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Need some planning information for Japan trip

Need some planning information for Japan trip

Apr 9th, 2015, 03:32 AM
  #21  
 
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I'm with Kja, yes Tokyo is a world class city, but I (like many) found more I wanted to see in Kyoto. That said, if someone offered me ten days free in Japan, on proviso of having to spend all of it in Tokyo, of course I'd take it as there is enough in both destinations to fill much more time than that!

As per my first post, with ten days, I'd split 5 to Kyoto, 3 to Tokyo and the others to Miyajima/Hiroshima and either Koyo-san, Nara or Osaka.
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Apr 9th, 2015, 03:33 AM
  #22  
 
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And by the way, Kyoto is a world class city too. Don't be fooled into thinking of it as a small town, just because it has a more concentrated historic district -- it has modern city attractions too.
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Apr 9th, 2015, 05:04 AM
  #23  
 
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Given the fact that Japan is just a pre-trip, I think you have made a good decision not to put in too many cities.

You can, however, consider day trips to Nikko out of Tokyo and Nara out of Kyoto. Flying into Osaka and doing Kyoto first makes the most sense to me as well. Then you take the train to Tokyo and fly out of Narita. Look up luggage storage at airports and also the luggage forwarding services which we are using during our June/July trip. Everyone is right about Japan-guide.com. It has a wealth of fantastic information.

Have a great trip. Let us know how it goes, as well as your trip to India!
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Apr 9th, 2015, 06:30 AM
  #24  
 
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I agree with KJA. I would spend more time in Kyoto (actually I would go for just Kyoto, Hiroshima/Miyajima, maybe Koya-san and save Tokyo for next time), less in Tokyo, and definitely go to Kyoto first. It's a gentler city for jet lag and the Kansai airport is both attractive and easy. But that's me. And we loved Nara and the Miho museum as day trips.
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Apr 9th, 2015, 09:41 AM
  #25  
Les
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This is great info, thank you all.

m2dm, thanks for the train info to Kyoto. This should get us into the train station by about 7 PM.
Any suggestions for a nice hotel in Kyoto? Looking for something central to the major attractions (if such a place exists), and, of course, easy to get to from the train station.
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Apr 9th, 2015, 09:49 AM
  #26  
 
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Below is a link to the timetable of the Haruka L'Ex, KIX->Kyoto, which would be pretty much what to expect on your travel day.

http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/inter...chday=20151109
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Apr 9th, 2015, 05:04 PM
  #27  
 
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The Westin get mixed reviews, but we loved being able to walk to the Philosopher's Walk and stop at all the temples on the way (see guides). Kyoto is not as walkable a city as say New York or Rome--more spread out like LA (though IMO MUCH more beautiful), so I liked being walking distance from one set of sights.
Others who post here will know more.
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Apr 12th, 2015, 12:27 PM
  #28  
Les
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Thanks again for all the information.

mrwunrfl, thanks for the airport train schedule link, it will be helpful. Also, would it make sense to reserve our bullet train tickets from Kyoto to Tokyo in advance (online)? If so, do you have a link for that?

Tiffy, I attempted to book one of the Tokyo hotels in Shinjuku that was suggested in the link you provided. Apparently, the Blossom hotel (my first choice) was completely booked for my dates. Attempts to book the Sunroute Plaza (my second choice) failed because the Agoda web site could not show me the rates and availability for my dates, and there was no U.S. number for direct contact with the hotel. I phoned the Agoda number provided, and left a voice message describing the problem and requesting that they contact me as soon as possible. I heard nothing from them yesterday (they eventually contacted me this morning), so given that at least one of my choices had already been sold out, I decided to act sooner rather than later. I booked a room at the Hyatt Regency in Shinjuku (not far from the other suggested hotels, with easy access to the trains).

So now I have everything booked for our trip, except for a hotel in Kyoto. Given that the important things to see in Kyoto are apparently spread out, and we won't have a car, I would love some suggestions for a good locale to choose a hotel (walking distance to restaurants and some attractions, safe in the evening, with easy access to transportation to outlying attractions). Also, any suggestions for specific hotels would be helpful.

Thank you all again.
Les is offline  
Apr 12th, 2015, 01:26 PM
  #29  
 
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Rather than being sold out, it's more likely that the hotel you wanted hasn't yet opened its bookings for December. Most Japanese hotels only allow bookings 4 or 6 months in advance. It's the same with domestic flights.

Hang on to the booking you have, but check back for the other one closer to the time if it's the one you'd prefer.
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Apr 12th, 2015, 01:55 PM
  #30  
kja
 
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I liked the area around, or just a bit north of, Kawaramachi.
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Apr 12th, 2015, 04:10 PM
  #31  
 
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>>Also, would it make sense to reserve our bullet train tickets from Kyoto to Tokyo in advance (online)?

No. There are frequent departures. You can get the tix at Kansai Airport station when you arrive, or during your stay in Kyoto, or at the next to last minute on the day you leave.

Fare with reserved seat is ~ ¥13,710 pp. The fare with reserved seat from the airport to Kyoto on the Haruka L'Ex will be ¥3,170

There are three shinkansen types on your route. You want to take a Nozomi train. It has the fewest stops. Hikari would be OK. Don't take the Kodama.

Here is what the timetable will be like:
http://www.hyperdia.com/cgi/en/inter...chday=20151112
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Apr 12th, 2015, 06:34 PM
  #32  
 
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> Most Japanese hotels only allow bookings 4 or 6 months in advance.
I heard 3 months. And travel agencies release their shares much later.

If you really loves cities, Osaka, Kobe could be visited from your Kyoto hotel, and Yokohama from Tokyo. Many Japanese people commutes such a distance.

As an indication of downtown areas, here are lists of top five train stations (daily passengers).

Greater Tokyo:
3,719,830 Shinjyuku
2,541,544 Tokyo
2,524,933 Ikebukuro
2,470,009 Shibuya
1,981,075 Yokohama

Greater Osaka:
2,297,351 Umeda
872,896 Namba
684,090 Ten-noji
651,997 Sannomiya
630,047 Kyoto
LuisJp is offline  
Apr 12th, 2015, 06:55 PM
  #33  
Les
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Hi.

someotherguy,thanks for the info. Some of the online messages from the hotels stated that they were unable to complete the booking because they were fully booked or the hotel was not yet open for booking (I'm paraphrasing here), just as you've suggested. This also happened when I tried to book a hotel in Kyoto (specifically, the Hyatt Regency). In this case, being a Hyatt Gold Passport member, I was able to called and they confirmed that the hotel was actually fully booked (at least, for the rooms I wanted). For hotels that only had local (Japanese) phone numbers listed, I didn't bother to call. A quick check of independent booking sites (booking.com, hotels.com, etc.) confirmed that many hotels were already fully booked.

kja, I looked into hotels in the area you suggested, picked one that looked good to me, and ran into the same roadblock, "fully booked."

I finally bit the "expensive" bullet and booked a room at the Hotel Granvia. The location looks OK (in the main Kyoto station, which has the added convenience of being the terminus of the train from KIX, and also where I board the train to Tokyo). Someday, after I've downed a bottle of sedatives, I'm going to add up the cost of this trip!

mrwunrfl, once again, thanks. Your info has saved me much planning time.
Les is offline  
Apr 12th, 2015, 08:12 PM
  #34  
kja
 
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Check booking.com again as your trip comes closer, and especially once you reach the 6- and 3-months-before dates. I think you'll find that there will be available options. And if not, let us know!
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Apr 12th, 2015, 08:25 PM
  #35  
Les
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LuisJp, thanks for the statistics. We do really love cities, but we we're not planning to visit ALL of Japan's cities in the week and a half that we've allotted to Japan on this trip. This was actually just an afterthought to our India trip (think of it as foreplay).

Also, thanks for the info on hotel holdbacks.
Les is offline  
Apr 12th, 2015, 09:40 PM
  #36  
 
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With the caveat that we tend not to book the American chains (beyond our budget), we loved the location of the Kyoto Royal Hotel & Spa. It's not as posh as the name makes it sound but we were extremely happy with our room, probably the largest, most recently refurbished and comfortable of all our Western hotel choices. That said, I think it depends on what room you get (we booked a standard but were there 6 nights so perhaps were assigned one of the better ones) as I've seen some say their rooms were not up to scratch.

I booked it via booking.com --- on our first trip I booked mostly via agoda.com and japaneseguesthouses.com whereas on the second trip I switched agoda for booking.com which, for the vast majority of properties, doesn't require payment in advance (just a credit card to guarantee the room) and also allows cancellation up till 3 days ahead (again, on most not all, so check before you book). For me, that allowed me to book what I could find and then relax and look for the hotels I really wanted to open up their availability, in which case I could cancel the place holder booking.

The reviews on booking.com are also more useful to me than tripadvisor ones, not least because they can only be left by people who have actually booked that hotel through the booking.com site, so less likelihood of competitor slurs.
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Apr 12th, 2015, 11:08 PM
  #37  
Les
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Kavey, I appreciate your comments.

First, I should note that all of the hotels I've booked for this trip have full cancellation privileges (up to a few days prior to arrival), and none have been pre-paid (except to hold the room). This gives me the option to cancel, should I find a hotel more to my liking over the next few months.

I don't always book American chain hotels. For example, on my recent 10-week trip to Scandinavia and eastern Europe, about 1/3 of my hotels were not American chains. And on this trip, 2 of my 3 hotels (in Delhi and Kyoto) are not American chains (although they are chains).

I generally like to book chain hotels (not always American) because they are a known quantity (especially in countries with significantly different cultures, such as Japan and India). But if I can ascertain that a hotel meets my preferences, either by their online presence or first-hand references such as I get from this forum, I have no problem with booking such hotels.

But I do have specific likes and dislikes (as everyone does, I imagine).
For example, I'm a particularly fussy eater. If I'm in a country like Japan or China, with a predominantly seafood (or God knows what in China) diet, I want a hotel where I can at least start the day with a western breakfast, and a choice of western food for dinner if I can't find a restaurant I like in the evening. Then I can go the entire day without lunch if I'm out touring. And let's hear it for the Italians! I can almost always find an Italian restaurant to save the day.

Also, I don't like small, dark rooms or cramped, uncomfortable beds, at any price. When I was living in Germany, my French secretary once booked me a room in Paris that she assured me was very nice. Turns out the room was so small that the door couldn't open all the way without hitting the bed. My wife and I had to go into the room one at a time, then close the door and walk around the bed so the next person could get in. It's all a matter of perspective.

And I definitely don't buy into the idea that it doesn't matter what your hotel is like, because you "only sleep there."

To me, a hotel should allow you to decompress and relax after a full day of sometimes high-intensity exposure while touring. Try walking around Bangkok for a day, for example (and I imagine Tokyo would also demand your undivided attention).

So finding a hotel that meets my requirements at a budget price, while not impossible, is certainly not always easy.

When I research a hotel, I look at the reviews on Trip Advisor, and then check reviews and prices on Booking.com.
But I find that web sites like Booking.com don't always have exactly the room that I want, while booking with the hotel directly might provide a greater choice. However, as I found out while driving around Greece and Turkey without pre-reserved hotels, sometimes when a hotel clerk tells you that they are fully booked for that evening, ten minutes spent on Booking.com will turn up a room at that hotel. In Antalya, the desk clerk even suggested that I could find a room in their fully-booked hotel if I go into their business center and reserve the room through Booking.com.

Wow, I didn't realize I was talking so long. Sorry.
Les is offline  
Apr 13th, 2015, 11:41 AM
  #38  
 
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Ah, I just realised my comment on American chains may have appeared pejorative, that was not at ALL my intention.

What I meant by American chains was actually the expensive ones such as Hyatt and Westin and I don't know, Four Seasons and my brain has gone blank but these are usually the high end hotel chains. I don't book them not because I have anything against chains (let alone American chains) but because they are pretty much always waaaaaay above my budget. I'll pay that kind of night rate for a very fancy ryokan with a blowout kaiseki feast included but not for a regular hotel, even if it's glorious!

I do love chains, as you say you can be confident on what you are getting.

In Japan we stayed in a number of Dormy Inn hotels, all of which we thought were great - locations, size of rooms (for Japan), layout of rooms, comfort, and certainly for value.

I agree that a hotel needs to be somewhere you can relax. For us that simply means enough space that we're not tripping over our luggage and comfortable enough furniture that we can lounge around reading / looking up tourist info on our tablet / catching up on email etc.

Oddly, when it comes to travelling in Europe, I rarely book via the booking sites like booking.com as they tend not to feature the smaller pension-style bed and breakfast hotels that I favour. And for France we'll often use local table d'hote guidebook to find hosts offering one or more room in their home, usually with breakfast included. We've rarely been disappointed but then again it's usually a one night stay and not at all expensive. My style of travel/ style of accommodation is very different for Japan/ longhaul trips and European self-drive or city break trips.

I agree totally that a hotel is more than just a bed, and whilst it will only rarely break a trip, the right one can certainly help make a trip so so much better!

Kavey is offline  
Apr 13th, 2015, 03:58 PM
  #39  
Les
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Kavey,

I didn't at all take your reply as being pejorative, and I apologize if I gave that impression.

In a country like Japan, I would have no problem with smaller hotels, in fact I tried to book a couple that were in the link provided by Tiffy. But given that November is apparently high season in both Tokyo and Kyoto, in the face of rapidly disappearing options, I thought it best to get an immediate reservation.

In India, on the other hand, based upon what my son told us (he has traveled there), I would get nothing less than high-end accommodations.
Les is offline  
Apr 13th, 2015, 04:33 PM
  #40  
 
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I just add some information for each sub-core district.

Greater Tokyo:
3,719,830 Shinjyuku
2,541,544 Tokyo (~15min local train ride from Shinjyuku)
2,524,933 Ikebukuro (~5min local train ride from Shinjyuku)
2,470,009 Shibuya (~5min local train ride from Shinjyuku)
1,981,075 Yokohama (~30min local train ride from Shinjyuku)

Greater Osaka:
2,297,351 Umeda (=Osaka)
872,896 Namba (~10min local train ride from Umeda)
684,090 Ten-noji (~15min local train ride from Umeda)
651,997 Sannomiya (~=Kobe: ~30min local train ride from Umeda)
630,047 Kyoto (~30min local train ride from Umeda)
LuisJp is offline  

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