questions & answers: itinerary check

hiroshima and himeji

Hiroshima and Himeji

Good day,
We (3 people) will be travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto on April 27. We arrive at Haneda April 19 afternoon and will be staying in Shinagawa. Here are some questions I have:

1) Is it better to exchange voucher for JR Pass at Haneda or at Shinagawa Station and also make reservations for Tokyo to Kyoto? I`m thinking it will be very busy at Haneda airport office and we are within walking distance at Shinagawa station. I am also thinking I should reserve tickets ASAP since Golden Week.

2) if I do reserve but need to change or cancel, how would I do this with JR Pass reservation?

3) Do you think it is a good idea to go to Tokyo-Kamakura on Monday April 27, since this the first day JR 7 day pass activated? Then I was thinking of going from Kamakura to Kyoto. However, from hyperdia it seems we have to go back to Yokohama or go through Ofuna and Odawara but either way still takes over 180mins, whereas Shinagawa-Kamakura is only 50 mins direct on Yokosuka and costs 720 yen one way. So I am thinking that it is not worth trying to save money using the JR pass and having to deal with luggage by going to Shinagawa-Kamakura-Kyoto. Rather do Shinagawa-Kamakura-Shinagawa a different day and pay the 1440 yen return extra. Is there a better way to get from Kamakura to Kyoto (so I benefit a bit from the JR pass)? Also, it looks like the Tokunai Pass is not valid for Shingawa-Kamukura, but is there another pass that I may use and then I can use within Tokyo?

4) We will be in Kyoto April 27-May 3 (Apr 27 & May 3 includes travel to and from Tokyo). We are staying at the Westin Miyako, so I was thinking to break up the days as follows (no particular order). Some days trying to use JR pass as much as possible within time reasoning:

1 day - Kyoto Imperial Palace (actually booked for April 28 10am) then Ginkakuji, Philosophers Walk, Kyomizu Temple. How long do you think it would take do all of this? I think this is within walking distance from hotel, or I was considering going to Ginkakuji on local bus and then walking the rest. What do you recommend?

1 day - Kinkakuji, then Nijojo castle, then Arashiyama Do you think I should buy a Kyoto City Bus Pass - one day for this or just use Suica OR Pasmo? (I don`t think JR Pass would be time effective)

1 day - Fushimi Inari then Nara (using JR Pass) - Is it better to break up these activities to two days and fill afternoon with other places to visit? If these two sites are good for one day visit, then which is better to do first?

1 day Kyoto-Himeji-Hiroshima-Kyoto I was planning to use JR pass. Do you think these should be broken to two days and then maybe I could include Hiroshima & Miyajima as a day trip from Kyoto?

The filler time on some of the days could be used to explore Gion, Katsura Imperial Villa, Pontocho, Nishi Market, Osaka (most likely a couple of evenings- maybe Dotonbori , Umeda Sky Building, possible use of JR Pass from Kyoto-Osaka?)

Please assist on whether this itinerary is feasible and if I should break out Fushimi Inari-Nara and Himeji-Hiroshima to two different days each.

Also please note that travel Tokyo-Kyoto on April 27 and Kyoto-Tokyo May 3 . If we don`t get reserved tickets, what do you recommend is the best time to travel those days for 3 people?

Thank you for your assistance!

scoopster
scoopster

Hello there,

That's a good amount of question, let's get into them right away.

1.) It depends on when you want to start using the JR Pass. It makes sense to activate the Pass at Haneda if you want to start using it right away. This way you make the best savings, you could also do so at Shinigawa if there's a really long queue.

2.) You can change or cancel reserved tickets with the JR Pass at any time, just got to a ticket office hand in your old tickets and ask for new. There's no charge for this. Do note that the date on the JR Pass itself can't be changed once activated.

3.) Kamakura is relatively close to Tokyo and the train fare also is not that high. Going on a separate day there certainly is a possibility. An alternative is to store your luggage at Tokyo station. Either at a coin locker (that have suitcase size) or at a luggage holding service. You could then return from Kamakura, pick up the luggage and travel on.

4.) Kyoto. Day 1 looks good, I think doing that would take 2/3 of a day maybe more. It also depends on how much time you spend in each place. Going by bus is very easy, I would do that as well.

Day 2. If you travel more than twice on a single day with the Kyoto bus, then it makes good sense to buy a 500yen bus pass. A normal ride is 230 yen.

I think that you can do both Fushimi and Nara in a day, as they are easily accessible by JR. I think going to Nara first makes the most sense, as most sightseeing places close at 5 pm in Nara. Fushimi Inari does not have an official closing time but you will want to finish u before it becomes dark.

Himeji and Hirshima is a different beast. The travel time involved is a lot longer and I it's better to spend as much time as possible in Hiroshima and Miyajima. You could always make an extra day trip and stop at Himeji and Kobe.

Hope this helps,
Daniel

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Daniel-san
Expert_button_2

Hi,
Well you give a lot of questions, but I will try to sort them out one by one. First, if you are not planning to use the pass from Haneda, then there is no urgent need to activate it right away. There could be a line of people at Haneda or not, it depends on how busy it is at the time of your arrival (other flights, etc). If you're tired after a long international flight and it's no big deal to go to Shinagawa Station, you might as well wait. Try to take an easy first day to get adjusted to Japanese time. Later reserving seats makes sense since you will be traveling during a peak time. If you want to see Mt. Fuji along the way (if the weather cooperates) then ask for the right hand side with a window. If you need to make a change, just go back to the JR office.

For Kamakura, you are right in that it takes over 3 hours to go from there to Kyoto. You can make it a day trip from Tokyo, and if you use a Enoshima Kamakura Free Pass you could save some money.
For Apr. 28th you should be able to cover the 4 places leisurely in about 4 hours. You could do it either way you mention. But you are also missing a lot of other good places in the area. You can get more info here. For Arashiyama you can use the JR Pass from Kyoto Stn and work you way northwards. Don't miss Otagi Nenbutsuji - it's one of the most unusual and whimsically humorous temples you will see in Kyoto. For that day, you don't need a city bus pass.

Fushimi Inari and Nara are well paired together. Fushimi Inari is open 24 hrs so do Nara first and then pace yourself through Fushimi Inari according to how interesting it is and tired you become. You can get a good preview here.
But for Himeji-Hiroshima you are pushing too much in one day. You should break them into two. It is possible to start early and see most of the best in Hiroshima City (Peace Park/Museum, Shukkeien Garden, the castle) and spend about ¾ of a day to see Miyajima leisurely, but throwing in Himeji on top of that is just too much.
I would recommend also that you get an early start each day to see all you want as well as avoid as much of the huge crowds that are always there during Golden Week.

Good luck.

Toraneko
Toraneko

Thank you Daniel-san and Toraneko for the prompt and informative responses.
I have already purchased the 7 day JR pass (voucher to be mailed soon) as I thought I would use it for Tokyo-Kyoto and then Kyoto day trips as mentionned above, then Kyoto-Tokyo return on 7th day. So that is why I'm not using it in Tokyo very much. We travel a lot for work, so we didn't want to be on long distance trains a lot. I haven't figured out my Tokyo area itinerary yet...so I might have more questions.

One clarification....For this day:
1 day - Kinkakuji, then Nijojo castle, then Arashiyama Do you think I should buy a Kyoto City Bus Pass - one day for this or just use Suica OR Pasmo? (I don`t think JR Pass would be time effective)

You mentionned I didn't need to buy a Bus pass, so could you please suggest how I could use the JR pass? I'm not sure how I could get to Kinkakuji. My hotel is near Keage, but they provide shuttle to Kyoto station.

Also for a different day (unless you think I can include Katsura Imperial Villa), how would I get to Katsura Imperial Villa on a JR pass?

Thank you for your time.

scoopster
scoopster

Hi,
I would say do Arashiyama first, and work your way back into NW Kyoto for Kinkakuji, then Nijojo. You can take the JR Sagano Line from Kyoto Stn to Saga-Arashiyama. This is about the only way you can use a JR Pass to get around Kyoto City. Regarding what to see, try looking at:

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3912.html

It is possible to walk from Arashiyama to Kinkakuji (with some very nice temples along the way), but you can also take the Keifuku Railways up to Kitanohakubaicho which is about 10 minutes on foot from Kinkakuji. The maps on the link above will explain. In any case, you don't need to take a bus, which likely will be jammed with people and traveling very slowly due to Golden Week.

You also cannot use a JR Pass to get to the Villa - you can take Hankyu Railways and then walk about 15 minutes. See here. You can also take a bus directly there from Kyoto Stn., but you will need to pay for it.

Best of luck.

Toraneko
Toraneko

Thank you for all your help. Almost leaving for Japan. I have another question. It looks like we might only be able to go to Hiroshima/Miyajima from Kyoto on May 2nd day trip. It is a Saturday and in Golden Week. Is this still doable? We are trying to use the JR pass, so cannot go on Nozomi. :( We don't mind leaving Hiroshima late to go back to Kyoto. I am guessing that we should try to reserve this day trip.

scoopster
scoopster

Hi,
Yes it is doable although there will be more people with longer lines. Try to get to Hiroshima City as early as possible to enjoy the best places (Peace Park/Museum, castle, Shekkeien Garden etc) and use about 3/4 of your time for Miyajima.
And if you have a long airplane flight, I suggest you carry some aspirin and eye drops - you'll probably need them.

Toraneko
Toraneko

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