questions & answers: itinerary check

hello from malta :)

Hello from Malta :)

Hi there,

My wife and I are going to spend 12 days in Japan between 22 December 2016 and 2 January 2017. Because of the holiday period some must-see attractions (as indicated below) will be closed between 28 Dec and 1 Jan and thus we were forced to include Nagasaki and Hiroshima on specific dates as I do not wish to miss any of the two.

We came-up with the following itinerary:

Thrs 22: Tokyo
Fri 23: Tokyo/Kyoto
Sat 24: Kyoto
Sun 25: Kyoto
Mon 26: Osaka
Tues 27: Osaka
Wed 28: Nagasaki/Hiroshima
Thrs 29: Hiroshima (Miyajima Island)
Fri 30: Tokyo
Sat 31: Tokyo and Lake Kawaguchi
Sun 1: Tokyo and Yudanaka (Snow monkeys)
Mon 2: Tokyo

The choice of visiting Nagaski before Hiroshima is merely to avoid a night stop over there and put our luggage in Hakata station instead. In addition, Nagasaki A bomb museum will be closed on 29 Dec.

We were thinking of activating a 7-day JR pass on Friday 23 Dec to make the most out of it.

Is our reasoning/itinerary correct/feasible? How can we plan which trains to take in advance? In addition, is it necessary to book JR pass trains in advance considering that Japan is quite hectic at that time of the year?

Many thanks for your help. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Best regards

Silvan

silvanzammit
silvanzammit

Hi Silvan,

This looks like a good plan to me. It is well planned with the required visits Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Travel around new Year is one of the busiest days in Japan and trains can all be sold out on the day of travel. I recommend making your seat reservations on the 22nd or 23rd when you are in Japan. This will give you plenty of time to get your seats sorted.

One thing I do want to point out is that the period Friday 23rd to Friday 30th is considered an 8 day period. The JR Pass is counted in full days and the first day of use is counted as a full day. In other, the trip back to Tokyo would not be included and cost an additional 18.000yen! (More than 2/3 the cost of a 7 day JR Pass). My advice would be, to use a 14 day JR Pass for the full trip. It will give you a lot of flexibility and still amazing savings compared to purchasing normal tickets.

Hope this helps,
Daniel

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

Thank you for your prompt feedback and valuable suggestions.

Regarding the itinerary we were thinking of returning to Tokyo from Hiroshima on Thursday 29th late in the afternoon. I forgot to mention this in my first email. We would have preferred to spend 1.5 days in Hiroshima as it looks really amazing but this way we can avoid having to travel back to Tokyo on the following day and hence use a 7 day JR Pass. We are planning to go to Nagasaki the day before solely f or the A-bomb museum. Do you think it is worth the effort given that we shall be visiting Hiroshima as well? In my opinion yes because it is unlikely that I will ever return to Japan (but who knows?!) and these two spots have unique historical value.

As for the booking of the trains are you referring to just the bullet trains or ALL trains in general? Our concern is that at the start of our holiday, we may not have full visibility of the times when we will have to travel and catch the trains. That said, we definitely do not want to run the risk of missing trains in view of our tight and promising agenda so if the need arises, we can try to come up with a tentative timeplan for our journey.

Once again thanks for your contribution.

Best regards

Silvan

silvanzammit
silvanzammit

Hi Silvan,

I love Nagasaki but feel that just visiting it quickly for the A-bomb memorial park is a waste. You would be spending way more time on the train than there. That said, Nagasaki is a great visit for it's history, night view and diversity in local culture. I think it would be worth visiting but only if you had more time there.

For reservations, I am talking about bullet trains and (long distance) ltd. express trains, local trains can't be reserved. In Tokyo, local trains depart every 3min or so, would be strange to reserve them :) I certainly recommend getting at least your bullet train tickets for travel around 28dec-2jan in advance. Last year I was traveling at the same period and saw that all seats were sold out 1 day in advance!

Hope this helps too :)
Daniel

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

Following your last feedback I revised the initial itinerary as per below:

Thrs 22: Tokyo
Fri 23: Tokyo/Osaka
Sat 24: Osaka
Sun 25: Kyoto
Mon 26: Kyoto
Tues 27: Nagasaki
Wed 28: Nagasaki/Hiroshima
Thrs 29: Hiroshima (Miyajima Island)/Nagano (to see the snow monkeys)
Fri 30: Nagano/Tokyo
Sat 31: Tokyo and Lake Kawaguchi/Hakone
Sun 1: Tokyo
Mon 2: Tokyo

Although the proposed schedule will require various night stays at different locations, but it should allow me to visit the main places of interest (particularly the snow monkeys close to Nagano and Lake Kawaguchi, about which a more detailed itinerary will follow) although I still have some concerns for which I would need your kind help.

My intention was to purchase a 7-day JR pass (for obvious financial issues!) and that explains why I intend to leave to Nagano (to see the snow monkeys) from Hiroshima (rather than Tokyo as originally intended). Given that I will activate the Jr pass on Friday 23rd, it will expire on Thrs 29th and thus I will have to purchase one-off shinkansen tickets on my way back to Tokyo from Nagano. Likewise, I will have to purchase single tickets to visit Kawaguchi (to and from Tokyo).

Do you think the proposed plan is worthwhile or you think that a 14-day JR pass would still be cost effective? My concern is that purchasing a 14 day JR pass would still not cover all transport fees from Nagano to Tokyo and from Tokyo to Kawaguchi (and back).

Looking forward to receiving your reply,

Thanks very much for your help.

Silvan

silvanzammit
silvanzammit

Hi Silvan,

You will be making great use of a JR Pass whether you use a 7 or 14 day JR Pass. Since you'll be traveling this much.

To make the case for a 14 day JR Pass, the question is mainly, will it pay off for the additional days. The difference in price between a 7 day and 14 day JR Pass is 17,280yen. In other words, you would have to do at least this amount of travel for it to pay off.

Travel outside of a 7 day JR Pass would be:
Nagano - Tokyo
Tokyo - Kawaguchiko/Hakone
Local travel in Tokyo on JR lines
Travel between the airport and Tokyo

While the exact amount can change depending on what route and type of transport you take, I do think that a case for a 14 day JR Pass can be made. Nagano - Tokyo using the Shinkansen alone is ¥ 8,200 (this is fully covered in case you were wondering), from there you would just have 9,080yen left to cover. A return Tokyo - Narita Airport using the Narita Express is around 6,100yen. So it would be really easy to cover this amount.

With your visit to Kawaguchiko/Hakone, I would visit only one of these as a day trip or stay over from Tokyo. Transportation in the area is not always easy to figure out, mainly because there are many different companies. Generally I would advise Hakone over Kawaguchiko as there is simply more to do and see, additionally, there is direct Shinkansen access via Odawara station (and thus covered by the JR Pass).

The JR Pass is also useful if you travel to Kawaguchiko, it still covers about 2/3 of the route there from Tokyo. Only the last part on the Fujikyu line is not included, which costs 1,140yen on a normal train.

Hope this helps,
Daniel

Hope this helps,
Daniel

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