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1st time to japan - advice please!

1st time to Japan - Advice please!

Hi,

Myself and my wife have booked flights for next May so we land on our 1st wedding anniversary on Sunday May 10th in Tokyo. We have 2 weeks in Japan and are trying to work out a final itinerary. We are both reasonably well travelled but neither of us have ever been to Asia before, though Japan has been top of my list for a long time as I love Sushi, have always been fascinated by Japanese history and the think the look of the old buildings etc looks absolutely stunning.

We have currently booked a hotel in Tokyo for 3 nights (Nishi Shinjuku Hotel MyStays) and then 4 nights in Kyoto (Hotel Ibis Styles Kyoto Station). We have purposefully booked cheaper, more western style hotels for the 1st week so we can stretch the budget a bit more and enjoy more traditional stly accomodation in the second week. We will be planning to do a day trip to Nara from Kyoto as well. The hotel booked can however still be changed or cancelled.

The bit we are much less sure about is the second week, we would like to see more of the countryside and smaller places in the second week and will be solely travelling by rail, bus etc with backpacks. We will have a decent budget (£100+ a night average is ok) for the accomadation for the second week. I think we would probably like to stay in 3 further places, for 2 nights each and whilst we appreciate we will have to spend a fair bit of time travelling we want to minimise this as much as possible so we have more time to enjoy the scenery, culture etc. We will then need to spend the final night (Saturday 23rd) somewhere in the Tokyo region ready for a morning flight back on Sunday 24th.

Places that look attractive to us, or that have been recommended include Hakone, Kamikochi, Takayama or Mitsumoto. We would like to visit some of the slightly more mountainous regions (we are both in our 30's and enjoy walking and seeing animals, plants etc) and would very much like to stay in some smaller more traditional towns or villages. I cannot see an obvious combination of the above places that doesn't involve huge amounts of time travelling between them, we would however be prepared to consider any other options that fulfill our criteria. I would say that Takayama is probably the top of the list from the mentioned places.

Any advice on possible itineraries for this second week (and indeed any comments on whether the use of the 1st week seems sensible for 1st time visitors), as well as comments on whether we would be best to but a 2 week JR pass would be greatly appreciated. We are traveliing from the UK and speak no Japanese so any advice on how easy it will be to navigate our way around the rail system etc will also be very useful!

My other query relates to the seeming lack of available accomodation for the dates we are staying on all websites I search on. Does anyone have any feedback as to whether this is likely to be that places are actually booked solid some 11 months in advance, or simply that travel agents etc have but preliminary holds on things meaning I, as an independant traveller cannot see any availability?

Many thanks

Ali Mobius

Mobius
Mobius

Hello Ali Mobius

If you ask me, Japan certainly is one of the best choices to celebrate your 1st wedding anniversary. I think that you've made a good basis for an itinerary so far. Tokyo is great to spend place to spend your first days in Japan and it's a good way to get a feel for modern Japan. Visiting Kyoto after Tokyo is nice as well, because it offers so much in terms of culture, tradition and history. After Kyoto however there still a whole country to explore with many amazing things to see, do and visit. Below are a couple of places that I would certainly recommend visiting, I've taken your interests in mind when making the selection below.

Hiroshima and Miyajima, personally I think this is one of the best places to include in a visit to Japan. It has a lot of historical importance and a visit to the peace memorial park and museum is not to be missed. From Hiroshima it is very easy to make a visit to Miyajima Island, which is one of the most iconic places of Japan, especially the tori gate in the sea. Also nice to know is that the JR Pass covers the ferry to Miyajima.

Takayama, is also one of my all time favourites. Takayama is a beautiful historical mountain village, there's also a historical village and a visit from there to beautiful Shirakawago is also a possibility. You can make a day trip from Takayma to Kamikochi by bus as well, which is just one hour's ride away.

Kanazawa, is a place which I recommend a lot as well. Kanazawa is a city with a relaxed atmosphere and offers great spots to see and visit. Such as Kanazawa castle, Kenryokuen Garden and the local Geisha Quarter, which as a much more authentic feel to it than the famous one in Gion, Kyoto.

Also if you wish to try out a Japanese Onsen, be sure to visit Kinosaki Onsen which is a small and beautiful onsen town, it is also a great place to experience a stay at a Japanese Ryokan and try a private bath.

Some other tips:
For navigating your way around Japan, I would recommend to learn how to plan with Hyperdia. Hyperdia.com is a great resourch which can tell you everything about train departures, travel times and other route information.

As for accommodation, many hotels only publish their availability 6 (or sometimes only 3 months) in advance. Waiting a little would probably give you more choice and sometimes even better prices. (This of course does not apply to last minute bookings).

Hope this helps and have a wonderful trip!
Daniel

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Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Daniel, thank you very much for taking the time to post this reply, myself and my wife will have a proper look through your suggestions over the next few days but from a quick scan your information and advice looks very helpful :)

Mobius
Mobius

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