questions & answers: itinerary check

new year in japan & best time to validate pass?

New Year in Japan & best time to validate pass?

Hello all,

We (2 adults and twenty something yr old son) will be arriving in Osaka on the 28th of December and departing Narita on the 6th of January. This will be our first trip to Japan and as such we would like to see as much as possible (within reason of course), but have concerns over travelling during the new year period. The following is a draft itinerary that I hope to get someone with Japanese travelling experience to provide feedback/suggestions on:

  1. Arrive in KIX at noon and spend night in Osaka (28th)
  2. Depart Osaka for Hiroshima and spend night here, plan to also visit Himeji on the way (29th)
  3. Explore Hiroshima/Miyajima and return to Kyoto late afternoon/early evening (30th)
  4. Explore Kyoto (31st)
  5. Day trip to Nara (1st)
  6. Kyoto to Tokyo (2nd)
  7. Day trip to Hakone (3rd)
  8. Day trip to Nikko (4th)
  9. Tokyo (5th)
  10. Fly out of NRT early afternoon (6th)

Given this is a JR forum; my first question is whether I should purchase a 7-day JR Pass for the above itinerary. From my initial research, it appears the Osaka/Hiroshima and Kyoto/Tokyo trips as well as the planned day trips make it worthwhile?

If this is the case, when is the best time to activate the pass? I was thinking activate on the 29th for the Osaka to Hiroshima trip, leaving me until the 4th of January to do all my JR travel. Then I would just purchase a SUICA-NIX pass for the remaining day and travel to Narita.

Thanks in advance to all who respond, it is very much appreicated.

Regards

aus_traveller
aus_traveller

Hi there!

Yes - I totally agree with your planned route and use of the JR Pass. It makes good sense to activate it on the 29th for use up to the 4th, and you will make great savings this way.

I would also be a little concerned about your travel around New Year, however you look to be doing mainly short travel over the critical 30th-1st period, so you should be ok. Be sure to reserve seats immediately on arrival in Japan for the return from Hiroshima to Kyoto and also for the trip from Kyoto up to Tokyo - seat reservations are free for Japan Rail Pass holders.

If you happen to know anyone who can read/speak Japanese you can also make these reservations in advance using eki-net

Please note that you will not be able to purchase the Narita Express + Suica combo single from Tokyo to Narita, according to the terms of use the single fare is only valid from Narita to Tokyo I'm afraid! You should possibly look at the 1 day unlimited metro passes as these can offer savings if you intend to do a lot of metro travel.

Hope this helps!

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mari
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Thanks for the advice and valuable information mari. Just a few quick ones:

What information does the person making the reservations need to provide in order to reserve seats for the Hiroshima to Kyoto and Kyoto to Tokyo trips? I may be able to get my host in Japan to help with making the reservations, but I read somewhere that credit card details are required in order to prevent no-shows?

For travel in Kyoto, am I better off purchasing a one day pass such as the Kyoto Sightseeing Pass or a prepaid pass like a Surutto card? We will be staying in Arashiyama in Kyoto and plan on visiting the attractions in the north and west parts of Kyoto.

Lastly, would Nara on new years day be very crowded? Or is the whole new year period from late Dec/early Jan going to be crowded no matter where we go?!

Many thanks.

aus_traveller
aus_traveller

Hi there,

For registered users of Eki-Net in Japanese, you are able to reserve seats without entering in credit card details (last time I tried), so it will be worth asking your host to look into this method for you. Regarding the CC details for no-shows, you may be thinking about the English language JR-East shinkansen reservation page which does have this clause.

Regarding travel in Kyoto, I think I'd err on the side of the city only passes for your whole day there on the 31st, and pay as you go for the evening of your first day. I'd normally recommend using the Kyoto City Bus Pass over the Subway pass as the bus gives you glimpses of lots of interesting things around Kyoto as you go point to point, will get you to most of the locations you need, and is cheaper than the subway. Furthermore you can use the JR Pass to take you between Arashiyama and Kyoto (via saga-arashiyama station). That said, as you can purchase these passes once you arrive at Kyoto (visit the tourist information counter for more when you arrive at Kyoto station) you should gauge the state of the road traffic (or maybe ask the tourist information clerk) when you arrive and make your judgement based on that.

Nara is a busy destination at the best of times and New Years day will see many more Japanese visit in addition to normal tourism. in 2012 New Year you should expect Japan to be busier than usual from the 29th(Sat)-2nd, but I do think your itinerary does do a good job of minimising the impact of the crowds on public transport as the bulk of your long distance travel is from the 2nd onwards.

Hope this helps!

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mari
Expert_button_2

Thanks again for your suggestions, it is becoming clearer now!

We would like to stop by Dotombori before arriving at Osaka station on the first day and was wondering if it would be a fairly straight forward to take the limited express Rap:t train from KIX to Nankai Namba station, store our luggage in a locker and walk to Dotombori? I know it is a bit of a detour compared with going staright to Osaka central, but seeing it is on the way there and if we can easily have our suitcases stored at the station then why not? N.B we won't have validated our JR pass on this first day

I think your city bus recommendation for sightseeing in Kyoto would be our preferred option, as like you said there is the opportunity to see things whilst on the bus. I presume there are no special new year holiday timetables for both Kyoto bus and train services, and that they will operate on the 31st, 1 st etc.?

Cheers

aus_traveller
aus_traveller

Hi there,

Yes, it will be straight forwards to get to Osaka Namba from Kansai Airport (itinerary) so I don't think you'll have any problems here. There are coin lockers at Nankai Namba on B1F, 1st and 2nd floor so should have no problems storing luggage there. For reference here is a map of Nankai Namba station with the coin locker locations detailed on it.

Regarding holiday timetables, in fact buses, subways and trains run an increased service over the New Year period (It’s traditional to visit a Buddhist temple on New Year’s Eve and a Shinto Shrine during the first three days of January), and also operate throughout the night on New Years eve.

Hope this helps!

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mari
Expert_button_2

That is very useful information, thanks again mari for your wealth of knowledge.

Getting to Namba appears straight forward from KIX, but I see that I will need to change lines going from Nankai Namba to Saga Arashiyama station where our accommodation is? Considering we wont be on any JR lines, which alternative train lines would provide the most direct and timely route? And I guess we would just pay as we go with this option.

And just confirming, the combination of a city bus all-day pass along with a validated JR pass will allow us to navigate around and see the main temples in Kyoto?

Kind regards

aus_traveller
aus_traveller

Hi there,

The most direct way from Nankai Namba to Namba JR is a 10 min walk. But rather than carry your luggage this distance (or even bother with lots of subways and so on), how about getting the JR train from Kansai to JR-Namba (rather than Nankai Namba) and leaving your luggage there before continuing onto Saga-Arashiyama? This way you totally cut out that transfer from your planned route.

Regarding the Kyoto City Pass, yes, this will allow you access to all the main temples around Kyoto - be sure to pick up a bus map once you get into Kyoto!

Hope this helps!

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mari
Expert_button_2

OK, could you explain whether I have this correct. Leaving JR-Namba to go to Saga-Arashiyama can be achieved by:

  1. Taking the JR Yamatoji Line from JR-Namba to Tennoji
  2. Take JR Kansai Airport Rapid Service from Tennoji to Osaka
  3. Take JR Special Rapid Service from Osaka to Kyoto
  4. JR Sagano line from Kyoto to Saga-arashiyama

Phew! I guess there is no getting around that going from Namba to Saga-arashiyama will require several different transfers.

Searching for JR Namba to Kyoto in hyperdia provides me with options that require travel to and from several subway stations, so I am not sure if what I have suggested or taking subways would reduce travel time.

Thanks again for all your help and responses.

aus_traveller
aus_traveller

Hi there!

Yes, I guess it does mean quite a lot of changes if you were to purely use JR - I'd not actually done a connections analysis so this seems to be quite a lot!

Here's a final suggestion :) - how about:

  1. Kansai Express to Osaka - leave your luggage here.
  2. Subway from Umeda (just outside Osaka station) to Namba (map)
  3. return to Osaka station via subway and pick up luggage
  4. Osaka to Saga-Arashiyama via Kyoto as you mentioned before

I know this isn't a huge time saver, but will reduce the amount of transfer you need to do with luggage. It will mean you'll need to pay for the subway use however (¥460 rtn per person). On balance I think I'd use this route, especially if I was coming off a flight.

Hope this helps!

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mari
Expert_button_2

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