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Should I cut Koyasan from trip?

Virginia, United...
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Should I cut Koyasan from trip?

My family (husband, 18 y.o. son, 83 y.o. Japanese mother) and I are coming to Japan in 2 weeks! First time for husband and son. Itinerary as follows:

3 nights Tokyo (near one Japanese aunt),

3 nights Yokohama (near rest of mom's family)

1 night Takayama

5 nights Kyoto

1 night Koyasan (maybe cut?)

1 night Hiroshima/Miyajima

1 night Tokyo

Fly home from Narita.

I'm thinking the last 3 days will be hectic and thinking of cutting out Koyasan, then spend last 2 nights in Tokyo. As much as I would like to see Koyasan, it's a lot of traveling in 3 days. I'm thinking my family will be 'templed-out' also. I don't want to cut Hiroshima since my son is a big WWII history buff and I feel it's an important place to visit.

We will have a 14 day rail pass. My mom is staying a couple of weeks after we leave.

Any thoughts appreciated! Thanks!

Chicago, Illinois
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1. Re: Should I cut Koyasan from trip?

It just depends on how excited everyone is about temple stays. For some Koyasan would be the highest priority.

Btw, how energetic is your mother? Based on my experience travelling with seniors, I would try to limit the travel and hotel changes, so I would consider cutting Takayama just for that reason.

Virginia, United...
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2. Re: Should I cut Koyasan from trip?

Personally, I would choose Koyasan over Takayama. I'm thinking about my 18 yo son and husband though. They are not very adventurous. My husband would rather rent a sailboat and spend the day sailing! What about the train ride to Takayama (from Nagoya)? Guide books say it's a beautiful trip through the mountains. It seems to be an easier trip than getting to Koyasan.

London, England
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3. Re: Should I cut Koyasan from trip?

I stayed overnight at a Koya-san temple on my first trip to Japan and did so again on my most recent trip. Both times were one of the highlights of the trips. Even apart from the monasteries, the cemetery is very atmospheric (especially in the evening) and a shrine to the poet Matsuo Basho.

The journey to Koya-san is more complicated than getting to Takayama, but the trip up the mountain is is really lovely and much more dramatic (in places) than the trip to Takayama.

On the other hand, I really like Takayama and the city is more interesting in itself than the town on Mount Koya.

Near by is the collection of old houses moved from the countryside, which I found very interesting.

It might be worth cutting a day from Kyoto (although don't miss the nijo-jo). You may find your husband and son get "templed out" in Kyoto, Koya-san is as much about the countryside..

However, if neither is very adventurous, they may find Japan a bit of a struggle. I adored the food in Japan, but a good part of the time I had no idea what I was eating.

Nara, Japan
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4. Re: Should I cut Koyasan from trip?

I agree with Leagle.

OP, I think you should stet what you were inclined to correct in your itinerary: Takayama.

Takayama is a quaint old city that affords you with a very nice Japanese feel, IMO. In my case I was stirred first time I was here with everything I saw: from preserved old houses to vemillion bridges to elaborate small wooden souvenirs to soba buckwheet noodles (put on chic wooden wares) to etc, etc, all evoking vividly more of the images I had of the samurai-era than those in Kyoto. You never know how pleasantly surprised I was even as a Japanese.

Another good thing about Takayama is, you can tweak your itinerary a bit so you will get to know what northern japan alps have to offer because of its proximity to them. Never been to the Blue Ridge Mountains in your home state, um, just heard of it in a beautiful song, but if you ever come to Kamikochi and see snow-blanketed 9000feet-tall peaks after peaks then you'll sure like the views. Set against the backdrop of mountain vistas, lined along the beautiful river, Kamikochi can give you a nice respite from your temple-fatigue.

At the time of *your visit* Kamikochi will look like this:

http://tinyurl.com/bzl7m9n

http://tinyurl.com/bq9nskq

Across a mountain from Kamikochi, there's another place called Shin Hotaka:

http://tinyurl.com/cbucsr5

Have a blast!

Edited: 24 April 2013, 21:11
Virginia, United...
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5. Re: Should I cut Koyasan from trip?

Thanks for replies.

Shot-really beautiful pics! Wow!

"Another good thing about Takayama is, you can tweak your itinerary a bit so you will get to know what northern japan alps have to offer because of its proximity to them."

How would we tweak our itinerary to see these sights? We are locked into arriving to Kyoto beginning our 8th night, so we can only stay 1 night in Takayama. We could try to leave Yokohama early in the morning, then go late from Takayama to Kyoto the next day so we would have more time but could not stay a second night.

I think I will cut Koyasan so that we have 2 nights in Tokyo before leaving Japan. This way we get last chance to visit with relatives.

Nara, Japan
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6. Re: Should I cut Koyasan from trip?

Nohi Bus is a godsend to tourists wanting to do Kamikochi as a day trip from Takayama:

http://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/index.html

Takayama to Hirayu: 50-60min on Nohi, then Hirayu to Kamikochi: 20min on a shuttle bus.

I suggest you get off from your shuttle bus at Taisho-ike Pond: onboard bilingual recorded voices inform you of the names of stops along your way, so no worries. From Taisho-ike bus stop, you take the approach path to the lake (Taisho-ike) ahead of you: on your left is an active volcano called Mt Yake, on your right Mt Kasumizawa and Mt 600, and from here walk on the right-hand side promenade as you face toward the Hotaka Mountains you saw in the second link above. Do make a bit of a detour when you see a sign that says 'Tashiro-ike Pond,' a petite lake, my favorite place. Keep going 15min or so on boardwalks, then you'll see another river promenade again ahead of you. When you get to know the river starts to swirve around, and then you proceed along the river under the shade of tall beech trees lining the promenade, a wow moment awaits you: jugged mountain peaks loom ahead, from left to right, West Hotaka, Ainodake, Donkey-Ear, Tengue Rock, Okuho, Kitaho (looks tiny), Maeho and Myojin, a series of awe-inspring and snow-blanketed peaks. Sorry for the jawbreakers...

Tashiro-Hotaka Bridge, a few min walk from here, is the next view spot for you. Picture-perfect Kappa Bride is just over there: the pic in the first link. Maybe you like to expore the area around here for some time. So that's what you'll have if for a 2-3hr stay. If 4hrs, then do the (flat) trail to Myojin-ike Pond from here: 50-60min easy hike one way. Not sure if you think about *food souvenirs* to bring back with you to your hotel room, but if you do then strawberry tarts and/or apple pies will make good ones for sure. Yes, bottles of wine and small bottles of jam, both kamikochi brands, are there, but I never had a chance to buy them. Ah, yes, cookie-assortments are pretty good. Sorry if they sound too touristy.

I guess all of the above is doable on your departure day from Takayama.

Have fun and enjoy your stay!

Edited: 25 April 2013, 19:09
Virginia, United...
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7. Re: Should I cut Koyasan from trip?

Thank-you so much!!! This sounds great-a nice (too short though) break from the big city!

Melbourne,Australia
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8. Re: Should I cut Koyasan from trip?

We just spent the night at Koyasan, (arriving at about midday and departing at 2) staying at Shojoshin-in temple and I would thouroughly recommend spending a night there. We spent 2 nights in Kyoto but could have done with a third. One afternoon was spent in Arashiyama but the rest was sightseeing in Kyoto itself. By the time we had finished we had definitely seen enough temples so I think you may be "templed out " after 5 nights!.Also, many of the temples have a lot of stairs, tiring enough for middle-aged people! That was why Koyasan was a good break. There are beautiful views of mountain valleys on the way up and the many historic temples are in natural settings (not slapbang in the city as are Kyotos) You can easily stroll from one end of the town to the other or take advantage of the buses (which were included in the Koyasan World Heritage Ticket we purchased) The huge graveyard was also fascinating. The only part of the trip that might be difficult with your mum is walking around Namba station finding the right train lines!

We also spent 2 nights in Takayama 2 weeks ago during the spring festival, travelling by bus through snowy mountains from Matsumoto. The town has an interesting old quarter a short walk from the station area. It is also worthwhile going to see the festival floats which are displayed in the exhibition hall. They are beautiful. The Hida Folk Village ( Bus and entry ticket available at bus centre near station) is also a nice place to spend an afternoon. There are a number of the gassho-zukuri houses on display as well as many other styles of houses from this region. English signs are very informative.

Walt Disney World...
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9. Re: Should I cut Koyasan from trip?

Wow! Shot, your detailed description about Lake Taisho-ike is really appreciated!! I'm taking my mom to Kansai and am planning what to do and I'm worried about making her walk too much! But the "board walk" sounds easy enough so it seems like I might add Kamikochi in my itinerary afterall. Thanks to you!

Virginia, United...
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10. Re: Should I cut Koyasan from trip?

Shot: please see my follow up question in the Takayama to Kamikochi thread. Thanks!!!