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Need help figuring out how many days to spend in each place for our trip to Japan

Need help figuring out how many days to spend in each place for our trip to Japan

Aug 25th, 2019, 06:03 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Jul 2003
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Need help figuring out how many days to spend in each place for our trip to Japan

My husband and I are starting to plan a trip to Japan for October 2020. We are retired so we have no time restrictions. We want to try to buy our flight tickets with miles so I need to figure out how long we want to be away for without figuring out all the details right now. We like to travel slowly and see places in depth without rushing. I have read many guidebooks, checked websites and read many posts on these forums. The following is what I have come up with but it is not in any particular order yet and I would appreciate any input.

Tokyo 7 nights including a day trip to Kamakura plus one full day at the end to do Disney Seas park before flying home.
Nikko 1 night
Hakone 2 nights
Kanazawa 3 nights. I thought we might rent a car here for our time in the Alps area.
Nagano 3 nights
Matsumoto 2 nights
Takayama 3 nights
Kyoto 7 nights
Nara 2 nights
Hiroshima 1 night
Miyajima 1 night

I also have Kurashiki, Okayama and Himeji in my list of places to visit. Should I add in nights somewhere for those?

Since we don't have time restrictions and I don't know whether we will ever be able to return to Japan (so many places to go, so little time), I would rather overestimate the days needed rather than underestimate.

Thank you for any help.
theatrelover is offline  
Aug 25th, 2019, 07:11 PM
  #2  
kja
 
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Overall, I think you've going to have a great trip! Some thoughts:
  • You might consider a night more in Kanazawa -- I found 2.5 very busy days insufficient there.
  • I like that you are spending a night in Nikko, which holds far more than can possibly be seen in a day trip.
  • I also like that you are giving Nara a few nights.
I enjoyed Kurashiki, but would note that it is small and so, depending on your interests, you might or might not benefit from an overnight there.
I visited both Okayama and Himeji en route from place to place, and that worked well for me.

You've decided against Koya-san?

As for timing -- I'd pay attention to the turning of leaves (koyo):
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2014.html
I'd also check schedules for festivals, performances, etc., to see if any of interest can be fit into your plan.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Aug 25th, 2019, 08:19 PM
  #3  
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Thank you so much. I have read many of your responses on this forum and your posts were so helpful to me in figuring this all out. Thank you for all the help you give everyone. I will add a night to Kanazawa. I mentioned the idea of staying in a temple and showed the information to my husband and he really didn't want to do that so that is off the itinerary
theatrelover is offline  
Aug 25th, 2019, 08:36 PM
  #4  
kja
 
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I'm so glad to know that you've found some of my posts helpful!

I trust that your husband realizes that a visit to Koya-san is not about the religious element of temples. Of course, that can be part of the experience for those who seek exposure to Buddhism, but the experience doesn't need to involve religion at all. It can be more like visiting a resort with extraordinary cuisine (if vegetarian only). And about visiting evocative Okuno-in during dusk or dawn (or both, and if possible, during the day light, too). And about visiting Koya-san's other wonderful temples and treasure halls. And OMG, the glorious scenery en route!

Obviously, I loved my time in Koya-san, but you'll have a wonderful trip even if you skip it.
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Aug 26th, 2019, 05:12 AM
  #5  
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I am planning a trip to Southern Spain and your posts and help to people on that forum has been really helpful to me for that trip and I am positive I have used information you have posted on other forums in planning trips in the past. Know that all the time you spend helping people here is greatly appreciated.

I will raise this option with my husband again. You said the magic words of beautiful scenery. If I can get him to agree, how many nights would you recommend in that area? I will go back through your posts because I remember that you really recommended the place you stayed. Thank you for the encouragement.
theatrelover is offline  
Aug 26th, 2019, 10:36 AM
  #6  
 
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Theatrelover, Japan is full of fabulous places to visit, and every place on you itinerary has beautiful/scenic/interesting/memorable aspects. There are even temple lodgings (shokubo) in other areas as well!
It's a lot of work to get to Koya-San, so I would not take the effort to visit since your DH has -for whatever reason - already vetoed! If this was one of your top attractions, I'd say go, but I doubt you will miss it.
lcuy is offline  
Aug 26th, 2019, 10:49 AM
  #7  
 
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Also, consider flying into Osaka, maybe even immediately connecting to Hiroshima. You could even fly into Fukuoka, and from there, wander up to Hiroshima and then work your way up toward Kyoto, the Alps and Kanazawa , then loop back down through Matsumoto to Tokyo and fly out of there.
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Aug 26th, 2019, 11:41 AM
  #8  
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Thank you so much for these ideas. I will definitely look into the various flight destinations and see what works best. I never thought of those options. I appreciate the help
theatrelover is offline  
Aug 26th, 2019, 12:43 PM
  #9  
 
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I think you have a good list of destinations and while you won't see all of Japan by any means, it is a good start. I might question the length of time at a few places - particularly Tokyo. If you have a long list of places to see in the city that covers all that time, that is fine, but otherwise you could add a few more day trips. For most, 3-4 days in the city is quite enough. Everyone goes to see the Sensoji Temple and Meiji Shrine, plus there are around a dozen beautiful traditional gardens you can visit - some are among the best in the whole country. Outside, you mention Kamakura and Nikko, and both are very worthwhile. If you are going to do 2 nights for the Mt Fuji area (Hakone) you might consider adding the Fuji 5 Lakes area as well. There are some good Odakyu passes such as the Fuji Hakone Pass you can use also, plus for Nikko there is the Nikko Pass. A few other places to consider are the Hitachi Seaside Park (October has 2 million cosmos flowers, roses, kochia, and more), Shosenkyo Gorge in Yamanashi, Karuizawa, Yokohama, and many others. A JR East Nagano Niigata Area Pass might be worth considering.
It seems to me you might do better rearranging some things. Do Hakone as a side trip from Tokyo. Afterwards, go to Nagano, Matsumoto, to Takayama by bus, and then to Kanazawa (stopping at Shirakawago along the way, if you like). From there, take the Thunderbird Ltd Express down to Kyoto (or stop in Fukui along the way - the Dinosaur Museum is fantastic and the Echizen Great Buddha is one of the last, best untouristy secrets.

Kyoto is a similar story - if you really, really love temples and shrines, you are going to fit in perfectly in Kyoto (except for the worsening, massive mobs of tourists there). But the problem is that after seeing temples and shrines every day, you are likely going to burn out - so adding some other activities, variety or getting out for a while is a good idea. In the evenings, you can go see Osaka which has a great night life. You might consider seeing Hikone in additional to Himeji - both are nice castles and among the elite list of 12 originals (not reconstructed fakes). Kobe also is a nice city to see. Koyasan was mentioned, and a great suggestion for an overnight - the Okunoin Cemetery going back 1200 years is unique and unforgettable. Uji between Nara and Kyoto also has some very good sights.
For Okayama, the Korakuen Garden there is very nice. Honestly I found Kurashiki to be rather overrated. Its old style streets there though were much more appealing to me than in Takayama, which were swamped with day tripping tourists. If you have the time, I suggest you consider going to see Takamatsu, which has some very nice and relaxing sights, especially the Ritsurin Garden which is one of Japan's finest.

And then if you really do have oodles of time, you also might consider flying to Hokkaido or Okinawa. Actually Hokkaido would be starting to get chilly by that time, but Okinawa would still be very comfortable and there are some great sights - the main island, Miyakojima and Ishigaki. October is mostly OK and after the hurricane season, particularly towards the end of the month. You can also fly there dirt cheap on some low cost tourist airfares.

The one thing you didn't mention is going to a hot spring. No visit to Japan is complete without one, and you will find them all over the country - as well as big resort areas and you will be near some. By all means, check them out.

You still have over a year to plan, so look at the JNTO Page, Japan Guide, as well as Tokyo and Kyoto government tourist guides, etc.
Adastra2200 is offline  
Aug 26th, 2019, 04:05 PM
  #10  
kja
 
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Thanks for your kind words, theaterlover!

lcuy is correct that getting to Koya-san can be challenging, so do take that into consideration. I distinctly remember thinking, on the last leg (a cable car), that OMG, I never thought those kinds of mountains I've seen in a million Japanese prints actually exist! For me, it was worth all the challenges of getting there. YMMV .

If you do go, one night may be enough for the highlights IMO, depending on when you get there and when you would have to leave. If you want to see a wider array of temples or hike, consider two nights. I was very pleased with Shojoshin-in, which still gets very good reviews. The other temple that seems to get consistently good reviews is Eko-in. And the choice of one's temple does, apparently, make a big difference!
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Aug 26th, 2019, 07:07 PM
  #11  
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Thank you so much Adastra2200 for all of this information and for taking the time to send it to me. You have given me a lot to think about and to look into and I am excited to research some of the places you mention that I haven't come across before. I really appreciate all your help.

Thank you for the further info kja. My husband does not relish the 5am rise and the vegetarian food. I will look into more of the details and present them to him. I think he would love taking photos in the cemetery at different times of the day. Of course, as I add items and days to the trip, he jokes that we will be in Japan long enough to start having to pay taxes.
theatrelover is offline  
Aug 27th, 2019, 01:09 AM
  #12  
 
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Adastra re your comment "Kyoto (except for the worsening, massive mobs of tourists there). One thing I do hate. It is 12 years since we were last there and it wasn’t too bad. We will be there from 8 - 12 Jan next year and were hoping that it will be relatively quiet in the aftermath of Xmas and New Year. Do you think it will still be overrun at that time?
crellston is offline  
Aug 27th, 2019, 11:02 AM
  #13  
 
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You could add to Nikko and to Hiroshima/Miyajima.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Aug 27th, 2019, 02:12 PM
  #14  
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Thank you for this idea. So you recommend doing 2 nights in Nikko? Should I add the extra night to Hiroshima (and stay there 2 nights) or to Miyajima (and stay there 2 nights and 1 night in Hiroshima) or should we add both?
theatrelover is offline  
Aug 27th, 2019, 02:59 PM
  #15  
 
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>> Do you think it will still be overrun at that time?

January is much better than other months like during spring-autumn. But compared to 12 years ago, you won't recognize the place.




I just went to Kyoto & Nara Park last month. It was like half of Beijing was there.
It doesn't mean it is wall to wall people everywhere you go. I went to some lesser and little known places, and there were very few people there. If you avoid the most famous places, you can still do pretty well - and many of the places are no less beautiful.



Murin-an - The secret gem of Kyoto.




Jonan-gu - Almost completely unknown.



Sanzenin - Not many make it up here - thankfully. Best to go there in the morning.



Heian Jingu Garden - Most see the shrine - very few even know about the big and gorgeous garden behind it.

Of course January will not look as vibrant as during the warmer months. But Kyoto has something for every season.

I love these lesser known jewels.
Adastra2200 is offline  
Aug 27th, 2019, 10:10 PM
  #16  
 
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Originally Posted by theatrelover View Post
Thank you for this idea. So you recommend doing 2 nights in Nikko? Should I add the extra night to Hiroshima (and stay there 2 nights) or to Miyajima (and stay there 2 nights and 1 night in Hiroshima) or should we add both?
I was recently planninig my first trip to Nikko and figured it would be three nights to include Kinogawa Onsen. Some people visit Nikko as a day trip from Tokyo.

Any way that you want to add to Hiroshima/Miyajima will help you get a bit closer to your desirement to have an in-depth visit.

When I first read your original post I saw desires of traveling slowly and in-depth. Then I saw the number of nights you had allocated for your many stops and thought that, except for Kyoto and Tokyo, the proto-plan conflicted with your travel style. So, I don't understand what you mean by slow and in-depth travel.

]kja might remember a "slow travel" poster a few years ago who ended up with four one-night stops after leaving Tokyo. btw, what happened to Kavey?]

Your Nagano and Matsumoto stays are a good amount of time, too. They are both in the same prefecture (Nagano), so you could look at it as a 5-day regional visit though there is a good bit more in the region.

What airline miles do you have? Would you want to fly economy or business or first\ class? Where are you flying from?

How did you come to allocate that many nights in Tokyo or Kyoto or, better yet, Nagano. Nagano is not on many itineraries we see here. There must be some snow monkeys on that plan.

This thread is unusual because usually people tell us how much time they have and where they want to go and we try to help make the itinerary fit the tikme. Usually that means subtracting stops, but here were are just adding days to places.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Aug 27th, 2019, 10:55 PM
  #17  
kja
 
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Originally Posted by mrwunrfl View Post
btw, what happened to Kavey?
I've been wondering the same and hoping she is well.
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Aug 29th, 2019, 12:15 AM
  #18  
 
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Thanks for the insight adastra. " I just went to Kyoto & Nara Park last month. It was like half of Beijing was there."

Not a huge fan of crowds in general and, based on previous experiences in Bangkok and Cambodia, Chinese tour groups in particular. I may well have a rethink of our plans and choose some more OTBT destinations or forget Japan completely and switch our flights to somewhere else. Thanks for your help.

Last edited by crellston; Aug 29th, 2019 at 12:17 AM.
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Aug 29th, 2019, 08:16 AM
  #19  
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Thank you for taking the time to write your response, mrwunrfl. I will definitely add time to Hiroshima/Miyajima and Nikko. I posted this question to get help such as this. Sitting t home, no matter how many books and online posts your read, it is hard to tell how things will work out. So I am very happy when people who have already been to the destination point out ways to improve my plans. I know my situation is unusual but I really appreciate the help I have gotten.

Our miles are with American and we have so many and have not been able to use many of them because there are so few places American flies to directly from NYC (we did use some for business class tickets to South America this year). We want to fly from NYC and fly business class.

To come up with our plan, I read 7-8 guidebooks and a number of online sites and made lists of places that sounded interesting to us. Then I read many posts and trip reports on this site to get ideas on how many days to spend in each place. I always allocated the most number of days recommended figuring I could always fill the time up. Nagano was mentioned often. I have decided against the snow monkey because, based on my research, October does not sound like a good time to go to see the monkeys.
theatrelover is offline  
Aug 29th, 2019, 02:02 PM
  #20  
 
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When I had American Airlines miles I was able to use them on their partner, JAL, to fly directly from JFK to NRT. I think you can make the reservations almost a year in advance....
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