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3 week itinerary - suggestions/recommendations/help please!

3 Week Itinerary - Suggestions/recommendations/help please!

I will be travelling from Miami to Japan(landing NRT) for about three weeks(leave 8/12/12 return 9/2/12). I am having a difficult time planning bits of an itinerary and would really appreciate any help/advice/recommendations etc. I lived in Osaka, Japan for a year as an exchange student back on 2007, so I have some idea of what's going on but would still really like some advice. This time I would like to see all the things I didn't know about, or couldn't get to the last time around. Reading some of the posts on here I came to realize just how little I actually saw outside of Tokyo and Kansai region while I was there.

Also, I will be travelling with a friend(1st time to Japan) and we would both really like to see some nice nature spots so I am trying to include trips to Mt Fuji and Yakushima. I understand this might be an ambitious undertaking but we would like to try if possible. In regards to Yakushima, I know portions of the trip are not included with the JR pass, does anyone have any idea how much it costs to get there? Roughly?

Another thing I need to find is a good car factory with English tours for my friend to visit but have no idea what is a good place to go to or where to fit it in my itinerary. Also, I would be interested in visiting some nice hot springs if possible, but don't know too much about where to go. If someone could suggest possible options for these things I would be much obliged.

I think we will be getting a 2 week JR pass because I have read they are somewhat useless within Tokyo but please correct me if I'm wrong. Here is a very rough, tentative itinerary, please feel free to rearrange/omit/add anything you think beneficial:

ITINERARY

12-Aug LEAVE MIAMI
13-Aug ARRIVE TOKYO
14-Aug FUJI
15-Aug HIROSHIMA/MIYAJIMA - Activate 2 week JR pass to get here
16-Aug YAKUSHIMA
17-Aug YAKUSHIMA
18-Aug YAKUSHIMA/KYOTO
19-Aug KYOTO
20-Aug KYOTO/ARASHIYAMA
21-Aug NARA/MOUNT KOYA
22-Aug MOUNT KOYA/OSAKA
23-Aug OSAKA
24-Aug OSAKA
25-Aug OSAKA
26-Aug TAKYAMA
27-Aug TOKYO
28-Aug TOKYO
29-Aug TOKYO/NIKKO
30-Aug TOKYO/KAMAKURA
31-Aug TOKYO
1-Sep TOKYO
2-Sep LEAVE TOKYO
3-Sep ARRIVE MIAMI

kumoridaze
kumoridaze

Hi there!

I am officially envious! I had a long hard think about your question (especially as it was so well written!). Here are some thoughts for you:

  1. For Yakushima, you should look into the "Toppy' Jetfoil from Kagoshima. The return trip is ¥14,000, and is not covered by the JR Pass. You can also get a much cheaper ferry (¥8200 return), but the trip is much longer. Here's a great page with all your options for getting to Yakushima. Whichever way you choose, you should head to Kagoshima on the Shinkansen from Hiroshima to pick up these boats. I strongly recommend the hike up to Jomon Sugi if you do make it out to Yakushima.

  2. If you're looking for more in Kyushu, I really recommend you take a look at hiking around Mt Aso, and possibly a trip to the nearby Kurokawa Onsen on the way to or from Yakushima. We have a good discussion about Mt Aso on our forums here. If Aso/Kurokawa is not looking possible, then perhaps you could stop off at Sakurajima just off the coast of Kagoshima for a stay at an onsen there, or travel a bit further down Kyushu to Ibusuki for the hot sand baths...

  3. As you're looking for nature, you could also include a trip to Kamokochi national park (video) in the Japan Alps. Totally beautiful alpine area with lots of great walks and breathtaking scenery.

  4. Another highly recommended Onsen that is nearer to Osaka is Kinosaki Onsen which is very accessible with a Japan Rail Pass. It's around 3hrs from Osaka on the Japan Sea coast, and is a fantastic little town with many Onsen, a great atmosphere and routinely described as the best Onsen town in the area of Hyogo. Here's a good forum post with more, and you can also book many onsen online. Here's a good tripadvisor.

  5. Car factory wise, a lot of people recommend the Toyota factory tour just outside Nagoya. You can find out more on how to get there here.

  6. The JR Pass is quite useful inside Tokyo, but you'll certainly use the Subway a lot too. (here's a map of JR lines in Tokyo). I think activating your 14 day pass on the 15-29th is a great use of it as you'll just squeeze the Nikko trip in there. If you're arriving into Narita, you should take a look at the Narita Express/Suica Metro card deal, or the Tokyo Metro 2 day travel pass + Keisei Skyliner deals to save you money on your travel from/to the airport and around Tokyo.

  7. Looking at your itinerary, you may want to spend a little less time in Osaka, and give yourself more time to travel around the country. Some parts are going to be quite long, such as Fuji > Hiroshima, and Yakushima > Kyoto, although they are by no means impossible, and will only require 1 transfer at most.

  8. Finally, you may have seen this post already, but you should also check out this great discussion planning another three week trip. We cover much of the same locations as you are planning on, so I'm sure it'll be helpful.

Hope this helps, three week trips are the best!

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mari
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Hello Mari,

Thank you for your great reply. I really appreciate the links you provided. They were quite helpful. I did not know about some of the other deals available such Tokyo 2 day card. Do you think these passes are worth it, or do you think I would be better off just getting the 3 week JR pass?

Initially I was going to get the 3 day pass but I remembered the JR pass was not the most convenient around Kansai region, and I thought it was similar around Tokyo region. However, now that I see that Yamanote is covered under JR(since that’s all I pretty much remember using in Tokyo) as well as the roundtrip from NRT to Tokyo, maybe the three week pass is worth it.

Rather than go through the whole headache with the individual regional passes, do you think that if I bought the 3 week pass would pretty much cover my travel costs? Or do you think I am better off sticking to the original idea?

kumoridaze
kumoridaze

Hi there,

It does depend on the amount of extra travel you do during that last week. I really think that a 14 day pass would be ok + metro cards/hakone free pass, but as the 21 day is only ¥12,600 more than the 14 day, you may want to purchase it for peace of mind and flexibility. As you say, the return to Narita will be around ¥5000, so factoring that in, you'll be paying ¥7600 for an extra week of flexibility...

I think if I was in your situation, I'd go with the 14 day, and the Narita Express + Suica card. Then I'd also purchase the Hakone free pass for travel up to Hakone/fuji. If you do think you'll extend your trip outside Tokyo at all however then a 21 day pass really becomes the best choice.

Hope this helps and sorry there's no conclusive answer!

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mari
Expert_button_2

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