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Tokyo and Kyoto - day trips and what to do?

Tokyo and Kyoto - day trips and what to do?

Old Dec 15th, 2019, 02:46 AM
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Tokyo and Kyoto - day trips and what to do?

Our ten day trip to Japan is rapidly approaching and due to spending the last two months in South Africa, I have done next to no planning on what to do where to go for possible day trips. As our last trip was in 2008, this is, to all intents and purposes our first visit.

We have 3 nights and 3 full days in Tokyo on arrival and 1 night ( and afternoon & evening) at the end before our morning flight to LHR. My intention was simply to spend the time in Tokyo until a chance encounter with an Irishman atop Table Mountain in Cape Town who insisted we should visit Kamakura. Is it really worth it? Or should we stick to the city. I have a number of places provisionally on my list but would love to here of any favourite, "must see" places. Our last visit was so long a go that we donít mind revisiting places seen before. Any specific restaurant recommendations or eating experiences would be much appreciated.

In Kyoto, we have 6 nights with the first two being spent in a nice Ryokan (Seikoro) to celebrate my wifeís birthday so we probably will take full advantage of staying there and just venture out to nearby sights. The next 4 days will be at the Cross Hotel when I am considering sights further afield - again, any suggestions for less visited places would be much appreciated.

Day trips from Kyoto I am considering are:
a)Nara . have been before but donít recall being overly impressed. Am I being unfair to Nara, should I give it a second chance? If so, should I just stick to the most famous sites or seek out some of the lesser known ones, if so which?

b) Hiroshima. We havenít been but have mixed feelings. If it is just about the atomic bomb site, I am not so sure it is worth the 2 hours each way ( perhaps I am wrong in my assumption?) but if there is other stuff to see then maybe it is worth it.

c) Himeji - I did think of including this on the return from Hiroshima or as a stand-alone half day trip. But we have been before in blossom season and I think it could be an anticlimax in winter. Thoughts?

d) Osaka - worth leaving Kyoto for? Maybe for an evening to see the cityscape at night?


thanks in advance.
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Old Dec 15th, 2019, 01:54 PM
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Originally Posted by crellston View Post
Kamakura. Is it really worth it?
I was glad I spent some time in Kamakura, and not just for the Daibutsu, but also for several temples that are a bit different than those I'd seen elsewhere. It's an easy day trip from Tokyo, so maybe you can just wait until you are there to see how your time is playing out?

Originally Posted by crellston View Post
a)Nara . have been before but donít recall being overly impressed. Am I being unfair to Nara, should I give it a second chance? If so, should I just stick to the most famous sites or seek out some of the lesser known ones, if so which?
I loved Nara and am truly glad I spent 2 full days there. For me, some of it's treasures are the less-visited and ancient temples just outside of Nara in Ikaragu -- Horyuji and Chuguji, in particular.

Originally Posted by crellston View Post
[b) Hiroshima. We havenít been but have mixed feelings. If it is just about the atomic bomb site, I am not so sure it is worth the 2 hours each way ( perhaps I am wrong in my assumption?) but if there is other stuff to see then maybe it is worth it.
There's the museum (which I thought excellent), the Peace Park (which I found very moving), and the A-Bomb Dome, which I found a striking monument. Whether to go or not is, IMO, a very personal choice. Of course, there is much more to do in Hiroshima (not to mention Miyajima, though I wouldn't try to include it on a day trip).
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2160.html

Originally Posted by crellston View Post
\) Himeji - I did think of including this on the return from Hiroshima or as a stand-alone half day trip. But we have been before in blossom season and I think it could be an anticlimax in winter. Thoughts
Did you visit Kokoen when you were there? I'm not sure that answers your question, but perhaps something to consider.

Originally Posted by crellston View Post
d) Osaka - worth leaving Kyoto for? Maybe for an evening to see the cityscape at night?
I didn't go and so can't speak to it, but again, you can decide once there, can't you?

I'm sure you'll have a great time no matter what you decide, and Happy Birthday to your wife!
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Old Dec 16th, 2019, 12:42 PM
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I can try and give you a few observations...
First, there are over 3 dozen possible day trips from Tokyo - including Nikko, Hakone, the Fuji 5 Lakes area, Karuizawa, Kusatsu, Izu, Kamakura/Enoshima, Kawagoe, Takao, Okutama, Yokohama, the Ushiku Great Buddha, Nokogiriyama, Showa Kinen Park, and more. There are regional rail passes you can get for nearly all of them. A Tokyo Wide Pass might be a godsend. You have to decide according to your own interests of course. After 3-4 days in Tokyo I highly suggest you get out of the city a bit.

Same for Kyoto of course. I am not sure what you saw in Nara though, but it has some very good places. If you walk out of the Todaiji Temple not feeling impressed, then you're doing something very wrong. There is nothing else in Japan close to it - I've done the whirlwind temple tour in Kyoto 40 years ago where at the end of the day everything was a blur, but not this place. There is still more if you like - Heijo Palace, plus if you go farther south to Sakurai, there are a number of very good places like Hasedera, the Tanzan Shrine, and Muroji. If you have a car, it can be quite helpful - you actually could go into Mie and see the Akame 48 Waterfalls, which is a delightful half day hike.

Hiroshima is absolutely not only about the A-bombing - it has a good list of sights that are well worth seeing - the Shukkeien Garden is very nice (though not the best time of year for you), plus the Mitakidera Temple is gorgeous and you can try the Mazda Museum if you like (advanced reservations needed) and see not only how Japan cranks out its fine cars but also some models from decades ago that you won't see anywhere else. You can also try eating at Okonomi-Mura for some Hiroshima style okonomiyaki.

For Himeji, the castle is the castle. I presume you are thinking of the Kokoen Garden, and yes, spring and summer would be better, but if that is not an option, then go for it. You could also go up to Mt Shosha for the large temple complex there. Timing is something to consider for a lot of sightseeing in Japan, but an off time somewhere is better than no time at all.

For Osaka, evening is really when the city comes alive. Dotonbori, Shinsekai, the night views from the Umeda Sky Bldg, Cosmo Tower, Abeno Harukas Bldg, etc. You could also take another night and see Kobe - Mt Rokko or Mt Maya, or the Kobe Port Tower (open til 7 PM in winter).
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Old Dec 16th, 2019, 01:35 PM
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I visit Nara usually once or twice a year when I am in Kyoto for an extended period of time. Really nice and usually not crowded gardens are Isuien and Yoshikien although I haven't been this time of year but they aren't flower gardens....Also the Nara National Museum and the Prefectural Museum nearby those gardens which often has a nice exhibit - I am a museum person. Not far away by train is the Yamato Bunkakan which also has great exhibitions...not much English though....
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Old Dec 16th, 2019, 05:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Mara View Post
the Nara National Museum ... - I am a museum person.
Me, too! And I thought Nara's National Museum among the best of several I visited while in Japan -- the signage was extremely informative, and helped me understand traditional Japanese arts and how they changed over time, even during (say) just the classic period.

And speaking of that, I thought the Kufuku-ji Treasure Hall had the most expressive statues I saw anywhere in Japan. I still remember those statues vividly and with awed respect for their creators.
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Old Dec 16th, 2019, 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Adastra2200 View Post
Todaiji Temple .... There is nothing else in Japan close to it
Except, perhaps, Horyuji. ;-)
I'm glad I saw both.
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Old Dec 17th, 2019, 06:00 AM
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The first trip to Tokyo for us, I'm assuming you've been before. So for us, we had more than plenty to do with a week there and could have stayed much longer without venturing afar. We tended to go to a neighborhood a day wander around and explore it. We spent the better part of a day exploring Nakameguro, walking along the river and checking out the sites as an example. Also visited the Meguro Sky Garden while there. The TeamLab Borderless Digital Art Museum is newish & popular.

We ended up going to Hiroshima though not originally planned. We spent 2 or 3 nights there and enjoyed it. I thought it was a nice city, nothing particularly special about it apart from the Memorial. The Memorial is well done, but I didn't get overwhelmed by it or think it fabulous. The horror of it is enough to think about without being there. It had been a year of visiting war memorials in various countries for us so perhaps I was growing numb. The museum seemed to be a really good one, but honestly, I couldn't face more devastation, so I ran through it, but I imagine it offered a lot to see & think about. For me 2 hours on the train each way would not be worth it unless you have some compelling reason to go. We did eat at Okonomi-Mura and that was fun and delicious.

Again, like Tokyo, Kyoto was for the first time had plenty to keep us occupied for 8 nights. I was ambivalent about leaving Kyoto and going to Nara once in Kyoto and I remembered your comments on it, so we passed. So let me know if you go and change your mind!
Have a great trip.
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Old Dec 18th, 2019, 12:22 AM
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Thank you all for your suggestions and comments - a positive plethora of options to consider!

I think Hiroshima is off the agenda for this trip at least. We will be visiting family in Australia in spring 2021 and so will likely defer till then when we will have a stop over in either Japan or, more likely, Korea when I quite like the idea of the ferry from Busan to Fukuoka and exploring a little of southern Japan. It doesn't seem a day trip from Kyoto will provide enough time to make it worthwhile.

I like the idea of an evening trip to Osaka for the nightscape and food and combining that with a return visit to Himeji. Thank you for mentioning Mt Shosha Adastra, I had forgotten about that place, think I recall paying a visit there on our last trip and being impressed. I shall have to go back and search my photos and see if the location data shows it as the same place I am thinking of.

adasatra - We haven’t done any of those day trips from Tokyo. If you had to choose one, which would it be?

Nara is on the itinerary for a full day excursion and yes, YT, I will come back and confirm whether my original opinions/recollections were unfounded or not.
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Old Dec 19th, 2019, 04:40 AM
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Consider going to Odaiba for the day from Tokyo. Make sure you take the boat over, the ride is quite beautiful. It's so much fun to people watch there, and there are all kinds of interesting sites there, including the Toyota and Panasonic museums. It's a nice change from temples.
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Old Dec 19th, 2019, 07:32 AM
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Thanks CaliLady - I had a quick peek on Japan Guide and that does look a little different and certainly a break from temple hopping.
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