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Avoid crowds

Sydney, Australia
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Avoid crowds

I understand Japan is a popular destination, however I wish to avoid crowds. I am mainly interested in visiting gardens, shrines and temples and would appreciate any advice on traditional style stays. I have had my fill of big hotels/5 star bland found worldwide, I am not a budget traveller.

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Hong Kong, China
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for Hong Kong, Osaka
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1. Re: Avoid crowds

As long as you don't go during the Japanese holidays, attractions shouldn't normally be overly crowded. If you go on a weekday, things should even be quieter.

Stockholm, Sweden
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2. Re: Avoid crowds

You should plan your visit to the most popular sights carefully, as they can be really crowded even during weekdays. Try to visit such temples/gardens etc very early mornings or just before they close.

For example, we visited Toshogu shrine in Nikko last Monday, and it was so crowded that we couldn't enjoy the place at all, we just rushed through it to get out. And that was a weekday! The same thing for Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto, last Friday - awful! We went to these places during midday, a bad idea if you don't like crowds.

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Nikko
Nikko
Tochigi Prefecture, Japan
Kyoto
Kyoto
Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Philadelphia...
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3. Re: Avoid crowds

As for where to stay, I don't have much experience with ryokan, the traditional-style inns, but check out this site: http://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ Many of the ryokan also have reviews at Trip Advisor.

I did stay here, 15-20 years ago and it is still one of my best memories of Japan: japaneseguesthouses.com/db/…magoemon.htm It's more minshuku than ryokan--no maids coming in at all hours, dinner served in the main room, not in your room.

Even some ryokan enthusiasts can only take a couple of days at a time; consider standard hotels in the cities and ryokan in scenic areas. japaneseguesthouses.com/db/…magoemon.htm

As for avoiding crowds, my impression is that the second- or third-most famous temple or garden has far fewer visitors. I don't have personal experience in Kyoto (I just went the famous places with everyone else) but I recall encountering almost deserted temples here and there. In Kamakura, Engakuji (near Kitakamakura station on the clickable map halfway down this page http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3115.html ) had lots of visitors, but the other two temples near the train station were almost empty.

Takayama, a favorite of mine, is crowded with tour groups mid-day, but far less so in the morning or evening; use mid-day to stroll the out-of-the way sights. Likewise nearby Shirakawago. I like visiting Kurashiki in the evening to stroll the lamp-lit canals, staying overnight, and checking out the shops and little museums as soon as they open, then leaving town when the tour groups arrive. All these places are in http://www.japan-guide.com/

In Tokyo, many of the gardens are not crowded. I like Kiyosumi http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3034_006.html (Exit 2 of the Kiyosumi-Shirakawa subway station, then cross the street and down the side street). Nearby is the Fukagawa Edo Museum (not to be confused with the magnificant Edo Tokyo Museum), a cozy little reconstruction of an old-time neighborhood. photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=5 From Exit 2 of the subway stop, turn left and look for a little blue sign pointing down a street to the left.

Not far from Tokyo, Nihon Minkaen, a collection of old-time houses, was uncrowded when I visited. Docents invited me to have tea around the fire. city.kawasaki.jp/88/88minka/home/minka_e.htm It's a 20-minute train ride and 20-minute walk from Tokyo's (very crowded) Shinjuku station.

No matter where you are, you can escape the crowds by turning down side streets and wandering through neighborhoods.

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Kyoto
Kyoto
Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Kamakura
Kamakura
Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
Takayama
Takayama
Gifu Prefecture, Japan
Kurashiki
Kurashiki
Okayama Prefecture, Japan
Tokyo
Tokyo
Tokyo Prefecture, Japan
Shinjuku
Shinjuku
Tokyo, Japan
Nara, Japan
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4. Re: Avoid crowds

A bit far from the center of the city though, Shisendo will cater to your needs:

http://www.kyoto-shisendo.com/En/top.html

Japan
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5. Re: Avoid crowds

From Kyoto, you might enjoy a trip out to see the Miho Museum. Fascinating place for many diverse reasons. http://www.miho.or.jp/english/index.htm

There is a nice video about how it was built, narrated partially by i.m.pie, titled "The Museum on the Mountain".

One stop from Kyoto station on the Nara line is Tofukuji. I've not seen many people here at all, and it is full of history and great scenery.

http://www.tofukuji.jp/english.html

Back to the same train line and one more stop is Fushimi Inari. A long walk up the hill under and around the 10,000 tori. There are usually not a lot of people there for some reason, but I usually go there in the morning, maybe that's why.

I strongly recommend a visit to Hiroshima, including the Peace Museum and Park, and Shukkeien Garden. Then out to Miyajima island to see Daisho-in, a very unique temple, and stay in a most amazing inn: Iwaso Ryokan

http://www.iwaso.com/e_introduction.html

For a unique experience, request one of the cottages. Simply beautiful.

Areas both north and west/south of the main tourist sections of Tokyo and Kyoto don't get a lot of visitors. In the north, look into Hirosaki, Aomori, Akita. Hirosaki is unique in many ways, and certainly not in any sort of tourist route.

In the west/south look into visiting Hagi (lots of history there) and Matsue. From Hiroshima, take the shinkansen to Yamaguchi, then the bus to Hagi. There are several amazing inns in the north section of Hagi; walk the castle ruins (best ruins I've ever visited!). Then from Hagi, take the local train along the coast all the way to Matsue, farther if you have the time. Not a single tourist on that route! Only students off to school, small villages/towns and a lot of beautiful scenery.

If you would like to private message me I will send you the contact info for my travel agent, a Japanese man living in the US who is very helpful.

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Sydney, Australia
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6. Re: Avoid crowds

Thankyou to those who took the time to reply. I am looking into some of the suggestions. It is true that avoiding the famous for the more obscure places can be just as rewarding if not more so. When I travel I like to create channels for others, and discover places where it is possible to stop to applaud the movements of everyday life, and not feel that I am in someone else's adventure.

Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: Avoid crowds

I can certainly recommend hotel mume in Kyoto. Small and intimate. 10 rooms I thnk sort of east meets west. For crowds. Most places are quiet early in the morning. Kiyumisedera is always busy.

We did the kurama living walk a few years ago and saw almost no one until we got to kibune. Another go early.

Kamakura possibly the quietest temple we've been to was bamboo and it rates

it's own visit as being unique.

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Kyoto
Kyoto
Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
Kamakura
Kamakura
Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan
Los Angeles...
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8. Re: Avoid crowds

As my husband and I just returned back from Japan last week, I would DEFINITELY say it pays to visit the more obscure places rather than the famous.

We went to a couple major shrines (like Kiyomizu, as others have mentioned), and were so unenthusiastic about it because there were just so many people there.

We wanted to visit the golden pavilion, but ended up canceling due to the fact that we didn't want to be around so many people.

We were very impressed with the Fushimi Inari Shrine as it is very long, beautiful and running into people was few and far between

We ended up finding some hiking paths near the mountains behind Salon Haraguchi Tenseian, which is one of the AMAZING places we stayed at and ended up enjoying our isolated walk SO much more than the famous shrines. (tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g298564-d138889…)

In Tokyo, we really enjoyed Ueno and Yoyogi park. They were not too crowded, there were even times when we didn't see anyone else. We went in the late morning/early afternoon. I'm not sure what it is like in the evening.

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Kyoto, Japan
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9. Re: Avoid crowds

I was in Gion, Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park and then on the streets leading up to Kiyomizudera in the late afternoon last Tuesday and saw very few people. Maruyama Park was quiet, peaceful and deserted. The street just below Kiyomizudera had the most people but it was nothing compared to how it usually gets. There were just a handful of people inside of Kiyomizudera at the end of the day as well. I cannot remember when the last time was when I have seen so few people around there.                         After that, we walked to the bottom of the hill and took a taxi to Fushimi Inari Shrine during rush hour but there was very little traffic going that way. It was only 1,100 Yen for our fare and we got out in front of the main gate of Fushimi Inari. We only saw 4 people coming down as we rushed up to the top to catch an amazing sunset. We went to some major places in Kyoto and were able to avoid the crowds.                                        We went late in the day and it made a huge difference. Also, there were no evening events like a temple ¨light up¨ so that helped. It was a Tuesday and it was hot, hot, hot so maybe people could not deal and that too worked to our advantage. We even caught sight of a real ¨maiko¨ in Gion. If you time it right, you can still see the most famous places in Kyoto without throngs of people ruining it for you. It is possible.

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Gion
Gion
6,358 Reviews
Kyoto, Japan
Yasaka Shrine
Yasaka Shrine
1,319 Reviews
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Maruyama Park
Maruyama Park
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Kyoto
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Sydney, Australia
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10. Re: Avoid crowds

Thankyou Sector 7 for those tips, first hand knowledge is so valuable...