Q's Re Japan Itinerary

May 2nd, 2010, 01:37 PM
  #1  
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Q's Re Japan Itinerary

DH and I are going to Japan for a week in mid July (8 nights). It is not a lot of time. We will be arriving from Singapore, so we won't have to deal with jet lag. We have never been to Japan and are hoping to get a taste for the history and culture, seeing beautiful scenery, and having a variety of experiences. I welcome your suggestions.

Night 1. Tokyo? We are arriving in later afternoon, so will probably spend 1 night in Tokyo (or elsewhere?). I'm thinking we will get JR passes.

Nights 2 to 5. Kyoto. We are planning to go to Kyoto the next day, prior to the Gion Matsuri parade, which will be the day after we arrive in Kyoto. I wanted to book a traditional type of hotel/inn, but there were no vacancies anywhere I checked so we are booked us at the Hotel Granvia. (We can change our reservations at this point)

We may go to Nara on a day trip from Kyoto.

Night 6 and 7. After Kyoto, we are thinking of going to Takayama. The mountain setting, Hida Village, being in a smaller town sound appealing. I don't know whether to book it 1 night or 2. Should we stay the extra night? Would it be good to take a bus to see Shirakawago or Kamikochi Park? Any ideas where to stay? Or should we stay only 1 night and go on to Hakone and Kamakura?

Night 8. Hakone or Kamakura for last night? Our flight is towards the end of the day, so I think we could stay a couple of hours from the airport.

Your thoughts on the itinerary and places to stay?
Orcas is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 05:14 PM
  #2  
 
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What I would do with a week in Japan might not fit your travel style at all. I'd spend the whole week in Kyoto, based in one hotel. Go the the glorious Imperial gardens (you need to reserve when you arrive in Kyoto for any of them, place where you do it is near the Nijo castle), walk the Philosopher's walk see the Silver Pavillion, the Golden Pavillion, see the Moss Temple (also involves preorganizing but is worth it), go to Nara for the day, see the Miho Museum in the mountains designed by IM Pei and one of the most incredible art experiences I have had ever in my adult life. Consider a day trip to Hiroshima. Or if you want a noncity experience, spend two of your nights and 1 day in Miyajima and splurge on the the Iwaso ryokan. Don't spread yourself too thin. This would give you a wonderful Japan experience, but only IMO.

The Granvia is beautiful and near the station. If you stay there there is an excellent moderately priced Italian restaurant Mario Cuomatore Kitchen on the 10th floor of department. I know this is sacrilege and we like Japanese food.

In the kimono section of the department store, there are wonderfully priced remnants cut to be scarves.

Many people like the Hyatt Regency. We stayed in the very mixed reviewed Mikayo, but it is well located re temples and off season, you should be able to get deluxe room at good price. We were traveling during autumn foliage season and paid accordingly.

Whatever you decide, enjoy. It is a truly magical country. (The fact that it will be hot added to my reccommendation about not changing venues so much)
cmstraf is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 05:38 PM
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I think you have an excellent plan. I recommend two nights in Takayama or one night there and one night in Shirakawago. Definitely go to Shirakawago if you can and then you can skip the Hida no Sato in Takayama.

Kamikochi would be a nice stop, too, but would not recommend returning to Takayama from there. Just go on by bus to Matsumoto (stop and see the castle there) and get the train to Tokyo/Hakone.

If the choice is between Shirakawago or Kamikochi then I would choose Shirakawago. It earned the World Heritage Site status.
mrwunrfl is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 06:27 PM
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We spent 3 hours in Shirakawago going from Kanazawa to Takayama and felt it was plenty of time. I would suggest instead of staying two nights in Takayama, to spend 1 night there and 1 night in Kanazawa. Kanazawa is a beautiful town and has a beautiful park. We actually enjoyed Kanazawa more than Takayama.
panda2ac is offline  
May 8th, 2010, 01:53 AM
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I'm not sure how useful these replies will be, as we don't agree with each other - lol, but here are my 2 cents. While I agree with the above posters that Matsumoto and Kanazawa are very nice, I don't think I would try to include them if I were you, as it would add travel time, and you just have 8 nights. As it stands now, you don't have any time in Tokyo, though if you are mostly interested in history and culture, I think that's okay. I know you will stay there the first night, but by the time you get to Tokyo from Narita, and get checked into a hotel I'm guessing you won't have all that much time to look around. Kyoto or Kyoto/Nara are great, so that part of the trip looks good.

I really like Takayama, so I would stay one night there. I've been to Shirakawago many times, and to my dismay it's gotten really touristy, so it's not as enjoyable as it once was. But I would still go, and would recommend arriving there in the afternoon and spending the night - that way you get to walk around in the evening and the morning without all the busses and mass of day tourists around. And it's really nice then, and a great time to take pictures. And I love staying in the thatched-roof minshukus. I have a favorite, but no one speaks English there, so I think you can find a place if you go through tourist information, either for Japan or for Shirakawago. Then I would spend one night in Takayama, again because if you spend the night there you can get up early and walk around when the streets are empty of tourists. The thing I like about Takayama is that I imagine that the old streets look much like they did when it was a stop on the Kyoto-Edo trail. So I get a sense of history. And the food in both Takayama and Shirakawago is really good! There is one traditional ryoukan/inn that is in the old town area, and I would strongly recommend staying there. It's nice and it's convenient for a morning walk around old town. I can't remember the name of it, but I think I found it on www.japan-guide.com. If you want to stay there and can't find it there, let me know and I'll dig through my files and try to find the name.

Finally I would recommend Hakone over Kamakura because there is no real reason to go to Kamakura if you have just been to Kyoto. They are much alike in that there are many nice temples and shrines.

Whatever you decide, it'll be great. So don't stress too much over the decision making!
bechan is offline  
May 8th, 2010, 08:42 AM
  #6  
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Thanks for your replies. We are trying to pair down the trip. I am not big on spending time in-transit. We have had others say we should just stay in Kyoto and do side trips, given our short amt of time. I'm leaning that way and appreciate your feedback.

Right now I am struggling with our first night. We arrive in Narita around 5:30 pm on Thursday evening. Kyoto is humming with the festival and we want to get there early enough on Friday to get to some of the floats and other attractions. We hear the streets in downtown will be closed for the festival.

So, specific questions. We think it would be too hard to get from Narita to Kyoto that night, unless we added a flight. (I'm not even sure we could get hotel reservations on Thurs night in Kyoto, but if we could, would it be worth it?) If we don't go to Kyoto Thursday night, where do we stay? Do we take the train or bus into Tokyo and spend the night there? We'd need to get our JR passes (I'm gathering that is the way to go) and activate them on Friday. I'm seeing two train station en route to Kyoto, including Tokyo Station and Shinegawa. Should we try to stay near one of them? Is there somewhere to stay past Tokyo that would work. Or should we just hunker down in Narita for the night, relax and take the train in the next day?

The logistics are really hard but I want to figure out as much as possible before we go. I think we will find Japan quite the adventure, where we can't even read the signs and many won't speak English.
Orcas is offline  
May 8th, 2010, 08:44 AM
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Also, recommendations for a hotel in Tokyo? We are going to face this on our return as well. Too bad we are flying into Narita, but that is set in stone.
Orcas is offline  
May 8th, 2010, 10:02 AM
  #8  
 
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Most signs in train stations and around the major cities will be in Japanese and English.

Sounds like you have thought this out pretty well, love your plan. I too would take Hakone over Kamakura the last night.

We have stayed at the Granvia in Kyoto and enjoyed it. I was just back in Kyoto Station last month and the place was jumping with activity. You will be using the bus to transport around Kyoto to see the sights and all bus routes either begin or end at Kyoto Station so convenient for transport all the way around plus I love the station area itself with all the shopping so close at hand.

Stay in Shinegawa as opposed to the Tokyo Station area for the first night. Transferring trains at Tokyo Station is a nightmare for me and I know the place. Shinegawa is much smaller and simpler and the area around the station has nice hotels of every budget. Love the neighborhood too.

Let us know what logistics you are having trouble with and I am sure someone will know your answer.

Aloha!
hawaiiantraveler is offline  
May 8th, 2010, 08:10 PM
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We stayed at the Shinagawa Prince hotel which is right across from the Shinagawa station. Some of the rooms are pretty small, see if you can get a room in the Annex tower, I believe they are a little bigger. I would suggest that you get the Narita Express Suica combo package to get from the airport to Shinagawa and not use your JR pass until you leave for Kyoto. You can go to this site to get more info on the combo package.
http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/suica-nex/index.html
You can also exchange your rail pass at the Shinagawa station.
panda2ac is offline  
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