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2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/23 14:10
Hello everyone, I just came back from my trip to Japan (Kansai and Chugoku regions). It was amazing! I didn't go as a simple tourist, I wanted to embrace japanese culture, to communicate in japanese and meet the local people and their costums. And the experience was beyond words! The japanese people were so kind to me, I made lots of friends and received so many gifts. I made very special memories.

Therefore, I'm excited to go to Japan again. I'm thinking about going to Tokyo and Fujigoko (possibly Kamakura, but not sure). I'm planning to go in late October to avoid the peak season of the fall foliage. I went this time and Kyoto was full of people everywhere, it was overwhelming. Kyoto is a lovely city but I didn't enjoy as much as I could because of it. So here are my questions:

1#. I know Tokyo has lots of people year round, but I was thinking if Fujigoko will be quieter right before November?

2#. I plan on staying in Fujigoko on 2/3 days, is it possible to do cycling? Kawaguchiko and Saiko lakes are fairly close, but the others seem quite far way for cycling...

3#. For accomodation in Tokyo I would like to try for the first time a capsule hotel, just for the fun experience. I saw good reviews on 9-hours in Shinjuku. But I was confused about it's concept, is 9 hours only available? Or can we stay for more than one night?

Thank you all!!!
by catiasmteixeira  

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/23 19:02
Regarding capsule hotels you mention WE. Is that a WE as in 1 woman and 1 man? Capsule hotels are gender separate or male only. So it doesnft sound like a perfect place for a WE. Even if you are two men. It would still be two capsules.

Maybe a love hotel (eg in Shibuya area) could be an interesting alternative for a WE.
by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/23 19:41
Ah sorry, I said WE has general speaking (a habit from my mother tongue which is not english). I'm a solo female traveler. Sorry about the confusion.
by catiasmteixeira rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/23 19:41
Regarding cycling, do you intent to do a more sporty version of cycling, or a more leisuerly?

Definitely both is possible in that area.

For the more sporty version you could simply ride up to the 5th station on Mt. Fuji. Or once around Mt. Fuji (that's about 100 km with a serious ascent from 400 m to about 1100 m and some more ascents). Or a shorter version to "just" ride from Gotenba station up to Yamanakako. About 25 km, but with a serious ascent from about 200 m to 1200 m.

If you are not in for ascents, but still want a sporty variant, you could do the cycle round of the 5 lakes, that's about 100 km, but it is all between about 800 m and 1000 m elevation.

If you are not in for the sporty variant, you could cycle around only one of the lakes.

I have to admit, I never have cycled in that area, so my knowledge is from books. If you are interested in any of the above, let me know.

If you are, like me, more a leisurely cyclists, I can warmly recommend you two cycling experiences a bit outside of Tokyo:
1) Start in Shinjuku and follow Kanda river until Kichijoji. Then continue on to Koganei park (where the Edo Tatemono museum is, which is also very nice) and then find the entrance (see map below) to the cycling road that leads straight (I mean REALLY straight) to Lake Sayama. You can then cycle once around the Lake and ride back on the same way to Tokyo. (Or there are alternatives, e.g. to Tamagawa josui and follow there the channel back to Koganei park.). In total from Shinjuku that's probably around 55 km, no heavy ascents. You can cut it short by starting the ride later (e.g. at Kichijoji). The problem with riding bicycle in Japan is that you are not allowed with a bicycle on a train UNLESS it is in a bag. So if you are a road cyclists, you might have a bag already and that's fine. If you want to ride however on a rental bicycle (there is a good system now in Tokyo), you cannot bring it on a train.
http://bicycletraveljapan.blogspot.com/2017/06/ride-to-sayama-lake.htm... (sorry, no big text, just the map)

2) the other ride is down a river towards Enoshima. You can start for example in Machida, and just "jump" on the cycling road that runs along the river towards Enoshima. If you want to cycle less, then you start farer down the river. The nice thing about this cycling experience is that it is all on cycling lanes and you cannot really get lost, because you are constantly riding alongside a river and you end up in Enoshima. Again the transport of the bicycle to (and back to) the starting point can be a problem, as you are not allowed on trains, unless bicycle is in a bag.
I loved to end that ride in Kozashibuya and get a good soak in the local onsen (on the 5th floor of a supermarket, https://www.ousama2603.com/shop/kouzashibuya/ ) with views on Mt. Fuji!

For more onsen ideas, here my list of favorits: http://bicycletraveljapan.blogspot.com/search/label/Onsen+Practicaliti...

Here a link to most of the cycling I did in Kanto area: http://bicycletraveljapan.blogspot.com/search/label/Kanto+Ride All quite relaxed. No big ascents.

Enjoy your second trip to Japan!
by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/23 20:00
@LikeBike

Thank you so much for your insight, it is extremely helpful! I love cycling, but not as a sport, I do it more to relax, sightseeing, enjoying the views. I didn't get a chance to cycle on my last trip to Japan, but I definately want to try it on my next trip.

Fujigoko seemed like it could be awesome for cycling, saw some pictures and cycling would be best to see the beautiful landscape instead of exploring with public transports. I was looking at some hotels/ryokan in the area around lake Kawaguchiko and there is one hotel that has bikes for free for the hotel guests. So maybe I'll choose that one.

That cycle route you wrote about in Tokyo from Shinjuku sounds like a great idea!!! Thank you for sharing it with me! I will definately look more into it! Sounds really nice!

Not sure about going to Kamakura yet. This upcoming trip will be shorter (for example probably 4/5 days in Tokyo to explore and 3 days in Fujigoko to relax and cycle), than my last trip, which was 2 weeks. That's why I don't want to move around much, and enjoy to the fullest the two locations I've choosen. I also took in consideration Hakone, it would've been Hakone or Fujigoko, but Fujigoko looks nicer to me.

I hope Fujigoko won't be crowded in late October. Because after Tokyo, I believe I will want a place calm to relax.
by catiasmteixeira rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/24 23:30
Hi!

I'm just going to throw this out there, but going by the Autumn color reports, late October *IS* the peak time to see leaves in the Fuji Five Lake Area. https://www.japan-guide.com/blog/koyo18/
This year it hit peak close to the end of October and peaked in early November. It did the same in 2017 and 2016. I'm not saying you shouldn't go, but you are going close to peak season, so I seriously doubt it's going to be quiet.

So if you want somewhere quiet I would look for somewhere Peak is over and is more expensive to get to from Tokyo. There are lots of bus and train ticket options from Tokyo to get to places like Fuji Five Lakes and the people of Tokyo take advantage of them. Perhaps see when the leaves turn someplace like Nagano or Matsumoto? They are both cities, but they're smaller and more personable.

If you do not like crowds, I honestly do not know why you would ever want to stay in Shinjuku. I like cities and crowds and find Shinjuku overwhelming at times.

I have personally no desire to stay in a capsule hotel, but most capsule hotels seem to be meant to be stayed in for a single night. So you can book more than 1 night, but they won't store your luggage during the day necessarily or give you the same capsule again. Think of it as three single night stays at the same location, vs. three nights at a location.

If you want to do Tokyo and Fuji Five Lakes, maybe move it to early October? Though in general, I think October and November are popular times to visit because the weather is so nice.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/25 02:42
@rkold

Thank you so much for your insight!

I thought about going in late May, but it's quite early for me, I don't know if I can afford another big trip that soon. That's why I thought about October. Another possibility is December, but I don't know if cycling is a good idea around Fujigoko because of the cold (I don't know if I can handle the cold temps while cycling since I come from a very warm area on my country), but October seems like ideal for a pleasant weather. Ohhh, I thought the peak was in November, not in October.

Actually I don't mind crowds, went on busy streets in London and I was at Disneyland Paris (like the other parks, is full of people), but Japan takes it to another level really. I never thought I would feel suffocated in areas like Nishiki market! Osaka metro is full of people as well, but they are there for work, japanese people are respectful and not noisy, so it was a good experience. But Kyoto has too many tourists, and lots of them are not friendly at all, in Nishiki market they push me several times, and never said sorry (almost broke my camera once, and they looked at me, and simply ignored me). I was unfortunately at Kinkaku-ji, a lots of chinese tourists were kind aggressive to me, I was taking pictures and they just shouted at me to move away! I never got this unpleasant feeling from the locals, japanese people was treated me like their own and I even made lots of japanese friends. So I didn't get a good experience with the crowds in Kyoto, and for most of the days I arrived like 7am to some of the famous spots to avoid the unpleasant tourist crowds.

I also thought about Nagano, but I'm not planning on having a long trip unlike my previous one because of possible work schedule issues. I'm looking at 8 days maximum. So having Tokyo first, my second choice in the later half of the trip should be only one place, be it either Fujigoko, Nagano, Kamakura or other place. I just choose Fujigoko because I want some nature on my trip, and after visiting Tokyo, that would be ideal. Not sure about other places, Hakone doesn't inspire me as Fujigoko. Nikko looks nice, as well as Yamadera and Kurobe gorge, but all of them are quite far away from Tokyo, and I want to keep things simple (I had a crazy itinerary on my last trip to Japan, visiting 11 different places, but I want a slower pace for my next trip).

Thank you about sharing your opinion on capsule hotels! It is really helpful! I saw the 9 hours in Shinjuku, but it seems they have one in Asakusa as well. It is just for the fun experience, but also for the bargain that is too. I'm a fan of Mitsui Garden hotels, but they seem a bit pricey, the Ueno branch is the most affordable one among the others in Tokyo. But for Fujigoko I plan to stay in a ryokan for a more relaxing stay.

Thank you everyone!
by catiasmteixeira rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/25 02:46
*Unfortunately in the afternoon at Kinkaku-ji
by catiasmteixeira rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/25 04:45
Hi!

I'm not really sure what to say. I've not really had any issues with other tourists on any of my 3 recent trips. But I also go in June/July which is generally not as popular because the weather is hot and humid and it can rain. I've found places unpleasantly crowded like Tokyo Disney this past trip or Shinsaibashi in general, but I am pretty sure in the TDR case, that most of the crowds were residents of Japan and who am I to say they shouldn't get to enjoy their theme park for me. In general, Paris Disneyland is not as crowded as the US or Japanese theme parks. I know people who have been to all of them, heck, I've been to all 4 of them.

I personally don't really do Nishiki Market. I've gone in the past and didn't even realize it was someplace to go, it was never that interesting to me. I also had no problems despite the crowds taking pictures at Kinkakuji. It's funny, if you look at my pictures you'd never even know there were other people there.

If you want to go to Fuji Five Lakes and not have crowds of other tourists, don't go at the end of October. When Koyo happens varies by location. Places like Kyoto and Tokyo are much later than places like Nikko or Fuji Five Lakes. You can go through the 2018 Autumn Color Report to get a good idea of when each location starts to turn and see when it was in previous years. Lots of people like to go to Japan to try to see koyo and it is a big tourist time. There will be big groups of tourists from many countries, especially when it comes to places where koyo doesn't take place. Fuji Five Lakes with Mt. Fuji in the background is going to be extremely popular. It's a large area and peak varies by location there. Chureito Pagoda hit peak at 10/29/2018 going by the report. Generally, unless you way overshoot or undershoot koyo it can be problematic if you are trying to avoid tour groups.

If you are used to a warmer climate, then yes, I would not go to Japan from December to early March. I find January and February in Japan cold. Not as cold as where I live, but I also don't spend lots of time out sightseeing all day in January or February when I am at home either.

If you have a JR Nagano Pass, Nagano is a shorter trip, as fast as 80 minutes from Tokyo vs the nearly 2 hours to Kawagushiko. It just costs more to get there since you had to buy the JR Nagano Pass. Zenkoji was full of Japanese school trips when I was there, but it never felt so crowded? I keep planning to go back to Ueda and to consider Bessho onsen and I want to visit Togakushi Shrine but it's not worked out yet. I have learned what works for me since I travel with an elementary school student. We're going to go back to Nikko I think in the Summer. Mine wants to go to Edomura very badly and I want to see the shrines again.

I did the Mitsui Otemachi and it was ~$140 US a night which I thought was quite reasonable. I am not sure of your expectations. I might have paid for a larger room since I have a lot of bags and shop a lot in Japan. I thought it was nicer then the Kyobashi branch looked. There are cheaper places in Tokyo as well, in general, 11-12 months out will not have a good selection of options. There is a new Mitsui opening in Gotanda in the near future. Though you will also be there near the Rugby Cup thing, so you might want to pay attention to where those tournaments will be held since they might bring an influx of tourists.

I thought Nagano and Matsumoto were quite pleasant and at least when I was there, I don't remember seeing crowds of tourists vs. say Takayama where we met a very friendly but still an entire buses' worth of Dutch tourists. At least one person on this forum has recommended Karuizawa a few times. You can get there on a JR Tokyo Wide Pass. It has nature and you can rent a bike to get around there. Karuizawa is also around 80 minutes from Tokyo.

Good luck!

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/25 07:21
October is a great time to go to Japan. Better than December in general. And you can avoid crowds, even close to Tokyo.

Kamakura might get a bit crowded but definitely not as bad as Kyoto.

I personally could spend a week in Kamakura and discover new places every day. Yes, there are the big ones like Daibutsu, but really the moment you step only 100 m outside if the main touristic areas you get into a different place. I was in Arashiyama in September this year and hired a bicycle. That was great. In the central parts of Arashiyama there were a lot of tourist but as soon as you get just slightly farer away, where people who go to Arashiyama AND Kinkakuji (or other places in Kyoto) on the same day canft reach by foot, you are still in a very lovely place but w/o tourists.

Apart from Kamakura as alternative have a look at Chichibu. Not very touristy at all.

And I still need to admit that I was never in fujigoko so I donft really know about crowds.

You will find a lot of places close to Tokyo to enjoy a few quieter days.
by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/25 08:37
I agree with @LikeBike that Kamakura is a great location. Because it's so close to Tokyo and Yokohama, a lot of people do go back to those cities in the evening and it really empties out.

I was personally thinking of going to Chichubu to visit Mitsumine jinja next trip (and we still might) but supposedly it featured in the last year on some program in Japan about "power spots" and the lines for the little bus between the station and the shrine have gotten quite bad. I still regret not going when the ropeway use to be in operation.

@Lazy Pious I think is the huge fan of Enoshima, Bessho onsen and Karuizawa. Enoshima is near Kamakura, Bessho onsen is up near Nagano and Karuizawa is not far from Nagano. You can reach Karuizawa with just the Tokyo Wide Pass which will run you 10,000 yen for 3 days and can be bought in Japan.

Generally, I would say places that people keep asking about again and again on this forum tend to be the places that are going to be crowded and popular. So someplace like Chichubu or Karuizawa or Bessho onsen or Nagano, are just not going to have the tourists numbers that Fuji 5 Lakes and Hakone will have since people pretty regularly ask about going there vs the earlier locations. It's true for Kyoto as well. People seem to post Kyoto itineraries all the time that comprise Nishiki Market, Kinkakuji, the Bamboo Forest, Fushimi Inari, and Kiyomizudera. If most people posting itineraries on this forum want to go there, it makes sense that the proportion of people who want to go there is rather high. (vs. say Ninnaji, which I thought was splendid and also felt practically empty. It's a great temple, but you don't see it often on people's lists of where they must go in Kyoto. ) If you want a quiet and more restful place I would personally look for places that people do not have listed as "must dos" since the "must dos" are where the tourist buses go.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/25 08:45
Thank you everyone for your kind advice! It really helps a lot. I need to reconsider the trip and time and places.

I was looking at JR passes and also from your insight, JR East Nagano-Niigata pass seems like a good deal, it's only 5 days but they're flexible, not consecutive days (I always thought JR Tokyo Wide pass as incovenient because it's expensive 10,000 JPY for 3 consecutive days). Honestly, from all the regions in Japan, Tohoku and Okinawa were the least interesting to me. But from your advices and pictures I saw on this website, I've become interested in locations such as Matsumoto, Yudanaka Onsen in Yamanoushi, the Snow Monkey park, Karuizawa, the railway and bonsai museums in Saitama and, of course, Nikko. But if I'm planning to go in October, Nikko will be on peak colors. I wonder if there will be crazy crowds? Since it is nature, there is open spaces unlike cities, I had not a problem with crowds in Miyajima because there were always areas where tourists wouldn't.

Well, I guess I just didn't have luck in Kyoto. What happened was unfortunate, I was at the wrong place and wrong time. But I want to return to Kyoto again someday, but on summer or winter, so that I can enjoy it a bit more. Maybe try some cycling around.

But if I'm considering the JR East pass, then I'll have to skip Tokyo, maybe. Being from a country where Japan has a higher economy doesn't help. If I could I would live a month or even a year in Japan. But I'm happy enough to have been there already and considering another trip. Japan is expensive in the eyes of the portuguese people, could you believe that on my entire lifetime I only met 2 people who went to Japan? One was my doctor and the other was a friend of my brother who is wealthy. Incredible. So I feel lucky.

Thank you all! You're very helpful!
by catiasmteixeira rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/25 09:06
I forgot to say that I'm quite intrigued about Fear Mountain in north Tohoku. Seems veryyy interesting, and I saw the report here from days ago, and it became one of the must see spots. But JR East Nagano-Niigata pass doesn't cover that area.

Chichibu looks really nice! I heard it has a very important festival in December right?

One of the "remote" places I want to visit and explore one day (remote because I almost don't see on itineraries around here) is Iya Valley in Shikoku. But I'll leave it for another trip.

Yes, the famous places in Kyoto (I also went to see them as well) are insanely crowded because it's on everybody's list to Kyoto. But one of the highlights of Kyoto for me was Ginkaku-ji before closing, very beautiful, and walking the philosopher's path during sunset (it was so ethereal, and I was alone most part of it). I also enjoyed walking from Fushimi Inari Taisha to Tofuku-ji, it was quiet and so nice to stroll around that area (most people catch the train). Nara and Uji were nice too, I got lucky with Nara because it was raining and I was there at 7:30 am. There were times I was completely alone with the deer. But around mid-day people arrived and, for example, Todai-ji was insanely crowded. Rain also stopped at mid-day. I had a similar experience with Miyajima, rainy day but I arrived before 8am, but there were times I was alone in Momijidani park, and I was the only one in the ropeway, and also in the trail up to Mt. Misen summit. But mid-day came, stopped raining and also with the high tide, the shrine was crowded. But I enjoyed it a lot.
by catiasmteixeira rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/25 10:41
I've been to Osorezan once. I honestly, would not go back without a rental car or being on a tour out of Aomori or Hachinohoe. It is absolutely fascinating, otherworldly and I can understand why someone would want to go there. But it's also very hard to reach. Back when I went, I took what is now the Aoimori railway from Aomori to Noheiji, then the train to Shimokita Station and then the bus. It took a really long time and not all the connections were ideally timed. My real problem came when I didn't time the bus back well and I got stuck waiting 3 hours for the next bus. I came so close to begging one of the military families to take me to Misawa Station. This really is a location with only a few buses a day and that just makes it hard.

I'm not saying popular places are not worth visiting. I took me daughter to Kinkakuji and Kiyomizudera and I plan to take her to Fushimi Inari. I personally don't think she will get as much out of Ginkakuji and the Philosopher's Path (I've done it multiple times.) Tofukuji is less visited than Fushimi Inari and yup, few people walk between them. My daughter has been to Nara and Uji and Miyajima as well. But I do think if you want a break from someplace crowded and busy, you should look for someplace that is not on most people's lists of where they must go. I just don't think you are going to necessarily get the break you want if you pick somewhere relatively popular as well. Kawaguchiko is listed in the top 8 most popular destinations on this website. And while there is nature, people sort of go to the same natural areas cause you're not going to be climbing Mt. Fuji in October.

It's the bus between Nikko and Lake Chuzenji that I've heard can be miserable during koyo. I don't know if the shrines themselves or bad or heading up towards Kinugawa. If you time it right, you can take a train from Kinugawa to Aizu Wakamatsu through the mountains. There were some amazing looking onsen on the route and it would be far off the areas full of tour buses.

Chubu, Kanto and Tohoku have a lot to offer. We went to Matsushima for a few hours this Summer and had a nice time. (It was my 2nd time.)

Fortunately, you have quite some time to work on an itinerary and figure out what you want.

To be fair, the majority of US Citizens I know who have been to Japan went either for work, as JETs, as English Teachers with a private company, as students, or to visit family, very few have gone on vacation like me. My family is just very fortunate.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/25 12:14
Hi there. You can try and look into going 1st week of November. There are places near Tokyo in which fall foliage would be near peak or in peak. We hiked Takao-san during this time and it was lovely. Not a lot of tourists especially since we went on a weekday. You can also visit Showa Kinen Koen. The ginko avenue was in absolute golden beauty when we visited. You can expect less crowds here and the park is massive so it would not feel so cramped.

You can also try looking into Nikko and the surrounding areas. We enjoyed the miniatures in Tobu World Square. We also enjoyed the walk from the station to Toshogu Shrine (passing by Shinkyo Bridge). When we left the station we were warned that it could take time if we took the bus due to traffic, but it looked like it wasn't that bad even though there were lots of tourists. We were glad we walked though.

As others suggested, you can also look into the Tohoku region. Enjoy planning your trip!
by Andrea (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/25 14:46
Thank you so much everyone! I still have time yes but your opinions are excelent! It helps a lot! I need to figure it out either I do Tokyo+Fujigoko or buy the JR East Nagano-Niigata.
Thank you all!
by catiasmteixeira rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/25 16:38
Osorezan (I guess thatfs what you called gfear mountain g) is really nice but as rkold said also hard to reach. And the accommodation in the temple is quite expensive but is a unique experience.

I went by bicycle from Hakodate last year early October: http://bicycletraveljapan.blogspot.com/2017/10/part-3-day-12-15-aomori... and it was definitely one of the highlights of my 2 month trip.

You were writing that you are not interested in Tohoku and you are not alone in that, which means that Tohoku gets considerably less tourists than the Tokyo-Kanazawa-Takayama-Kyoto-Nara-Miyajima axis. Actually as soon you move outside of these listed places, even only a little bit, Japan gets so much more quiet.

And I guess there is no place as crowded with tourists than Kyoto. But even there as PP said, you just need to go to the slightly less known sights and youfll be fine. Consider that most people have maybe 2-3 days for Kyoto and most people donft plan their next trip while being in Japan but it might be for many a once in a lifetime experience.

There are great user reports on this webpage from medfly (not sure spelling is right, but he (I think he not she) is a very meticulous traveller and poster). Maybe have a look for further inspiration.

Yes, in Chichibu there is a famous (in Japan) festival in early December. And thatfs essentially the only time this place gets crowded. But I guess it is part of the experience.

Chichibu is also quite good for cycling. You could ride around one (or two ) days through Chichibu and visit many of the 34 temples of the pilgrimage (my favorites are around Urayamaguchi station (those are all easily reachable by foot from the station). And then the third day you could cycle (or train) down the valley to Kumagaya. I would suggest cycle as you can stop midway. However if you prefer train, there is a steam train running that section (for fun and that for sure will need some early reservation).

http://bicycletraveljapan.blogspot.com/2016/11/from-chichibu-down-into...

This is all very close to Tokyo and not touristic at all.
by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 2nd trip to Japan 2018/11/25 20:52
Chichibu seems like a really nice place. I like cycling on a leisurely pace, so I really need to try in Japan on my next trip. Actually I don't enjoy riding public transports on my country, I own a car and it's my main transport. But in Japan I loved it! So clean, so organized, so efficient!!! It became quite an experience! So I believe that cycling will be amazing as well.
You website is so useful @LikeBike!
by catiasmteixeira rate this post as useful

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