Second Trip to Japan in May

Jan 15th, 2019, 03:33 PM
  #1  
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Second Trip to Japan in May

Hi
My husband and I will be traveling to Japan in early/mid May, after Golden Week. After almost a week at a conference in Tokyo, we will have about 6-7 days on our own. On our first trip we were there over 2 weeks and spent time in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima and did some of the day trips out of each city. With this little time I thought we might go to Kanazawa, Shirakowa-Go, Gokayama, and Takayama,. i figured we would take the train to Kanazawa, stay 2/3 nights, then rent a car and visit Shirakowa-Go/Gokayama - maybe stay one night in one (would it be fun to do this and if so - in which town?), then 2 nights in Takayama and take the train back to Tokyo. Is this too much for 6 nights? Also, if we end up with an extra night, where would you suggest we add it?

There might be an opportunity for us to grab 2 nights before the conference starts. We can either go to Hakone - which I'm not so sure there is enough for us there - we like onsens but not as the basis for a weekend nor are we up to hiking Mt Fuji but we do love 2-4 hour hikes, or anywhere else for a weekend trip not too far? Or we can do day trips from Tokyo - we have already been to Kamakura. Any other suggestions?

My only issue is getting back to the airport on the last day. Transportation from Takayama is not as direct as from Kanazawa. We will need to get to Narita airport for a 5:30PM flight. What would be the best way to do that if we leave Takayama the same day?

I'm not sure when or if we will get back to Japan in the near future so are there other places that would be better than the trip I have planned for the 6 days? My goal is to see both cultural and natural sites, we love the outdoors but I don't want to limit us to just that as I want to experience the culture of the country.

Your advice on this would be greatly appreciated.
nycmary is offline  
Jan 15th, 2019, 07:50 PM
  #2  
 
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Have you been to Koya-San? That could be an alternative to Hakone. I did not love Hakone, although I could do Onsens all weekend. (I didnít hike at mt koya , and donít know if there is hiking. I just found it fascinating from a cultural perspective).

I loved Takayama and really want to go back. Kanazawa was all right, but it didnít blow my mind. Iíd probably add at least one extra night to the Takayama area.

Iíve not been, but another hiking option that might work is kaga onsen/mt hakusan. I nixed it in favor of Kanazawa, but it looked interesting. I was planning for summer, though, and May is probably too early.
marvelousmouse is online now  
Jan 15th, 2019, 08:01 PM
  #3  
kja
 
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The Kanazawa / Shirakowa-go / Takayama area of Japan is delightful! I trust you know that you don’t need to rent a car? And you could easily reverse the order of your loop to that region if doing so facilitated reaching your departure airport.

Although it depends on what you want to see and do, I’d say that for my interests, Kanazawa easily merited at least 3 days. And I wish I’d given Takayama at least 2 full days.

For your 2 nights before the conference, have you considered Nikko and Lake Chuzenji? Gorgeous temples that are different than many you have probably seen; stunning scenery; some very nice walks….

I agree with marvelousmouse that Koyasan is well worth considering, although it’s a bit out of the way for your plan.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 12:22 PM
  #4  
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Thank you marvelousmouse and kja. Koyasan looks great but it seems like a long distance to go for just 2 nights as there isn't direct train service - probably will take 5-6 hours. I think unless I change directions and eliminate Kanazawa and Takayama ... it's not doable. Having been to all of these places would you make the switch?

kja - you mentioned that I don't need a car to get around between Kanazawa and Takayama - I found that every site I looked at recommended a car as it was easier and more direct than the trains. Also, I could visit Gokayama and Shirakowa-Go with luggage in the car on my way to Kanazawa or Takayama depending on the direction. Is it difficult driving? Also - spending a half day at each place - does that make sense?

Nikko and Lake Chuzenji look great - culture, hiking, perfect. Would you recommend staying in Nikko or Lake Chuzenji? Is it easy enough to get around to see the temples and the waterfalls etc - I notice there are buses - how convenient would you say they are? Also, the only issue I see is that you must have a reserved ticket for any of the trains going there from Tokyo and they can only be bought at the station. We will just be arriving the night before from the US. Is it possible to purchase tickets through an agent?

Again, thanks for your help!

Adding a day to Takayama
nycmary is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 07:10 PM
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You can send luggage ahead. I didnít do that, because I had no trouble finding luggage storage, but it might work for you. Japan transit is great, and there usually is no need for a car. I actually think a car would be more time consuming.

you can also buy train tickets at the station day of. Reserved does not mean ahead of time, it just means a specific seat, I think. I just bought transit tickets whenever I showed up at the station.
marvelousmouse is online now  
Jan 16th, 2019, 07:13 PM
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Also, I definitely wouldnít eliminate Takayama. It was one of my highlights. I do think Koya is worth the extra effort, but I completely understand if you donít want to spend that much time in transit.
marvelousmouse is online now  
Jan 16th, 2019, 07:15 PM
  #7  
kja
 
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For me, including both Shirakowa-go and Gokayama (in addition to Hida no Sato in Takayama) would have seemed a bit of overkill. YMMV. Here’s some info on public transportation in the region:
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5950.html
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5950....tion_get_there

My understanding is that you can leave luggage at the bus depot in Shirakowago; search this forum for additional information about that.

I chose to stay in Nikko, but then, I only spent an hour or so in Lake Chuzenji. Yes, it is easy to see the temples of Nikko and hike Kanmangafuchi. You can take a bus to Lake Chuzenji, perhaps stopping at the Akechidair Plateau for a stunning view of Kegon-no-taki. I thought the buses comfortable and convenient. The elevator to the base of Kegon-no-taki is steps from the bus depot in Lake Chuzenji,
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3800.html

I’m not sure about pases for Nikko, but I hope you aware that you have multiple options for reaching Nikko from Tokyo:
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3805.html

Last edited by kja; Jan 16th, 2019 at 07:19 PM.
kja is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 07:19 PM
  #8  
kja
 
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marvelousmouse and I were posting at the same time!

Japan's wonderful luggage forwarding option is called takuhaibin; here's the info:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2278.html)

I found a night on Koyasan a highlight of a highlight-filled trip, but it is a bit of a trek from any place you'll be.
kja is offline  
Jan 17th, 2019, 07:54 AM
  #9  
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Wow! Thank you again kja and marvelousmouse! Will definitely consider train transit - which is my first choice anyway. From what you say it may be too much of a good thing to spend time in both Shirakowaga and Gokayama - does it make sense to stop in either at all? If not, I may end up with a extra full day in which case what can I add to the trip that would be different? As it stands, I would be spending 2 nights (1 1/2 days) in Takayama, 3 nights (2 1/2 days) in Kanazawa - this allows for travel time to each. I can either add a night to Takayama or visit the Noto Peninsula - Wajima. Have either of you been there? Is it worth the trip? Or any other near by place?

kja I noticed that you provided Fodor's with a blurb about about your stay in Koyasan - looks like it was amazing. Wish I could fit more into my trip

Again, thank you both for your thoughtful and information packed responses.
nycmary is offline  
Jan 17th, 2019, 12:48 PM
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I really, really wanted to stay a night in Shirakawa-gō so thatíd be my pick. I like unusual historic buildings.

but itís up to you. You might want an extra day in Takayama. Itís larger than youíd expect, and really neat.
marvelousmouse is online now  
Jan 17th, 2019, 09:21 PM
  #11  
kja
 
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Originally Posted by nycmary View Post
... Shirakowaga and Gokayama - does it make sense to stop in either at all? If not, I may end up with a extra full day in which case what can I add to the trip that would be different? As it stands, I would be spending 2 nights (1 1/2 days) in Takayama, 3 nights (2 1/2 days) in Kanazawa - this allows for travel time to each. I can either add a night to Takayama or visit the Noto Peninsula - Wajima.
It definitely depends on what you want to see and experience, but for my purposes, a few hours in Shirakowago -- just the time between buses -- seemed sufficient. But I knew that I would be spending time in Takayama's Hida no sato, where I knew I could see -- and roam through! -- various buildings taken from that area, and so didn't feel that I was missing anything. I had only 1.5 days in Takayama, and truly regret that I didn't have more time there. And I loved Kanazawa and could have used more than 2.5 days there.

I haven't been to the Noto Peninsula.


Originally Posted by nycmary View Post
kja I noticed that you provided Fodor's with a blurb about about your stay in Koyasan - looks like it was amazing. Wish I could fit more into my trip
Interesting! Fodor's sometimes takes things we post here on the forums to use in their guidebooks -- is that what you mean? I hadn't known. But yes, I had an amazing experience in Koyasan -- for me, it was a highlight of a highlight filled trip. But Japan holds many special places, and one must make choices.
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Jan 17th, 2019, 11:29 PM
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nycmary, your plan for central Japan is good, and Koyasan is too far off of the path that you expressed interest in, and renting a car from Kanazawa makes sense - for your luggage and for the simple freedom of not having to arrange your day around bus schedules.

You would stop in Gokayama on the way to S-go. Having a car will make that a lot easier. Spend a couple of hours in Gokayama then go on to S-go for the afternoon and night. I haven't visited Gokayama yet but I did spend a night at the Koemon gassho-zukuri and I do recommend it. The next day you could spend more time in S-go or, if you wanted, drive back to Gokayama for some more time there. Then on to Takayama for dinner. You could skip Gokayama altogether.

I saw that you might have one more day and not sure but think you might have allocated it to a 3rd night Takayama. An option would be to continue driving east, maybe stop at Hirayu Onsen, stop at Kamikochi, end with a night in Matsumoto.

Your trip to Narita from Takayama would be a limited express, shinkansen, Narita express. from Kanazawa a shinkansen and the N'ex. from Matsumoto a L'ex and then the N'Ex

Oh yeah, there is that wonderful castle in Matsumoto that you could visit before you head to Narita.

What I would probably actually do is spend the last night in Narita. Visit Narita town in the morning and then refresh before a late checkout from the Hilton.

Last edited by mrwunrfl; Jan 17th, 2019 at 11:34 PM.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Jan 18th, 2019, 01:50 AM
  #13  
 
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I'm glad I'm not the only one underwhelmed by Hakone. Honestly, it was probably one of the least favourite places of our three trips to Japan so far.

I loved Takayama, we went in 2012 for 2 nights during the autumn festival and loved walking the beautiful historic districts, and I loved the morning markets. We could happily have spent another night.

Kanazawa we spent 4 nights on our 3rd trip in spring 2016, and though we definitely enjoyed it, we didn't love it the same way as some places we went to. We did love the famous Kenrokuen gardens, and I particularly loved the food market there. I didn't think much of either historic tea district, but enjoyed the walk around the samurai district. We also loved a little museum called Ono Karakuri Museum in the Port area, all about clockwork puppetry automation and puzzle boxes.

We loved driving in Japan, it's very very calm, drivers are placid and polite, it's a real pleasure. We took a car out of Kanazawa but went up around the Noto peninsula with it, then on to Karuizawa and further.

Another option if you end up going in a different direction, is Miyama, a lovely rural village in Kyoto prefecture, maybe 40-60 minutes north of Kyoto city and it offers its own regional version of the pretty, traditional bamboo thatched cottages of Gifu. Click through to read our experience staying in one of the old houses and taking a bamboo craft class.
Kavey is offline  
Jan 18th, 2019, 10:31 AM
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I stayed at Hakone for two nights at a very basic minshuku. I really enjoyed it and it would certainly have been better to have stayed at a traditional ryokan, especially one with an onsen. A "ryokan experience", as KimJapan referred to it, with a kaiseki dinner and traditional furnishings, form, and service could be the basis (or one of the bases) for a visit. The other two bases are onsen and natural beauty.

For my full day, I took the loop from Moto-Hakone to Hakone-Yumoto. I enjoyed the scenery, the geothermal features, and the different transportation methonds. It was just fun and a great break between the big cities of Tokyo and Kyoto. I did visit an onsen ryokan not far from Hakone station for a soak and to try out their Japanese-style sauna which are hard to find (I forget the Japanese name for these, but they are basically like mudbrick ovens for baking a few humans at the same time). After the onsen, I took the bus back to Moto-Hakone. Next day, I took the loop again on my way to Odawara station for the shinkansen to Kyoto.

It is a national park and there are quite a few hiking options. There are a few other attractions, an outdoor art museum, I think, and the Yunessun resoart/spa place that emd enjoyed.

You sh/could look for the japan-guide page for hiking. I think that Mt Takao is on the list. It is near Tokyo. There was a very good TR here a few years ago. Sounded like a great day trip. I think it was Takao.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Jan 18th, 2019, 10:53 AM
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But, if that Hakone visit would be your first two nights in Japan then I suggest that you skip it (or maybe one night in Tokyo and then one in Hakone). Showing up at a ryokan at 10PM because your flight was delayed would be uncool
mrwunrfl is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2019, 08:31 AM
  #16  
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Thank you mrwunrfl, Kavey, kja and marvelousmouse. Kavey - you drove around the Noto Peninsula. If we have an extra day would you recommend driving there for a day and a night and if so, what did you like most about it?

mrwunrfl - I looked into driving from Takayama to Matsumoto through Kamikochi. Since you can't drive into Kamikochi, the various buses we have to take would make for a long trip and not much time to spend in this beautiful area. The hiking and the scenery look fantastic!

For the 2 nights and almost 3 days prior to the conference I had originally considered Hakone but was swayed by kja to take a look at Nikko and Lake Chuzenji. Between Hakone and Nikko what are your opinions? We arrive into Japan at 4PM on a Saturday. I thought it would take us about an hour (?) to get out of the airport. As a result I thought we would spend the night in Tokyo and then leave the next morning to wherever we were headed. Also, another 2-3 hour journey after our flight might be a bit much for us.

Again, thank you all for your advice. It's greatly appreciated.
nycmary is offline  
Feb 6th, 2019, 12:25 PM
  #17  
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Hi again
I have been tweaking my trip and as suggested by mrwunrfl I have decided to visit Kamikochi and stay there for one night. My itinerary is as follows:
Take a morning train from Tokyo to Kanazawa
2 nights Kanazawa
Rent a car
1 night Kaga Onsen area
2 nights Takayama (visit Shirakowa-Go on the way)
1 night Kamikochi
1 night Matsumoto
Train directly to Narita Airport

A few questions:
1. We will be in Kamikochi in mid May - how is the hiking at that time of year? Snow/mud?
2. Online the sites I looked at said the drive from Kamikochi (parking area) to Matsumoto was about 1.5 hours - is that correct?
3. I was planning on driving from Kaga Onsen to Shirakowa via the Hakusan Shirakowa road but read that this road is closed until early June. Is that a definite? And if that's the case is the only option to go back through Kanazawa? Or might it make more sense to take the train from Kanazawa round trip and then rent a car for the journey to Shirakawa back in Kanazawa?
4. Is it easy enough to find parking at the Akandana Parking area for Kamikochi?

Thanks again for your help!
nycmary is offline  
Feb 6th, 2019, 05:17 PM
  #18  
kja
 
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I'm sure it will be a great trip! Do think through your priorities for Kanazawa in advance to make sure you can see the things that you most want to see in the time you have.
kja is offline  
Feb 6th, 2019, 05:34 PM
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Nice post! Enjoy your journey bro. I have had experience. I went to Japan a few years ago with my mother. When I was unmarried. I have some good friends there and met them. They accept me cordially. We have passed 2 weeks there. Enjoyed a lot.
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