questions & answers: itinerary check

16 days in japan - family of four

16 Days in Japan - Family of four

We will be arriving in Narita on Dec 21 and leaving Jan 5. Family of four - 'kids' are adults. All of us are VERY well traveled….but…..
I'd like to check my travel plans sanity for Japan. We love riding trains! And want to see as much of the country as possible. I will purchase 4 JR pass voucher before leaving USA and will try to make reservations for all trains as soon as we arrive in Narita. Will do green class most likely.

Dec 21 - Arrive Narita airport arrive 16:00 - get JP Rail pass - activate for Dec 23 and make ALL reservations for trains.
Dec 22 - Tokyo
Dec 23 - Tokyo - Overnight train to Sapporo leave 21:30 - 10 next day (sleeper cars) extra cost over rail pass
Dec 24 - Sapporo
Dec 25 - Sapporo
Dec 26 - Sapporo to Akita - taking more western trains to see the country (stay at hotel just overnight here)

            Leave 10:30 arrive 19:00

Dec 27 - Akita to Kyoto - Again taking slower trains to cover more country

            Leave 9 arrive 19:00 (taking route via Kanazawa)

Dec 28 - Kyoto
Dec 29 - Kyoto
Dec 30 - Kyoto
Dec 31 - Kyoto to Takamatsu - two choices 9:30 to 12:30 or 11:00 to 13:30
Jan 1 - Takamatsu
Jan 2 - Takamatsu to Hakata - two choices 9:30 to 12:30 or 11:40 to 14:30
Jan 3 - Hakata
Jan 4 - Hakata
Jan 5 - Hakata to Tokyo - Narita 7am train arrives at 13:40 and flight leaves at 4:30pm

I am the travel guru in our family - we have traveled much of Europe (most by train and backpack - some car)…parts of Africa and the upper regions of South America - and I hake all the plans/reservations myself. Thank goodness for the internet. Do a big 2 to 3 week trip every year for the 4 of us. Have been doing them about 15 years now. Not afraid of covering a lot of ground but like to do it on the ground and not just fly over.

Thank you for checking my sanity. Just don't want to make everyone(other than me!) crazy. We do not want to be on the move on Dec 25th which affects the schedule some - and the Royal Palace is open Dec23 and we want to do that.



Hi there!

Wow that's an amazing plan. Not many people visit Tohoku at all, which is a shame because it is a very nice area.
Looking at travel times, some are pretty long! Did you check all travel times already using tools such as Hyperdia? I think that it may be near impossible to travel via the north side (not using the Shinkansen) of the island via Kanazawa in a single day from Akita to Kyoto. You could of course make a day stop on two on the way there, there are enough amazing places to spend some time.

I do think that a Green Pass is a very good option here, you will be spending a lot of time in the train and the extra comfort can be very welcome. Also Green class is especially amazing in Tohoku and Hokkaido, the trains are very nice and complementary drinks are served along the route.

Lastly, taking a night train in Japan is a memorable experience and night trains are very popular. It is not strange for them to sell out well beforehand (even though they are pretty pricey). You may find that the train is already booked when you arrive in Japan. Consider making a plan B to go with if you can't book the train in time.

It looks all pretty amazing for the rest, it's actually somewhat similar to a trip I made earlier this year.


Thank you so much. We are really looking forward to this trip. Hoping for snow in Sapporo for Christmas Day!

Regarding your first comment…yes I have used the Hyperdia site quite a bit. Very helpful. There are trains that leave Akita art 9:10…transfer through Niigata….transfer through Kanazawa…transfer through Maibara…then to Kyoto.
Two long days on trains back to back but would rather see the country and have the extra day in Kyoto.

On the comment about the night train…is there any way to reserve a spot(4 in fact!0 before we arrive? That would be a real downer not to be able to be on that train. We would want to do cabins too….is there some way to do that?
We may have a connection in the Tokyo area who might be able to make reservations for us but I didn't want to have to buy that ticket separately …but it being a sleeper car it may have some extra costs over the JP Green pass anyway? That has not been real clear to me on the sites.

Thanks again so much for your help. I am pretty confident making holiday plans but like may others the language barrier really spooks me…and we have traveled in China and Tibet also!


Hi Again,

Reserving any (night) train before landing in Japan is pretty hard. Basically the only option is if you have friends or acquaintances in Japan that can reserve (and pay) the seats beforehand. This is a good website explaining it all in detail.
A Green Pass does not add an extra discount to a night train over an ordinary JR Pass. The JR Pass covers the basic fare for night trains (which is the fare you pay for distance traveled) other fees such as the accommodation or "berth" fee are not included.
This can be a little confusing, let me know if you would like further clarification.

About the Japanese Language, don't worry at all about this! I have toured Japan long before I spoke a word Japanese and it always worked out. People are always happy to help out, even if they don't understand a word of what you are saying. Once I asked an old lady the way to my hotel, she did not speak English but she called someone on her cellphone to show me the amazing is that !?


Order your Japan Rail Pass Online

Starting from $279.00 for 7 days of unlimited Japan Rail travel

Please note: we are only able to handle order related enquiries via our online direct support. Commercial advertising is prohibited as per our website terms.