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15 days in japan - opinions on this itinerary?

15 Days in Japan - opinions on this itinerary?

We are planning our first trip to Japan in mid-Novermber of this year. We arrive in Tokyo on Saturday 8 November (late afternoon arrival time), and depart on Monday 24 November (late afternoon departure time). Not counting our arrival or departure days, we will have 15 full days.

Here is what I have been thinking about our itinerary (all departure and arrival times are estimates, but I believe should be roughly correct, if I am reading the HyperDia website correctly):

Day 0: Flight arrival at Tokyo Narita 16:00. Evening in Tokyo. Sleep Tokyo.
Day 1: Tokyo. Sleep Tokyo.
Day 2: Early train to Nikko (depart 8:00), arrive Nikko 10:00, day in Nikko. Sleep Nikko.
Day 3: Morning and lunch in Nikko. Mid-afternoon train (depart 14:00?) Nikko-Tokyo-Hakone, transfer to Lake Kawaguchi. Arrive Lake Kawaguchi. 18:00-19:00. Sleep Lake Kawaguchi.
Day 4: Day around Hakone/Lake Kawaguchi. Sleep Lake Kawaguchi.
Day 5: Early train from Hakone to Kyoto. Arrive Kyoto mid-afternoon (15:00?). Afternoon and evening in Kyoto. Sleep Kyoto.
Day 6: Kyoto. Sleep Kyoto.
Day 7: Kyoto. Sleep Kyoto.
Day 8: Day trip from Kyoto to Nara, returning Nara to Osaka. Sleep Osaka.
Day 9: Osaka. Sleep Osaka.
Day 10: Morning in Osaka. Depart Osaka around 12:00 noon to Takayama. Arrive Takayama 15:00. Sleep Takayama.
Day 11: Morning in Takayama, with short afternoon day trip to Shirakawa-go, return to Takayama by dark. Sleep Takayama.
Day 12: Morning train Takayama to Tokyo, arrive Tokyo 13:00. Afternoon in Tokyo. Sleep Tokyo.
Day 13: Tokyo. Sleep Tokyo.
Day 14: Tokyo. Sleep Tokyo.
Day 15: Tokyo. Sleep Tokyo.
Day 16: Morning in Tokyo, then to airport after lunchtime, for a 16:00 flight departure, fly home.

I think this itinerary will work, although I have some concerns about the following:
Day 3, where we plan to leave Nikko around 14:00 and plan to arrive at Lake Kawaguchi around 18:30.

In general, I prefer to minimize "one night stands" (places where we only spend one night, and then quickly move on) because I know if we do that too many times (or several days in a row) it is not an efficient use of our time (and we become more tired) with the constant check-in, check-out - I prefer to have some days where we are not changing accommodations, so we have a place to come home to after sightseeing all day. Although my itinerary does have one single-night stay, it is early in the trip and I think we will recover.

I also like to mix up time in big cities with time out in smaller towns or countryside. Although this trip has about 7 or 8 full days in large cities (Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka) is also has an equal number of days in smaller towns.

I believe we will have a 14-day JR pass for this trip. We would also need to pay for transportation between Narita and Tokyo at both ends of the trip, but if we activated the pass on Day 3 (Tokyo to Nikko), I think the JR pass should cover all our other train travel (except for one day in Tokyo at the end - I assume we will be getting a subway pass for that).

I would welcome any input on this itinerary, especially opinions on whether this is a realistic amount of travel (does any day look very crazy?), and if you have any better ideas for organizing these places into 15 day trip.

Thank you for your help!


Hi there,

First I would like to say that I really enjoy reading your itinerary plans. You've done some great research and I think the itinerary works very well. Travelling from Nikko - Kawaguchiko should not proof to be much of a problem, although it does take some time.

The JR Pass works very well here and covers nearly all rail travel. The only part where you will need an extra ticket is the last part between Otsuki - Kawaguchiko, this is around 1,200yen. For your arrival I would recommend the 1,500yen Narita Express ticket.

For the rest, I think it all looks good. You've already planned everything very well, so there's not much that I can add to it. The only thing where I would be careful is your return to the Airport. It's at least an hours worth of travel to Narita Airport, so you may want to leave Tokyo before lunch, or take an Eki Bento on board.

Hope this helps!

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Thank you very much for your input, Daniel-san.

We are now considering a variation on this itinerary, as described below, and I would welcome you thoughts on this as well. I'll refer to the original itinerary as Plan A, the modified itinerary below as Plan B:

Day 0: Flight arrival at Tokyo Narita 16:00. Evening in Tokyo. Sleep Tokyo.
Day 1: Tokyo. Sleep Tokyo.
Day 2: Early train to Nikko (depart 8:00), arrive Nikko 10:00, day in Nikko. Sleep Nikko.
Day 3: Morning and lunch in Nikko. Activate JR Pass. Mid-afternoon train (depart 14:00?) Nikko-Tokyo-Kyoto. Sleep Kyoto.
Day 4: Kyoto. Sleep Kyoto.
Day 5: Kyoto. Sleep Kyoto.
Day 6: Day trip from Kyoto to Nara, returning Nara to Osaka. Sleep Osaka.
Day 7: Osaka. Sleep Osaka.
Day 8: Depart Osaka around 8 am to Takayama. Arrive Takayama 11:00. Afternoon in Takayama, with a short side trip to Shirakawa-go, return to Takayama by dinner. Sleep Takayama.
Day 9: Early morning market in Takayama, then depart Takayama by train by 10:00, to Tokyo, then to Lake Kawaguchi. Sleep lake Kawaguchi. Last day of JR Pass
Day 10: Lake Kawaguchi and Hakone. Depart for Tokyo late afternoon (16:00 or 17:00), arrive Tokyo 18:00-19:00. Sleep Tokyo.
Day 11: Tokyo. Sleep Tokyo.
Day 12: Tokyo. Sleep Tokyo.
Day 13: Tokyo. Sleep Tokyo.
Day 14: Tokyo. Sleep Tokyo.
Day 15: Tokyo. Sleep Tokyo.
Day 16: Morning in Tokyo, then to airport around lunchtime, for a 16:00 flight departure, fly home.

The difference here is that with Plan B:
- Coming from Nikko, we go (via Tokyo) all the way to Kyoto (rather than to Hakone). This puts the Hakone/Lake Kawaguchi visit after Takayama. This makes for a longer return from Takayama, but it also shortens two stops (which is both good and bad) - We change our time spent in Takayama and Lake Kawaguchi/Hakone from two nights each (from Plan A) to one night each - Our time in both Takayama and Lake Kawguchi would be shorter (one night each, rather than two night each in Plan A) but we would still have about the same amount of usable time there (not quite 24 hours, roughly a full day) - We would have 5 full days in Tokyo at the end of the trip (in Plan A, we had 3 days there at the end) - Although this means more "one night stands" (in Takayama and Lake Kawaguchi), it also reduces the number of days we would need the JR pass for - under plan A, we would buy the 14 day JR Pass. Under Plan B, we would buy the 7 day JR pass, plus separate tickets or short passes for the outbound Tokyo-Nikko and return from Hakone to Tokyo. - My wife seems to prefer this (Plan B) since it would reduce the cost of the JR Pass, and allow more time for shopping in Tokyo (although I think the money spent in Tokyo on those extra days will probably be more than the cost of the more expensive 14 day JR Pass...hmmm...)

My only concern with Plan B (other than how much my wife could spend with 2 extra days in Tokyo...) is the plan for Day 9, where we would start the day in Takayama, and end the day in Lake Kawaguchi. This would be a long day spent almost all on the train. I believe the train from Takayama to Tokyo is about 5.5 hours. I'm not sure if the fastest way to Lake Kawaguchi would be to go to Tokyo and then head back to Lake Kawaguchi (this does not seem logical when viewinga map, but I think the faster train would go to Tokyo, and even if we "double back" to Hakone/Lake Kawaguch from Tokyo, it might be faster).

This segment - from Takayama to Lake Kawaguchi - is the one I think I need help with.
Is this realistic? I'm assuming the trip would take about 7.5 hours (5.5 hours Takayama to Tokyo, then 2 more hours Tokyo to Lake Kawaguchi). Is there a more efficient route? I'm also wondering about arrival time - if we arrive in Tokyo (from Takayama) around 15:30-16:00, is there an efficient way to get to Lake Kawaguchi at that hour?

We will be traveling in November, so I know it will get dark early, and in smaller towns I assume many things (bus connections, restaurants) may close early.

Many thanks for any advice you can offer!


Hi again,

You are certainly planning every thing in detail and doing so much research before your travel is something I can certainly appropriate and would recommend to anyone. Travel from Takayama - Kawaguchiko (ko means lake) is indeed a long trip and will take up most of your day - which I feel is a waste, since you are there on Holiday. You could consider travelling there on a day trip from Tokyo later on - or even spend the night there and return to Tokyo the following day, there are bus services running between both places for around 1,700yen so the ticket does not have to cost much extra. This would make the whole itinerary feel more relaxed and you could use the JR Pass for something else. Such as travel to Nikko or if your wife loves shopping visit Gotemba with it. Gotemba offers a beautiful view of mount Fuji and you can visit the Premium Outlets there for shopping. It's a win-win!

An alternative to Kawaguchiko could also be visiting Hakone which offers more to see and do. It is also much more easy to reach as it has a Shinkansen station (called Odawara). This would be much more easy to reach from Takayama.

These are my thoughts, I hope you find them useful!

PS: Generally shops won't close earlier because of the weather/season.

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