Two weeks in Japan mid-november

Old Apr 4th, 2018, 03:52 PM
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Two weeks in Japan mid-november

Hello Everybody, my husband and I are planning to go to Japan for 2 weeks the second half of November. We are in our mid to late fifties, have traveled independently quite bit through Latin America, Europe and a little of Asia. We love visiting new places, learning about their culture, people and food. We enjoy the natural beauty of each place and also the history, arquitecture. We also like doing some light hiking.
We have done a lot of soul searching and have decided that we really don't want to stay at a ryokan and rather stay at hotels or AirBnb with regular western style beds and private bathrooms.
we would love to try at least once a Kaiseki dinner.
Thanks to the great information on this forum, Japan-guide.com, and Fodors and Lonely Planet travel books We have penciled out an itinerary, we would love this forum's feedback and suggestions.
So this is what we have so far:

Sat Nov. 17: Leave NY early AM ( so far we found that the most economic is a flight with a layover in China..... $500 less than non-stop
Sun Nov 18: Arrive at Narita. Stay in Asakusa, Tokyo.
We picked Asakusa because it seems to be one of the districts with most traditional
feel. Possible The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon.
Mon Nov 19: Tokyo
Tu Nov 20: Tokyo
Wed Nov 21: Tokyo to Nikko, visit Lake Chuzenji, Kegon Falls (we would really like to see this)
I'm hopping we can store our bags in the hotel and just travel with small overnight
backpacks
Th Nov 22: see Nikko sights, go back to Tokyo in the evening
Fr Nov 23: Tokyo - Day trip to Kamakura
Sat Nov 24: Tokyo to Matsumoto, overnight in Matsumoto ( we would like to forward our luggage
from Tokyo to Kyoto and travel just with our backpacks for 2 days)
Sun Nov 25: Magome - Tsumago hike, overnight in Matsumoto
Mon Nov 26: Matsumoto to Kyoto
Tu Nov 27: Kyoto to Nara, overnight in Nara
Wed Nov 28: Nara to Kyoto in late afternoon
Thu Nov 29: Kyoto
Fri Nov 30: Kyoto
Sat Dec 1: Kyoto
Sun Dec 2: Kyoto
Mon Dec 3: Fla back to NY in the afternoon out of Osaka

We ttried to get reservations at Hotel Mume in Kyoto (since it gets such great recommendations in this forum), but they only had availability for Nov 28- Dec 3, so we took what they had for those days.
We'll probably book an airbnb in Matsumoto, and looking at little Hotel Nara in Nara.
we still have to look for a place in Nikko and for Nov 26 in Kyoto.
We we're thinking that maybe we could go directly from Matsumoto to Nara, but I don't know if that is possible or if it just might take too long.
we try to avoid one night stays, we like to get to relax a little bit and not running from one place to the other too much.
We would love your comments and recommendations.
Thank you!!!
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Old Apr 4th, 2018, 07:45 PM
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Sounds like a great trip! Just a few comments:

Nikko: I really enjoyed seeing Kegon-no-taki and a bit of Lake Chuzenji – just be sure to plan your time carefulely to make sure your connections work, given dawn / dusk time.

NO need to worry about luggage storage – Japan has an incredible luggage forwarding option called takuhaibin; here's the info:
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2278.html
and most train stations have luggage storage options, often including both manned luggage desks and lockers. I think I remember finding information through japan-gudie about not only the options, but also the specific sizes of lockers – but I could be confusing Japan and Switzerland – sorry.

And FWIW, I found more than enough to keep me fully occuptied in / around Nara for more than 2 full days. You might consider switching a night from Kyoto to Nara, which would (I think) give you greater flexibility – you could stay a bit later in Nara if you so desire, but could also leave a bit earlier in the day if you’re ready to move on. No wrong choice….

You asked about a kaiseki dinner – my mouth still waters when I remember the French kaiseki meal I had at
??????????????????????????? ???? ??? - Japanese KAISEKI style French cuisine
It still gets some awesome reviews!

Hope that helps!
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Old Apr 5th, 2018, 11:13 AM
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We stayed at the Kanaya Hotel. Historic building and great location, short walk to the main sites. I got up early and walked to Toshugu and had the place to almost to myself.
Read the review sites to get an idea of the hotel, perhaps not for everyone.
The Kanaya also has a historic house close by that was the original inn that can be toured.
Nikko Kanaya Hotel History House | Samurai House
We enjoyed the wetlands nature walk starting from Chuzenji.
We recently stayed in Asakusa at the Richmond Premium Hotel, very happy with location and facility.
Close to Tawaramachi Station on the Ginza Line, and the Asakusa Station for the Tsukuba Express.
Note the different stations in Asakusa area, can be confusing
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Old Apr 7th, 2018, 05:10 AM
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Thank you for your comments! I think we'll try to do Nara directly from Matsumoto and stay there 2 nights.
The French kaiseki dinner or lunch sounds like something we would like to try, and yes, the place gets awesome reviews.
The Kanaya hotel in Nikko looks like a good alternative, we'll look into it. I like its central location.
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Old Apr 8th, 2018, 05:31 PM
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November is a fine time to visit Japan. You are likely to have good weather and the koyo (fall foliage colors) are spectacular.

Have a wonderful trip!
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Old Apr 9th, 2018, 09:42 PM
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Experiencing a kaiseki meal was a must for us on our first trip too (and indeed on the subsequent two trips). We decided to do so as part of a stay within a traditional ryokan, choosing a higher end one with excellent reputation for its kaiseki offering. Shiraume in Kyoto was very good, and we adored Kankaso in Nara. In both cases we splurged to book the rooms with en-suite cypress-wood baths / toilets. You can also enjoy kaiseki at specialist restaurants, we were invited to review one such experience in Kyoto's Hoshinoya property.
You can read about these three experiences here, if you would like:
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2013/01/ka...o-in-nara.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2013/03/he...n-me-into.html
https://www.kaveyeats.com/2016/06/ca...oya-kyoto.html
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Old Apr 9th, 2018, 09:48 PM
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You will be too late for fall colors in Kyoto.
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Old Apr 11th, 2018, 07:17 PM
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According to the following info, there are many places in Kyoto with fall colors through early December

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2014.html
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Old Sep 13th, 2018, 09:36 AM
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I’m finally able to finish planning our trip to Japan, I have changed the itinerary a little bit, please le no know what you think. Any advise will be greatly appreciated:
Sat Nov 17: leave JFK
Sun Nov 18: Arrive Narita, stay in Asakusa
Mon Nov 19- Wed Nov 21: Tokyo
Th Nov 22: early train Tokyo - Nikko, overnight in
Nikko.
Fr Nov 23: early train Nikko - Kamakura
Sat Nov 24: Kamakura
Sun Nov 25: early train Kamakura- Matsumoto,
overnight in Matsumoto
Mon Nov 26: early train Matsumoto-Nakatsugawa, bus to Magome hike to Tsumago, bus to Nagiso, train to Nara, overnight in Nara
Tu Nov 27: Nara
Wed Nov 28: Nara- Kyoto
Th Nov 29-Sun Dec 2: Kyoto
Sun Dec 3: Fly out of Osaka back to NY

does this sound ok? Is the time given to each place enough? Too much? We like to do a blend of nature and culture / food experiences.
The one part that I’m having most doubts about is Kamakura, should we just do it as a day trip from Tokyo and then go from Tokyo to Matsumoto?
Thank you!
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Old Sep 13th, 2018, 10:20 AM
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It sounds ok. But you are considering either 1.5 days (2 nights, lieaving Nikko early) or a day-trip for Kamakura, That suggests to me that you don't have a plan for how you would fill that 2-night stay in Kamakura. You could skip Kamakura and add that time to Kyoto.

Or, between Nikko and Matsumoto you could daytrip to Kamakura from Yokohama. Spend more time in Nikko and then get to Yokohama for dinner. Next day, go to Kamakura and return to Yokohama - or just continue on that evening to Matsumoto.
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Old Sep 13th, 2018, 04:08 PM
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I like this plan!

I visited Kamakura as a very long day trip from Tokyo, and found that sufficient for my interests, but I don't think there's a right or wrong answer about whether to stay there. But whatever you choose about Kamakura, you might look for a later train from Nikko so that you have a bit more time for Lake Chuzenji, Kegon-no-Taki, the Kanmangafuchi Abyss, etc.
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Old Sep 13th, 2018, 05:09 PM
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Thank you mrwunrfl and kja, Yes, I think we should spend a little more time in Nikko.
kja, how was the ride to Kegon Falls? It looks like a very winding road, I have to admit that makes me a little nervous, am I being silly about this? It almost makes me feel like not going there. I know the fall foliage will be gone by then, but would it still be worthwhile? Is the area good for some light hiking?
We might skip Kamakura and add a day in Kyoto. Kyoto seems to really have plenty to keep us busy for 5-6 days.
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Old Sep 13th, 2018, 06:20 PM
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IMO, that road is incredibly easy -- and I'm normally extremely averse to twisty, turning, mountain roads! Its very wide, very well banked, and one direction each way. YMMV, but I would be surprised if anyone had trouble with that road!

Whether it's worth while is something only you can decide. I took the cable car to the viewing point en route, and thought the view (mountains, Lake Chuzenji, the falls, the valley below) stunning. And up close by the falls themselves, you can see that the water drops through fractured basalt, a rather unusual geologic feature that I thought both beautiful and fascinating.

I believe there are some light hiking trails around the bus stop at Lake Chuzenji (or you could certainly just walk on the road a bit), and at least the first mile of so of Kanmangafuchi Abyss is easy. I don't know about the rest of it, as I needed to turn around in time to catch a train.

Hope that helps!
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Old Sep 15th, 2018, 03:50 AM
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Thank you Kja, this really helps. Now I don’t have any worries about the twisty road to Lake Chuzenji.
I have re- arranged our itinerary. Decided to skip Kamakura all together, we rather take it a little slower and really savor the places we visit as much as we can.
So now we are thinking about adding a night in Nikko, this way we can enjoy the Nikko sights the first day, stay the night in Nikko; the next morning we could go to Lake Chuzenji and Kegon Falls and take our time there. Spend the second night in Nikko ( or maybe Lake Chuzenji?), then head to Matsumoto the next day in the morning.
Then we can add another day to Kyoto after Nara. We already have a reservation for Hotel Mume starting on the 28th, we have checked, and they don’t have anything available for the 27th (they have put us on a waiting list, just in case). Or maybe we could add one night in Osaka?
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Old Sep 15th, 2018, 05:44 PM
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Your route from Nikko to Matsumoto is via Nagano. I highly recommend a stop in Nagano to visit Zenkoji https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6001.html
It is not far from Nagano station, so you could visit there on your way to Matsumoto. There is more in Nagano and surrounds.
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Old Sep 15th, 2018, 11:33 PM
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Originally Posted by kja View Post
IMO, that road is incredibly easy -- and I'm normally extremely averse to twisty, turning, mountain roads! Its very wide, very well banked, and one direction each way. YMMV, but I would be surprised if anyone had trouble with that road!
We drove that road a few times and had no trouble at all. The max speed limits in Japan are very low, plus there is no pushy driving pressuring you to go faster if you go slower than other traffic. We took our time on the road, driving very sensibly, and so too did any other drivers we encountered. We didn't feel scared at all.
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Old Sep 15th, 2018, 11:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Kavey View Post
We drove that road a few times and had no trouble at all.
To be clear -- I took the bus!
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Old Sep 16th, 2018, 11:03 PM
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Oops, sorry Kja, got wrong end of stick.
We passed the bus while driving in our rental car!
<3
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Old Sep 18th, 2018, 06:09 PM
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Don’t be surprised if your wait list at Hotel Mume comes through. That happened to me the first time I stayed there in Nov. 2013. I loved Mume so much that I booked them a year in advance when I went back to Japan for sakura in 2017. Hisako and her team are first class all the way and I know your stay there will be memorable. There is an awesome 1 Michelin Star sushi restaurant in Gion within easy walking distance from Mume. I can’t recall the name but if you Trip Advisor it you’ll find it. I recommend it highly along with another one down by the river (Mume will know which one it is) that is also tremendous and a bit less expensive.

And you will LOVE the Matsumoto castle. The walls of master bathroom are filled with my favorite photos from Japan and The Matsumoto castle is near the top of my favorites.
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Old Sep 28th, 2018, 02:26 PM
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November is one of the best time to visit Japan. You have really selected a great time to visit. I am also planning to visit Japan by the end to this year.

Hope you enjoy the trip...
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