questions & answers: itinerary check

12 days itinerary with 7 days jr pass

12 days itinerary with 7 days JR Pass

Hi,
My wife & I are going to Japan for 12 days (on the ground Nov 2 - 13). Arrive at Tokyo, and fly out from Osaka-Kansai. Based on what we've read, we are going to get the 7-day JR pass since first few days will be in Tokyo already and last few days in Osaka. Is this the ideal option? If we have the JR Pass say from Day 4 - 10, how do we go around during our time in Tokyo & Osaka?

It seems that we have to skip Tohoku & Hokkaido, as well as Kyushu (although Hiroshima might be possible). For 12 days, we figured it would be best to just focus on the cities/areas within Central & Western Honshu. Japan just seems to have so much to offer, and we know 12 days is just not enough but we hope to cover the "best of japan" / significant and interesting places this time around (and maybe one day come again to explore more if possible).

Can we get some tips/advices on how our 12 days itinerary should be like?

Some of our thoughts so far:
1. Balance between the modern Japan & the traditional/cultural Japan.
2. Onsen & Ryokan are must-try.
3. Tsukiji Market and have the sushi there.
4. We are not big on museums. Prefer to learn the culture/history by observing or hands-on.
5. Since we can't go up Mount Fuji in November, we at least want to visit/view it (maybe while enjoying Onsen?)
6. We love trekking/moderate hiking. Maybe can view "Koyo" / Autumn leaves this way?
7. Must ride the shinkansen (this is for sure with JR Pass)
8. Want to see the "main" shrines, castles & temples, but not too much of this.
9. Try to stay in Capsule Hotel and Love Hotel.
10. We are budget travel, but if something is worth it, willing to spend.

Really hope to get some help from you all. Thanks so much in advance!

RidzuanCooper
RidzuanCooper

Hi there!

I see that you have already been thinking a lot regarding your upcoming travels and it is good to see that you've already made a list with what you wish to see and visit. This makes planning and finding good recommendations a lot easier.
Still Japan has a lot to offer and making a finial selection may be hard.

Okay, let's jump right in and have a look at JR Passes and other ways to get around. First I think that a 7 day JR Pass combined with local tickets in Tokyo and Osaka is the best option, especially if you wish to see multiple cities in Japan. For local travel in Tokyo and Osaka, I would recommend getting a so called IC card.. Assuming that you arrive at Narita Airport, consider buying Suica + N'EX package. This is a discounted ticket on the Narita Express directly to Tokyo station as well as a SUICA IC card which you can use to pay for your local travel around Tokyo and later in Osaka as well.

On to your 7 days of JR Pass usage, the main idea would be to see as much as possible within 7 days and arrive in Osaka on the last day, so you would have all of your long distance and pricey train traveled covered by the JR Pass.

You could think of the following itinerary:

Stay in Tokyo Day 1 - 3 Stay in Tokyo, visit Tsukiji Market (good idea to do on the first night if you have a jet lag), maybe stay at a Capsule Hotel and or Love Hotel at Love Hotel Hill located near to Shibuya. Note that many capsule hotels only cater to business men and females are often not allowed to stay in a Capsule hotel. I stayed at Kanda Value Capsule Inn this summer and they women can stay on Sunday and Monday nights, in addition there Shinjuku branch as a women's floor available for 7 days a week.

Starting the JR Adventure Day 4, Start using the JR Pass. A great prace to start would be traveling to Matsumoto the castle there is one of the best in Japan, in addition there are some great hiking opportunities around such as a visit to Kamikochi. I would recommend staying here 1-2 nights.

Day 6, A great place to visit next is Takayama, which is a beautiful traditional village, also well known for it's beautiful autumn leaves. This train ride is very scenic because the train track follows a river that comes down trough the Japanese inland mountains. The route can take a good amount of time though, so I would recommend bringing a good book to read as well.
Close to Takayama, you can find Gero Onsen where you could drop by to enjoy an onsen or two.

Day 7-8 From Takayama there's a couple of options that I would recommend considering. The first is going to Kyoto, the traditional capital of Japan, with many interesting places and attractions to see. Some of the best include Kiyomizu-dera, Fushimi Inari and a hike around Kurama.

An other option would be to go up to Matsue and Izumo. Some of the most beautiful things to visit here are the Adachi museam of art and zen garden in addition to the Izomo Taisha Grand Shrine.

Yen an other option would be to head to Kinosaki-Onsen to the north of Kyoto. This is a very lovely Onsen town and has some amazing Ryokan where you can stay the night. You can visit this town as a day trip from Kyoto but it is best to stay the night here.

Day 9-10. Before heading to Osaka, I would recommend a visit to Hiroshima, where you can visit the Peace Memorial Museum and park, in a addition to a trip to Miyajima which is not to be missed on any trip.

On day 10 head to Osaka, as this is the last day of your JR Pass. You could make a stop at Himeji on the way there and visit the Castle and gardens. You could do this in 2-3 hours, so it won't take up all of your day.

Day 11-12. Sightseeing around Osaka, my personal recommendations would be a visit to Shinsaibashi and Namba. Here you can really feel the atmosphere of the heart of Osaka. I would recommend taking a look at this website for more information about Osaka.

All places are covered by the JR Pass, including the ferry to Miyajima.
I have pinned all places mentioned above to this map for you so you can get a feel for the distances and train lines involved.
I hope this gives you an idea of the possibilities!
-Daniel

PS: It's interesting that you mention the Autemn leave viewing or kouyou, the characters are 紅葉 and can be pronounced as either kouyou or momiji, the last also meats maple leaves.

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Hi Daniel,

Thanks so much for your very detailed response! Really appreciate it! :)

I will look at your response in more detail later tonight (I'm at work now). I know once of the things I that I need to get done quickly is accommodation booking. If you haven't mentioned it, in all those cities which area would be good to stay at? Example, in Tokyo you mentioned about staying somewhere near Shibuya.

Will message more later! ;)

RidzuanCooper
RidzuanCooper

Hi Again!

Most places mentioned before are not that large and it would not really matter where exactly you would stay. However I do have some tips for Kyoto and Osaka.

First Kyoto, Kyoto station is actually a little bit removed from the city center. Personally I think that you can get the best experience in Kyoto if you stay in the City center (around Kawaramachi and Shichijou). However you can also consider staying close to Kyoto station, which also has its benefits of not having to carry your suitcase around and you can make easy day trips to other places such as Osaka, Nara and Kobe.

In Osaka, consider staying near Namba/Shinsaibashi, I think that I mentioned this before but this area really is the heart of Osaka in many ways and only really lives up after dark. There are also some love hotels around there (just in case you plan to make a visit to one).

Let me know what you think,
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Hi Daniel-san

Again, thank you for all your advice & tips so far. Really really helpful. Would like to get your further views.

Right now, this is what we have somewhat decided:

Day 1 - Day 3:- In Tokyo
Day 4 - Day 7:- Still not fully decided
Day 8:- Nara
Day 9 & Day 10: In Kyoto
Day 11:- In Osaka
Day 12:- Fly back from Kansai Airport

With 4 days in between, we are still considering the options that we have. Your tips on Matsumoto & Kamikochi, Takayama, Matsue & Izumo are all very interesting. If we have to choose 1 or 2, where would you recommend? Of course, we can shuffle the sequence of the cities/town (for example to visit Kyoto earlier in the trip).

To have a good view of Mount Fuji, we are thinking of going to Hakone or Fujigoko (and probably visit onsen there). We can do this as a day trip from Tokyo or sleepover. What do you think? If not in Hakone or Fujigoko, where would be the 1 place we should go experience a traditional ryokan with onsen & Kaiseki dinner?

This might be a bit of a stretch but do you think it's worth making at least a quick visit to 1 city/town in Kyushu? Maybe Fukuoka or Nagasaki? With Shinkansen, it would take about 2hr 30min to Fukuoka from Osaka.

We are going to book our hostels/ryokans once we have a more firm plan of our entire trip.

Regards,
Ridzuan

RidzuanCooper
RidzuanCooper

Hi Ridzuan,

Matsumoto, Kamikochi, Takayama, Matsue & Izumo are all great places to visit! I've you've got to pick one or two it comes down to a choice between seeing the Japanese Nature (Matsumoto, Kamikochi) or more cultural sightseeing (Matsue & Izumo). It would depend on what you wish to see most, Takayama kinda is in between. The train ride there is very beautiful but the town itself is small and traditional, so maybe you should go for Takayama :)

Hakone or Fuji five lakes, this is a good one. Many people visit either area just to see Fuji, however Fuji san does like to hide in the clouds and you may not be able to see Fuji at all. That's why I would recommend visiting either area with an other goal as well (such as walking along the lakes, or enjoying a local onsen). Fuji 5 lakes is a small but very beautiful area and best suited for a day trip. Hakone offers a wide range on attractions from beautiful sights to Onsen and even a theme park. So if you have more time I would say spend a night in Hakone and really enjoy what the area has to offer. I think Hakone is also a safer bet if you wish to visit a traditional Ryokan as the area has a wide range of them available.

Have a great trip!
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Hi Daniel,

I'm having a bit of dilemma here. The main reason Hakone is in the list is because to have a good view of Mount Fuji. If there's an easier way to get the view of Fuji-san without staying at Hakone, then we can allocate extra time elsewhere. We also now interested to stay at one of the Minshuku at Shirikawa-Go. Also want to do a quick visit to Kurashiki on the way back from Hiroshima (we decided to skip Himeji since it's under renovation right now).

Day 1 - Day 3:- In Tokyo
Day 4:- Visit Hakone and stay a night. Will take the Hakone Free Pass.
Day 5:- Travel to Takayama from Odawara, stay a night. Via Nagoya & JR Hida Limited Express. About 4hrs trip.
Day 6:- Travel to Shirakawa-Go from Takayama, stay a night. 50mins on Nohi Bus from Takayama.
Day 7:- Travel to Kyoto (about 75mins via Nohi Bus to Kanazawa, then 2hrs JR Thunderbird Limited Express to Kyoto). Explore a bit of Kyoto and to be based in Kyoto for the next few days.
Day 8:- Travel to Hiroshima from Tokyo (2hrs on Shinkansen). Half day in Hiroshima to visit the memorial park etc, then go to Kurashiki for a quick 3 hours visit. Then back to Kyoto.
Day 9:- Visit Nara from Kyoto. Then back to Kyoto.
Day 10:- Explore Kyoto further, then go to Osaka in afternoon. Stay at Osaka.
Day 11:- Explore Osaka.
Day 12: Fly back from Kansai airport.

I know this may seem like a bit of a rush, but would like to get your opinion if I should add or reduce time spent in any location.

Thank you so much in advance!

Regards,
Ridzuan

RidzuanCooper
RidzuanCooper

Hi Ridzuan,

Did you know that you can view Fuji from the Shinkansen? If you travel between Tokyo - Kyoto and have a seat located right side of the train (seat number with C or D), than you can have a beautiful view of Fuji on a clear day. Otherwise I would recommend a visit to Fuji 5 Lakes if you really want the best view of the mountain. However looking at your route I do think that Odawara is the best stop as it is directly on the route to Takayama, so making a stop over would not add extra travel time.

As for Kurashiki, it's okay but I would recommend a visit to Iwakuni instead. I visited the town last spring and the historical quarter is nice but very small. Iwakuni is a very beautiful area and ideal for a quick visit. You can read more about it here.

Looking at your itinerary in general it all looks doable and I don't think that you will have to rush. The longest part is your travel to Takayama but the route is very scenic and well worth travelling.

Lastly when you visit Hiroshima, I would recommend taking an early train to make the most of your time there. You can also swing by Miyajima (I think I mentioned this already but it is well worth the time).

Best regards,
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Hi Daniel-san,

Thanks for the comment.

We can definitely consider Iwakuni as well for our Day 8 when we go to Hiroshima. Yes, we plan to leave very early so we can hopefully go to Miyajima as well. After that, whether it will be Kurashiki or Iwakuni, I think we probably will have only 2-3 hours before going back to Kyoto.

I have some questions regarding our JR pass:
1. We will activate on our Day 4 (leaving Tokyo to Hakone), and expires on our Day 10 (at Osaka).
- So if we get the Suica + N'EX package, this will pretty much cover the metro lines & subway lines in Tokyo? Will the pre-loaded 2,000 JPY be enough for our 3 days in Tokyo? - How about our Day 11 in Osaka and Day 12 travel to Kansai Airport? Is there any good package we can get? - For Hakone, it seems that Hakone Free Pass (3,900 JPY if purchased at the Odawara station) is a good deal. Or, is getting the Odakyu package better (but that means activating JR Pass on Day 4 is kind of pointless)? - are there anything else we should be aware so that we maximize our JR Pass and reduce taking any extra transportation package?

You've been very very helpfun Daniel-san, thank you so much.

Regards,
Ridzuan

RidzuanCooper
RidzuanCooper

Hi Daniel-san,

I'm wondering, you mentioned that Fuji five lakes would have a better view of Mount Fuji. I've also been reading that Fujikawaguchiko has better chances of clear view of Mount Fuji than Hakone (because it is nearer to Mount Fuji). Of course, there is still no guarantee.

Hakone does have a lot of other things, it is like a holiday resort area. If we talk about onsen, that is also available at Fujikawaguchiko and our other destinations.

Some questions in my mind:
1. What if I stay a night at Fujikawaguchiko instead?
2. What if I just do a day trip and come back to Tokyo? Be it to Hakone or to Fujikawaguchiko.
3. What if I do a quick half-day day trip to Fujikawaguchiko to view Mount Fuji and stroll around, then maybe I can do something else with that extra half day - like going to Takayama earlier / extra time in Tokyo / or other ideas?

Hope to hear from you soon.

Thanks!

RidzuanCooper
RidzuanCooper

Good morning :)

Going directly to your first question about the Suica card in the NEX package, it comes preloaded, which is a great way to get you started for local travel in Tokyo. Local rides cost around 150-230 per ride. Suica can always be recharged with increments of 1,000 yen but I don't think that you will have to put much more on the card than the starting amount.

After Tokyo Hakone is next on the menu.
If you travel there and plan on using the Hakone Free Pass, than you may as well consider using your JR Pass a day later and buy the Hakone Free Pass from Shinjuku instead of Odawara. The price for the Hakone Free Pass is 5000yen from Shinjuku and 3900yen from Odawara. It would be worth activating your JR Pass one day later at Odawara if you would do more that 1100yen worth of travel on the day 11.

Now on to your 2nd set of questions.
1.) There are certainly onsen around Kawaguchiko as well. There's even a guide for onsen around Kawaguchiko. It would add some extra travel time though as you would have to return to Tokyo before you can travel on to Odawara. This could add upto 4 hours of extra travel time, please take this into mind when considering options.

2.) Both Hakone and Fujikawaguchiko can be visited as a day trip from Tokyo. Most people actually visit Fujikawaguchiko as a day trip instead of staying the night.

3.) I would not visit Fujikawaguchiko for a ''quick visit'' because (depending on where you stay in Tokyo) travel time to get there can easily take 3 hours. So a return trip would take half of your day already. My personal preference would be to make a stopover at Hakone before traveling on to Takayama. Simply because it would not add extra travel time and it's easier to get there.

Hope this helps!
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Hi Daniel,

We're almost all set for our trip! You've been very helpful and really appreciate that.

Just have some more questions - especially if JR Pass is sufficient to get around in Kyoto & Osaka (including going to the airport):

Day 1 - Day 3:- In Tokyo. 3 nights here. Will utilize the Suica & N'EX package. Sunday 3rd Nov is Culture Day so Monday 4th Nov is a replacement holiday - would a lot of attractions be closed? How about Tsujiki on Monday 4th Nov?

Day 4:- Travel to Hakone and stay a night. Will take the Hakone Free Pass from Shinjuku. Do you know if I can use JR Pass to take the Odakyu "Romancecar"?

Day 5:- Travel to Takayama from Odawara (Via shinkansen to Nagoya & JR Hida Limited Express to Takayama). About 4hrs+ trip. Will activate JR Pass here. But I thought JR Pass can only be exchanged at selected stations? Sleep 2 nights in Takayama.

Day 6:- Day trip to Shirakawa-Go from Takayama. 50mins per way on Nohi Bus (covered by JR Pass).

Day 7:- Travel to Kyoto from Takayama (via Nagoya). Arrive in Kyoto and start to explore. Stay 3 nights in Kyoto. In Kyoto, would JR Pass be sufficient to get around? Is there any package I can get to supplement JR Pass? Can we use the Suica card we got in Tokyo and reload the value?

Day 8:- Day trip to Hiroshima from Tokyo (2hrs on Shinkansen). Half day in Hiroshima to visit the memorial park etc, then go to Kurashiki / Iwakuni for a quick visit. Then back to Kyoto.

Day 9:- Visit Nara from Kyoto. Then back to Kyoto.

Day 10:- Explore Kyoto further, then travel to Osaka in afternoon. Stay 2 nights in Osaka. In Osaka, would JR Pass be sufficient to get around? Is there any package I can get to supplement JR Pass? Can we use the Suica card we got in Tokyo and reload the value?

Day 11:- Explore Osaka whole day.

Day 12: Fly back from Kansai airport. We will be staying near Namba station. Is the Nankai Airport Rap:t covered by JR Pass?

Thanks!
Ridzuan

RidzuanCooper
RidzuanCooper

Hi Daniel,

Sorry, please ignore the part on [Do you know if I can use JR Pass to take the Odakyu "Romancecar"] :)

Actually meant to ask - with Hakone Free Pass, can I "top-up" to take the "Romancecar"?

RidzuanCooper
RidzuanCooper

Hi Ridzuan,

Yes the Romance car can be used with the Hakone Pass however an additional charge of 870 yen does apply.

Now to your other questions, the JR Pass is great for travel around Osaka and also allows for travel on JR lines around Kyoto. Do note that the JR in Kyoto is limited and buses are a better way to get around, I would recommend buying a Kyoto bus ticket for local train there. You can use your Suica pass as well for local travel in Kyoto (and Osaka too).

Although culture day is a national holiday, it is very rare for attractions to close at all. So I don't think you will have to worry about finding a closed door. However Tsukiji may be closed, this is something I could not confirm so I would ask your accommodation if they have more information regarding this.

You can indeed activate the JR Pass at the selection of Major stations. Odawara is included so you are good to go! You could also activate your JR Pass at Narita or Tokyo and select a first day of use in the future.

Lastly, the the Nankai Airport Rapid is not covered by the JR Pass but you can use the JR Pass to travel between JR-Namba and Kansai Airport, although this does require a transfer.

Let me know if I can help with anything else!
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Hi Daniel,

Thanks again for your advice & tips.

I was just wondering, how do we reserve seats using the JR Pass when we have not activated it? Can this be done?

Tried to look for an answer on this but not very clear.

Regards,
Ridzuan

RidzuanCooper
RidzuanCooper

Another silly question - what is the typical range of peak hours when the trains/subways are going to be really packed? Especially in Tokyo, Osaka & Kyoto - I suppose this can be quite a challenge especially when we are not even sure which way to go.

If not really needed, we probably will try to avoid the peak / rush hours. For example, on Day 4 we need to go to Shinjuku to take our train to Hakone - so we might only leave our accommodation at Asakusa around 9am. Nevertheless, my wife & I are looking forward to purposely be at the train station during the peak hours (once or twice) - just to experience it. :)

Thanks in advance Daniel.

RidzuanCooper
RidzuanCooper

Good morning!

You can only reserve seats once you are in Japan and have exchanged your JR Pass. Once this is done you can make all the reservations you want. If you don't want to start using your JR Pass right away when you arrive in Japan you can select a first day of use up to 30 days in the future when you activate your JR Pass. At this point you will also be able to make reservations by showing your JR Pass, even if you have not yet started using it.

Tokyo Rush hour is between 7:00-9:00 and 16:30-19:00. If you really want to experience it I would suggest making visit to Shinjuku station on a week day during one of these times. On a single day over 3.5 million pass through its doors every day!

Enjoy!
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Hi Daniel,

My questions might not be entirely relevant in this JR Pass forum but I thought I could ask you since you've been very informative & helpful.

My wife & I are both using Blackberry phones but we do have an iPad which we plan to bring along to Japan. From the Hyperdia website, it shows that they only have apps for Android, iPhone and iPad. However, when we click on the app for iPad (and redirected to iTunes app store), nothing is shown because apparently it is not available for Malaysia (where we are from).

So we are thinking of bringing our iPad and getting a local sim card in Japan. The main reason we want to do this is because of Hyperdia so we can plan our transportation easier while we are there. Although we put in detailed plan for our trains from city to city, having Hyperdia with us will help us a lot if we get lost / get into the wrong train / wrong direction, etc.

My questions:
1. Is it easy for us to purchase a sim card in Japan? Does it come with data plan? How much prepaid amount is enough for 12 days stay throughout Japan?

  1. Asking for directions etc will be challenging (but that's part of the fun), but I thought if we can have an app on iPad which translates common phrases / questions / words from English to Japanese would be very useful. Do you know any good one that a lot of tourists use?

Many thanks in advance!
Ridzuan Cooper

RidzuanCooper
RidzuanCooper

Hi Ridzuan Cooper,

Getting a mobile data card / uplink in Japan can be pretty hard for tourists, in addition it is also pretty price. The best option is to go for a B Mobile. It is usable on most ipads / smart phones but be sure to check compatibility beforehand. A standard data package is valid for 14 days, so it should be enough for your travel.

I would recommend the Lonely Planet Japanese Phrasebook. It is the first book I used and was surprisingly very good, it's also lightweight and easy to carry around.! It is also available as App Here.

All the best!
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Hi Daniel,

Just want to say thank you for all your tips & advice. My wife and I really enjoyed our trip and we hope that we can visit Japan again in the future, especially to explore Kyushu and Hokkaido.

We were very lucky to be in Asakusa when the Culture Day parade was happening on Nov 3rd. Takayama & Shirakawago are really beautiful and we could see all the full autumn colours. When we were in Hakone, it was a cloudy day so we couldn't see Mount Fuji but we caught a glimpse of it when we took the shinkansen from Odawara to Nagoya. We also managed to squeeze in a short trip to Kobe from Osaka. We walked a lot (average 25K-30K steps a day) and found the trains/subways very convenient and easy to use.

Japan is a very safe country to visit, and the people are so friendly and helpful despite the language barrier. The food is amazing and we tried so many things!

Again, thank you and I hope more people can visit & explore Japan.

Regards,
Ridzuan Cooper

RidzuanCooper
RidzuanCooper

Hi Ridzuan,

Glad to hear your had such a good time in Japan! I was wondering some days ago how you were doing.
Were you able to complete your itinerary? How did you find Hiroshima?

If you ever return to Japan and would like some advice - well you know where to find us :)

All the best!
Daniel

72a8815842aa5db137c135807bd6bb11?s=50&d=mm
Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

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