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Transport logistics: Kyoto, Hiroshima/Miyajima, Kyushu

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Dec 25th, 2013, 12:03 PM
  #1
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Transport logistics: Kyoto, Hiroshima/Miyajima, Kyushu

Hello all,

I'm starting to plan a trip to Japan, and have questions about which international airport(s) to fly in and out of and how to get to various places we have in mind to sightsee.

I have a conference in Kyoto the 3rd week of March, and want to take about a week off to sightsee nearby places. We've been to Kyoto and Nara before, so want to a bit further afield.

* Maybe 2 or 3 days before Kyoto meeting, I'll visit Hiroshima and Miyajima. Best to fly in to Osaka from the US?

* From Hiroshima, take a train to Kyoto? Which train?

* After 1 week in Kyoto, then go to Kyushu island. By train or fly?

* Fly out of Kyushu from Fukuoa?

Please recommend specific places that are particularly scenic and uniquely Japanese. We're interested in nature, onsen, hiking, culture, history.

Thanks all in advance!
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Dec 25th, 2013, 12:55 PM
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Oh, also Mt Koya with templestay if that's do-able too.

And some places outside of Kyoto, like Arashiyama and Uji--doable as day trips from Kyoto?

Thanks!
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Dec 25th, 2013, 01:29 PM
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Arashiyama is an easy day trip from Kyoto. The koyo there was one of the hightlights of our November trip www.marlandc.com/arashiyama%2c-kyoto.html

For train info, look at www.hyperdia.com as it shows all of your options.
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Dec 25th, 2013, 08:38 PM
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You will find answers to most of your questions at
japan-guide.com
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Dec 26th, 2013, 01:25 AM
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Yes, recommend using hyperdia to plan the travel, it's very easy.

We took a train from Osaka to Kumamoto to start Kyushu portion of our itinerary. (Would have been about same from Kyoto or Kobe, just few minutes more or less travel time).

We did 2 nights in Kumamoto.
Got a rental car on leaving the town...
Drove the next days, so we could tour around quite a bit.
Then 2 nights Kurokawa Onsen, 2 nights Yufuin and 2 nights Fukuoka.
From those we also saw Mount Aso, Takachiho Gorge, Usuki, Beppu...
We returned the car to Hakata as we got to Fukuoka.

As we were flying out of Tokyo, we took a discounted domestic flight from Fukuoka back to Tokyo but easy to get a train from there back to Osaka or Kyoto or thereabouts if prefer.
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Dec 30th, 2013, 12:23 PM
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You could fly into Osaka or Hiroshima. The cost and schedule depends on where you are flying from. Osaka would be easiest to book.

There aren't great connections to Hiroshima, assuming you are flying from USA, as the later afternoon arrival in Tokyo limits your options to Hiroshima. If you were flying from LAX then there overnight flights that get to Tokyo early morning. That would make for better connection options. For example, ANA has an LAX-Tokyo Haneda (HND) flight that arrives early AM. I think that Singapore Airlines also has one.

If you fly into Hiroshima then you just take a bus ¥1,300 to the city. When you leave Hiroshima you would take any Nozomi shinkansen with no change of trains to Kyoto. This would cost ¥11,290 and take less than 2 hours.

But, suppose you fly to Osaka. If from USA, you can connect in San Fran to a United nonstop to Osaka Kansai airport (KIX). You can also fly to Tokyo and connect there to KIX or to Osaka Itami (ITM).

If you fly into Osaka then you would want to use a 4-day JR Sanyo Area Pass for your pre-conference trip to Hiroshima.

With that pass, you could take limited express train from Kansai Airport to Shin Osaka station and connect to a Nozomi shinkansen to Hiroshima. That trip would take less than 3 hours.

If you flew into Itami then it would be a 25 minute bus ride ¥490 to Shin Osaka and then an 80-minute train ride to Hiroshima.

http://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/tr...on/pass/sanyo/

That pass would also cover the local train and ferry that you would use to get to/from Miyajima.

With the pass, you would take a Nozomi shinkansen from Hiroshima to Shin Osaka where you would connect to another train to get to Kyoto. The pass doesn't cover the short trip between Shin Osaka and Kyoto, but thee trains are frequent and it is 25 minutes or less.

If you wanted to go to Kyoto for a night before going to Hiroshima then Sanyo Area Pass also covers the limited express train from Kansai Airport to Kyoto. You would then have three calendar days to make a Kyoto-Hiroshima return trip.

You can fly from Osaka to many places in Kyushu at low cost. And yes, you would be able fly from Kyushu to the USA. Fukuoka would have plenty of connections to a Tokyo flight home, but Kagoshima and Kumamoto would probably be good options for a departure airport.

You need to firm up your flight itinerary as you have several options for travel. More important, maybe is to figure out your Kyushu time. I suggest flying into Kumamoto and visit the castle there and the garden which will hopefully have cherry blossoms. Then visit Aso-san area, see the volcano and stay in an onsen town (as Kavey suggests).

I also recommend a visit to Takachiho, though it is just a bit tricky to get there by train and bus from Kumamoto/Aso. But fun.
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Dec 30th, 2013, 12:31 PM
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By "calendar days", I mean that the first day you use it is Day 1 and the day ends at 11:59 PM. For example, if first use of the pass is on March 21 then it would expire at 11:59 PM on the 24th.

There is a sumo tournament in Osaka in March.
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Jan 2nd, 2014, 10:55 AM
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Thanks, all, for a lot of useful info!
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Jan 7th, 2014, 12:00 PM
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Hi again,

I was wondering whether Kyushu is worth spending time there? The Japan Guide doesn't seem to rate the sights there too highly. Or it's better that I spend time to see other UNESCO world heritage sites or somewhere uniquely Japanese?

We like stunning natural landscapes and cultural places. Also onsens. Two years ago we did a drive trip in Hokkaido. While it's rural and pristine up there, we didn't think the landscapes were stunning compared to other spots in the US or the world we've seen, but the ubiquitous onsens were definitely unqiue. So we're wondering now if Kyushu is worth the trip?

On this trip, we're planning to hit several UNESCO sites already: Kyoto, Mt Koya, Hiroshima, Miyajima.

Thanks for your advice!
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Jan 7th, 2014, 05:38 PM
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I'm not sure I saw how much time you have. For Kyoto & Nara I'd recommend a minimum of 6 days (or less, since you've already visited them), Koyasan requires an overnight (consider staying at Shojoshin-in), Hiroshima and Miyajima together take 1.5 to 2 days.

I haven't been to Kyushu -- have you searched this board for trip reports and/or planning threads about it? Use the "advanced search" option so you can ask for threads in which Kyushu doesn't appear in the title and so you can ask to search more than just the last year.

For "natural landscapes and cultural places" you might consider Takayama / Shirakawa-go / Kanazawa.

Hope that helps!
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Jan 8th, 2014, 12:27 AM
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If you're willing to drive, certainly Kyushu is a stunner for natural landscapes. Pretty much every drive we made involved switchbacking roads to clamber up a mountain and back down the other side, again and again. Spectacular views. And when on the flats, rural scenes.

The sights aren't major, I guess, but we enjoyed it very much.

To give comparison, here are our itineraries for our two trips thus far:

Our first trip, in 2012, was as follows: We flew into and out of Tokyo and had 17 nights on the ground. We spent 2 nights Tokyo, 2 nights Takayama (coinciding with the autumn festival), 1 night Nara, 5 nights Kyoto, 1 night Koyasan, 1 night Osaka, 1 night Miyajima and then 4 nights back in Tokyo. This trip was in October.

In 2013 we returned for 19 nights, in late October/ early November. We did a single night in Tokyo, then 6 nights Kyoto, 2 nights Osaka, 2 nights Kumamoto, 2 nights Kurokawa Onsen, 2 nights Yufuin, 2 nights Fukuoka and then a last 2 nights in Tokyo. We had a rental car in Kyushu which we picked up on leaving Kumamoto and returned on arrival into Fukuoka.

So as you can see, we haven't visited Kokkaido or seen much of Japan.

We were very happy with both itineraries, and Kyushu was perfect balance for us against the bustle and sights of Kyoto, to get a more relaxing and rural side of Japan.

Kumamoto is a gentle place, not a high bustle city. The main site there is the castle, which is very impressive and Suizen-ji park, which is pretty and worth an hour or two.

Mount Aso is a volcanic crater, if you've been to others perhaps not of interest but again, for us the attraction was not just being at top and peering in but the drive up and down mountains between Kumamoto and the crater and the views.

Kurokawa Onsen is a famous onsen town. It's tiny and the walk we took within wasn't that interesting but we thought our onsen was a stunner. But we don't have much experience to compare it to. We stayed at Sanga.

We also visited Takachiho Gorge and Usuki to see the stone Buddhas. Again, the Buddhas is not a major attraction, but it's not crowded and it is certainly interesting, and for us, the pleasant drive was as much a joy as the site itself.

Yufuin has more to do / walk around than Kurokawa including some souvenir shops, some nice patisseries and a very well prices alcohol store from where we purchased some well-priced gifts of liqueurs made from local Kaboshi citrus. Unexpectedly, though our hotel was an ugly building, the kaiseki ryori meal here beat the one at Sanga hands down, even though the setting itself was mundane.

We visited Beppu to see two of the hells, and really enjoyed those, having chosen according to various online trip reports ahead of time. Again, we drove in, parked on site.

In Fukuoka / Hakata I booked a volunteer guide, and she took us around to many sites, temples and various places, which we really liked, and with a focus on food as I requested. Again, Fukuoka is not like Kyoto for big attractions, but in some ways, that's the attraction, it's a regular city with local temples and shrines, some great eating and very accessible.
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Jan 8th, 2014, 12:33 AM
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Hokkaido, sorry, my fingers work faster than my brain.
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Jan 8th, 2014, 02:12 PM
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Thanks again for your replies!

I'll be in a conference in Kyoto for 1 week in the 3rd week of March, and am thinking of taking another week or so after to go to other places. DH was thinking of renting a car from Kyoto and then drive to Mt Koya, Hiroshima/Miyajima and down to Kyushu. Is that advisable? For the 2 of us, a car might be cheaper than buying 2 JR passes and offer more flexibility.

He drove before all over Hokkaido but it was very rural up there.

Thanks
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Jan 8th, 2014, 08:17 PM
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Am not sure about renting a car for Osaka to Hiroshima to Fukuoka (Kyushu). It is about 400 miles from Osaka to Fukuoka. Would be 7+ hours driving or less than 4 hours on the shinkansen.

A 5-day Sanyo Area Pass would cost 20,000 yen each. The shinkansen really is ideal for traveling in that corridor, imo. When you get off the shinkansen at Hiroshima station you are at a public transportation hub for the city.

At 7500/day a 5-day rental would be 37,500 for a compact car. I don't know if that rate is good or bad, but it is from japan-guide:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2024.html
With a stop in Hiroshima, tolls would be 14,000.
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2354.html

That's over 50,000 and doesn't include fuel, parking fees, or a one-way drop-off fee.
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Jan 9th, 2014, 12:25 AM
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We found it easier to take a train (from Osaka, our last overnight in Kansai area) to Kumamoto, we rented a car for the morning we left Kumamoto, used it for next few days and returned it as we arrived into Fukuoka.

From Fukuoka, we flew back to Tokyo, as the special domestic fares for foreign visitors were much cheaper than the shinkansen train, and faster as well.
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Jan 9th, 2014, 01:44 PM
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mrwunrfl, thanks for that calculation. Prob not worth renting a car in Kansai. Need to figure out if a 7 day JR pass would pay for itself.

We'll probably take the train to Kyushu like Karvey and others said, and rent a car from there or keep on going by train. Is it difficult to get around by public transportation in Kyushu? A car was definitely useful in Hokkaido.
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Jan 9th, 2014, 08:30 PM
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I've traveled all over Kyushu by rail and some by bus. It is not difficult, but it can be made easier (other fodorites tell me) with a car. It is more rural than the earlier part of your trip (Osaka to Hakata). For example, to get to/from Takachiho I took buses and a cute little one-car train. Kavey drove and am sure that was easier.

Yes, a 7-day pass might work. Flying and renting a car might work. There are other rail passes that you can use. I suggest that you firm up a plan, or an outline, of where you want to go and see and do. Kavey mentioned several places. There is more, like Nagasiaki and Kagohimsa and Ibusuki.

Yes, I suppose that Kyushu doesn't have any, or very few, spots that would rank four or five stars from japan-guide. Kyushu is beautiful but maybe not stunning, depending on how you see it. It is not Utah or Alaska, no Grand Canyon, no Rockies. I think of it as more of a Pennsylvania beautiful. If you have ever been on Little Round Top in Gettysburg and taken in the view on a nice summer morning and found it stunningly beautiful, like I did, then Kyushu won't disappoint. That is the impact that it has, as I see it. All in the eye of the beholder. (Aso-san was closed the day I was in Aso)

And Kyushu has that "perfect balance" aspect that Kavey mentioned. Charm, not spectacle.
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Jan 10th, 2014, 11:28 AM
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Thanks, mrwunrfl, for more details.

I was wondering whether it's worth sampling some parts of Kyushu if I only have 4 days? I need to decide soon as to whether to fly out of Fukukoa (an open jaw ticket that's more expensive than a roundtrip ticket to Osaka).

I've been to Fukukoa before and have no desire to spend more time there. Mt Aso, the onsens and the gorge sound more appealing to me, but would they be do-able if I only have 4 days?

My tentative schedule:
* Mar 16 - 21: Kyoto for conference
* Mar 22: Arashiyama
* Mar 23-24: Mt Koya
* Mar 25-26: Hiroshima and Miyajima
* Mar 27-31: Kyushu. Fly out of Fukukoa on 31st.

Too hectic? Or I should spend the remaining 4 days somewhere closer to Hiroshima area?

Thanks!
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Jan 10th, 2014, 08:04 PM
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* Mar 16 - 21: Kyoto for conference
* Mar 22: Arashiyama, night in Kyoto
* Mar 23-24: Mt Koya, travel to Koyasan on 23rd, night of 23rd on Koyasan, night of 24th on Koyasan or Hiroshima?
* Mar 25-26: Hiroshima and Miyajima, leave Miyajima on 26th or 27th?
* Mar 27-31: Kyushu. Fly out of Fukuoka on 31st.

Basically, yes, you do have time for Kyushu. Even if Mar 27 is a travel day that still gives you three full days there. The travel times are not great. Even a travel day, from Miyajima to, say, Beppu or Yufuin is not lost as you can arrive at an onsen ryokan at an appropriate check-in time, have dinner and enjoy an onsen (or two or three if you find a nice onsen town and stroll about in yukata).

I am going to guess that the airfare difference would be, at current prices, about $300 to leave from FUK instead of KIX. Is that the ballpark? If you had to book the flights today then I would advise leaving from Osaka. First would be the fare savings on the international trip. Second would be the fact that you might not get a better fare for March 31 because it is past the Experience Japan offer period. It is actually a bit early for booking a domestic Japan flight for March 31. But you don't have to do that. Or an evening in Kumamoto can be well spent.

The Experience Japan fare offer by ANA (JAL has similar) is good thru March 29. That is USD 100.80 for a one-way trip.
https://www.ana.co.jp/wws/us/e/wws_c...experience_jp/

I suggest that you book your return home to be from Osaka and simply reverse your order of travel by taking that domestic Japan flight at the start rather than at the end.

On an Experience Japan Fare on March 24, you could fly from Osaka Itami to Kumamoto for a hundred bucks (e.g. depart 9:30 arrive Kumamota at 10:40). Then a 7-day JR Pass activated on the 25th gets you all the way back, via Hiroshima and Miyajima, to Osaka Kansai on the 31st for your flight home. Or rent a car in Kumamoto and then use a different kind of pass for traveling back north.

Or fly to Kyushu on the 23rd and visit Koya at the end. Last night in Osaka in any case.

Fly to Kyushu and work your way back to Osaka.
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Jan 10th, 2014, 08:25 PM
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So, for example:
* Mar 16 - 21: Kyoto for conference
* Mar 22: Arashiyama, night in Kyoto
* Mar 23: Fly Osaka Itami $100.80 to Kumamoto, sightsee Kumamoto night in Kumamoto
* Mar 24 rent a car in Kumamoto and cruise central Kyushu
* Mar 25 cruising central Kyushu
* Mar 26 cruising central Kyushu
* Mar 27 drop car in Kumamoto, train to Hiroshima
* March 28 Hiroshima/Miyajima
* March 29 Hiroshima/Miyajima
* March 30 Hiroshima Miyajima to Osaka
* Mar 31 Osaka to Osaka Kansai Airport

The last 5 days travel would use a Sanyo-Northern Kyushu rail pass 22,000 JPY. http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2361_07.html
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