Planning a Trip to Japan on a Budget!

Old May 4th, 2011, 08:27 AM
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Planning a Trip to Japan on a Budget!

Hey everyone! I just finished up a year of volunteering with AmeriCorps VISTA (which means I don't really get paid more than what I need to survive) and will soon be finishing up a few months of actual employment where I saved as much as I could to take a trip to Taiwan & Japan! I will be a girl in my early 20s traveling alone, but I think I can handle it!

I'm trying to plan out my Japan itinerary now, and I think I will be there from July 30-August 18! I was hoping to get some feedback or tips on my itinerary, and also how to best utilize the various rail passes that are available to save money. My friend who is from Osaka recommends the JR rail pass-- but I really don't think it would be cost effective because I plan on staying mostly in the Kansai region + a few days in Hiroshima/Miyajima

7/30 - Fly from Taipei to Osaka (TPE-KIX) - Explore a bit and eat
7/31 - Osaka - Tour & Eat
8/1 - Osaka - Volunteer at friend's preschool
8/2 - Osaka - Volunteer at friend's preschool
8/3 - Osaka - Volunteer & Tour, etc
8/4 - Koyasan - Stay in a temple over night
8/5 - Koyasan to Osaka to Hiroshima
8/6 - Hiroshima - Day trip to Miyajima, hike Mt. Misen, etc
8/7 - Hiroshima - Explore + Peace Memorial Ceremony
8/8 - Hiroshima - Explore
8/9 - Okayama - Tour + crash in internet cafe?
8/10 - Okayama - Tour + return to Osaka
8/11 - Himeji Day trip from Osaka
8/12 - Nara Day trip from Osaka
8/13 - Kobe Day trip from Osaka
8/14 - Osaka to Kyoto
815 - Kyoto
8/16- Kyoto - Daimonji
8/17 - Kyoto to Osaka
8/18 - Depart for Taipei from Osaka (KIX-TPE)

I was thinking one of the regional passes like the JR West Rail pass combined with the Seishun 18 Kippu pass might be more cost effective for me. For example, using the Saishun 18 to get from Osaka-Hiroshima, Miyajima, Hiroshima-Okayama, Okayama- Osaka, and Kyoto-Osaka-- & then using the JR West Rail pass for Himeji, Nara, Kobe & getting to Kyoto.

Also, I will be staying in hostels for most of the trip...or possibly couch surfing if I decide it is safe. I'd be grateful for any tips with hashing out my itinerary. Other than seeing Daimonji and being in Hiroshima for the Peace Memorial Ceremony, I don't have my heart set on anything. I just want a pretty chill yet fun trip!
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Old May 4th, 2011, 10:31 AM
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Most of your trip looks very good, except I'd visit Himeji on the way from Osaka to Hiroshima , or between Okayama and Osaka, to save backtracking.

You might also consider going to kyoto and ending up with Osaka at the end if that will let you buy less train pass days

Also, is there a special reason you're including Kobe?

Something like this:

8/10 - Okayama - Tour + Himeji. Stay in Himeji or go on to Kyoto
8/11 - Kyoto
8/12 - Kyoto -Daimonji
8/13 - Kyoto -
8/14 - Kyoto -day trip to Nara, then on to Osaka
815 - Osaka
8/16- Osaka
8/17 - Osaka
8/18 - Depart for Taipei from Osaka (KIX-TPE)
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Old May 4th, 2011, 11:10 AM
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try using the Kansai thru Pass instead of the JR West Pass. Same price and area coverage but the KTP will get you up and down Koyasan and also allow you subway and bus transport throughout the Kansai region. Using either pass will not let you on the express or shinkansen trains. The long distance(Hiroshima) runs would have to be done on the local lines which will take time with transfers involved. Use www.hyperdia.com to figure length of routes. Click off the express and shinkansen trains to get the local line times.

Another option for lengthy travel is the overnight bus which will save you a nights lodgings and a couple of long days train rides.

http://willerexpress.com/bus/pc/3/top/?aid=184

Aloha!
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Old May 4th, 2011, 11:55 AM
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Koyasan will be expensive... Try Toyoko Inns for cheaper hotel stays. It's also worth checking agoda.com for discount.
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Old May 5th, 2011, 06:00 AM
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Wow thanks for all of the helpful replies!

Icuy: I didn't even think of the backtracking, but I will definitely try to go to Himeji between Okayama & Osaka if I manage to find cheap lodging in Himeji. I thought about making a side trip to Kurashiki and maybe staying the night there, but I'm not sure how I would do that yet.
Daimonji is only on 8/16, so I'll probably keep the same dates for Kyoto, but we'll see! I have a Osakan friend (in the US now) whose family is familiar with Kyoto...so I might do the trip from Osaka with them-- but I'm not sure yet.

Also, I included Kobe because I was going to make it one splurge and try some Kobe beef! I also want to go on a few moderate hikes while I'm in Japan & I heard Mt. Rokko nearby is supposed to be an enjoyable one.

hawaiiantraveler: thanks for that tip! the Kansai Thru Pass definitely looks like a better deal.

thursdaysd: it doesn't look like Toyoko Inns has a location on Koyasan...but hopefully it won't be too big a drain on my funds to stay there over night!
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Old May 5th, 2011, 06:08 AM
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No, there's no Toyoko on Koyasan. You have to stay in a temple.
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Old May 5th, 2011, 08:27 AM
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There is a youth hostel in Koyasan - I can't find a website but you can find the telephone online - but I don't think you would really get the Koyasan temple experience unless you stayed one night in a temple....
http://www.shukubo.jp/eng/ site that lists various temples
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Old May 6th, 2011, 08:51 AM
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Hmm, I think I will end up staying in a temple in Koyasan. I think it is really worth the experience. After reading a bit more online-- even if its a slight splurge for me, it sounds amazing!
Thank you for the website, Mara! I skimmed that and a few other pages to get reviews on which temples are good stays, and I think I might try to reserve a night at Shojoshin-in!

I've been trying to look at schedules and prices and figure out which rail passes would best be utilized for me. It's so overwhelming! I took a break from it because it was starting to become confusing.

Also, I realized that Himeji Castle is under construction...and I'm not sure if I should still make a trip to Himeji. Perhaps going to Kurashiki would be another option? Does anyone have tips for another place near Okayama, or as a side trip in that region?
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Old May 6th, 2011, 09:28 AM
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http://www.jyh.or.jp/english/index.html

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3501.html
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Old Jun 8th, 2011, 11:32 AM
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I wanted to thank everyone for their suggestions and help! I ended up altering my plans a LOT with my friend who is an Osaka native...just so I could go a lil off the beaten path! Here is the update, and I indicate what passes/buses I'll be using. My friend told me that I can request a nonconsecutive 3-day Surotto Kansai Pass and it costs the same amount. I'm going to use two!

7/30/2011 - Taipei to Osaka
7/31/2011 - Kobe [Surotto Kansai Pass]
8/1/2011 - Osaka - Volunteer & Tour & Eat + PL Fireworks Show (Tondabayashi)
8/2/2011 - Osaka
8/3/2011 - Osaka - Hike in Mino Park, then KoreaTown
8/4/2011 - Leave for Koyasan in morning [Koyasan World Heritage Ticket]
8/5/2011 - Koyasan - [then Take Overnight bus to Hiroshima]
8/6/2011 - Hiroshima - Peace Memorial Ceremony
8/7/2011 - Hiroshima - Day trip to Miyajima
[Leave for Okayama the next morning by bus]
8/8/2011 - Okayama
8/9/2011 - Okayama to Yonago [Bus from Okayama to Yonago/Tottori]
8/10/2011 - Daisenji - head to Daisenji [Daisenji Loop Bus pass - 2 day]
8/11/2011 - Daisenji - Explore Daisenji
8/12/2011 - Daisen-ji to Tottori in the Morning [Daisenji Loop Bus to Yonago, then train to Tottori]
8/13/2011 - Tottori [Evening/Late Afternoon Bus from Tottori to Osaka - 3 hours]
8/14/2011 - Nara - Tōka-e [Surotto Kansai Pass]
8/15/2011 - Arima - Hotsprings!! [Surotto Kansai Pass]
8/16/2011 - Osaka to Kyoto - Daimonji [Surotto Kansai Pass]
8/17/2011 - Kyoto - Tour & Eat + Arashiyama [Surotto Kansai Pass]
8/18/2011 - Kyoto to Osaka [Surotto Kansai Pass]
8/19/2011 - Osaka to Taipei

Is this crazy?!
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Old Jun 8th, 2011, 02:13 PM
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No, not crazy and very doable as is. Looks well thought out. You can go from Arima straight on to Kyoto unless you have reason to stop back in Osaka.

Matsue-jo might be worth a visit since you will be in the area when visiting Daisen-ji. Its one of only a dozen or so original castles left in Japan were not destroyed by WW II bombings or by mother nature.

Expect very hot and humid weather during your stay at that time of year so dress accordingly and remember to hydrate yourself. You might find relief from the heat and humidity atop Koya-san or as you climb Mt. Daisen to Daisen-ji but most other places on your itinerary will be hot hot hot.

Aloha!
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