More Japan Travel Advice, please?

Mar 12th, 2005, 01:18 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 78
More Japan Travel Advice, please?

I've revised my itinerary quite a bit. I'd like to reserve some more accomodations, but would like some feedback on this itinerary. Particularly, I am not so certain on my travel times from place to place, so not sure if this is too much to handle. For example, I checked Hakone to Takayama on Hyperdia.com, and it had me going back to Nagoya, to take a train to Takayama, for about five hours, and then I'd have to take the bus to Shirakawago?!? There has to be a better way, right?

And, I've ordered a JR pass which I am thinking of activating while in Kyoto, figuring I'll get the most use out of it that way. Does this make sense to everyone?

OK, so here's where I'm at now:

4/8 - Arrive Nagoya; first night in Kyoto
4/9 - Kyoto
4/10 - Kyoto
4/11 - Koyasan
4/12 - Stop in Nara for 1/2 day; Night in Ise-Shima
4/13 - Hakone
4/14 - Shirakawago
4/15 - Tsumago
4/16 - Morning train to Nagoya, departing at 6 pm

I have a few more questions. Being that I will be traveling alone, does anyone think I should have any concerns traveling in any of this areas, safety-wise? I'm sure not, but just thought I'd throw that out there.

Lastly, I would be happy to see some monkeys on my trip, but not so sure that I will with this itinerary. I've seen there is a monkey park, but not sure how appealing that would be to me.

I will appreciate any feedback, particularly re: transportion on 4/14 and 4/15.

Thanks!!

Linda05 is offline  
Mar 12th, 2005, 02:35 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,034
About safety. Japan is generally a very safe place and women travelling alone don't face any special problems or dangers. That said, however, Japan's reputation as a safe place should be cause for you to throw caution to the wind. Take care of your belongings as you would in any other place. Theft happens. Crowded trains, streets and stations are prime locations for pickpocketing. Take care walking alone anywhere and any time of day...trust your instincts...if you feel uncomfortable at any time, listen to yourself and find somewhere to go among people. You'll rarely encounter anything sinister, but it can and does happen. It's best to not be in the mindset of "I'm in Japan so I am perfectly safe." I don't want you to worry needlessly, but do exercise the same caution you would anywhere else in the world.

Your itinerary...looks a bit packed to me, with a lot of time spent on trains getting from place to place, leaving little time to enjoy where you are.

The best route from Hakone to Shirakawa-go is exactly as you describe it. There may well be another way, but it will take even longer. You might want to consider doing either the Kiso valley OR the Takayama/Shirakawa-go area, but not both in the span of 2 days.

The shinkansen from Nagoya to Kyoto costs 5640 yen, takes 37 minutes. I don't know what time you arrive in Nagoya, but count on 1 hour to get out of the airport, and an hour to get to Nagoya station. There is a train from the airport to the station that takes only 27 minutes, but only every half hour. Other trains also depart in between, but they take just under an hour...so unless you are very lucky and get a fast train without waiting, you're looking at about an hour.

I'd also guess that since you are flying in/out Nagoya, it's a NWA promotion. NWA flights arrive after 6 pm in Nagoya...that gets you to Kyoto station at the earliest 8, probably more like 9.

So, may I suggest changing the order a bit...
4/8 - Arrive Nagoya; first night in Nagoya
4/9 - Takayama OR Tsumago
4/10 - Shirakawa-go OR Magome
4/11 - Kyoto
4/12 - Kyoto
4/13 - Kyoto (1/2 day in Nara if feel like it)
4/14 - Koyasan
4/15 - Hakone
4/16 - Morning train to Nagoya, departing at 6 pm

Even with the changes, I still think you've got a lot of ground to cover. If you are coming from the US, you've also got to consider the jet lag factor, which will have you very sleepy indeed by about 3 in the afternoon and waking up at 3 am hungry.
KimJapan is offline  
Mar 12th, 2005, 02:37 PM
  #3  
 
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Posts: 5,034
BIG typo...Japan's reputation as a safe place should NOT be cause for you to throw caution to the wind.
KimJapan is offline  
Mar 12th, 2005, 03:19 PM
  #4  
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KimJapan - Thank you so much for your feedback. I really trust your input, so I'll make a few clarifications hoping for your buy-in on my plans. But, please, continue to be honest re: what I've come up with.

I didn't intend to spend any time in Takayama. I referenced it because I read in earlier posts and in my travel book that I need to take the bus from Takayama to get to Shirakawago. So, I really wanted to get to Shirakawago. Is there a more efficient way to do it if we take out my reference to Takayama?

And, I wanted to get from S-go to Magome or Tsumago and then do the Nakasendo Highway walk between the two (and then back!?!) (btw, the Nakasendo Hwy is what drew me to Japan initially -- it's listed in that book "1,000 places to see . . .") and spending my last night in one of those towns.

By just looking at a map, it seems like it would make total sense, a big circle, but it sounds like the trains aren't fitting as nicely into my plans as I imagined they would.

When I spoke with John at the JR office in NY, I think he suggested some alternate train ride from Hakone to Tsumago. Don't recall exactly what it was, but he is sending me the timetable and he's marking that idea for me. I never mentioned S-go to him, so not sure how that changes his idea.

Oh, I'm on an AA special, so I arrive at 3:45. I had planned to spend my first two nights in Nagoya, but really liked the idea of settling into Kyoto, hopefully getting my sleep patterns straightened out and then starting to move around some more. I had the same idea as you, to reverse the travel pattern, except I wanted to spend my first night in Hakone, but unfortunately my 3 nights that I have booked in Kyoto can't be moved around, at least not at the same place, and I really spent a lot of time trying to find a room there . . . I called lots of places and regret that I don't speak the language and that so many rooms are booked up, so I'd really like to keep those first 3 nights there.

So, how does one get from S-go to the Kiso Valley, and you really think I should skip Ise-Shima? I wanted to be on the coastline . . . initially, I was attracted to Ise-Shima b/c of its proximity to Nagoya, and it's a nat'l park.

Sorry for going on and on, but it's just such a big trip for me and I really do want to enjoy it, but also to see as much as possible. I more enjoy seeing the world and its beauty, as opposed to hitting every tourist spot, so I won't necessarily have a list of things to do or see in each place.

And, re: my safety question, thanks for the advice. I am very cautious so won't expect any problems. I was more concerned that I'll be traveling into what appears to be some fairly isolated areas, staying in someone's home, who I don't know and not having any methods of communication or transportation. Do you know what I mean? I hope I don't sound like too much of a worrier, but I've never traveled in a foreign country and not stayed in a hotel.

Ok, I'll stop now. I really look forward to your advice. I assume you're in Japan now. Where are you from originally?

Thanks for helping me straighten out my plans.
Linda05 is offline  
Mar 12th, 2005, 03:40 PM
  #5  
 
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Posts: 5,034
OK...you should be able to get to Kyoto by 7 pm the day of arrival so that isn't too bad. So start with Kyoto.

The Japanese coast can be beautiful, but you've got to look at it through Japanese eyes...it is usual for the coastline to be concreted over and littered with all kinds of garbage, ranging from abandoned fishing equipment to food wrappers. In all honesty, in 10 years in Japan, I've yet to see a coastline that isn't dirty. I've not been to Ise...it could be pristine, but given its proximity to large cities and its popularity with tourists, I would count on it being dirty - then if it's dirty you won't be shocked, and if it's clean you can be pleasantly surprised.

If what drew you to Japan is the Nakasendo, then I'd make that your priority and skip Shirakawa-go entirely. There isn't a train to Shirakawa-go, thus your encountering difficulty with that. Shirakawa-go is quite an out of the way place in spite of its popularity with Japanese tourists...most take a day trip there by bus. It is not well connected to anywhere but Takayama and Nagoya. Twice a day you can get there from Kanazawa (where I live) by bus.

Perhaps a more reasonable itin for you may be
8 Kyoto
9 Kyoto
10 Kyoto
11 Kyoto (day trip to Nara)
12 Koyasan
13 Nakasendo
14 Nakasendo
15 Nagoya - visit the Edo village or Expo
16 Fly

Yes, I'm in Japan now, in Kanazawa - having Sunday morning coffee. I'm from Boston.
KimJapan is offline  
Mar 12th, 2005, 03:53 PM
  #6  
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Ok, that helps a lot. I like this itinerary, except for one thing: no Hakone??
Linda05 is offline  
Mar 12th, 2005, 04:36 PM
  #7  
 
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You could give up a day in Kyoto for Hakone, but I'm not sure I would do that. I understand wanting to get the most out of your trip and your rail pass, but I think you've got to be realistic and not try to do too much in such a limited time. You could spend 8 days in Kyoto alone and not come close to seeing all there is.

Hakone is about 4 hours from Kyoto, 3 from Nagoya...travel time will differ depending on which part of the Hakone area you go to. Magome about 1 1/2 hours. You could add it in after Nakasendo and take a morning train to Nagoya on the 16th.
KimJapan is offline  
Mar 30th, 2005, 03:11 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 267
Hi Linda05 - looks like we have similar itinary, budgets and dietary concerns but you are leaving before me. Only difference is I am spreading out my days in each place, so I can enjoy more (7 nights Kyoto, 3 nights Koya San) Then, we will take day trips to Nara and Hiroshima.

Would be interested in hearing how your plans are coming along. Mine's going well.

I booked a budget ryokan using Welcome Inn (less than 5000 yen/person)

However, for Koya San, I had to double the budget but will be staying at very nice temple with good veggy food!!
kittycatangel is offline  
Mar 30th, 2005, 03:46 PM
  #9  
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Hi kittycatangel,

I took a look at some of your older posts, and yes we do have a lot in common in our itineraries.

Re: your AA Chicago connection posts, I'm flying from Hartford and will also connect in Chicago with the same connection time. I'm not worried about it becauese it seems that AA has the same connection every day, with lots of different connections from east coast cities, so I'm assuming they have it worked out so that it's "doable" within that period of time. Did you ever change your flight time because of that concern?

Where are you staying at Koyasan? I saw your post with the photos of the temple lodging that you wanted to find out about. I was certain that I saw some of those pictures before, but then realized it must have been on the same site you were on.

My itinerary looks like this:

8 Kyoto
9 Kyoto
10 Kyoto
11 Kyoto
12 Koyasan
13 Hakone
14 Magome
15 Nagoya (arriving late)
16 Departing

The first three nights are at the Hirota Guesthouse (less than $50/nt, I think), and the fourth is at a Ryokan that's a little over $100.

Are you taking the train directly to Kyoto after arriving in Nagoya? I want to see if I can make a reservation tonight, but not sure how much time to budget to be spent at the airport upon arrival.

I think that's great that you're spending three nights at Koyasan. I look forward to the food there, but am a bit concerned elsewhere re: the food, but I'll figure it all out.

As far as day to day plans, I don't have any yet . . . you?
Linda05 is offline  
Mar 30th, 2005, 06:21 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 267
Yes, I will be taking the train directly from Nagoya - that way, I can get a full day in Kyoto next day!

My ryokan is 4000 Yen a day, and got good reviews. My temple lodging was 9500 + 5%

If you go to HappyCow, you can find some restaurants that may help

You can always go to the convenience stores and get some rice balls with seaweed. There is also a great macrobiotic place near the castle my friend told me about that is supposed to be good.
kittycatangel is offline  
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