Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Asia (
-   -   Our trip to Japan. Arigato gozaimasu (

blackmons Nov 29th, 2016 06:49 PM

Our trip to Japan. Arigato gozaimasu
Thanks to all of you on this message board, I had an absolutely incredible first trip to Japan. I really can’t thank you all enough for all your expert advice and generous time. I especially want to thank you again for your helpful advice, support, and caring when I thought my trip was going to come to an early end when I somehow hurt my foot. Thankfully, after staying off it for a day, I had no more problems.

So much has been said about the places I visited, and much more eloquently than I ever could, but I’ll just offer some brief impressions and logistics.

Tokyo – 2 nights
Great flight with ANA airlines. Plenty of room and decent food in economy.
We were surprised how quiet Tokyo Airport was when we arrived. I think I was expecting a complete madhouse. We had no problem finding the JR office to exchange our JR pass vouchers. I came armed with my schedule to make reservations easier only to be told that they would only make the first day’s reservation. I got the impression from reading the forum that I could make all my reservations at the airport, but maybe that has changed recently. I was told there was no place in the airport where I would be able to make those reservations so it wasn’t a matter of not being in the right place.

We took the limo bus directly to Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel. Couldn’t have been easier.

Our pocket wifi arrived at the hotel with the wrong charger, but after calling customer service at Global Advanced Com we were sent a new one that worked fine. This really came in handy when we needed it. We used Google Maps a lot.

The hotel was right near Shibuya Station, and I had no problem going over there the next morning and finding the JR office to make the rest of my train reservations. It was helpful that I had all the information from Hyperdia typed out so I could just hand it to the gentleman who was helping me.

We used a guide from Free Tokyo Guides. He was wonderful and really added to our experience. He spent the entire day with us, taking trains and buses to all the different neighborhoods we could fit in. One of the things I wanted to do was buy knives as presents for our kids with their names engraved in Japanese and English. He took us to Kappabashi and we were able to get that taken care of.

Fell in love with the Japanese toilets.

Takayama – 2 nights
Train travel! The best! Could not be easier. And sending our luggage ahead was so liberating! We pretty much just traveled with two backpacks the entire trip. We were always nervous, worrying if our luggage was going to actually show up at our next destination, but there it would be – just waiting for us.
We loved Takayama. We stayed at Rickshaw Inn and did all the usual wonderful sites. The weather was perfect and the fall colors were gorgeous! This is when we began to realize what a big part food was going to play on this trip. So many wonderful things to try.

Kanazawa – 3 nights
We had made a bus reservation when we arrived in Takayama for the first bus to Shirakawago to avoid the crowds. All the afternoon buses from S-go to Kanazawa were already sold out, two days ahead of time, so we got a late morning bus to Kanazawa. It was nice being in S-go before the crowds, watching the steam rise off the rooftops, but honestly, after visiting the Hida Folk Village, we probably could have skipped this.

We stayed at APA Hotel Kanazawa Chuo in the smallest hotel room I have ever stayed in. But it was clean, comfortable, and in walking distance of all the sites. We loved Kanazawa.
Tea in the little teahouse by the pond in Kenroku-en Garden
Lunch at the 21st Century Museum
Tea ceremony at Gyokusen-en (not to be confused with Gyokusen Immaru, which we found out the hard way)
Conveyer belt sushi in Omicho Market

Hiroshima – 1 night
Rainy, dreary day. Perfect for visiting Hiroshima. Sobering. Kind of chilling to see tourists taking smiling selfies in front of the A-bomb dome.
Okonomiyaki at the train station.
Overnight at Hotel Granvia at the train station. Very convenient.
That night, for some unknown reason, my foot started to hurt.

Miyajima – 1 night
Foot getting worse. Hard to walk. I was worried I had possibly broken something and would end up in the ER. Our luggage had been sent ahead to Nara so that would have been a problem. That is a possible downside of sending your luggage ahead. It makes it hard to be flexible. I got a compression sock and hobbled my way to Momiji-so. Such a beautiful setting. It was so disappointing to have to miss out on exploring Miyajima, but I knew this was my one chance to rest my foot and hope for the best. We had a lot of our trip ahead of us, and I didn’t want to miss anything else. We relaxed in our room, enjoying the view and the heated floor, and just to add to my misery, watched the election…

Nara – 1 night
Our time in Nara was too short. The highlight was the school groups that would approach us and ask, in broken English, if they could interview us. They asked us questions, gave us a presentation about interesting facts about Nara, took our picture, and gave us gifts of origami. We were so charmed by this. In our brief morning in Nara, this happened four times. We finally had to make a quick escape to the train station before we were stopped again or we wouldn’t make our train. They were so polite and sweet. We really enjoyed it.
You may want to avoid feeding the deer (also learned the hard way.)

Koyasan – 1 night
We greatly enjoyed our stay at Shojoshin-in. The highlight was our long walk on a cold, clear night in the lantern-lit cemetery, followed by a hot bath in a deep wooden tub. The colors here were fantastic too. I had been so concerned about the many transfers to get to Koyasan, but
everything ran like clockwork.
I had also been worried about four 1-nighters in a row and all the train travel, but being on the trains was so relaxing that it wasn’t a problem. We were ready at this point though to settle in somewhere.

Kyoto – 5 nights
First of all, Hotel Mume. Cannot say enough about how helpful they were. The Japanese people made a huge impression on us. It’s hard to really put it into words, but I know you know what I’m talking about. They are amazing.
Had a blast at Haru Cooking Class. Highly recommend it.
Shichigosan at Heian Shrine, all the little kids dressed in their kimonos. Adorable!
Speaking of kimonos, we were surprised to see so many young women dressed in kimonos. Between the blinding fall colors and the beautiful fabrics of their kimonos, it was just breathtaking.
Arashiyama was packed, but we grabbed a taxi from the train station and headed up to Otagi Nenbutsu-ji where there was no one. We had this quirky, photogenic temple practically to ourselves. Then we meandered down the road, visiting various sites and shops along the way.
We also walked along the river, where the crowds thinned out, and had a memorable last meal of our trip at Shoraian, a tofu kaiseki-style restaurant, nestled up in the hills.

I know we were just able to get the smallest taste of Japan, but in talking about the trip afterwards, my husband and I both agree that it was close to perfect. Towards the end of the trip, we were starting to get tired. Exhausted, we would force ourselves to get out and take in another site -- and then be amazed and revitalized. So much to see and experience.

Again, many thanks for all of your help. It made such a huge difference, making this trip so special and memorable. Happy Holidays, everyone, and safe travels!

mrwunrfl Nov 29th, 2016 07:45 PM

Happy to hear you had a good trip and thanks for the TR, Laurie. Which Tokyo airport did you use?

thursdaysd Nov 29th, 2016 07:46 PM

Thanks for the report. So glad the foot problem wasn't worse!

kja Nov 29th, 2016 09:59 PM

So glad you enjoyed your time in Japan! To my surprise, you stayed in at least 4 of the same places I did -- in Takayama, Kanazawa, Miyajima, Koyasan, and, if I recall correctly, the Little Hotel Nara Club? I hope that worked for you! And I'm delighted that you experienced some of the things I most enjoyed while in Japan. Hoping your foot is healing...

Thanks for reporting back and happy holidays to you, too!

Jhon_Carter Nov 30th, 2016 12:50 AM

It’s nice to hear that you had an awesome trip to Japan. I have never been there before, and I am planning to visit Kyoto, is this good to stay for 3nights at there? Japan is well known for Sushi and I Google it. Which one is the best restaurant to enjoy the Sushi?

Kavey Nov 30th, 2016 05:06 AM

Oh how wonderful, so lovely to read that you had such a wonderful trip and also great to know that tips from all the Japan Fodorites gang here were of help!

blackmons Nov 30th, 2016 05:54 AM

Mr Wunrfl, We flew into Narita Airport and arrived 2:30 in the afternoon. Maybe it was so quiet because of the terminal we arrived in? Maybe because they're so incredibly organized? Maybe because I'm from Chicago and am used to O'Hare.

kja, Wow. That is kind of bizarre that we stayed in so many of the same hotels. And yes, I forgot to mention Little Hotel Nara Club. Such a cute place. We especially enjoyed walking through a residential neighborhood to get there. It was such a different experience, being away from all the tourists and crowds. Yet it was within walking distance to the sites. Great suggestion. Thank you.

Jhon, 3 nights will only give you 2 full days in Kyoto. I read somewhere on these boards that Kyoto is Japanese for "not enough time." I would research all the things in Kyoto that interest you and then decide how much time you need. If that's all the time you can give to it, it will still be a wonderful two days and you will just have to pick and choose and make the best of it. Before my trip a friend who had just returned from Japan said to me, "You can't see it all," and for some reason those words stayed with me and helped calm me.
Unfortunately, we didn't have any sushi in Kyoto. My husband was craving beef at this point, and we had eaten so much fish the rest of the trip, we just didn't get to it. If you stay at Hotel Mume, they can be your travel guide, directing you to the perfect places to meet your wishes. Lots of foodies on this board too that can advise you on that.

BigRuss Nov 30th, 2016 08:12 AM

Narita and Haneda are both great for international travel. Complete opposite of [insert major US international airport outside of Dallas or Houston here].

thursdaysd Nov 30th, 2016 11:06 AM

Pretty much EVERY airport in east Asia is way better than ANY airport in the US. (I just had the displeasure of transiting through Dallas. Terminal C was a dump.)

kja Nov 30th, 2016 05:11 PM

I'm glad the Little Hotel Nara Club worked for you! i liked that walk, too, and the sense of leaving the tourists and crowds behind.

boobaby Nov 30th, 2016 10:58 PM

Lovely report. We were in Japan in May this year. I used the JR office at Shinjuku Station, and they were able to book all of reservations from Tokyo - Kyoto - Hiroshima - Kanazawa.

MinnBeef Dec 1st, 2016 06:32 AM

I enjoyed your report and am glad you were able to survive your foot injury. Glad to hear you loved Kanazawa and Koyasan, as those will be new stops for me when I revisit Japan for Sakura this coming Spring.

You are yet another enormously satisfied customer of Hotel Mume. I cannot WAIT to stay with them again on my next trip-the attention to and genuine interest in their guests goes beyond anyplace I have ever stayed in the world. Hope Hisako and all her team are doing well.

Proud to say that our airport here in the MSP has undergone significant renovations in the past couple of decades and is now downright attractive. Lots of shoppiong, some nice restaurants, and light rail between the terminals make it, IMHO, one of the nicest airports in the U.S. (way better than some of the dumpy larger aiports like O'Hare or LaGuardia). And now, we have one of the 5 new direct routes from the U.S. to Haneda, which I'll be able to take advantage of on my next trip. Come check us out sometime!

HappyTrvlr Dec 1st, 2016 03:37 PM

What were the dates of your trip? We are in the planning mode and this report is very helpful.

blackmons Dec 1st, 2016 07:45 PM

We were there 11/1 to 11/17. We were hoping to see fall color, and it did not disappoint. When are you planning your trip for?

alisa23 Jan 3rd, 2017 05:40 PM

Great report, thank you!
We just came back from Japan and I would love to go back again and see Takayama, Sh-Go and Kanazawa this time around

russ_in_LA Jan 4th, 2017 04:05 PM

Enjoyed your report! Glad to see that you benefited from the excellent advice on this forum. Thinking about trip #3 in 2018, perhaps in the fall this time. Sounds lovely.

shelleyk Jan 5th, 2017 04:07 AM

We were in Japan the same time you were. This was our second trip to Japan in Nov. Nov. is a wonderful time to be there... generally good weather and beautiful fall colors.

We took the NEX train to our hotel in Shinjuku using the JR Tokyo Wide Pass. The JR office was nice enough to make the following 2 days train reservations for us. We did not use our JR 7 day pass until we left Tokyo, four days after our arrival.

Your itinerary was similar to our first trip's. It hits many of the highlights. I'm glad your trip was wonderful.

internetwiz Jan 5th, 2017 05:09 AM

Thank you for your report. We've been to most of the places you visited but reading about them again makes me want to go back and explore some more.

Judith_Hunter May 27th, 2017 10:38 PM

Thank you for a great report. It's so helpful to read other people's reports when we're planning a trip. I'm curious - what happened with the deer?

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 11:30 AM.