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Please Critique my First Draft Japan Itinerary for November 2013

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Nov 24th, 2012, 06:28 PM
  #1
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Please Critique my First Draft Japan Itinerary for November 2013

Hello everyone. This is my first post in the Japan forums. I spent quite a bit of time posting over the past year in the Turkey forums and learned a lot of information that was very useful for my trip there this past August/September. I am now targeting Japan (which has fascinated me since I was in 6th grade) for my 2013 trip.

I am targeting to travel the last few days of October and then the first two weeks of November 2013. My hope is that this gives me the best chance of hitting peak fall colors season throughout Honshu, where I plan to do all my traveling.

This is the first draft itinerary I have put together. Seeing Tokyo, Hakone (for at least one day), Kyoto, Hiroshima and Miyajima are absolute musts. The other locations highly intrigue me but I am open to alternative suggested locations. I am looking for all sorts of experiences--enjoying large cities; seeing temples, shrines and Buddhas; seeing spectacular fall colors and great nature (e.g. Mt. Fuji); great food and some fun shopping. So, here's what I have come up for a 17-day itinerary:

Day 0: Direct flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo
Day 1: Arrive Tokyo in late afternoon. Settle into city. Wander a bit in the hotel area.
Day 2: Tokyo
Day 3: Tokyo
Day 4: Side trip to Kamakura
Day 5: Tokyo
Days 6 and 7: Hakone (see Mt. Fuji, soak in an onsen, hike, etc.)
Day 8: Matsumoto
Day 9: Hike in Kamikochi. Visit Shirahone Onsen
Days 10-13: Kyoto
Day 14: Hiroshima
Day 15: Miyajima
Day 16: Travel by bullet train from Hiroshima back to Tokyo. Last night dinner.
Day 17: Fly home from Tokyo to Minneapolis

Naturally I have things I want to see and do on each of these days that could impact my exact order but overall, what do you all think of this general plan? In particular, does very late October/first half of November provide me the best opportunity to see maximum fall colors? Also, will it be too chilly in the Japan Alps in early November to make hiking enjoyable? (Yes, I know I'm from Minneapolis but I'll be the first to admit that I tolerate the cold, rather then embrace it.)

All thoughts are appreciated. Thank you!
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Nov 24th, 2012, 07:03 PM
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Your plan looks good for a rough draft but I would recommend saving Tokyo for the end of your trip. I love Tokyo but it can be overwhelming and we like doing it at the end rather than the beginning of a Japan trip. But that is only one opinion.

I am assuming you are doing a 14-day rail pass? If so, it is a waste to rely on the JR pass to get around Tokyo. You are better off with the combo tickets as the metro and toei lines are better than the JR lines, unless you really know what you are doing. I am writing a trip report on my last trip (we just got back on t-giving) and in the Tokyo section (which I have not posted yet) I will explain this further.

November in Japan is wonderful! No crowds and the weather in Honshi was delightful - 50s and 60s, dry, (no crowds, ample opportunity to experience the fall colors).

For Miyajima, I recommend the Auberge Watanabe for stay and meals. A cheap and convenient stay in Kyoto is the Palaceside Hotel. As for Tokyo, we just spent two nights in The Hotel Niwa and it was fantastic.
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Nov 25th, 2012, 07:51 AM
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Hi usernameistaken-

Thank you for your insight. Yes, I am also considering ending my trip in Tokyo and starting the trip in Hiroshima. I know many people on these forums wisely recommend saving your departure city for the end of you trip in an effort to minimze airport transfer time. My reason for leaning towards starting in Tokyo is twofold. First, an anxiousness to just "get going" after a 12-hour flight. Also, since I know I'll have at least one day of jet lag, I am thinking I'd rather "lose that day" in Tokyo rather than "losing" it on my one and only day in Hiroshima. I also had read that most domestic flights did not leave from Narita but rather a different Tokyo airport. But from reading your trip report, I see that is not true, so I will have to take that into account as another reason for possibly starting in Hiroshima.

Thank you also for the JR and hotel tips.

So I'm surprised November is so uncrowded if the fall colors are still peaking/at peak. Most tourists must then visit in October? I noticed in your trip report that you had some rain but I'm guessing weather-wise, November is still a fairly sunny month?
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Nov 25th, 2012, 08:17 AM
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I have a few suggestions but no time right now. I will be back.

Aloha!
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Nov 25th, 2012, 10:38 AM
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It is a good plan, but early. Fall colors arrive in your travel region in mid-November. About Nov 18 in Kyoto and later in Miyajima.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2014_when.html

It won't be cold like Mpls. Nice weather. Take a look here:
http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/c...er=&name=Japan
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Nov 26th, 2012, 06:00 AM
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Yes the second,third and fourth weeks in November would be the best for koyo viewing on Kyushu next year.

What time do you get into NRT? Are you thinking of going on to Hiroshima via plane that day?

If not you could decompress in Yokohama instead of Tokyo for two nights before heading to Hiroshima and Miyajima and continue your journey back north/east. Yokohama is easy to get to via NEX or the limo bus service direct from NRT and easy to maneuver in to get your "Japan feet' under you. This way you also get just one day of long train travel day and shorter ones for the rest of your time there and it will get you closer to Tokyo in the end for your departure.

We stayed in Matsumoto and in all the cities you intend to visit. During cherry blossom season and for koyo viewing. If you click on my screen name you will see that I have done a few reports about our travels throughout Japan. Click on a few of them if you have the time and you may pick up a few clues about travel in Japan during the fall foliage season. Come back with any more specific questions you may have regarding specific hotels, ryokans, etc.

Aloha!
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Nov 26th, 2012, 06:35 AM
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Kyushu, what did I miss - where did OP mention Kyushu - I was there during cherry blossom season - is it recommended for koyo viewing?

As far as a JR Pass, it is really too early in your planning to decide which you may or may not need - with the plan you listed imo a 7 day pass would be better starting from Day 9 - I don't think the trip from Hakone to the Matsumoto/Kamikochi area, part of which must be accessed by bus, is worth the extra 16,800 JPY or $204 that a 14 day pass costs.

Enjoy your planning - that's half the fun!
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Nov 26th, 2012, 07:31 AM
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We only had one day of rain (in Osaka and Kobe) on November 17. The other five days (Nov 16, 18-22) in Osaka, Arima, Tokyo, and Gunma prefecture, were just perfect. Temps were 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit, dry, and sunny. We wore gloves but we did not need hats or scarves. The weather was really ideal. The leaves were orange, red, and yellow (with some green still) but a lot of the trees had lost a lot of their leaves. So maybe a week earlier would have been better for the fall colors. It was still pretty magnificient. We noticed that the ryokans were hard to book on the weekends but easy to book on the weekdays as a lot of the locals must have been heading to the onsen on the weekends.
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Nov 26th, 2012, 07:50 AM
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I meant Honshu, Mara
gomen nasai
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Nov 26th, 2012, 07:54 AM
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And yes Kyushu is also recommended for koyo viewing in November
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Nov 26th, 2012, 10:05 AM
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HT..how ya doing! I fully agree..Kyushu, my "residence" for two years as a "guest" of the US government, is very colorful in November. Inland into one of the few mountain chains west of Nobeoka would offer a splash of color beyond the imagination. A veritable New England. I ony had a little Brownie black and white camera back then and couldn't capture the color. Went back to visit in '07, but in springtime.

Happy travels, HT!

stu
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Nov 26th, 2012, 02:17 PM
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Hiya Stu!!!!

MB,
Itinerary I am suggesting would look something like this with a little more time built into all your stops to smell the roses.

Day 0: Direct flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo
Day 1: Arrive Tokyo in late afternoon. Settle into Yokohama. Wander a bit in the hotel area. If you have any SPG points the Sheraton Yokohama has a good location and is a great hotel for this.
Day 2: Yokohama, chinatown, landmark tower, kamakura if you must, redeem your jr pass if needed.
Day 3: Yokohama to Hiroshima via shinkansen train
Day 4: Hiroshima - what you didn't have time for yesterday
Day 5: Miyajima
Days 6 to 10 - Kyoto
Day 11: Hike in Kamikochi. Visit Shirahone Onsen
Days 12&13 - Matsumoto......maybe stay here with a castle view room and a hotel that feels like a ryokan

http://hotel-kagetsu.jp/englishtop.html

Day 14: Hakone (see Mt. Fuji, soak in an onsen, hike, etc.)
Day 15: Hakone ditto ditto
Day 16: Travel by bullet train from Hakone(Odawara) back to Tokyo. Last night dinner.
Day 17: Fly home from Tokyo to Minneapolis
just another option,lol

Aloha!
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Nov 26th, 2012, 05:22 PM
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HT-thank you for your input and the suggested itinerary. Definitely good food for thought. So if I read your itinerary correctly, you'd advise skipping Tokyo almost entirely. Is that because Tokyo will be overwhelming to a first-time Japan visitor, or because you just don't think there's a whole lot there of interest?

"Kamakure if you must." You're not a fan of Kamakura?

MB
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Nov 26th, 2012, 05:35 PM
  #14
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Hi, MinnBeef -

I'm sure you'll enjoy Japan and think you've identified a nice set of opportunities. Just a few thoughts -

I like HT's itinerary, but am not sure I'd skip Tokyo in favor of Yokohama. (I can't speak to that decision with authority, since I didn't visit Yokohama - its just that I can't imagine skipping Tokyo entirely if it holds any interest to you.)

For Miyajima, another ryokan you might look into is Momiji-so. At least when I was there in 2006, it was substantially less expensive than other ryokans on the island. Less pampering, too - but at the time, my budget didn't allow any of the other options. For info on Momiji-so and other ryokans, see:

http://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/d...a/momijiso.htm

Enjoy!
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Nov 26th, 2012, 06:07 PM
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I wouldn't skip Tokyo either - I went there on my first trip to Japan and didn't find it overwhelming....and I did a day trip to Kamakura but that was the extent of my first trip. If you are going to Kyoto you will see many temples there and possibly can skip Kamakura this time....

And here is another idea for your stay in Miyajima:
http://www.morinoyado.jp/english/index.html
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Nov 26th, 2012, 09:51 PM
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BTW, I was glad I visited Kamakura, but thought Nikko added greater diversity to my experiences in Japan (which were somewhat different than yours will be) than Kamakura - the temples and shrines were less similar to those I had seen elsewhere and I also had time to visit Kegon-no-taki and Lake Chuzenji. Oh, and there's a wonderful museum of painted screens in Nikko, well worth a half hour or more. I didn't visit Nikko as a day trip (I got there in time for a late dinner, spent the night, visited the sites, and left in time to reach Tokyo for dinner the next night), but I believe that it is possible to visit it as day trip, at least during most times of year. I'm not sure how crowded Nikko is for koyo - that could make a difference in whether to visit it or not. For more info:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3800.html
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Nov 27th, 2012, 06:09 AM
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So if I read your itinerary correctly, you'd advise skipping Tokyo almost entirely. Is that because Tokyo will be overwhelming to a first-time Japan visitor, or because you just don't think there's a whole lot there of interest?

No, that is not what I am recommending. The obvious reco would be to stay in Tokyo. Tokyo is one of my favorite places to be and I LOVE TOKYO.....that said, Yokohama is just a short train ride away from ALL of Tokyo's sights and closer to Kamakura if you had wanted to go there. It is easier to acclimate in Yoko where rooms are cheaper than in say Shinjuku but I was just giving another option that was asked for. It will also be easier to leave for Hiroshima from Yoko than say Shinjuku or Tokyo station.

For a Tokyo city option the Shinegawa area would be a fine place to stay also with easy access.

You have a lot on your plate and are already visiting Kyoto which is why I hinted at skipping Kamakura. Save it for your return trip. If you are like most of us......you'll be back.

Aloha!
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Nov 27th, 2012, 04:35 PM
  #18
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Mara-

Great advice on the Japan Rail pass. For simplicity's sake, I anticipate purchasing a 2 day tour package of Hakone, to make transport between there and Tokyo seamless. In that case, it would definitely make sense to hold off for a couple of days more and use a 7 day pass rather than 14. I would think my most expensive individual leg would be on day 16--Shinkassen from Hiroshima to Tokyo. Thanks for raising that issue.

Thanks also for the lodging tip on Miyajima--I'll check it out!
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Nov 27th, 2012, 04:37 PM
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kja-

thank you also for the ryokan tip for Miyajima. Miyajima is actually one of the places I'm most looking forward to visiting. I am hoping for this idyllic, end of the earth experience (rightly or wrongly), particularly from staying overnight on the island. I definitely want to stay in a ryokan for that one night!

BTW-are you planning for a 2013 trip of your own?
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Nov 27th, 2012, 04:41 PM
  #20
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HT-

Thank you for all of your feedback. You are the "Otherchelebi of Japan"! (kja will know what that means!) I definitely hope to continue picking your brain over the upcoming months as I finalize my itinerary and more detailed plans.

Gotcha on the Yokohama clarification. That is a good tip. One question--how is the restaurant scene in Yoko? I know it's a huge city and all. When I travel, my evening entertainment (most evenings anyways) involves dining at a good restaurant and then walking the neighborhook back to my hotel for the night. How do you feel the restaurant scene in Yokohama stacks up?
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