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narrow down destinations, Japan 2 weeks in April

narrow down destinations, Japan 2 weeks in April

Dec 21st, 2014, 10:51 AM
  #1  
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narrow down destinations, Japan 2 weeks in April

First time in Japan for two relatively seasoned travelers in early 30s.

Flying direct into Haneda airport return. Will be spending some time in Kyoto, Tokyo obviously. Want to see Moya-san.

Thinking of adding one more side-trip: Nara, Takayama/Alps region, Hiroshima

Are main interests are food, culture. Would also like to visit an onsen but not essential. Like hiking and mountains etc but not sure if Japan's alps are as unique to the tourists as food/culture is?

Which one of those destinations would you add the our trip? Or are the first 3 'enough'?
tdiddy23 is offline  
Dec 21st, 2014, 12:07 PM
  #2  
kja
 
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It really depends on your interests, as all are well worth seeing IMO.

Nara is easily visited as a day trip from Kyoto (although I was glad to spend a couple of nights there), so you can easily include it by ensuring that your time in Kyoto is sufficient. I think many of us found about 6 days right for the two (Kyoto plus Nara).
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2165.html

If you are going to go to Takayama, you might want to consider including Kanazawa, too. As a rough guide, I'd suggest that those two cities together are best seen with about 4 or 5 days. BTW, I didn't think of my time there as a chance to see the Japanese Alps, though I greatly appreciated seeing them in the distance.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5900.html
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5950.html
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2167.html

Hiroshima is an incredibly powerful place that I am very glad to have visited. Only you can decide if that is something you want to experience. If you do go, consider pairing it with Miyajima and perhaps staying there. As a rule, one or two nights should be sufficient, depending on how you time the travel.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2160.html
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3401.html

BTW, can we assume that you mean Koya-san? From what I've read, the actual temple one selects can make a huge difference to the experience. I thoroughly enjoyed my night at Shojoshin-in:
http://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/r...n=Shojoshin-in

And I'm not sure I understand your flights. If you haven't already booked, consider flying into Tokyo and out of Kansai or vice versa.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Dec 21st, 2014, 05:27 PM
  #3  
 
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When in April and for how long?
mrwunrfl is offline  
Dec 21st, 2014, 07:49 PM
  #4  
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Yes Koya-san sorry.

Was looking at the open jaw but it just ended up giving me long connections and a more expensive ticket. The direct Vancouver--> Haneda airport seemed to make more sense (already booked)

It is the first two weeks of April (14 days)

Sounds like they will all be interesting in their own way. I will have to take another look at them all and sort it out.

We were planning on getting a rail pass. I almost always rent cars on vacation to speed things up. So we don't want to try and do too much this time.
tdiddy23 is offline  
Dec 21st, 2014, 07:53 PM
  #5  
kja
 
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I think you will find the Japanese rails extremely efficient.
kja is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2014, 01:43 AM
  #6  
 
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I think knowing how long you've got (how many nights) and which airport(s) you're flying in/ out of would help...
Kavey is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2014, 06:31 AM
  #7  
 
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If you're considering Kanazawa, the logistics of getting there will be a lot easier when your trip comes around. In March, Shinkansen (bullet train) service will begin between Tokyo and Kanazawa -- the trip that now takes at least 4 hours and 1 connection will be cut to 2-1/2 hours, with no connection.
DonTopaz is online now  
Dec 22nd, 2014, 07:23 AM
  #8  
 
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Just saw Haneda airport, sorry, missed that.
How many nights do you have on the ground?

For a first trip, I found the hardest was to narrow down to a realistic itinerary, so I didn't rush the places we did see, and try to pack to much in. There's so much I wanted to do!

For our first trip (17 nights) we settled on 6 nights in Tokyo (split between start/ end of trip), 2 nights Takayama, 1 night Nara, 5 nights Kyoto, 1 night Osaka, 1 night Koya-san and 1 night Miyiajima (after a morning spent in Hiroshima).

On the second trip we spent another week in Kyoto area and 8 days in Kyushu, plus a couple in Tokyo as our airmile flights had us in and out of Narita. Kansai would have been easier.

Kyushu is a great option for onsen, and lovely for self-drive too but many visitors use public transport if driving doesn't appeal.

Kansai region has so much to offer, you could spend 2-3 weeks just in that area and not feel short-changed.
Kavey is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2014, 10:58 AM
  #9  
 
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For an early April trip you can scratch Takayama because of weather. Spring will have arrived at lower altitudes and further south. IME, early April would not be one of the better times to visit Takayama/Alps.

There is unique food/culture/onsen in that region and if your trip was late April I would have a hard time knocking it.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2014, 05:32 PM
  #10  
 
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You have received some great advice so far, and from the same Fodorites that advised us on our first Japan trip, so I would trust it. We went last May and our itinerary was as follows:

4 nights Tokyo (with a day trip to Nikko)
1 night Hakone
2 nights Takayama
1 night Nara (you can do as a day trip from Kyoto)
1 night Koya-san (Followed kja's advice for temple-stay. It was perfection...best 24 hours of the trip!)
4 nights Kyoto

I was very happy with our itinerary for the amount of time allotted. We loved Takayama and were very happy we went there, and I don't think it would have been terribly diminished if we had gone in April, so long as you are prepared for the colder temps. See my trip report for more details.

We are going back again this April, the same dates you will be there. Our itinerary this time will include Tokyo and Kyoto again, but picking up Miyajima, Kanazawa, Yudanaka (monkeys and onsen...not at the same time) and Matsumoto (and points along the way) that we had to cut out the first time.

Depending on your interests, and your tolerance for long train rides (I find them relaxing), some mix of Tokyo, Kyoto, Koya-san and one more of the suggested destinations and you can't go very wrong. Have fun!
russ_in_LA is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2014, 05:36 PM
  #11  
kja
 
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@ russ_in_LA -- thanks!
kja is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2014, 12:39 AM
  #12  
 
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IMO for a first time visit I'd ditch the idea of renting a car and stick with the trains which are amazing. Flying in and out of the same airport allows you to get good value from a JR pass and really, from Tokyo to Kyoto or vv is only a couple of hours so hardly a huge timesaver.

The itineraries mentioned above sound great and you can't go wrong with anything really. From both Kyoto and Tokyo you can easily do day trips - I even did a day trip from Kyoto to Okayama once just to visit the castle and garden, also saw Kuroshiki and was back in Kyoto for dinner. I believe in getting value from a JR pass, love riding the trains and seeing much of Japan through the window. And the feet get a rest from walking, walking,
walking.

You could visit Nara to/from Koya-san though it takes the best part of a day getting there and the same again coming back.

My suggestions, assuming you're not following sakura would be three days Tokyo (Yokohama and Kamakura for day trips if you like), Kyoto for about five nights. Many options for day trips but plenty in Kyoto to fill the time. Keep it flexible depending on weather, energy levels, that "temple-out" feeling.

Your night in Koya san (one night plenty IMO). You could fit in a couple of nights in Hakone for your onsen experience. The rest of the time in Tokyo with possible day trip to Nikko.

Whatever you do, chances are high you'll be back to see more.
eigasuki is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2014, 08:58 AM
  #13  
 
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It certainly possible to visit all 6 of the destinations in the OP in 10 days. I don't recommend it. A couple of fodorites have enjoyed visiting Hiroshima as a day trip from Kyoto.

The only opportunity to drive given the itinerary options in the OP would be out and about around Takayama. Not for sightseeing in Takayama but for going to nearby places like Shirakawago or Gokayama or Hirayu Onsen which otherwise would be by bus.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 12:41 PM
  #14  
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so after running it by wife, leaning towards adding Hiroshima + Miyajima, doing Nara as a side trip from Kyoto, saving Alpine region for another trip.

So it would look something like this
Tokyo 3 nights
Kyoto 5 nights (including day trip to Nara)
Koya-San 1 night
Miyajima + Hiroshima 1 night
Tokyo 2 nights

3 nights missing still...

for onsen should we do Hakone, or take a trip up to Kinosaki for 1 night from Kyoto? Not sure which would be better in early April?
tdiddy23 is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 12:46 PM
  #15  
kja
 
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Can you put all of your time in Tokyo in one block to save on a change of hotels? Also, although it really depends on one interests, you might want to shift one day from Tokyo to Kyoto. OR plan on a night in Nikko.
kja is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 01:55 PM
  #16  
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Would you recommend doing Tokyo in 1 block even though we are flying into + out of there?

As in will we be comfortable taking train from Kyoto or Hiroshima area and straight to airport for flight home?
tdiddy23 is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 02:02 PM
  #17  
 
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I was going to answer your previous post....but as far as going to Haneda I guess it depends on your flight departure time...personally I do like to spend my last night, at least, in Tokyo, or Hakone would work as that is fairly close....

Concerning your latest itinerary, the trip to and from Hiroshima is about four hours and that is using the Nozomi train which you can't use with a JR pass....I don't think you are giving yourselves enough time in Hiroshima and Miyajima. You could consider an inn in Miyajima for at least one night imo.

I did the trip from Miyajima to Koyasan and then Koyasan to Tokyo so I know from experience how long it takes. ;-)

And btw, at that time of year Kyoto is very crowded so you should start reserving hotels soon, very soon....
Mara is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 02:02 PM
  #18  
kja
 
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If you are flying into and out of Tokyo, I would put all my time in Tokyo at the END if possible. You're likely to be tired when you get there no matter what you do, so consider going straight on to a first non-Tokyo destination and then getting a good rest. But maybe that wouldn't work for you. It's just a thought.
kja is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 02:17 PM
  #19  
 
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I agree with kja....

If you are on the ANA flight that comes in at 1:45 pm, then you will have loads of time to go to Kyoto, for example.

I have gone straight to Kyoto from NRT a few times and my flight from JFK is longer.... ;-)
Mara is offline  
Dec 28th, 2014, 05:29 AM
  #20  
 
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On our first trip we had 2 nights in Tokyo at the beginning and 4 at the end and we simply stayed in different areas of Tokyo for both, so it didn't feel like a particularly onerous extra change of hotels... I think staying in two areas of Tokyo was a positive thing for us.

I can see the logic in getting straight onto a shinkansen to Kyoto since one is tired, but for me, I have been desperate to sleep both times, just utterly useless until I do, but I don't travel well, I find it exhausting, so I need to recoup my sleep before I do anything much at all. Of course, having been, I realise that the train system is so painless, and one could sleep on the train I guess, but I find that bad for my neck and shoulders, so it wouldn't really be ideal for me. I would probably not have felt comfortable doing that on my first visit to Japan though.

I do agree that if you have extra nights, add one or two to Kyoto (there's SO much to see plus you can do trips to Osaka, Yamazaki, Uji, Kobe etc nearby in the unlikely situation you bore of Kyoto early).
Kavey is offline  

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