questions & answers: itinerary check

three weeks in japan

Three Weeks in Japan

Hey guys,
I've been researching a lot into what Japan has on offer and it looks like the answer is everything. We've set aside three weeks to explore a good portion of Japan. I'd really appreciate opinions on what I've thought of as a rough plan and I would also love to know whether the Japan Rail Pass is useful for us. Thank you!

5th to 11th of July: Arrive in Narita and travel to Tokyo. (These six days include two day trips; one out to Nikko [which I think is in Kawasaki and a 20 minute train ride from Tokyo]/Kamakura and then another out to Hakone where we can visit the Five Fuji Lakes and enjoy the hot springs).

11th to 13th of July: Train to Sapporo and then to Furano (Apparently it's beautiful during July!)

13th to 16th of July: Train to Nagoya (I'm really not sure what there is to do here but I hear it's beautiful and it's very much worth visiting. I figured almost 4 days should be enough).

16th to 17th of July: Train to Takayama (A small village-esque area that is meant to be stunning so we're setting aside a day to visit here and then we'll catch a train to Toyama at night).

17th to 18th of July: Train to Toyama (I don't know what's here either).

18th to 20th of July: Train to Kyoto (I cannot wait for this! I hope two days is enough).

20th to 23rd of July: Train to Osaka (This should be exciting three days).

23rd to 25th of July: Train from Osaka to Tokyo (We are coming back to spend a day-and-a-half in Disneyland before our trip back to Sydney on the morning of the 25th of July).

Will our Japan Rail pass cover all of these trips? Also, is this even a good itinerary?

MichaelS
MichaelS

Hi Michael,

Here are some thoughts on your itinerary:

  1. As it takes the best part of a day to get to Furano from Tokyo by rail (12 hours - http://goo.gl/b8WDt), having only 1 day in Furano may not be worth it - consider staying for 2 days to get the best out of it.

  2. It may not be worth spending 3 nights in Nagoya unless you have specific plans. Consider 2 here I think and use the extra day elsewhere.

  3. It is worth spending at least 1 full day in Takayama if you can. You can also visit Shirakawa-go from Takayama by non-JR bus - well worth it.

  4. Rather than Toyama, consider Kanazawa. It's only a little further (and on the way to Kyoto), and may have more to see/do than Toyama. Alternatively, if you've not got much plans here, how about going direct to Kyoto and saving a night to spend in Takayama or Kyoto/Osaka?

  5. If possible, consider staying in Osaka and day tripping to Kyoto rather than staying in both. These cities are so close (30 mins by train) that it may be better to put down some roots in one of them rather than have the hassle of changing hotels between the two cities after a few days. Hotels will be cheaper in Osaka, and the nightlife will be better. Kyoto/Nara will have more things to do during the day. (depends totally on if you want to stay in a Ryokan in Kyoto or not).

  6. The rail pass will cover all the trips you list except travel up to Hakone from Odawara. For Hakone you should use the JR Pass to get to Odawara, and then buy the Hakone Free Pass to take you up to the lakes. You may also have to pay a small charge to use the Disney Land private railway (but this may be free if you are a ticket holder).

A 21 day pass is ¥57,700, so you'll need to be spending more than that on individual tickets to get value for money. Lets take a look at your ticket breakdown:

  1. Narita airport terminal 1 > Tokyo: ¥2940, (62mins, 79km)
  2. Tokyo > Nikko: ¥5430, (121mins, 150km)
  3. Nikko > Kamakura: ¥6480, (186mins, 201km)
  4. Kamakura > Tokyo: ¥890, (58mins, 53km)
  5. Tokyo > Odawara: ¥3640, (35mins, 83km)
  6. Odawara > Tokyo: ¥1450, (36mins, 83km)
  7. Tokyo > Furano: ¥25320, (735mins, 1334km)
  8. Furano > Nagoya: ¥31810, (1282mins, 1700km)
  9. Nagoya > Takayama: ¥5870, (150mins, 166km)
  10. Takayama > Toyama: ¥1620, (144mins, 89km)
  11. Toyama > Kyoto: ¥7760, (175mins, 284km)
  12. Kyoto > Osaka: ¥540, (28mins, 42km)
  13. Osaka > Tokyo: ¥13750, (194mins, 556km)
  14. Tokyo > Narita airport terminal 1: ¥2940, (58mins, 79km)

TOTAL: ¥110440 for 14 legs

As you can see you'll save a whopping ¥52,740 with a 21 day rail pass so this is certainly recommended if you do not modify your itinerary.

The JR Pass will also be good for travel on all JR lines around Tokyo. Here's a map of JR lines in Tokyo for reference.

You can look up more train timetables and costs for all of your legs at the Hyperdia travel planning website and learn how to use Hyperdia for Japan Rail Pass holders through our video blog.

Hope this helps!

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ayako

Ayako,

Thank you so much! I can't even tell you how much you've helped. I've re-organised our trip so we can get the most out of it according to what you suggested.

1) Is it possible to get an overnight sleeper train from Tokyo to Sapporo/Furano and then from Sapporo/Furano to Takayama? This would be so much better and would save us a whole day sitting on a train.

2) As you'll see in the revised plans below, we have skipped Nagoya entirely. Is this a wise choice?

3) We've extended our time in Takayama so we can visit Shirakawa-go and really get the most out of this region.

4) We've put Kanazawa into our plans and we'll spending a day there which we anticipate should be enough to get the best out of this area.

5) We've shifted our plans so that we are in Osaka as our base and we can travel by train on two days to visit Kyoto.

6) Is Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture? I didn't realise it was quite far from Kamakura but we're hoping we can do both of them as a day trip from Tokyo. Also will we be able to do Hakone and truly enjoy it in one day trip out from Tokyo?

As we've researched more into Disneyland, it appears that the end of July is the most expensive time to go so we've instead decided that we won't go back to Tokyo after Osaka and just stay longer at the beginning of July and go to Disneyland then. By doing this, we catch a plan from Osaka to Sydney directly.

Here is our revised itinerary. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your help Ayako; thank you so much again!

  • 3rd@11:15am: Flight from Sydney
  • 4th@5:15am: Arrive in Tokyo (Haneda Airport)
  • 13th@6:28am: Train from Tokyo CBD (We are thinking of booking Hotel Ryumeikan for the nine nights that we are here because it's next to the station and is meant to be a very nice hotel.)
  • 14th@6:58pm: Arrive in Furano
  • 17th@10:04am: Train from Furano (We are spending a lot more time in Furano and we'll book a nice guesthouse for three nights.)
  • 18th@10:01am: Arrive in Takayama (24 hour trip from Furano!)
  • 20th@9:39am: Train from Takayama (We are spending two nights here which will give us plenty of time to do Shirakawa-go, as you said.)
  • 20th@12:45pm: Arrive in Kanazawa
  • 21st@5:00am: Train from Kanazawa (We're just going to do an overnighter in Kanazawa just to see it before going to Osaka.)
  • 21st@8:09am: Arrive in Osaka (As you said, we should make Osaka our base for Kyoto and Osaka which we will do. We're spending four days and four nights here before our flight in the morning of the 25th of July.)
  • 25th@11:00am: Flight from Osaka
  • 26th@5:55am: Arrive in Sydney

How do you feel about all of this? By the way that Hyperdia travel planning website was unbelievably useful. Thanks again!

MichaelS
MichaelS

Glad I could help!

Lets take a look at your questions:

1) Is it possible to get an overnight sleeper train from Tokyo to Sapporo/Furano and then from Sapporo/Furano to Takayama? This would be so much better and would save us a whole day sitting on a train.

Yes - it is possible. You should check this post for more details on the sleeper options you have available to you (it is possible to use some sleepers for free, but you don't get a full bed - fine if you're on a budget!).

2) As you'll see in the revised plans below, we have skipped Nagoya entirely. Is this a wise choice?

Yes - I think so. You can always pop up to Nagoya for a day trip from Osaka if you get curious or find something you want to see in the area while you are in Japan.

3) We've extended our time in Takayama so we can visit Shirakawa-go and really get the most out of this region.

Perfect. That's a great idea.

4) We've put Kanazawa into our plans and we'll spending a day there which we anticipate should be enough to get the best out of this area.

Sounds good.

5) We've shifted our plans so that we are in Osaka as our base and we can travel by train on two days to visit Kyoto.

Great - Osaka is a fun town and you'll be able to get to most places very easily via the Bullet train/ train system.

6a) Is Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture? I didn't realise it was quite far from Kamakura but we're hoping we can do both of them as a day trip from Tokyo.

Nikko and Kamakura are quite far apart (yes, Nikko is in Tochigi). I think I'd recommend you to choose visiting only 1 on a day trip. Kamakura is easier to fit in on a half day, but Nikko deserves a full day I think.

6b) Also will we be able to do Hakone and truly enjoy it in one day trip out from Tokyo?

A lot of the enjoyment of Hakone comes from wandering around and staying at an Onsen hot spring hotel to unwind. While it is possible in a day, you would loose that element of your trip and it would be pretty whistlestop. It is do-able in 1 day, but make sure you set off as early as possible to make the most of it.

I really like the idea of staying in Tokyo in a block at the start of your trip by the way, it will be much more manageable.

As the 14 day rail pass is ¥12,600 less than the 21 day pass, if you decided to give Nikko a miss (you will be seeing your fair share of old Japan in other parts of your trip, so I think that's reasonable), then you could get a 14 day JR Pass and use the metro/subway ad-hoc for the first 8 days rather than use a 21 day rail pass for this period. You would also have to purchase the Hakone Free Pass that leaves from Tokyo for an extra ¥1100 over the Odawara version (or squeeze Hakone into the 1st day of 14 day JR Pass validity on the 12th). This would give you a decent saving that you could put towards subway fares or other parts of your trip. Of course it really depends if you are set on Nikko or not.

Based on the 14 day plan (no Nikko), here are your costs:

  1. Tokyo > Odawara: ¥3640, (35mins, 83km)
  2. Odawara > Tokyo: ¥1450, (36mins, 83km)
  3. Tokyo > Furano: ¥25320, (735mins, 1334km)
  4. Furano > Takayama: ¥32320, (1437mins, 1867km)
  5. Takayama > Kanazawa: ¥4180, (186mins, 148km)
  6. Kanazawa > Osaka: ¥7440, (154mins, 267km)
  7. Osaka > Kyoto: ¥540, (29mins, 42km)
  8. Kyoto > Osaka: ¥540, (28mins, 42km)
  9. Osaka > Kansai airport: ¥3140, (57mins, 64km)

TOTAL: ¥78570 for 9 legs (saving of ¥33,470 over standard tickets with a 14 day pass)

While you are in the Osaka area, I really recommend you take a look at visiting Naoshima art island - here's a good post with more information on getting there with a JR pass.

Hope this helps!

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ayako

Hi Michael,

I 'd just add my 2 cents, we just back from Japan and covered a lot of the ground you're considering.

  1. We spent one night as planned in Takayama, and felt it was more than enough. The old city centre is quite small and easily covered in foot. The biggest problem with Takayama we felt was access. We were coming from Nagano, and taking only trains meant multiple changes and almost a full day's travel. So we bought the bullet and used the bus part way from Matsumoto, which probably sliced off 4-5 hours travel. So I would recommend looking at local buses for routes that require 2 or more changes.

  2. We had planned one night in Kanazawa, but ended up spending two. It was a nice sized town - lots of interesting sights including the wonderful Kenrokuen, and a pretty lively city centre.

  3. We spent 4 nights in Kyoto with 3 full days in Kyoto and one in Nara. The day we went to Nara, we took a morning train from Kyoto to Nara, and in the late afternoon from Nara to Osaka and back to Kyoto after dinner. In hindsight, I think 2 full days in Kyoto would have been plenty, but the day we spent in Nara was just wonderful.

  4. Kamakura - unfortunately the only day we could visit Kamakura was on a (sunny) Sunday. Apparently we weren't the only ones with that idea. It was literally overrun, and frankly not much fun. After jostling in the market for about 10 minutes, we decided to abandon seeing the Buddha in Hase and took the train one station up to Kita Kamakura, where we saw three spectacular temples and some pretty good cherry blossoms. The crowds were much sparser, and we enjoyed that much more.

I know it's not on your itinerary, but one place I loved was Miyajima, which can be reached from Kyoto. I'd say that Miyajima was my second favorite place over our entire trip (which was 18 days, 17 nights).

HTH.

insomniac
insomniac

Hey guys,

We are trying to seriously cost cut this trip so we actually have money to spend so if we can get a 14-day rail pass then that's better. It looks like we'll be touching down in Haneda so train tickets from the airport shouldn't be too expensive. Although we'll only be in Tokyo for the first few days of our trip, I'm not sure how much tickets to places like Kamakura will be and train tickets within Tokyo. Should we just get the 21-day pass?

Ayako, Naoshima Island seems quite far from Osaka. I'm not sure if it's something we can make as a day trip from Osaka. What do you think?

Insomniac, I really appreciate your help also.

1) In terms of Takayama, my plans are to use it as a base for that region. We only have two full days and two nights there before our train to Kanazawa on the third morning. I have researched into the region and we should able to visit places like Hida, Shirakawa-go and Gokayama but what I am most curious about is the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route. Apparently there is an amazing Snow Wall there and it would be absolutely amazing to visit it. We're not sure if it's possible but this is something we could do if we based ourselves in Takayama. What do you think about that?

2) After what you've said, I would love to stay longer in Kanazawa but it doesn't look like our itinerary permits us enough time. I feel like we'll be pressed for time as it is already so I don't know if we can spend more than one day and one night there.

3) We have four days and four nights in Osaka before our flight back to Sydney on the morning of the 5th day. I'm thinking we can use three of those days in Kyoto and Nara and then use the other day and nights to explore and enjoy Osaka. Is that reasonable or are we not giving ourselves enough time here?

4) Thanks for the tip! We'll make sure to visit Kamakura during the week rather than on the weekend.

Seeing as we're short for time, should we take a day from Tokyo and add it to Osaka instead? Also I looked up Miyajima and Naoshima Art Island and both of them look beautiful except they appear to be so far from Osaka when I Google Map them.

What are you guys thinking?

MichaelS
MichaelS

Also, seeing as there appears to be so much more to do in Kyoto, we are thinking of staying in Kyoto for the four days and four nights we are in that region instead of Osaka. We would probably do a day trip to Osaka but based on the amount there is to see and do in Kyoto rather than in Osaka, we're thinking this is the better course of action. We would explore Kyoto for two days, Nara for one day and Osaka for one day. Does this seem like a better way to do it or is there a lot more to do in Osaka than I think?

MichaelS
MichaelS

Hi there,

A few suggestions:

  • I personally think you're spending way too much time in Tokyo, and would possibly rebalance the trip in favour of more time in the country/rural areas. Just my personal preference.

  • Kyoto would be a better base, and I think four nights there will let you have two full days in Tokyo and a day apiece in Nara and Osaka.

  • Based on the itinerary you've provided I think you're spending way too much time in Tokyo, too much time in Takayama, possibly too little in Kanazawa, and frankly too much time travelling.

If pressed you can do Miyajima/Hiroshima as an overnight trip from Osaka (Hiroshima during the day, and spend the night on the island), though if I had to do our holiday again I'd spend two nights in Miyajima with a one of the days in Hiroshima. It really was wonderful, and the island is serenity itself in the evenings.

We didn't go see the snow wall, as we travelled to Takayama from Yudanaka, where we saw more than enough snow. Also we weren't that interest in the villages, but there are buses that go from Takayama, so you should definitely check out buses too even if you're travelling with the JR Pass. The biggest problem we found with Takayama was poor connections (except to Kanazawa).

Hope this helps.

insomniac
insomniac

Hi All!

  1. Great point by Insomniac about Miyajima. I think I'd advise Miyajima over Naoshima as it is 100% accessible via JR. It's possible in a day from Osaka/Kyoto, but staying on the island itself is quite a special experience. As you say, Naoshima really needs an overnight stay.

  2. About 14 vs. 21: It all boils down to how much travel you do in Tokyo really. You should cost out all the travel you're thinking of on the Hyperdia travel planning website. Keep in mind that the JR Pass will be good for travel on all JR lines around Tokyo. Here's a map of JR lines in Tokyo for reference. The JR Pass will not cover the Metro however, so you should budget ¥500-800 per day of metro travel if you're sightseeing around town.

  3. The Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route is amazing if you like the great outdoors. Please note that in July it will be summer in Japan and so there may not be much snow. Here's a page detailing the seasons along the route.

  4. About Kyoto / Nara / Osaka, I think your plan looks good. Don't forget to visit Arashiyama while you are in the area! (sorry to add more to your list :) )

Hope this helps!

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mari
Expert_button_2

Sorry, my original post should have read "Kyoto would be a better base, and I think four nights there will let you have two full days in Kyoto (not Tokyo) and a day apiece in Nara and Osaka."

Re the 14-vs-21 pass - I found that when were sightseeing in Tokyo we weren't constantly whizzing around town so weren't using the trains all that heavily. Also something to keep in mind is that the JR Pass won't cover the Tokyo Metro or the TOEI subway. In fact, in Tokyo itself we only used the Yamanote line (between Shinjuku and Shibuya a few times), the Chuo Line twice (to get to Akihabara and Tokyo station, the latter when catching the Shinkansen) and for the day trip to Kamakura.

To get to places like Roppongi, Ginza, Odaiba, etc you'll need to use the metro so the JR Pass won't work. For Askusa and Tsukiji you can use the JR Pass though the metro would be much more convenient (metro stations are closer to the points of interest).

Personally I don't think the additional 7 days for only Tokyo travel would be economical. In fact, we never even bought Metro day passes - again, we weren't whizzing around town too much on the same day and found the Suica card great to use - we got the Narita Ex + Suica package, which saved us a bit getting to our hotel from the airport.

In fact I'd suggest that in Tokyo you walk around as much as possible. Economical and will give you a much better feel of the city.

insomniac
insomniac

I've been to Japan twice now - for five weeks in 2008 and three weeks in 2011.

Let me start by reiterating previous comments that you will not get any value out of a JR pass during the time you're in Tokyo if you're staying within the metro area. There are only a handful of JR lines in Tokyo and the remainder are either Toei or Tokyo Metro private lines where the JR pass is not valid. Grab a pasmo or suica and away you go! A two week pass when you're doing long distance travel will give you the most bang for your buck!

Personally, if you've only got 3 weeks in Japan then I wouldn't bother going up to Hokkaido. You're effectively spending 12 hours travelling there and 24 hours travelling back. I think you'd be better placed by starting at Tokyo, heading south-west and back again.

Others have said that 9 days in Tokyo is too long. Whilst you could inevitably spend 3 weeks exploring Tokyo and still not even scratching the surface, I'd probably keep it to 6 or 7 days. Plenty to see within that time and you'll never be bored.

Nikko is an absolute must-see, an amazing place. Definitely head there on a day-trip out of Tokyo, from memory it's about 1.5 hours each way.

Another day trip you could do from Tokyo is Yokohama. Amazing place down by the water.

If you're thinking about going to Disneyland, don't. I went there in early March when it was barely 10 degrees and not in the busy season. But we still spend 95% of the day in queues. Universal Studios Japan in Osaka was a far better experience for me personally.

Takayama is a very nice old small town, and because it's small, you'll cover it in a day like others have said.

Kanazawa is perhaps the most underrated small city in Japan. So so so so welcoming of tourists, and really easy to get around by foot or bus. Kenrouken gardens are amazing and the nightlife is really good too.

Others have said base yourself in Osaka and others have said base yourself in Kyoto. I'm not fussed with either suggestion, both are great places. Osaka is a very cool city with a lot of nightlife and a lot of culture. Do day trips to Nara, Himeji (if the castle is open again, was closed for a while)

Definitely check out Hiroshima and Miyajima (the latter is where I popped the question to my now wife!), and well worth staying there a couple of days.

Also, seeing as you're going in summer, I'd suggest you check out Beppu. It's a seaside village with plenty of cool coloured hot springs. Should be quite busy that time of year too. A little out of the way so may be worth skipping though.

So here's my suggested itinerary

Days 1 - 7 Tokyo (with day trips to some or all of Nikko, Fuji and Yokohama)
Day 8 Takayama
Days 9-10 Kanazawa
Days 11-13 Kyoto
Days 14-15 Hiroshima
Day 16 Beppu
Days 17-18 Nagasaki
Days 19-22 Osaka (with a day trip to Nara and/or Mt Koya)
Day 23 Travel back to Tokyo

I'm sure there's plenty of other places I've left out and others will probably fill you in on!

Enjoy!

ryanherb
ryanherb

Hey guys,

I've spending a lot of time reading your posts and I'd just like to begin by saying thank you all so much. I think this trip will be amazing purely because of the assistance you've all rendered.

With everything in mind, I've decided to completely alter the itinerary of the trip. Hokkaido is simply too far from everywhere else so with especially Ryanherb's suggestions in mind I've decided to cut Furano from the trip. I suppose we can't see it all!

As we'll be doing day trips out to Kamakura, Nikko and even Yokohama, we've decided that we will continue to have until the 13th of July in Tokyo because there is just so much to see and do and we really don't ever want to be pressed for time here. I want to ask the experienced of you where the best area to be based in is. We found one hotel that is right next to Tokyo JR Station and we thought that was a good option because Tokyo seems to be ridiculously huge and can't just be walked. What do you guys think?

Hakone and Odawara confuse me a little bit. I'm thinking if we spent a whole day in Hakone on our way to Takayama that would be a much more feasible option.

Now that we have cut Furano and the travel associated, I think we can successfully do Hiroshima and this amazing Miyajima Island everyone is talking up so much.

With that in mind, a rough itinerary we have is:

Day 1-11 (Day trips out to Nikko, Yokohama, Kamakura):

3rd@11:15am: Flight from Sydney
4th@5:15am: Arrive in Haneda Airport
4th@7:00am: Arrive in Tokyo CBD
13th@10:26am: Train from Tokyo CBD

Day 11-13 (I think Odawara is the arrival town for Hakone. This will give us a day here and one night to experience the Fuji Five Lakes and the amazing Onsen. Is this silly? I'm really not sure about this one):

13th@11:01am: Arrive in Odawara
15th@6:15am: Train from Odawara

Day 13-14 (Will we be able to visit Shirakawa-go in this time? I really don't want to miss out on it):

15th@10:01am: Arrive in Takayama
16th@11:00am: Train from Takayama

Day 14-16 (We made this two days and two nights according to your suggestions):

16th@1:23pm: Arrive in Kanazawa
18th@8:05am: Train from Kanazawa

Day 16-19 (We're spending three nights and three days here which we believe should be enough to soak it all up):

18th@10:37am: Arrive in Kyoto
21st@8:02am: Train from Kyoto

Day 19-21 (According to your suggestions, we will base ourselves here and use one of the days to make a day trip out of Hiroshima City. Is that reasonable?):

21st@10:42am: Arrive in Miyajimaguchi
23rd@5:13pm: Train from Miyajimaguchi

Day 21-23 (As we're arriving at night, we figured we could enjoy the nightlife and then use the one full day and other night we have to really enjoy Osaka. Is this enough?):

23rd@7:37pm: Arrive in Osaka
25th@8:37am: Train from Osaka
25@9:35am: Arrive in Kansai Intl Airport

25th@11:00am: Flight from Osaka
26th@5:55am: Arrive in Sydney

By the way I imagine we could do Hiroshima city as a day trip from Miyajima(guchi?).
How do you guys feel about this intinerary? Is there still too much time in Tokyo? Should Odawara be cut and the days there be put somewhere else? We really only have two nights and one day in Osaka. Also I don't think we can do Nagasaki and Beppu on this trip. I wish it were four weeks!

Sorry about all these itinerary revisions I just want to make sure we can get the most out of Japan while we're there. :)

MichaelS
MichaelS

Hi Michael,

Good to see things coming together! Some thoughts:

  1. The area around Tokyo station is convenient, but is a bit lifeless at night and will be pretty expensive. How about looking for hotels around Shibuya/Daikanyama or Naka Meguro?

  2. On Hakone/Odawara. Odawara is the last JR stop you can get to before you need to use non-JR transport to get up to Hakone.

  3. Yes - you should be able to visit Shirakawago in this time. Aim to visit this first, and then spend the rest of the day in Takayama. Here's the bus schedule for the Nohi bus service you'll need to get to Shirakawago from Takayama and back.

  4. Although I've never been based out of Miyajima when in Hiroshima, I love the idea and am sure you'll enjoy the peace. Transport into Hiroshima is easy and fun (ferry+train, under 1 hr).

  5. You could reduce your Tokyo time by a few days and give yourselves a bit more time to travel while keeping within a 14 day rail pass. Unless you have things to see/do in Tokyo for all of the 11 days, I think I'd recommend aiming for 7-8 days max, and then putting the remaining 3-4 days into the rest of your trip, extending Kanazawa, Osaka, doing the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route or adding a visit to an Onsen town like Kinosaki Onsen hotsprings.

Hope this helps!

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mari
Expert_button_2

Thank you all so much again for your help.

Mari, I'd really like to note some of the things you said. We've managed to extend our trip by a few days so we think we can get some more in.

1) I've definitely taken our hotel placement into account and we're on a mission to find cheaper hotels in the Shibuya/Shinjuku districts for the eight nights we are there. The Shinjuku Urban Hotel (http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Hotel_Review-g1066457-d1090599-Reviews-Shinjuku_Urban_Hotel-Shinjuku_Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html) seems like a great one for the eight nights we are there.

2) Although Odawara is the last JR stop, is it worh spending two days and two nights in this area? The idea is that on our way our from Tokyo we spend two days and two nights in Hakone. Is this a good idea or is it more a day trip from Tokyo? We really, really just want an amazing spot for Hot Springs. If that's in Hakone or somewhere we just want to dedicate two full days and nights to it. Any recommendations or is Hakone a good place?

3) I'm going to add an extra day to Takayama so that we can see Shirakawa-go, Hida and the the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route. I imagine exploring Takayama, Shirakawa-go and Hida will be one day and Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route will be one day on its own.

4) I'm glad you think this is a good idea :). I hope a day trip to Hiroshima works out!

5) I've reduced the time in Tokyo so we have more time in Osaka and have time to visit Tateyama-Kurobe. I imagine that Hakone will have Onsen for us to visit which is the whole purpose for us spending two nights and two days there.

One thing I am dying to know is whether we should base ourselves in Toyama and make day trips out to Takayama, Shirakawa-go, Hida and the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route instead of basing ourselves in Takayama. What are your thoughts about this idea?

I know I keep doing this but I want to get this itinerary completely finished. Here is the latest itinerary. What should we chop and change?

Day 1-10:

1st@9:55pm: Flight from Sydney
2nd@1:55pm: Arrive in Haneda Airport
2nd@3:00pm: Arrive in Tokyo CBD
10th@9:03am: Train from Tokyo CBD

Day 10-12:

10th@10:01am: Arrive in Odawara/Hakone
12th@6:15am: Train from Odawara/Hakone

Day 12-14:

12th@10:01am: Arrive in Takayama
14th@11:00am: Train from Takayama

Day 14-16:

14th@1:23pm: Arrive in Kanazawa
16th@8:05am: Train from Kanazawa

Day 16-19:

16th@10:37am: Arrive in Kyoto
19th@8:02am: Train from Kyoto

Day 19-22:

19th@10:42am: Arrive in Miyajimaguchi
22nd@5:13pm: Train from Miyajimaguchi

Day 22-25:

22nd@7:37pm: Arrive in Osaka
25th@5:37am: Train from Osaka
25th@6:39am: Arrive in Kansai Airport

25th@9:30am: Flight from Osaka
26th@11:05am: Arrive in Sydney

MichaelS
MichaelS

Hi Michael - not a problem!

If your only reason to visit Hakone is the hot springs, then I strongly recommend you take a look at Kinosaki hot spring onsen as an alternative. It's around 3hrs from Osaka by train on the Japan Sea coast, and is a fantastic little town with many Onsen, a great atmosphere and routinely described as the best Onsen town in the area of Hyogo. It's will have a much more laid back atmosphere to Hakone, and you can trip around town visting many different onsen with an Onsen free pass that you can pick up from your hotel. Here's a good forum post with more, and you can also book many onsen online. Here's a good tripadvisor for more advice on it.

Now you lay out all your planned trips in the area, it does make sense to base yourselves out of either Toyama or Kanazawa. Although the choice is very much a personal one, rather than basing yourselves in Toyama for your day trips, how about basing yourself out of Kanazawa? Toyama is only 30 mins from Kanazawa by train, so you wouldn't be adding much onto your trip, and there are better connections to shirakawago for example. You'll also gain a much wider selection of hotels and arguably better nightlife.

Hope this helps!

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mari
Expert_button_2

Hey guys,

Thank you all so much for your help again. Mari I've taken what you've said into account and we're going to scrap Hakone and put in Kinosaki-Onsen instead. If we really want to visit Odawara/Hakone, we can do that as a day trip out from Tokyo.

I've attached below our final itinerary. Please let me know if you have any final suggestions. I am trying to fit this into an AUD$5000 budget each (there are four of us) so I now need to start searching for good, cheap and decent accommodation. I figure that most the sightseeing won't cost us anything and our Japan Rail Pass for 14 days should be enough to get us around entirely.

Day 1-10:

1st@9:55pm: Flight from Sydney
2nd@1:55pm: Arrive in Haneda Airport
2nd@3:00pm: Arrive in Shinjuku (Tokyo)
10th@6:07am: Train from Shinjuku

We can do day trips out to Nikko, Yokahama and Kamakura, Hakone and other places if we wish. There's so much to see and do in Tokyo so we don't want to cut too much time here.

Day 10-11:

10th@10:25am: Arrive in Takayama
11th@11:50am: Bus from Takayama

We've decided that we will stay overnight in Takayama so we can explore the town entirely. There are morning markets apparently so we will leave in the early afternoon so we get to enjoy this.

Day 11-12 (Overnight in Farmhouse):

11th@12:40pm: Arrive in Shirakawa-go
12th@4:50pm: Bus from Shirakawa-go

I've read that a farm stay in Shirakawa-go would be sensational so we've opted to do an overnight stay here and there should be enough time on both days to really explore Ogimichi and the smaller towns as well.

Day 12-16:

12th@6:05pm: Arrive in Kanazawa
16th@7:02am: Train from Kanazawa

We've allocated three days and four nights here so we can get the most out of Kanazawa nightlife and truly enjoy the gardens and the temples that I've been reading about. One of our three days here will also be spent in the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route which we imagine is possible to do in a day from Kanazawa.

Day 16-19:

16th@9:11am: Arrive in Kyoto
19th@7:20am: Train from Kyoto

I just found out that there is a festival on the 17th of July so I am so excited our trip dates fall around that time. We will spending the entirety of the 16th and 17th here and spending the 18th in Nara.

Day 19-20 (Overnight for Hot Springs):

19th@7:39am: Arrive in Kinosaki-Onsen
20th@7:18am: Train from Kinosaki-Onsen

As we've scrapped Hakone (or it will become a day trip from Tokyo), we have decided that we should do an overnight stay in Kinosaki-Onsen on our way from Kyoto to Miyajima. I think this will be really amazing based on what you've said Mari and the reviews I've read.

Day 20-22:

20th@11:26am: Arrive in Miyajima
22nd@5:13pm: Train from Miyajima

We should have enough time here to really enjoy the island. We've also set aside the 21st for a whole day trip into Hiroshima.

Day 22-25:

22nd@7:37pm: Arrive in Osaka
25th@5:37am: Train from Osaka
25th@6:39am: Arrive in Kansai Airport

From Osaka, we can spend a whole day enjoying Mount Koya (which is a must according to what I've read) and then we can use part of another day to visit Himeji. The other days and nights we will be exploring and enjoying Osaka.

25th@9:30am: Flight from Osaka
26th@11:05am: Arrive in Sydney

I think this pretty much sums up our entire trip. I hope this works out! If you have any suggestions regarding changing the itinerary slightly, cheaper hotels and areas to get hotels in, places to visit and anything else, please let me know.

Thanks again! :)

MichaelS
MichaelS

Hi Michael,

Reading through your itinerary it looks really great and I think you'll have an awesome time! (Is this the perfect 21 day itinerary...?)

Please note that Himeji is currently undergoing restoration. While parts of the castle are still accessible, you won't be able to see the castle in it's full glory and access some areas. Here's a webcam of Himeji Castle to help you base your decision (the big lit box/tower thing is the cover over the castle....).

Hope this helps!

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mari
Expert_button_2

Hey Mari,
Thank you so much for your help again. We're going to book everything in this coming week. Hopefully Himeji Castle is open so that we get to experience.

Speak soon,
Michael.

MichaelS
MichaelS

Seeing as you're now looking for cheap and decent accommodation, I've got a few suggestions for you. Firstly, check out rakuten travel, lots of great business hotels for cheap. If you're after hostels, check out hostelworld.com

Tokyo. I'm still looking for a decent place to stay in Tokyo the next time I go back there. First time I stayed at Sakura Hotel Jimbocho. About $90 a night for a tiny double room (not much bigger than your armspan but who goes to Tokyo to sleep right?). The best thing about this place is the location. Only 50m from Jimbocho station which has direct lines to both Shibuya and Shinjuku and most other attractions are 1 change away.
Second time I stayed at APA Hotel Shiomi Ekimae. Literally across the road from Shiomi station on the Disneyland line. Although you get more space here (proper size room), it's a little out of the way and we spent a lot of time travelling to the other side of the city with an enormous connecting walk at Tokyo station (a good kilometre or so!) so probably wouldn't go back there.

Osaka. I have an absolute cracker for you - Guest House Caminoro. It's only about $60 a night for a private room. This is the traditional tatami mat style room. The best thing about this place is that it's located in a suburban shopping arcade which is 'real Japan'. Lots of cool little family owned eateries, coffee shops, bakeries etc and it's not far from both Shin-Osaka and Umeda stations. The owner also speaks better English than I do which was great when we were there (sadly the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster unfolded when we were in Osaka last year so his assistance in translating the news coverage was incredibly helpful)

Hiroshima/Miyajima - I recommend you stay in Hiroshima. Hotel Active is a brand new business hotel and only costs $90 a night with a free buffet breakfast. It's right in the centre of Hiroshima (on the main street) so really easy to connect with both the Shinkansen and the train to Miyajima.

Kanazawa. A couple of options here. You can either stay at a business hotel near JR Kanazawa station. I stayed at Dormy Inn Kanazawa last time and this was decent. Again, approximately $90 a night for a clean business hotel. If you're planning to enjoy the nightlife, it's a fair trek when the buses don't operate late at night (might be a good 30 minute sober up walk home!) Before that, I stayed in a Ryokan in the city centre - Murataya Ryokan. Even though it's in the city centre, I think the Ryokan had a curfew though.

Takayama. When I stayed here in 2008, I stayed in an old Buddhist temple staffed by a monk. Very cool experience and reasonably cheap too. The place is called Takayama Zentoji Temple Inn, costs about $70 a night.

Kyoto - K's House is a great little hostel with a very social atmosphere. A little on the pricey side ($100ish for a private room) but well worth it in my opinion.

Oh and by the way, I recommend you avoid long distance train travel on Friday afternoons. That's when a lot of Japanese businessmen return to their families so trains can be quite full of grumpy folk.

Have fun and reply back if you need more info!

ryanherb
ryanherb

Hey Ryan,

I've been looking at plenty of hotels trying to find the best deals and I think I've managed to get some good ones. There's four of us travelling so I've tried to divide things properly:

Day 1-9 (Hotel Sunroute Higashi Shinjuku $47 per person per night for seven nights):

1st@10:10am: Flight from Sydney
2nd@6:00am: Arrive in Narita Airport
2nd@10:00am: Arrive in Shinjuku (Tokyo)
9th@6:07am: Train from Shinjuku

This seems to be the cheapest and best located hotel that I can find in Shinjuku. It's close the train station so we can move around Tokyo and also go from here to places like Nikko and Kamakura.

Day 9-10 (Spa Hotel Alpina Hidatakayama $86 per person per night for one night):

9th@10:25am: Arrive in Takayama
10th@11:50am: Bus from Takayama

I haven't looked into the Ryokan you suggested Ryan but we thought this one would be fine for one night because it's close to the city centre and whatever else there is to see in Takayama.

Day 10-11 (Nodaniya Ryokan $110 per person per night for one night meals included [farmstay]):

10th@12:40pm: Arrive in Shirakawa-go
11th@4:50pm: Bus from Shirakawa-go

I can't do much to negotiate the price here because it is a farmstay in one of the huts in Shirakawa-go. It does included breakfast and dinner though which is amazing.

Day 11-15 (Toyoko Inn Kanazawa Kenrokuen Korinbo $39 per night per person for four nights):

11th@6:05pm: Arrive in Kanazawa
15th@7:02am: Train from Kanazawa

This was the best located hotel for the best price. We're not going to be spending too much time in the hotel apart from to sleep while in Kanazawa so we don't mind. We're still doing a day trip from Kanazawa to the Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route but we haven't figured out the best way to get there. Apparently if we get a JR train from Kanazawa to Toyama we can use local railways and cable cars on a round trip through the mountain until Kurobe Dam then back to Toyama.

Day 15-18 (Wakamiya $63 per night per person for three nights):

15th@9:11am: Arrive in Kyoto
18th@7:20am: Train from Kyoto

I found K's house for $31 per night per person for three nights so I will book that one if you think it'll be a good experience. We just wanted to get the whole Kyoto experience and see the Torii gates, bamboo forests and everything else there is to see including the festival on the 17th and the day trip out to Nara.

Day 18-19 (Onishiya Suishoen $75 per person per night for one night [hot spring hopping]):

18th@7:39am: Arrive in Kinosaki-Onsen
19th@7:18am: Train from Kinosaki-Onsen

I didn't want to find a hotel that was too cheap here because we wanted to be able to hop hot springs at night and enjoy the full pleasure of it.

Day 19-21 (Miyajima Hotel Makoto $88 per night per person for two nights):

19th@11:26am: Arrive in Miyajima
21st@5:13pm: Train from Miyajima

There's apparently only four hotels on this island and this was the only one that was even remotely reasonable when it came to price and I think one of two that had availabilities for four.

Day 21-24 (Dotonbori Hotel $68 per night per person for three nights):

21st@7:37pm: Arrive in Osaka
24th@6:00am: Train from Osaka (Namba)

This is what I'm thinking right now but truth be told if I can get Guest House Caminoro then I will definitely take it as per your suggestion. It just looks like they're fully booked during the nights that we are there or at least the Japanese style Tatami rooms are booked.

Day 24-25 (A Temple which we estimate to be around $125 per person for one night, meal included):

24th@7:44am: Arrive in Koyasan
25th@7:09am: Cable Car from Koyasan 25th@9:39am: Arrive in Kansai Airport

We've decided we really want to do an overnight stay with the monks. We think that the whole day of the 24th of July should be enough to fully explore Koyasan and then we can settle in for dinner and breakfast at the temple lodging until we have to leave for our flight in the morning. Our flight departs at 11:10am so I hope we can make it haha.

25th@11:10am: Flight from Osaka
26th@8:50am: Arrive in Sydney

Let me know if you have any suggestions. It's very much appreciated as per usual. Also, Ryan, if there's anything you can suggest to try get a room for four at the Guest House Caminoro or at least two rooms for four I would love your help with that.
As a side note, for most of the journey we are split into two rooms between the four of us. Ideally we want as many quadruple rooms as possible but apparenty they're much harder to find than we anticipated. If there's any suggestions here I would love to hear them too. Thanks!

MichaelS
MichaelS

Ahh there's four of you, didn't realise that!

Caminoro have only one traditional twin room and the other rooms from memory are all four to a room (two bunks). Those beds are only $30 per person per night

Check out http://www.caminoro.com/ for details, IIRC the owner's name is Koji.

Cheers

ryanherb
ryanherb

I had a look into it and we've all decided to take your suggestion and stay at Caminoro instead of Dotonbori. Apparently the train ride to places like Dotonbori Street and Universal Studios from Caminoro isn't bad at all anyway.

I have a couple of questions that I think Mari is probably best able to answer.

Firstly, when should we activate our 21-day JR Pass? I'm thinking we should do it from the 2nd until the 23rd so we can do our day trips out of Tokyo. The 23rd is one day before we leave for Koyasan and I know that it's all private rail to get there. Activating it on the first day means we can get our train from Narita to Nishi-Shinjuku where our hotel is included but it means that our train to Kansai Airport won't be.

Secondly, what is the best way to get to Kansai International Airport (KIX) from Mount Koya (Koyasan)? Our flight is at 11:10am on the 25th of July and we know we should be at the airport at least 1.5 hours before our flight meaning 9:40am at the latest. I can't work out a cost effective way to get from our Temple Lodging at Shojoshin-in in Mt. Koya to Kansai Airport by 9:40am. Help here would be very greatly appreciated.

Thanks guys.

MichaelS
MichaelS

Hi there,

The 2nd-22nd looks like it'll be the best choice (it's 2-22nd as the JRPass is measured in whole days, not hours). Despite having 1 day less than you thought, by that point all your large legs will be behind you and the trip from Koyasan to Kansai Airport shouldn't break the bank.

To get to Kansai by 9:40am, you'll need to make an early start, leaving Koyasan station just after 7am. Here is a list of possible itineraries from Koyasan station to Kansai airport that should get you in on time.

Hope this helps!

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mari
Expert_button_2

Thank you for your help again Mari. I've spoken to the Temple that we'll be lodging in and they have said they will serve us breakfast earlier so we can get to Kansai Airport by 10:10am latest. Considering our flight is at 11:10am and the airline said we have to be there at least 45 minutes before, I imagine arriving at Kansai Airport Station with one hour before our flight should be enough.

I do have another question though: I've amended our itinerary to cut a day from Tokyo to visit Nagoya purely for the Sumo wrestling which begins on the 8th of July. Our itinerary at the beginning now looks like this:

Day 1-8:

1st@10:10am: Flight from Sydney
2nd@6:00am: Arrive in Narita Airport
2nd@10:00am: Arrive in Shinjuku (estimate time after customs and train ride from airport)
8th@7:09am: Train from Shinjuku

Day 8:

8th@9:20am: Arrive in Nagoya
8th@7:43pm: Train from Nagoya

Day 8-10:

8th@10:07pm: Arrive in Takayama
10th@11:50am: Bus from Takayama

We will be arriving in Nagoya at 9:20am and hopefully we can put all of our luggage into station lockers while we're exploring Nagoya. Although we'll have the morning to get breakfast in Nagoya, the reason we are doing a pitstop in Nagoya before leaving to Takayama on the same night is for the sumo wrestling. I found that www.buysumotickets.com can get us tickets to the 8th of July and apparently the ticket is valid for the whole day and the matches end around 6:00pm. I'm just wondering if this is a plausable itinerary and whether or not we should purchase our sumo tickets for Sunday the 8th of July in advance or just buy them at Aichi Prefectural Stadium itself on the day?

Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on this!

MichaelS
MichaelS

Hi Michael,

Seems like a great plan - I think turning up an buying on the day is normally fine, but as you're stopping in Nagoya specifically for this event it will be best to buy in advance for peace of mind I think.

About the trip from Nagoya to Takayama, try and use the WideView trains (dept 3:43pm or dept 5:43pm from Nagoya) that depart before sunset (sunset is around 7pm in July). The trip up to Takayama on the WideView is very scenic, so it's best to do it during daylight if you can.

Hope this helps!

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mari
Expert_button_2

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