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planning for Japan, late-November and early-December

planning for Japan, late-November and early-December

Old Feb 10th, 2023, 06:24 AM
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planning for Japan, late-November and early-December

Were raring to return to Japan as its been 11 years since we were there. We had plans to visit in 2020, but were scuttled by the pandemic as with so many of us. What drew us into Japan on our previous trip are the unique culture, history, gardens, temples, food, and transportation.

We thought about visiting this coming May but it is looking unlikely. Our next opportunity will be three weeks in late fall, comprising of the last two weeks of November and the first week of December.

Places of interest include Tokyo, the Japanese Alps, Kanazawa, Takayama, Kyoto, Okayama / Himeji, Miyajima, Hagi, Matsue, and Kyushu. With three weeks, we will not be trying to do it all.

It seems like mid- to late-November is too late for day hikes in the Japanese Alps, at least not without hiking in snow. Are there places in Japan where snow-free day hikes would be possible this time of year?

I understand that it is generally colder and possibly wetter this time of year (although weather is hard to predict), especially along the coast of the Sea of Japan. Would the trees and gardens in Kanazawa and Takayama be bare by late November? And Matsue by early December? Just wondering if it may make more sense to save these areas for a visit at a different time of year.

On the plus side, we are aware of the foliage opportunities. Any favorite places to view koyo that may not be as crowded as Tokyo or Kyoto?

Interested in other suggestions you may have for Japan for this time of year.

Thanks.
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Old Feb 12th, 2023, 09:02 AM
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I made a return (4th?) visit to Kanazawa in mid-November 2019 for two main reasons: it was just after the start of crab season in the Nihon Kai, and to visit the garden/castle. I ate well. Kenrokuen was interesting because they were in the process of tying up the trees for the winter. I had noticed trees like that in the city on a previous visit (right outside the window of a traditional restaurant - a reminder that you are in Kanazaw as it is one of the symbols of the city).

I suppose the trees would be all set by the time you got there and it being just past a peak season there should be fewer tourists. Consider a visit there and heading up to Shirakawago for an overnight in a gassho-zukuri. I did that and was the only guest at Koemon - they had snow boots available for guests (which fit and were necessary in early January.

One thing about bare trees is that they give you a better view of the land. IDK how often, in various places in the world, where I was at a viewpoint and wishing they had cut down the trees i was looking at so that I could see the valley, or whatever, kind of half-joking).

I think I would avoid San-In coast at that time (i.e. Matsue - Hagi) becausae of weather, but San-yo side would be good.

You would find what you are looking for in Kyushu (you could even go to an all-night kagura performance at a Takachiho farmhouse at that time (you could, not me ).
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Old Feb 12th, 2023, 09:05 AM
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Here is what I was referring to: Yukitsuri - Wikipedia

(my longer post is in moderation, but I think it will appear before this)
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Old Feb 12th, 2023, 02:27 PM
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Thank you mrwunrfl. Sounds like Kanazawa will be alright in mid-November, and the bonus of crab no less! I encountered yukitsuri in Kyoto as we were there in February; didn't know what its purpose was until later. Have you had experiences with Takayama in mid-November? Will check out Kyushu too.
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Old Feb 12th, 2023, 04:49 PM
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We are planning almost 4 weeks in Japan this fall, though we will be there from mid-October to mid-November. I’ll be following your planning and I’ll be planning shortly - just after we return from a trip to Mexico.
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Old Feb 12th, 2023, 04:55 PM
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Pretty sure I have visited Takayama only in the spring. I did have a ticket to fly into Toyama one November from where I planned to take the train up to Takayama, but figured it would be too cold, so I changed it to KIX. Takayama is pretty flat and easily bike/walkable. There is a hill to get to the Hida no Sato (I took the bus) just outside of town. There is a temple path on the east edge of town. I think it is more of a walk than a hike. There is a town about 10 miles north of Takayama that might be a worthy hike as it supposed to be an undiscovered low-key version of Takayama, but IDK. It is Hidafurukawa.

Checking your wish-list again, I see
Okayama / Himeji, Miyajima - which is more/less Sanyo side, of course. Sanyo - think sunny.

You did mention Kyushu. There is some hiking near Kirishima, fairly serious I think. Kirishima Plateau, IIRC. Of course, you could just go to japan-guide and search for hiking. Unzen and Shimabara are still on my wish list as are the pottery towns just south of my fave Japanese city, Fukuoka.

Last edited by mrwunrfl; Feb 12th, 2023 at 04:57 PM.
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Old Feb 12th, 2023, 05:16 PM
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Progol, enjoy your time in Mexico. Are you going to Mexico City or a resort? I loved Mexico City, but have not ventured anywhere else in the country. Mid-October to mid-November should optimal for Japan. If I could push my trip earlier, I would too, but the earliest would be around Nov. 10.

mrwunrfl, thank you again. I will take a look at the places you suggest. I've asked this question over at japan-guide too. Curious as to what makes Fukuoka your favorite?
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Old Feb 13th, 2023, 02:59 AM
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Originally Posted by tripplanner001 View Post
Progol, enjoy your time in Mexico. Are you going to Mexico City or a resort? I loved Mexico City, but have not ventured anywhere else in the country. Mid-October to mid-November should optimal for Japan. If I could push my trip earlier, I would too, but the earliest would be around Nov. 10.

mrwunrfl, thank you again. I will take a look at the places you suggest. I've asked this question over at japan-guide too. Curious as to what makes Fukuoka your favorite?
tripplanner, we are going to Oaxaca and Mexico City and were very excited. I did find your report on Mexico City and am finding it helpful as well.

From what Im reading, the time period youre traveling to Japan will give you a chance to find the peak color in places. That should be wonderful.
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Old Feb 13th, 2023, 04:38 AM
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Thanks progol. The foliage should be good in a couple of places for sure. I would expect it will be in the Japanese Alps, in Tohoku, and parts of the Sea of Japan side for your time frame.
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Old Feb 13th, 2023, 11:05 AM
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Fukuoka has big city stuff but is reasonable sized and not as intense.I could live there.
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Old Feb 13th, 2023, 11:12 AM
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my 2019 visit to Kanazawa was aroind the 18th
For October, I would try to get to Kakunodate during peak color, probably stay at that place next to the station again.
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Old Feb 13th, 2023, 03:39 PM
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>> last two weeks of November and ...

Oh, so Miyajima, maybe staying at Momiji-so in Momijidani.
maples
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Old Feb 13th, 2023, 06:56 PM
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Thanks again mrwunrfl.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2023, 11:25 AM
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Coming back to this, here's my current working itinerary:

Tokyo, 6 nights, including day trips to Nikko and Kamakura
Kanazawa, 2 nights
Takayama, 2 nights
Kyoto, 5 nights
Kurashiki, 2 nights
Miyajima, 1-2 nights

I have room for one more place and am thinking about Lake Biwa, Izu, or someplace on Shikoku (Iya Valley and Kochi?). Would any of these be more optimal towards the end of November?

Thanks.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2023, 02:38 PM
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I went to Kanazawa and Takayama (with a stop in Shirakawa-go in between) in the same time frame that you are planning. Both Kanazawa and Takayama were snow free. The fall foliage period was already over. Kenrokuen was lovely, and the yukitsuri were already up. It was quite picturesque. The only snow we encountered was in Shirakawa-go and the Okuhida area, where we took the double decker ropeway cars into the mountains (this was Japan's first, and worth the trip). If rooms had been available, we would have stayed at least one night at an onsen in Okuhida (Kakurean Hidaji was highly recommended). All areas were a little less crowded, and it was a very easy trip, both in terms of navigating the towns and transportation between areas.
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Old Jun 5th, 2023, 04:13 PM
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Coming back to this thread after some more research and configuration. The current iteration is:

Fly into Tokyo, 4 nights, including a day trip to Kamakura
Train to Kanazawa, 3 nights
Bus to Takayama, 3 nights, stopping in Shirakawago on the way (also day trip to Kamikochi or Shin-Hokata, weather permitting)
Train to Ise, 2 nights, stopping in Nagoya on the way
Train to Kyoto, 4-5 nights
Train to Kurashiki / Okayama, 2 nights, stopping in Himeji on the way
Train and ferry to Miyajima, 1-2 nights, stopping in Hiroshima on the way
Train and ferry to Naoshima, 1-2 nights (we may drop this for 5 nights in Kyoto and 2 nights on Miyajima)

Trying to strike a balance between big cities and smaller towns, urban with some time outdoors, traditional versus modern, etc.

Would you make any logical changes to this? Thanks.
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