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Three weeks Japan after business trip - Nature/Old Japan focused - Recommendations/suggestions?

over 3 years ago
4 responses

Hi everyone,

Two weeks ago I heard that I'll be spending a few weeks in Shanghai on a business trip at the start-mid of October. Seeing that I've always wanted to go to Japan and Shanghai is so close to Japan, I've decided to extend my stay after the project in Shanghai is done and do a 3 week vacation in Japan! I want to fly into Tokyo from Shanghai and my boyfriend will fly in the same day from the Netherlands

I've been researching since then and am amazed by how much information I can find. Enough that I do not want to "restrict" myself to a prearranged (group) tour, but create my own itinerary

One thing that slightly complicates matters, is that besides any luggage I want to take for my 3 weeks in Japan (walking shoes, fleece shirts for colder weather in the Alps, etc.) I will also have my business clothes for those first 3 weeks in Shanghai. Thus, a big luggage bag I'm afraid. Therefore, I wanted to try and base us in one hotel for a few days and do day trips from there

This is what I have in mind right now:

Tokyo Area:
Day 0 - Oct 17 - Fri: Fly to Tokyo
Day 1 - Oct 18 - Sat: Arrive in Tokyo - Go to hotel - Start sightseeing
Day 2 - Oct 19 - Sun: Tokyo - At least go to Harajuku to see the dressed up teens
Day 3 - Oct 20 - Mon: Day trip to Nikko
Day 4 - Oct 21 - Tue: Tokyo
Day 5 - Oct 22 - Wed: Day trip to Kamakura
Day 6 - Oct 23 - Thu: Tokyo

Mt. Fuji Area:
Day 7 - Oct 24 - Fri: Leave Tokyo in the morning and go to Hakone - Spend night in Ryokan with hot spring. I'm not really sure if we should stay in the Hakone area or the Five Lakes area. Looking at the places to visit at Five Lakes the Chureito Pagoda seems like such a beautiful place. I also want to spend the night to increase my changes to really see Mt. Fuji in the morning

Kyoto Area:
Day 8 - Oct 25 - Sat: Leave Mt. Fuji area and go to Kyoto
Day 9 - Oct 26 - Sun: Kyoto
Day 10 - Oct 27 - Mon: Day trip to Nara
Day 11 - Oct 28 - Tue: Day trip to Osaka
Day 12 - Oct 29 - Wed: Go to Mt. Koya to spend the night in a temple. I've read in another post that it might be possible to leave your big luggage with the hotel in Kyoto if we were to stay there for another night after our visit to Mt. Koya. Is Mt. Koya something to do for an entire day? Or should we leave Kyoto in the early afternoon?
Day 13 - Oct 30 - Thu: Leave Mt. Koya - Visit Himeji Castle - Go back to Kyoto in the afternoon. Is it easy to go to Himeji Castle from Mt. Koya, or should we do Himeji in an earlier day?
Day 14 - Oct 31 - Fri: Kyoto

Japanese Alps Area:
Ok, so here is where my itinerary is the most fuzzy, because I cannot really find the best/efficient route to visit all of the places I want to see. Especially with a big luggage trunk.
The things I want to do/see are: Do the Tateyama Alpine Route, visit and stay a night in a farmhouse in Shirakawa-go, visit/hike in Kamikochi, visit Matsumoto Castle, visit Kanazawa Kenrokuen, visit Takayama. Does anybody have any suggestions of what to do in which order and stay the night where?

Day 15 - Nov 1 - Sat: Leave Kyotot and go to Kanazawa
Day 16 - Nov 2 - Sun: Japanse Alps fuzziness
Day 17 - Nov 3 - Mon: Japanse Alps fuzziness - National Holiday I think?
Day 18 - Nov 4 - Tue: Japanse Alps fuzziness
Day 19 - Nov 5 - Wed: Japanse Alps fuzziness
Day 20 - Nov 6 - Thu: Leave Japanese Alps (from Matsumoto?) and go to Tokyo
Day 21 - Nov 7 - Fri: Fly out from Tokyo back to Amsterdam

Here are my reasons for/other questions about choosing this itinerary:

I've tried not to go to any autumn leave location during the weekends

After reading about the Ryokan, Minshuku and Temple Lodgings I wish I could spend every night in one of these, they seem like such an amazing experience! But that will get way to expensive I'm afraid. Our budget is maxed at about €2500 ($3300 / 340,000 Yen). But if anybody has some suggestions for nice traditional ryokan I'd love to hear

Not sure if we have too much time in Kyoto. But in the case we do get "temple fatigue" I think we will do a day trip to Hiroshjima/Miyajima instead

I think the 21 JR pass would be the best option for this trip?

We're both not really the night life kind of people. We like to get up early but still get our 7-8 hours a night. More of the Nature, old Japan mystique kind of people I guess :) (however, Kabuki is something that seems great to visit and if there is something else at night that we absolutely have to see, we don't mind the occasional short night ;) We just don't really go out in bars, etc.)

I've read my fare share of manga during my teens (especially from CLAMP), so I'd also love to hear any suggestions of places to visit that connect to this

Since it's only about 8 weeks away, I really have to start finding and booking hotels fast before they sell out :S (especially the ryokan and temple I hear)

Sorry, after typing it all out I see that there are a lot of questions, but I hope some of you are willing to answer a few :)

Thank you for any help!

12228 posts
over 3 years ago
Expert button 2

Hi there!

This is a great plan and a lot of information and by the far the longest post I've seen in some time.. I'll need a some extra time to write a replay for you.

I should be able to give you a detailed answer tomorrow :)

4 posts
over 3 years ago

Yes, sorry about the big post... I just kept on typing and putting all of my thoughts in the post. Even then I thought it might be too much for one post, but only after I posted it did I see the extend of it, haha (and thought I had should have split my post up into multiple smaller questions)

But thank you, I am looking forward to your reply!

7 posts
over 3 years ago

I look forward to seeing the reply to this post as it just about mirrors my plans exactly. Will be travelling in October, perhaps from around the 6th.

Saved me from typing this all in as a question!!

4 posts
over 3 years ago

Glad to hear my endless post might help another as well :)

As a small update, I'm also thinking of switching the Japanese Alps and do this right after leaving Tokyo. Then from the Alps to Kyoto and next Mt Fuji and back to Tokyo for the flight home, so flipping the order after Tokyo :)

I hope this will increase my chances of still seeing red leaves in the Alps instead of snow and will put me in Kyoto for the national holiday on Monday Nov 3rd, where I hopefully will have more luck finding a decent hotel instead of in the Alps (where I would also expect large crowds then)

7 posts
over 3 years ago

I'm sure Daniel-san is preparing an excellent reply for you! I hope you have a fantastic holiday. :-)

12228 posts
over 3 years ago
Expert button 2

Hi there!

As promised here is my replay. I see that we've drawn a bit of a crowd too :)

Okay let's get started. The begin of your trip looks great, a visit to Nikko is something I'd do for sure as well. Since you are interested in youth culture and has a previous interest in Anime, consider visiting Nakano Broadway in Tokyo, I'd also recommend a visit to Akihabara even if it's just an hour to experience the atmosphere of Otaku town.
A nice to walk to make when you are in Harajuku is to walk the streets of Omote Sando, known as the 5th avenue of Tokyo. Omote-sando basically is a long lane and once you reach the end of it, turn right and you walk right into Shibuya.

Going to Fuji, both Fuji five lakes and Hakone are beautiful places to visit. What you should keep in mind is that visiting Fuji five lakes can add a lot of extra travel time, especially if you head to Kyoto after. So Hakone may be the better choice. Most hotels will keep your luggage if you stay there within the coming days. So you could leave your luggage there and make a trip to Kyoto. There's also a cloakroom in the basement of Kyoto station, you could also store your luggage there if the hotel this not work out. All together it would take about 3 hours of travel from Koya - Himeji castle but there should be more than enough time to look around if you plan ahead. You can use the Shinkansen to return from Himeji to Kyoto, which is a lot faster!

Okay, so now the Japanese alps. This is indeed a pain to plan. Since you basically want to see it all, I would travel first to Takayama from Takayama it would make most sense to take an express but the Shirakawa-go. The bus has a huge luggage compartment, so bringing your big suitcase should be not problem. There are lockers suitcase sized lockers available at the Shirakawago tourist information. I would recommend doing it this way, because you can take an other bus from Shirakwago to Takayama. This would be the best route in terms of travel time. An alternative would be to return to Takayama and take the train from there to Kanazawa but this would add about 3 hours of extra travel time. From Kanazawa it's not hard to travel to Toyama and travel the Kurobe Alpine which ends in Shinano-Omachi. Which is only an hours ride from Matsumoto. Matsumoto makes for a great base to visit Kamikochi from and it is also easy to return from to Tokyo. The train ride from Matsumoto to Shinjuku (Tokyo) is very nice and worth making in itself.

I see that you may do Fuji at the end instead of the beginning, this would not make a lot difference. So you could just switch them around.

A visit to Miyajima and especially Hiroshima is also something I would recommend but it may be hard to plan in. Especially the Hiroshima peace musium and memorial park are things that will leave a lasting impression.

For hotels, Ryokans use websites that focus on travel in Japan, instead of global booking websites. Websites that specialize in Japan usually offer better rates. I like to use Rakuten travel and Japanican.

That's it for now :) Hope it makes for a good start!

4 posts
over 3 years ago

Thank you for your elaborate replay Daniel-san!

I've added all of your Tokyo suggestions to my list (I'll decide what to view on which day in which order later ^)

While investigating the Alpine Route, I saw only one room still available in a hotel along the route, so I already booked it (free to cancel though) at the Midagahara. I hope Oct 27th won't be too late to still see some autumn foliage along the way :)

The Rakuten website offers much better prices indeed!

I don't think I would mind taking my luggage to Kyoto since we'll be staying there for so many nights. As long as they'll keep our luggage during our 1 night in Koya. But I'm not sure about my luggage in the Japanese Alps, although you say the express to Shirakawa-go has large luggage space, what about all the other travels? Could I send my luggage from Tokyo to Kyoto where the Kyoto hotel will have to hold if for a few nights?

So, with your suggestions, this is how my itinerary is looking now:

Day 0 - Oct 16 - Thu: Fly to Tokyo - Due to airplane ticket prices, we're starting one day earlier
Day 1 - Oct 17 - Fri: Arrive in Tokyo - Go to hotel - Start sightseeing
Day 2 - Oct 18 - Sat: Tokyo
Day 3 - Oct 19 - Sun: Tokyo - Harajuku
Day 4 - Oct 20 - Mon: Day trip to Nikko
Day 5 - Oct 21 - Tue: Day trip to Kamakura

Japanese Alps:
Day 6 - Oct 22 - Wed: Leave Tokyo, go to Matsumoto to visit castle, stay night in Kamikochi
Day 7 - Oct 23 - Thu: Hike in Kamikochi, visit and stay the night in Takayama
Day 8 - Oct 24 - Fri: Visit/Leave Takayama, visit and stay night in Shirakawago (if there's still room...)
Day 9 - Oct 25 - Sat: Leave Shirakawago, visit and spend night in Kanazawa
Day 10 - Oct 26 - Sun: Leave Kanazawa, start Alpine route from Toyoma, stay night in Midagahara
Day 11 - Oct 27 - Mo: Leave Midagahara, finish Alpine route, go to Kyoto

Day 12 - Oct 28 - Tue: Kyoto
Day 13 - Oct 29 - Wed: Kyoto & 1/2 day trip to Himeji castle
Day 14 - Oct 30 - Thu: Go to Mt. Koya to visit and spend night in temple (if there is still room.. otherwise another day)
Day 15 - Oct 31 - Fri: Leave Mt. Koya and return to Kyoto
Day 16 - Nov 1 - Sat: Kyoto
Day 17 - Nov 2 - Sun: Day trip to Nara
Day 18 - Nov 3 - Mo: Day trip to Osaka (National Holiday)
Day 19 - Nov 4 - Tue: Day trip to Hiroshima/Miyajima

Mt Fuji:
Day 20 - Nov 5 - Wed: Leave Kyoto go to Hakone and stay the night
Day 21 - Nov 6 - Thu: Leave Hakone go to Tokyo for last sightseeing
Day 22 - Nov 7 - Fri: Fly out from Tokyo back to Amsterdam

I cannot fit the 14 day JR Pass into this :S, so I guess it's the 21 days

Is it still good hiking weather in Kamikochi late Oct?

Can we still get to the Chureito Pagoda at Mt Fuji Five Lakes on Nov 5th from Hakone, or should we choose between Hakone and Mt Fuji Five Lakes area?

Time to start making a list of hotels (and a few Ryokan). I think I'll start with the Shirakawa-go and Mt. Koya first since I think those might be full the soonest and if so, I might be able to switch it to another day then :)

If anybody still has some suggestions, I'd love to hear them!

Thank you

12228 posts
over 3 years ago
Expert button 2

Hi again!

That looks great, it's also good that you have a plan for the Alpine region. Most people visit one, two or maybe three places in the area but you plan visit them all :D which makes for creative planning.

For luggage in the Alps (or elsewhere in Japan) you can consider using a luggage forwarding service. Also knows as a Takyhaibin service. It's a good way to forward luggage, you may also select a delivery date, so you could have them "store your luggage a couple of days for you". The full run down can be found here: Also if you explain to your hotel that you'll come back, I think that they'll hold it for you as well.

The weather in Oct should still be good, although there could be showers.

Visiting Hakone from Kyoto would work very well. Hakone is directly on the route back to Tokyo, so it makes for a good stopover. Going to the Fuji 5 Lakes would add a good amount of extra travel time. I think there's more to do around Hakone as well.

Hope this helps, let me know if there's something I may assist with!

7 posts
over 3 years ago

Hi, it's Justine again, the gatecrasher of your thread!

As I noted earlier, my tentative itinerary is quite close to this, so everything you've discussed has been very interesting to me!

However, so as not to intrude further here, I am going to start my own thread.

Daniel-san, I am hoping you will be able to help me over on the new thread!

Thanks. :-)

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