Three weeks - first time in Japan
Konnichiwa, Hello, Bonjour,
My husband and I (two adults, no kids) will be traveling in Japan for three weeks in July 2015, precisely from July 5th to 24th. We're very excited, and a bit frightened... Traveling in Japan seems, at the same time, easy (great trains), and hard (no idea how the system works!). We heard about the JR pass, and are wondering what kind of pass (and for how many days) we should buy.
Here's, so far, our traveling plan :
NARITA airport - July 5th
TOKYO- July 5th to July 11th (6 nights)
KANAZAWA -July 11th to July 13th (2 nights)
TAKAYAMA -July 13th to July 15th (2 nights)
KYOTO -July 15th to July 20th (5 nights)
HIROSHIMA - July 20th to July 22nd (2 nights)
NARA - July 22th to July 24th (2 nights)
We plan to take a train (shinkansen? which one?) from Hiroshima to Nara. While in Nara, we plan to walk around, and use the local transports (subway, bus, trains).
ITAMI airport - July 24th
So, considering all that, wich JR pass should we take, and for how many days? Also, is it possible to reserve our seats in all those trains (shinkansen or regular train) in advance, and how?
If you could reply to this email, it would be greatly appreciated! Arigato! Thank you! Merci beaucoup!
A 3 week pass would pay off, especially if you take the day trip from Tokyo to Nikko. You can start using the pass immediately from Narita Airport, and take the Narita Express into Tokyo. You can also use the pass on the JR Yamanote Line in Tokyo which goes to many popular places. For some though, you'll need to buy regular subway tickets, which are not expensive. You are right that travel during rush hour with luggage is hell, but the roads are not exactly free of cars either, by any stretch. It would be better to get up extra early or wait til about 9AM for the rush hour crowds to be gone.
and check when you know your schedule more. (Be sure you also click on "More Options", then uncheck the Nozomi/Mizuho box. You can't ride those bullet trains with the Pass). For getting from Kanazawa to Takayama using your pass, see the above link again. Shirakawa-go is well worth seeing, although you will be finished in just a couple of hours. You also might look into Ogimachi. See:
For getting from Takayama to Kyoto using your pass, see the above link again. You can use the Pass also to get from Kyoto Stn to Arashiyama. Be sure to see some of the tucked away gems, like the Otagi Nenbutsu temple:
If you have time, Amanohashidate might be worth going to see, although it's time consuming to get to:
For the trains to Hiroshima, again see the above link. For what to see, try:
You can also get around the city using your Pass by bus:
Since you are spending some good time there, be sure to see in Hiroshima City the Mitakidera Temple as well - it is far off the beaten path with few tourists. It's a lovely hillside temple with nice trails and atmosphere. It's about 20 minutes on foot from Mitaki Stn.
Some of the other places may require you to travel by Kintetsu Rail - you can't use the Pass for that. In between Nara and Kyoto is Uji, which is also highly rated:
and worth going to if you have time.
I think Toraneko already made a very great post, here's what I can add to it. I remember my first time in Japan, just arriving without any knowledge of the local train system or well anything really. Even so, Japan grew quickly on me and found the country amazing.
For arrival, I would advise using the Keisei Skyliner + Metro pass. This si the fastest way to travel to Asakusa and the Metro Pass works great for exploring Tokyo a couple of days. Asakusa is one of the few places in Tokyo which does not have it's own JR station and is only accessable by metro. Therefor I'd advise buying metro tickets for the first couple of days. Asakusa also is on the Ginza line (directly to Ginza and Shibuya).
Then on to Kanazawa, this place is also amazing and so are the new Hokuriku shinkansen (although I have to admit that I have not had the pleasure of riding them myself). The Hokuriku Shinkansen depart from both Tokyo and Ueno stations. I'd advise to activate the JR Pass on this day, or the day befoer if you make a day trip to Nikko/Fuji.
For Shirakawago/Takayama. There are basically two options.
2.) Is to take an express bus from Kanazawa - Shirakawago and an other express bus from Shirakawa-go to Takayama. There are coinlockers available at the Shirakawa-go tourist information. This does taking your luggage with you on the bus but saves some travel time in the long run. Luggage can be stored in special compartments on the bottom.
To travel from Kyoto - Hiroshima, take the Shinkansen from Kyoto station to Shin-Osaka, there transfer to the Sakura Shinkansen bound for Hiroshima. The JR Pass is also valid on the Hiroshima sightseeing bus.
As for the JR Pass, I would also advise a 14 day JR Pass for your itinerary and use it to cover Tokyo - Kanazawa - Takayama - Kyoto - Hiroshima - Osaka. Here's how to make seat reservations.
Hope this helps,
Order your Japan Rail Pass Online
Starting from $255.00 for 7 days of unlimited Japan Rail travel