Firstly, thank you all for your help. Especially Edokko and Londonbob.
1. After departing Kyoto, which destination would you recommend for 1 night stay: OKayama, meyajima or Kurashiki
*and not too difficult to get to.
**We prefer less commercial places, a charming/quaint or culturally rich, natural beauty etc.
2. Need recommendations for hotels in kyoto--3 stars+.
What side trips for 3-4 days while in kyoto?
3. Got 7 day JR rail pass--do I need to make reservations going to hakone, takayama, kyoto, and back to tokyo? I am planning to just show up at the train stations and take next available train--is this risky?