questions & answers: itinerary check

4 weeks in japan - hokkaido or kansai first?

4 weeks in Japan - Hokkaido or Kansai first?

Just bought my 21-day JR pass and I am planning to go south as far as Hiroshima and north to Hokkaido. Where would you recommend to go first - north or south? I am flying in and out of Tokyo and will have 4 weeks total in Japan in which one week will be devoted to Tokyo and nearby area such as Fuji, the remaining 3 weeks I will use the JR pass.

Shiruni
Shiruni

Hi there!

I think in your situation I would aim to travel up to Hokkaido first after Tokyo to really 'ring the changes'. Also, the Hokkaido leg will be a lot of travel, so I think you're best doing it from Tokyo rather than from anywhere further south. On the way back from Hokkaido you could do a stopoff in Tokyo, or carry on going down to Kansai if you're feeling up for it.

I suppose I could make the same argument the other way around, but it seems well spaced in both variety and time to do your trip in Tokyo > Hokkaido > Kansai order rather than Tokyo > Kansai > Hokkaido. You'll also get a nice temperature break in the middle of your trip ;)

Hope this helps!

Af705d2483ca769d2753af956a5d149b?s=50&d=mm
mari
Expert_button_2

Thank you for your reply! Here is my tentative itinerary - would much appreciate your feedback!

Day 1-3 Tokyo
Day 4 Kamakura
Day 5 Hakone
Day 6 Mt Fuji
Day 7 Naeba Ski Resort for Fuji Rock Fest (activate JR 21-day pass)
Day 8-9 Nikko
Day 10 Hakodate (en route to Sapporo)
Day 11-13 Sapporo (day trip to Otaru)
Day 14 Noboribetsu
Day 15 Daisetsuzan National Park
Day 16 Sapporo to Tokyo - hokutosei night train
Day 17 Nagoya
Day 18-22 Kyoto
Day 23-24 Osaka
Day 25-26 Hiroshima (day trip to Miyajima)
Day 27 Koyasan (last day of JR pass)
Day 28 Tokyo or nearby
Day 29 depart Japan

THANK YOU!

Shiruni
Shiruni

Hi there!

Well, this looks like an awesome trip! Here are some thoughts:

  1. In general you should probably plan in terms of where you'll spend your nights as well as days as it can sometimes be a little misleading - Noboribetsu to Daisetsuzan is a trip of 2.5hrs for example.
  2. The Hokutosei is a lovely way of getting back to Tokyo. Please note that the JR Pass will only cover the basic fare of ¥12500. As there are no free births for JR Pass holders on this train you'll have to pay the full birth fare on top of this (total price depends on the class of birth you book).
  3. The Hokutosei should get you into Tokyo relatively early - if you're feeling refreshed you could just continue down to Nagoya on the Hikari bullet and save a day here.
  4. For Hiroshima I recommend you try and stay your night on Miyajima if your budget will manage it. Strolling around the island at night is a lovely experience.
  5. Koyasan will need an overnight stay to get the most out of it. Please note that access to Koyasan is via the non-JR Nankai railways (easiest to depart from Osaka Nanba (Nankai) station).
  6. If you can try and get your trip back up from Osaka to Tokyo into your JR Pass validity period you'll make a good saving as this trip is quite expensive (¥13,750) if done using normal JR tickets.

Hope this helps!

Af705d2483ca769d2753af956a5d149b?s=50&d=mm
mari
Expert_button_2

Thanks again!

I'm a bit worried about the Hokutosei as I understand I cannot book our seats until I activate our JR passes. Do the seats on that train from Sapporo to Tokyo book up quickly or should I be OK booking only 10 days in advance?

Shiruni
Shiruni

The Hokutosei is busy during holiday times and weekends, but can have availability during midweek depending on when you intend to travel. In your case you'll be booking 10 days in advance so you have a good chance of making a reservation, but it is possible that you won't be able to book.

As there's no way of knowing/reserving before you get to Japan (unless you have a friend in Japan, or can speak enough Japanese to contact the JR-West reservation line), then I recommend you have a fallback plan "just in case" you cannot get a reservation.

As you have the day to Tokyo planned for the Hokutosei, you could aim to get to Aomori on day 16 for the night and do the bulk of your slow travel then. As the Hayabusa shinkansen is so fast from Shin-Aomori to Tokyo (~3hrs), you could include that in your plans to get down to Nagoya on Day 17.

Hope this helps!

Af705d2483ca769d2753af956a5d149b?s=50&d=mm
mari
Expert_button_2

Order your Japan Rail Pass Online

Starting from $254.00 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.