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venturesome4 Dec 10th, 2014 09:40 PM

What to do in Tokyo 12/31/14-1/2/15
Our trip is almost completely planned- we leave on 12/19- but I am still in a quandary about whether to try to plan a side trip during the busy New Years holidays . I would love the group's thoughts on this.
Our itinerary so far:
arrive Hiroshima
Hiroshima 1 night
Miyajima 2 nights
Kyoto 5 nights, 1 day trip Nara
Koyasan 2 nights
Tokyo 4 nights ,fly out of Narita afternoon.
We are staying in Asakasa and plan to be there New Years Eve to take part in the temple festivities that evening.
There are possibilities to go to Kamakura, but it will be very crowded and I don't know if it will be that different from Nara and Kyoto to warrant the trip.
I suppose it is possible to go to Nikko but we will go to Koyasan and Miyajima, which will ,I think ,be more rural.
We could just visit various temples in the Tokyo area and stay more local. The free guide service has been very well described in this blog but I think it unlikely that someone would be available during the holidays. I confess, I haven't checked though.1/2, our last full day in Tokyo, I understand many of the shops will be open.
I would love the group's thoughts on this.

kja Dec 10th, 2014 11:04 PM

IME, parts of Kamakura were different than things I saw in Nara, Kyoto, or the other places you will visit -- but there certainly are many similarities, and the differences may be subtle enough to justify your question about the value of making time for a day in Kamakura. The Daibutsu itself is not that different from other Buddha depictions you are likely to see -- what sets him apart is the setting. I thought him very well worth seeing, but so are other things you are considering.

Nikko, on the other hand, is distinct from the other places you will visit in both its setting <u>and</u> its style of architecture. And if you have time, nearby Kegon-no-Taki is definitely impressive.

If your ONLY question is which of these two destinations -- Kamakura or Nikko -- would differ most from the other places you plan to visit, I'd easily give the nod to Nikko.

Tokyo, of course, is less about temples than about museums and parks and (of course) modern, cutting-edge culture, so time there would add greater diversity to your trip than either Nikko or Kamakura. Not that there aren't temples and shrines in Tokyo -- Asakusa is well worth seeing IMO, along with Meiju Jingu. etc.

Hope that helps!

venturesome4 Dec 11th, 2014 06:46 AM

Hi Kja, I have actually been to both Nikko and Kamakura, but it was during my exchange student days 35 yrs ago and some of the details have been lost in the mists of time. I also saw these places in the summer as part of a group of friends or my host family , so I don't really know what it would be like in the winter, during the holiday season.
Part of my hesitation is whether we will appreciate the subtle differences of Kamakura in the crush of people traveling in the holidays. I am also not sure how easy Nikko will be to get to for a day trip. We will have some clothing for snow since it might snow on Koyasan but I don't know that we will have the hiking footwear ( we travel with carry-on only)for the falls. They look lovely; I didn't see those before. Have you been to either place in the winter, or around holidays when travel might be more crowded?
My kids ( young adults)have not spent time in a city like Tokyo, but I know many things will be closed. I think we will still be able to get a good sense of the city since we really are not under time constraints.

LeslieC Dec 11th, 2014 06:54 AM

If anything is showing, try to see a Kabuki performance at the Kabukiza Theatre in the Ginza. That was an amazing experience for us - even people watching the audience since there are many levels to the theatre and lots of food concessions so everyone was eating during the performance. Plus they supply head sets with English translation of the action. We entered the theatre in the afternoon and emerged after dark so the lights of the Ginza knocked our socks off.

I applaud your choice of staying in Asakusa, best part of Tokyo, IMHO. If you are in the area of Hama Riku park, a great way to return to Asakusa is to take a boat ride down the Sumida River. I also loved the Edo museum which is a very creative display of the history of Tokyo from early times to modern - including their fascinating WWII exhibit.

kja Dec 11th, 2014 07:01 AM

No, I haven't visited any of these places in winter. If hiking footwear is the problem, you might want to look into yaktrax. LeslieC's ideas are well worth pursuing, too.

venturesome4 Dec 11th, 2014 05:20 PM

Hi, kja,We considered bringing Yaktrax, , but we don't need them in Seattle so would need to buy for the trip. Also not sure if we would get the use out of them. Besides we are gong with carry-on only and I don't know how the TSA would feel about chains coming on the plane.
LeslieC, I had heard of the boat ride and hope that it will be running. The Edo museum is unfortunately closed 12/28-1/5 so we will miss it. It is currently under renovation until 3/28/15 but a special exhibit is open during other times.
thanks for all your suggestions.

venturesome4 Dec 12th, 2014 07:58 AM

Hi Midee, Thanks for your suggestions. We will be kayaking while on Miyajima so 2 nights makes sense to us. the kids will be coming almost directly from intense college programs so this will give them a breather before we hit the next intense touring time, while in Kyoto. I didn't want to pack too many locations in so that we could really enjoy the ones we are traveling to.

LeslieC. I hadn't even thought that there would be performances of Kabuki during the holidays . They do actually start again on 1/2/15 but the reasonable seats on line are all gone. I might check there to see if there are any available at the box office, if we want to do something like that by the time we get to the last full day of our visit.

kja Dec 12th, 2014 09:18 AM

I believe that single act tickets for Kabuki at Tokyo's Kabukiza theater are available ONLY on the day of performance, and those might suit even better.

venturesome4 Dec 12th, 2014 05:16 PM

Oh,I remember reading about that. The one acts do sound like they would fit the bill. Thanks for the suggestion!

LeslieC Dec 13th, 2014 09:50 AM

I had hoped to see Kabuki in Japan and was aware of the theatre, but we actually did this quite impromptu (April, high season). We wanted to go from Asakusa where we were staying just to the Ginza area. We emerged from the underground station and, wow, right in front of us was the Kabukiza theatre. As we stood there pondering a ticket agent approached us (not a scalper - he worked for the theatre). He explained how we could go in for a short period and he helped us buy tickets right at the box office. We saw two plays in the course of about 1.5 hours and it was perfect!

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