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9-10 day in Japan itinerary...critique pls!!!

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9-10 day in Japan itinerary...critique pls!!!

My husband and I are going to Japan for the first time this May. We plan on being there for 9-10 days sometime in mid or end of May. I've read so many threads on itineraries but i'd love to read your opinions on my itinerary please:

Day 1 - from LAX-NRT arriving in NRT at 5am so plan on taking the shinkansen straight to Kyoto (we plan on taking ANA...returning flight leaves from NRT early am so we will do Tokyo last. Would have loved to do open jaw and arrive in Osaka but it's a few hundred $$ more expensive and we still have to stop over at Tokyo anyway)

Day2,3,4 - Kyoto

Day 5,6 - Takayama (the pictures look so beautiful...love the quaint old japan feel) and stay a ryokan with onsen

Day 7,8,9 - Tokyo (possibly Hakone as day trip if weather permits)

Day 10 - fly back home from HND

What do you think? It's our first time and may be the only time going to Japan because there are so many other beautiful places in the world that I want to see.

Is this too much traveling on trains?

Is Takayama worth the detour? Or should I be happy with the "old Japan" feel of Kyoto and scrap it completely?

Is Hakone a must see? I've read that weather can be questionable in May so is it worth going there if weather is so-so and we can't see Mt. Fuji?

Any suggestions or critiques?

I know there are tons of itinerary questions out there but I'd really appreciate your help.

Thank you so much :)

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1. Re: 9-10 day in Japan itinerary...critique pls!!!

Hi, that looks like a good plan. You'll need to get the Narita Express to Tokyo (either Tokyo station, or the more convenient Shinagawa - a few minutes south of Tokyo station). Will you have a rail pass? There is the combined NEX/Suica ticket if not.

Takayama is a lovely place. The center is maybe more built up that you'd expect but there area east of the river with the old houses is beautifull, especially with the market stalls. Hida Takayama is also an interesting place to visit with the old buildings.

You will certainly get the old feel of Japan though in Kyoto as well though, especially with areas such as Gion and heading to the North East (roughly the areas around Kinkakuji (silver temple as opposed to gold temple)).

If you did stay longer around Kyoto Kansai there are options such as Nara and Mt Koya which will also give a nice feeling of traditional Japan.

Personally I find Hakone a little bit too touristy. If the weather is right it's beautifull though, with the views of Mt Fuji. If it's cloudy, I would maybe go somewhere else (with some luck you will see Fujisan from the train as well). Should you skip that, the other classic options are Nikko and lake Chuzenjiko and Kamakura.

In terms of train travel, that doesn't sound like too much to me. Japanese trains are extremely efficient and comfortable.

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2. Re: 9-10 day in Japan itinerary...critique pls!!!

I also think your plan looks good. Kyoto was the capital city of Japan for over a thousand years until Meiji Restoration of 1867, so it's a large built up city. There are some quaint quarters of Kyoto which is a joy to walk in early morning hours, but if you want a more relaxing old feel it is better to include Takayama in your itinerary. You would probably like to visit Nara (I would say Todaiji is "a must see") as well as it's older and quieter than Kyoto. Kamakura or Nikko could be a nice place to go from Tokyo, as suggested above (I personally prefer Kamakura as it has a richer history and more places to see). Hakone is touristy, but riding different transports (a mountain railway, cable car, ropeway, and even pirate ship!) is part of the fun. However, the main attraction there are definitely onsen hot springs.

Long distance train travel in Japan is actually fun and relaxing, as you will probably find out. You may take the NEX to Shinagawa, but Tokyo Station has a greater variety of lunch boxes to take away and gifts to look at.

Tokyo and California
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3. Re: 9-10 day in Japan itinerary...critique pls!!!

>>>Day 1 - from LAX-NRT arriving in NRT at 5am so plan on taking the shinkansen straight to Kyoto (we plan on taking ANA...returning flight leaves from NRT early am so we will do Tokyo last.<<<

Are you sure about this? You're arriving at NRT and leaving from Haneda? As far as I know all flights from LAX arrive at NRT in late afternoon to evening. The 5am arrival is at HND.

The reason I ask is that if you're going to use the JR Pass and leaving to Kyoto on arrival, you won't be able to activate your pass at HND until 11am. You'll have to take a bus to Shin-Yokohama, activate the pass and take the Shinkansen to Kyoto from there.

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4. Re: 9-10 day in Japan itinerary...critique pls!!!

I didnt do Takayama (next time) but the rest looks good. One tip for Kyoto is a super walking tour that I always recommend called walk in kyoto talk in english. They take place 3 times a week from outside the rail station and basically it takes you around the back streets which will include some shrines and temples and an awesome sushi tasting. The best part was the guide who talks to you about just about everything to do with japan; the culture, the traditions, the religion, everyday life etc. It was amazing. The tour ends by the kyumizu dera temple which is very conveniently one of kyotos major attractions. Aside from the temple there are some super side streets around here. Gion is amzing in the evening and you have every chance to see geisha.

have a great trip

angie

www.angietravels.com

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5. Re: 9-10 day in Japan itinerary...critique pls!!!

Thank you so much paulwoodh, yobeekool, shibuyakko & angietravels1 for your responses. I appreciate it.

@Shibuyakko - thank you so much for pointing it out to me. You're right...I would be landing at HND at 5am. We planned on getting the JR Pass.

Please correct me if I'm wrong but I believe the bus ride from Shin - Yokohama is 2 hours & Yokohama to Kyoto shinkansen is ~ 2.5 hours. If we take HND - Kyoto directly via shinkansen, that'd take approx 169min. That's a big difference.

Hmm...my flight back home departs at 9am from NRT. What should we do? Any recommendations? Should we just explore Tokyo first then see Kyoto last? We don't want to rush having to go back to NRT from Kyoto. Plus I know we'll be jetlagged so I was hoping the train ride will help us get some rest before exploring our first destination. I'm assuming the JR pass cover the trip from HND to Tokyo? So either way we still have to wait until the office opens at 11am, correct? Are there any good waiting areas at HND airport to wait for ~ 4-5 hours? I remember NRT having rooms for rent by the hour. Does HND have the same thing?

Another thing is I'm worried about getting "templed-out". We want to see temples because that's part of the experience but I'm sure we'd get tired of seeing it after going to a few temples (We got tired of seeing cathedrals in Europe after seeing a few of them). That's one of the reasons why I didn't really include Nara, Mt. Koya, Kamakura & Nikko. I'm sure each of these places has its own appeal but we will be seeing a lot of temples already in Kyoto & Tokyo. Which one is a "must-see" of those areas? Since we're going to Takayama, would it be somewhat redundant if we want to experience the old traditional Japan? Should we just do more day trips out of Tokyo & Kyoto instead of going to Takayama?

@angietravels1 - Thank you for the recommendation. That's Johnny Hillwalker tour right? I was planning on taking his tour since I've read a lot of good reviews about him.

Thank you so much everyone. I really appreciate all of your help. :)

Edited: 02 February 2012, 22:22
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6. Re: 9-10 day in Japan itinerary...critique pls!!!

Just found out that the JR Pass doesn't cover the Nozomi train. So I guess we'd have to take Hikari and it'd take ~190-202 min to get from HND to Kyoto.

Tokyo and California
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7. Re: 9-10 day in Japan itinerary...critique pls!!!

>>>>If we take HND - Kyoto directly via shinkansen, that'd take approx 169min.<<

I don't know where you got this idea but it's not correct. There is no direct Shinkansen from Haneda to Kyoto. In order to take the Shinkansen, you'll have to go to Tokyo Station or Shinagawa from Haneda.

I suggested the bus to Shin-Yokohama, since the JR office there opens at 5:30am. If you're willing to kill a few hours at Haneda, go to Shinagawa, activate the JR Pass and take the Shinkansen from there. JR Pass does not cover the Keikyu train from Haneda to Shinagawa. The fare is only 400 yen. You can wait until 11am at Haneda, activate the pass and take the monorail to Hamamatsucho and take the Yamanote Line to Shinagawa or Tokyo Station then transfer to the Shinkansen. The monorail and Yamanote are covered by the pass. But to me, it's a waste of time just to save 400 yen.

With all this said, I think the bus to Shin-Yokohama and taking the Shinkansen is the best option if you're going straight to Kyoto. You can rest on the train. The bus to Shin-Yokohama takes ~35 minutes and costs 820 yen.

If your flight home leaves at 9am, you need to be in Tokyo the night before.

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8. Re: 9-10 day in Japan itinerary...critique pls!!!

One more thing. Shinagawa to Kyoto on the Hikari train takes ~160 minutes, from Shin-Yokohama, ~150 minutes.

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9. Re: 9-10 day in Japan itinerary...critique pls!!!

Thank you shibuyakko...I must have looked at the wrong thing. I was searching at timetables/itineraries on hyperdia.com. I'm still learning on what's covered & not covered by the JR Pass.

So just to clarify, the HND to Shin on Keikyu train takes ~21 min + ~35min bus ride Shin to Yokohama + ~160 min from Yokohama to Kyoto on the Hikari. Is that correct?

Where would I find information on the bus from Shin to Yokohama? and the departure times? I'd have to buy tickets on the same station as the train station?

Thank you so much for your help :)

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10. Re: 9-10 day in Japan itinerary...critique pls!!!

>>>So just to clarify, the HND to Shin on Keikyu train takes ~21 min + ~35min bus ride Shin to Yokohama + ~160 min from Yokohama to Kyoto on the Hikari. Is that correct?<<<

No. If you're going to take the Shinkansen to Kyoto at Shinagawa, you'll take the Keikyu Line. In this case, it takes ~20 minutes (HND to Shinagawa) + ~160 minutes (Shinagawa to Kyoto.)

If you're taking the Shinkansen at Shin-Yokohama (not Yokohama,) it takes ~35 minutes by bus from HND to Shin-Yokohama +~150 minutes (Shin-Yokohama to Kyoto.)

Again the issue you're facing is where to activate your JR Pass early in the morning. Shinagawa Exchange office opens at 9am and the office at Shin-Yokohama, at 5:30am:

http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en009.html

HND-Shin-Yokohama bus info:

http://hnd-bus.com/route/shinyokohama.html