We are returning for our third trip to Japan we like it so much. Trip is scheduled for April 2013 to coincide with cherry blossom period. We arrive 3 April and already booked in Kyoto for 4 nights. We then have 6 nights free before arriving for 2 nights of 13 and 14 April in Takayama for the festival and then on to Tokyo for 3 nights before departure on 18 April. On previous 2 visits we have spent time in Hakodate (Christmas and New Year - fabulous!), which we really liked. We want to visit Hakodate again for say 3 nights but because of long Kyoto- Hakodate train journey wish to break it for say 2 or 3 nights en route but not sure where we should stop, so grateful for advice. We have visited most of the other must see destinations around Kyoto, Tokyo and also Kanazawa. Saw a reference to Ichinoseki/northern Tohuku?
Lastly, as travelling in blossum period to and around Kyoto/Takayama is probably busy, can we book in advance or do we leave it until we arrive in Japan? We hope to travel First class.
Here are some answers for you:
Overnighting in Tohoku? Morioka is a great base
While Ichinoseki is a nice town, it doen't have that much to offer in terms of tourism. Tohoku recommendations are:
- Matsushima (beautiful islands)
- Hiraizumi (temple town)
- Kakunodate (great sakura!)
- Hirosaki (great sakura!)
- Tazawa-ko and Towada-ko (huge volcanic crater lakes)
For these locations, I recommend staying in Morioka or Aomori, with Morioka possibly making the better base of the two as you have easy access to lots of the above.
As you have a lot of time before your trip I strongly recommend you take a look at the "Japan By Rail" book, the 3rd edition of which is due for release soon. This book is an excellent source of information for Tohoku travel and will give you some great inspiration!
Reserving seats in advance
Although you'll be travelling during cherry blossom season, as you're not travelling during the Golden Week national holiday period of April 29th - May 5th, you should find the trains as quiet (or busy!) as normal. For the routes outside of the JR-East area you are unable to book seats in advance, however for travel in Tohoku and JR-East zones, you can use this webpage to book online. Please note that while reservations are free for JRPass holders, you will need a credit card to book online, and if you fail to pick up your reservation tickets 1 day in advance at the latest you will be charged for the reservation. As you have a big window of time in Kansai before you travel up Tohoku I recommend that you place your reservations 100% for free on arrival into Kansai Airport, or at your convenience at Kyoto station once you have your Japan Rail Pass.
Hope this helps!
Many thanks for your fast and practical recommendations. We will get the Japan by Rail book but I expect we will go with your advice.
Very many thanks and regards,
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