. The following site, aimed at expat families in Japan (but admittedly Tokyo-centric) , is a good source of family friendly events (travel info too) :

The 'fun' doesn't have to be elaborate stuff like a day at Tokyo Disney or an afternoon at the Lego place in Odaiba - my five year old loved feeding the koi - many gardens discourage this now but the garden at Yasukuni still sells little bags of fish food. And I'd search out the small scale: eg not the big Tanabata parade in Asakusa but the smaller neighbourhood shitamachi festival on the streets around Kappabashi where there will be many families out enjoying parades by the local schools, children in yukata playing the many games at the stalls. (July 9&10 this year).

The good news is that your six year old will serve as a wonderful conduit into local culture - the Japanese love children and are famously indulgent of them. Finally, I'd make it easy on yourself and stay in Tokyo - Kyoto really is much hotter and more humid - but my preference is for 'slow travel' and I'm sure others will disagree.

CaliforniaLady May 13th, 2016 07:36 PM

We have been in both Tokyo and Kyoto during July, and I have found Tokyo to be much more tolerable. Kyoto is one big steam bath. I have traveled extensively in Asia in the summer, and I have never, ever experienced any humidity that comes close to Kyoto.

Given the ages of your children, I do think they would be bored out of their minds looking at Kyoto temples anyway, so Tokyo may be a better choice anyway. With only a few days, I would take them to Odaiba for the Panasonic Museum, Fuji Tower, and Toyota showroom, and the boat ride over is really fun (Be sure to get an international driver license so that you can test out the new Toyota cars). I would also feed them lots of ramen, and maybe show them the sword collection at the National Museum. If the baseball team or sumo wrestlers are in town, that would be fun too.

In summary, just stay in Tokyo the whole time, and you will get better weather, and your children will be happy.

travel_12 May 14th, 2016 09:38 AM

Thank you all so much for your suggestions! Can't say this enough...
Yes, over the years I have gravitated towards slow travel and making it enjoyable for our child. We'll stick to Tokyo and surroundings as most of you have recommended.

Tokyo hotels seem to be atrociously expensive, so any lodging recommendations would be great. We are traveling on a budget as well. We are from the US, and we get to go to enough theme parks here - prefer to go someplace low-key, see a temple or two, enjoy some local festivals etc. The hustle/bustle of Tokyo may be a bit much for us, so staying away from the city would also be a preferable option. We don't plan to drive while there.
Any recommendation on places in and around Tokyo and lodging recommendations? Nikko seems like fun.

kalihiwai2 May 14th, 2016 10:13 AM

You might check out the Grand Pacific Le Daiba.
We stayed here a few nights before departure.
A lot of families as it is Disney partner hotel.
Restaurants very expensive but a lot of options outside.
Its on the Yurikamome line so easy fun access into Tokyo, try to sit in front seat for panoramic views.
Science museum nearby is interesting for children and adults.
Odaiba link

The Great Buddha at Kamakura is a fun outing, and not as far as Nikko.

Try to lock in reservations asap as Tokyo is very popular, I use
In a pinch you could try Toyoko Inn hotel chain

I'll throw in this link about 12 tips for coming to Japan
Some good info about train cards/app/atm"s etc

Have fun

Boveney May 14th, 2016 05:19 PM

Tokyo is a vast metropolis composed of smaller neighbourhoods - you don't want to stay 'away from the city' as you will then spend most of your time travelling in. As a part time resident of Tokyo with an apartment, I can't advise on hotels but there is another thread, 'Tokyo hotels' with useful info. Some of the posters recommend places in Asakusa - this is the old sitamachi (downtown area) -not the downtown of skyscrapers Americans may imagine but a very traditional part of Tokyo. This might be a good option for you. It would also put you close to the train for Nikko - which would be a long day trip. (What is it about Nikko that 'sounds fun' to you? Do check that any of the sights you're interested in aren't under scaffolding. )

One thing: Tokyo hotels rooms are tiny, even the high priced ones. We've stayed in the Imperial and the Conrad and the rooms were significantly smaller than those in comparable hotels in other countries. Is AirBnB an option? Getting a whole apartment would be a better bet for your family of three - you may feel cooped up in a small shared hotel room with an active six year old.

As you have moved on from the original topic heading, maybe time to start a new thread?

Boveney May 14th, 2016 05:37 PM

I've just read your other thread in which you describe yourselves as family of three who loves to hike. In which case you might check out Takao-san - easy to get to, lots of hikes, cable car option and it would be a 1/2 or 3/4 day trip as opposed to a long day. Also noted that you originally leant towards Kyoto over 'busy places like Tokyo.' Rest assured, Kyoto is a busy modern city too. Tokyo is full of small spots of surprising calm. Meiji Shrine is set in what seems like an ancient pine forest - always a couple of degrees cooler and in July filled with the sound of cicadas. Do pay the entrance fee for the inner garden and explore those paths as well. (Can you tell I love Tokyo and think it is sometimes unfairly dismissed as nothing but large modern city?!)

CaliforniaLady May 14th, 2016 06:16 PM

How about staying on Odaiba? The hotels there are less expensive, and you might even be able to find a place with a pool. The Odaiba Hilton is quite nice, but you can find a scaled-down hotel for less. Foreigners rarely visit Odaiba, so you will still get the full Japanese experience, but there is so much to do there for your young children. Many of the activities I mentioned earlier are free, with the exception of going to the top of the Fuji tower. Then, you can go into Tokyo for maybe one day and see the Meiji Shrine and the Asakusa temple, in order to get in your obligatory temples.

Alternatively, I like staying in the Ginza area of Tokyo. We stayed at the Marriott, which is now a Courtyard. I do like the Dormy Inns, but I have never stayed at the one in Tokyo.

Since you are on a budget, you can save money by buying ready made food at grocery stores. I don't think Japanese women cook anymore--these stores are filled with plastic trays of sushi, fried mackerel, and cucumber salads, and it's all extremely cheap. They give you chopsticks, napkins, and they even wrap the stuff up in tiny ice packs. You can eat there or take it back to your hotel room.

Peter_T May 15th, 2016 12:13 AM

I second Kamakura. I stayed a night there since there's a lot to see (at least if you like temples). The place I slept at was very comfortable and pretty cheap, I remember there was a 6/7 year old kid with his mum sleeping in the dormitory with me, so children are allowed. There are tatami mats if you're looking for a slightly more traditional feeling, and separate rooms if dorms aren't your thing (there are curtains though, and I think it was very private even sharing a room)
As I mentioned before, in July you can have a swim at the beach in Kamakura.

I think children would also love the Miraikan from Odaiba too (I'm 20 and spent about 3hours there myself), there are robots and more interactive displays to keep you all entertained. You might want to consider taking a boat to the island and the train back (or the other way around).
And I also agree to book as soon as possible. I'm going to Japan this June-July and the hostels I booked today only had a couple of beds left!

travel_12 May 15th, 2016 06:19 AM

Thank you everyone.
Boveney - Nikko sounds great because it seems more green, less urban and has cultural sites that are walkable.
Peter_T - will definitely look into Kamakura
CaliforniaLady - thank you for the tip on Odaiba and grocery stores!
kalihiwai2 - will book soon, thanks for the hotel tip.

One last question for this group - if I were to pick a base, would you recommend
1) Tokyo for all days and do day trips to Kamakura/Nikko/Hakone etc. (not all 3, but say one or two of them)
2) Or should I split it between Tokyo and one of those places? (moving hotels is always a bit of a pain for a short trip like this)
3) Base myself in Nikko/Kamakura/Hakone ?

Adastra2200 May 15th, 2016 09:22 PM

Given the short amount of time you have, I'd stick to the Tokyo area. Kyoto is in a basin and gets miserably uncomfortable and muggy. It is the crown jewel along with Nara for traditional Japan though, so save it for a future trip.
If you want to escape the heat, there are many places you can go. As mentioned, Kamakura is a great alternative to Kyoto if you don't go there, and along with Enoshima makes a great day trip - plus there is a good regional pass you can use:

Seeing Hakone or the Fuji 5 Lakes area also makes a good day trip, and Nikko is more comfortable as well - your kid might like to visit Edo Wonderland there too.

You also might look at getting a Tokyo Wide Pass,
and going to someplace like Karuizawa to escape the heat.

Peter_T May 16th, 2016 02:03 AM

I would base in Tokyo for all the nights since you are right that moving around within a short trip can be a bit annoying. All of the day trips are accessible from Tokyo, so it seems like the easiest idea.

travel_12 May 16th, 2016 05:56 AM

Thanks again everyone.
Will look for hotels in Tokyo.
My initial disappointment in knowing about the weather has slightly lifted. I hope to make the best of this trip rain or shine or high humidity.

CaliforniaLady May 16th, 2016 06:56 AM

Travel-12, the weather in Japan, in my experience, is always "difficult." I am either sweating from the humidity, or getting drenched from a downpour, or both at once. Truly, Tokyo is fine in the summer, but not Kyoto.

If you can find an apartment for the five nights, that would be great. Kavey posted here recently about the difficulties of booking with airbnb in Japan, but are there other ways to do it? If you decide to stay in the city, you don't have to worry about "hustle and bustle", as you mentioned, in Tokyo. People are very quiet and polite on the street, and they don't eat while they walk. In fact, I have yet to see a trash can on the street. You should have a fantastic time.

Kavey May 16th, 2016 09:59 AM

Oh I should update on that, thanks CL, good reminder.

What I found was that virtually all Japanese properties listed on AirBnB select the most stringest terms out of the sets of terms and conditions AirBnB offer to hosts. This basically means paying up front and no rights to cancel, which may be fine but could be an issue for you.

I also found apartments in Kyoto seriously overpriced, when taking into account size, space, amenities, type of bed and so on.

I didn't look in Tokyo so I can't comment.

I did end up successfully making one AirBnB booking for Japan which actually was one of my highlights for Japan, am working on writing a trip report to share for that, with photos. That was for a rural location that we drove to with a rental car.

There is plenty to see and do in and near Tokyo to have a really wonderful trip so I don't think you'll miss out by skipping Kyoto given the weather issue and the shortness of your visit. You can go again another day in the future to visit Kyoto!

BigRuss May 16th, 2016 01:06 PM

<<What I found was that virtually all Japanese properties listed on AirBnB select the most stringest terms out of the sets of terms and conditions AirBnB offer to hosts.>>

Thinking this means STRICT cancellation. And yeah, I'm seeing that too as we plan for autumn.

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