questions & answers: itinerary check

itinerary for 17-day japan trip

Itinerary for 17-day Japan trip

Hello,

I am travelling to Japan for 17 nights over late March/early April. The places we are keen to visit are:
- Tokyo and Kyoto and get to spend ample time in both places - Kanazawa - Takayama and Kiso Valley - Yudanaka and see the snow monkeys If possible, we'd be keen to fit in:
- Kamakura, Nara, Osaka, Nikko, Hakone - Shimoda, Mount Koya, Hiroshima, Miyajima

We're very keen to see a bit of the cities (Tokyo, Kyoto) and some of the Japanese countryside, ideally a mountainous rather than a seaside location, or if time permits, both. We've also very keen to spend one (or, if recommended) two nights in an ryokan and visit the onsen. We're also going to purchase the 14-day rail pass.

Some questions:
1. Is it possible to use the rail pass on any of the trains that take us from Narita into central Tokyo?
2. The circuit that we were planning was Tokyo - Yudanaka - Kiso - Takayama - Kanazawa - Kyoto, with days trips to places like Nara and Osaka. However, if seems that getting from Yudanaka is a full day's travel (including backtracking to Nagano). Is Kiso Valley worth spending the day of travel? Or shall we go to Hiroshima/Miyajima instead from Kyoto.
3. I've been told by a few friends that Hakone is a must-see especially if one's keen on an onsen/ryokan stay. Is this true, or is it simply because of the proximity to Tokyo? Or since we're going out to Yudanaka does it make sense to visit a place like Shibu Onsen, etc.

Regarding the trip itself, I would love to hear if anyone has alternative suggestions/substitutes for the places we are proposing.

Thank you.

insomniac
insomniac

Hi there!

It looks like a great trip - very well thought out!

Here are some answers to your questions:

Is it possible to use the rail pass on any of the trains that take us from Narita into central Tokyo?

Yes - the Narita Express is totally free of charge to Japan Rail Pass holders, as are the other JR trains operating between Narita and Tokyo.

The circuit that we were planning was Tokyo - Yudanaka - Kiso - Takayama - Kanazawa - Kyoto, with days trips to places like Nara and Osaka. However, if seems that getting from Yudanaka is a full day's travel (including backtracking to Nagano). Is Kiso Valley worth spending the day of travel? Or shall we go to Hiroshima/Miyajima instead from Kyoto.

It looks like you can get to the Kiso valley from Nagano in just over 1.5 hours, and the travel from yudanaka to nagano should take 45 minutes on the non-JR Nagano Dentetsu railway. Although the cost is ¥1,230, it will be well worth it to save you some. I've personally never been to Kiso valley, but by all accounts its a lovely hidden part of Japan, and I'm sure you'll get a lot out of it. Hiroshima and miyajima are also great options, but will have more tourists.

I've been told by a few friends that Hakone is a must-see especially if one's keen on an onsen/ryokan stay. Is this true, or is it simply because of the proximity to Tokyo? Or since we're going out to Yudanaka does it make sense to visit a place like Shibu Onsen, etc.

While Hakone is great, especially if you travel on all the railways up to the lakes, personally I prefer my onsen tucked away in the hills or at the coast. But it is all about personal preference! ( and I don't think Ive ever been to a bad onsen :) )

Shibu onsen will be a great choice. Also, as you'll be going to Kyoto, I recommend researching a visit to Kinosaki Onsen. It's around 2,5hrs from Kyoto, but is a fantastic little west coast 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. 2 nights is always a great choice as you'll have lots of chance to unwind!

Please also note that large portions of Himeji castle are currently under renovation. As an alternative trip from the Kansai area, you may like the Naoshima art island.

Hope this helps!

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mari
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Hello Mari,

Thank you so much for your reply. I think the trips we're planning around Kyoto (Hiroshima, Miyajima, Nara) and Tokyo (Hakone, Kamakura) are a bit more straightforward.

My wife definitely wants to go see the snow monkeys, and I'm trying to optimise the travel and get a nice flavour of that part of central Honshu. The two routes we're considering are:

Tokyo > Yudanaka > Kiso > Takayama > Kanazawa. The thing here was that if we skipped one (Kiso) or two (Kiso and Takayama) then we could use those extra days to visit places like Hiroshima, Miyajima and Himeji (which I think I would prefer to Matsumoto) when we go down south towards Kyoto, which is where we go after Kanazawa. The problem is that if we skip just Kiso itself the journey from Yudanaka to Takayama is almost 7h30m by train.

So the other alternative we're thinking about is Tokyo > Nikko > Yudanaka > Kanzawa, which would probably a bit more economical time-wise.

Yours thoughts much appreciated. We'd like to get a good flavour of where we go and not rush around too much.

Thanks again.

insomniac
insomniac

Hmm..

How about treating the Yudanaka element of your trip as a night stay from Tokyo? At 2hrs 30 from tokyo using the shinkansen as far as Nagano, it may even be possible for it to be a day trip. If you do this then you can go straight from Tokyo to Takayama (4hr 20m), giving you more time further on in your trip.

Hope this helps!

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mari
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