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Totally unprepared

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In a week from Sunday my family of 5 sets off for Japan. We have never been there, or anywhere in Asia but this was a graduation gift to my 18 year old son so here we go. We squeezed in the only consecutive 15 days the family has available so yes, we are going in August. We know to stay hydrated and set reasonable limits.

I would sincerely appreciate tips on the following:

1. First 5 nights Tokyo.

Private transfer to hotel so what could go wrong? We purchased JR passes for the next day. Do we validate them at Narita? Where/how? We are staying in the Shinjuku Distrcit so we can walk around and get oriented to stay awake until local bedtime. The first day we have a tour which includes the major sites. Rather than plan day by day itineraries, I like to be equipped with a flexible list of attractions to shoot for. I'm letting the teenagers drive the additional Tokyo sites - their #1 is the zoo.

We have our Tokyo day trips narrowed down to 3 options: Kamakura, Nikko and/or Hakone. After paying $2109 for the train passes, I don't feel like paying $150 X 5 for a tour. Is it possible to follow the directions on the Japan-Guide to arrive at these destinations and then hire a local guide? I don't want to be studying maps the whole time. I'm leaning towards Nikko and Kamakura.

2. To Hiroshima

Searching for trains on Hyperdia is confusing. Is Nozomi private? Do I have to reserve seats? Looks like a 289 minute journey with 1 transfer. Will non seafood food be available for purchase? What do we do with our suitcases?

Once we arrive in Hiroshima we can walk or taxi to the Sheraton. The next morning, I have a lovely simple walking tour mapped out. Food suggestions for picky kids who like Top Ramen and rice?!

3. Mirajima

The directions to the ferry look pretty easy. We will be staying at a traditional ryokan so that will be an experience. Food suggestions? Do you just walk around?

4. Osaka

How do we get from Mirajima to Osaka on JR lines? We are staying at the Marriott and going for the purpose of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. Silly, I know. We will have time for another attraction or two in Osaka - suggestions?

5. Kyoto - 5 nights

We purposely end in Kyoto close to Tokyo for a shorter train ride back to the airport on our departure day. How crowded will the 9 am Shikansen to Tokyo be? We will have suitcases.

I haven't even started researching Kyoto yet. Of course we want to see Nara. Romantic train? TBC... I have to run to Target to buy my kids shoes and shorts. Btw, can I wear light sundresses without offending any dress or cultural codes? Flip flops?

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