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One month trip to Japan 2019/1/27 23:04
Hi everyone!
It's my first time in Japan and I'll be travelling alone. I'm staying from end of March - end of April to also see the cherry blossom, and I'm quite worried now that it might be a bit too long, while I was first worried that 3 weeks would be too short since Tokyo has already so much to see.

My trip will start with a couple of days in Tokyo (5 nights), then Kyoto (3 nights) and then I was planning to go to Osaka (1 day) and Hiroshima (1-2 days). After that the Alps and back to Tokyo and from there Nikko, Hakone and Mitake.
I'm not sure in which order and what to book in advance already, so far I've only booked Tokyo and Kyoto. Could somebody give advice how to best plan it?

- Can Mt Fuji be visited during a day trip? Since it's offseason to climb it but I still would like to see it "properly"?

- How about the JR Railpass? If you book it for 3 weeks it lasts from the day you validate it but then if I go to the Alps in between this time I cannot use it, or can it be used in these areas?

- Is there an option different from pocket WiFi that is easier and cheaper? How about getting a SIM card for the time of my stay?

- Is it wise to also book accommodations in the Alps in advance or could I do it during my stay in Tokyo in the beginning of my trip?

- Are the accommodations in the Alps considerably more expensive than in the cities?

- How about visiting beaches in April? Is it still too cold or worth it? For instance Izu Peninsula?

-Can Hakone and Mitake be visited in one day, while having an accommodation in Tokyo or is it better to stay there, also in case you want to do hikes?

- Where else can you see active Volcanoes besides in Hokkaido? (and besides Mt Fuji)

- What about the plugs? Can the plugs that are ok for the UK be used in Japan too?

- Will a one-month trip be too long and too expensive (more than 440.000 yen), or do you think for 2 weeks cities/ 2 weeks alps it's ok?

- Do mountain huts always have to be reserved in advance and is it always possible via the hostel/guesthouse you're staying in?

Sorry for all the questions, but even my lonely planet guide and their website doesn't give all the answers. Maybe if you have some time you can reply? It would help a lot.

Thanks a lot for your help!!
by kirby (guest)  

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/1/28 08:19
The order you have listed seems sensible. There's no need to change hotels to go to Osaka; you can visit it as a day trip from Kyoto. Definitely do two days in Hiroshima so you can also visit Miyajima. Definitely start booking hotels and also look up if attractions you want to visit require advance purchase tickets (e.g. Ghibli Museum). I use a combination of hotel websites (e.g. Booking.com) and Google Maps (searching for hotels around the station) to find hotels, but I always book direct through the hotel website (usually better prices, and no hassle of booking through a third-party website - can be difficult when things go wrong).

Yes, Fuji can be a day trip, but I'd advise going to Hakone or Kawaguchiko from Tokyo so you actually get a great view of Fuji; if you go to Fuji itself you can't see the whole mountain!

The national JR Pass is valid on any JR lines, and there are certainly JR options in the Alps. That doesn't mean that having one JR Pass for your whole trip is the best option. There are several types of rail pass available, including regional options, so you may find that a combination works best for you. See here for an extensive list of passes: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2357.html and here for a great online rail pass calculator: http://www.aoimirai.net/japan/jrpass_calculator.html

Look up weather averages for the beach areas and decide if you want to visit. Different people like different weather at beaches...

Hakone and Mitake shouldn't be done on the same day.

Google "volcanoes in Japan". There are several.

No, you will need an adaptor for electronics. This is fairly obvious.

Hard to know if your budget will cut it without knowing what sort of traveller you are - dirt-cheap or high end or anywhere in between. You can work this out yourself by looking up transport prices, accommodation prices, etc. Read the budgeting section of this website.

Not all mountain huts can be reserved; it depends on the area. You'll need to look these up individually. Contact your accommodation by e-mail to ask if they can make these bookings for you, so you find out before you get to Japan. Some mountain huts can be booked online.

Actually, most of these answers can be found online. This website in particular is incredibly useful, and several of your questions indicate you need more research/reading (especially the one about plugs!). Read all the "Plan a Trip" items on this website and you'll feel a lot more confident. But do so ASAP if you're going in the next few months, especially since you will be going during cherry blossom season, as things will start to book out!
by / (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/1/28 09:53
Hi!

I'm going to do my best to answer as many questions as I can.

1) Define what you mean by see it properly? Do you mean stand on the 5th Station? See it from closer than Tokyo? The classic place to see it from is Kawaguchiko also known as Fuji Five Lakes. People do go as a day trip, but it's a long day. It is generally recommended to stay overnight, though lodging options can be pricey.

2) If you get a National pass, it is good from whatever day you have it started until it's been either 7, 14, or 21 days. So if you start it on a Monday, it's good for 7 days or until Sunday. So if you're not using it for 1 week of your 21 days, it's time to really think about if it is a good value. There are flexible passes but those are only for JR East. A National pass might not be your best option. The pass is a great deal if you are traveling in such a way that it is a great deal.

People on a budget also use buses or even fly. My friend who lived in Osaka tended to fly to Tokyo because it was cheaper than the bus and much faster and as a resident she couldn't get a national rail pass.

3) Some people rent SIMs. I don't know where you are from but I'm in the USA and I just use my regular cell phone service plan with Project Fi. Yes, I use roaming data, but the additional I pay even with roaming data and calling the US is still less than the cost of a rental SIM or Pocket WiFi. I'd ask whatever plan you are on about it to see what the cost will be.

4) Booking for the Alps depends on where you are going and where you hope to stay. The Alps are pretty large. If you're talking Takayama during the Takayama Festival or Matsumoto while the sakura is in bloom or many places during Golden Week, well yes, pre-booking can be best and prices can REALLY vary. Takayama during the Takayama Festival is much pricier than Takayama on another date.

5) Accommodations in the Alps vary by where and when, much like accommodations anywhere. In general, camping if you don't need to rent equipment is very cheap, mountain lodging can be 8000 yen a night with food, there are also luxury hotels in ryokans in the mountains that will cost you a lot more. It all varies.

6) Visiting beaches to swim or to look at the water and admire the scenery? I have seen on the occasional warm day in early May people on the beach playing in the sand, but the water is still going to be awful cold unless you are one of those people who really like 12-13 C water. The beaches will not have lifeguards or anything else set up for use. Beaches outside of Okinawa don't tend to officially open until July. The Japanese will think you are crazy if you go in the water, but people do walk around the beaches and take pictures.

7) No you can't do Mitake-san and Hakone in one day. They're not very close to one another. Depending on how early you can get up in the morning and what you wanted to do in each you can do Hakone as a day trip from Tokyo. I had a friend who once did that, we just wanted to visit Yunessun and not do anything else there. So in the early evening she went back to Tokyo and I went onto Kyoto. I've done the circuit several times so had no need to do it again. I've not been to Mitake-san, so can't speak for whether it is possible to leave in the morning, hike around and then go back to Tokyo but I would think it is doable since it takes only 100 minutes from Tokyo Station to Mitake Station.

8) I didn't think there were any volcanoes in Hokkaido currently erupting... if you mean dormant with a recent eruption history there is always Asama-san which is quite close to Tokyo. I believe Sakurajima near Kagoshima is the most active volcano of the 4 main islands. Kyushu also has a few other relatively active volcanoes like Aso-san and Unzen-san. But Honshu is just full of dormant volcanoes outside of Fuji-san, as in most mountains in Japan are dormant volcanoes. Azuma-san not far from Fukushima is currently under watch because of concern for volcanic activity. Please see here: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e7754.html Shirane-san near Kusatsu onsen and Manza onsen is also currently under watch: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e7406.html Heck, in 2016, Owakudani was partially closed and many hiking trails are still not open because of volcanic activity. https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5203.html

So nope, you don't need to go to Hokkaido for volcanoes. You can, if you want, but if volcanoes are the goal you don't have to travel anywhere near as far.

9) I find a lot of hotels seem to have Universal outlets and I've not had a problem with either my computer or cell phone with my US plugs. I've no idea about British ones. I've not needed to bring a converted in decades.

10) What is the 440,000 yen covering? Does that include airfare to get to Japan? Again, it sort of depends on your plans are and what you want to do.

11) Many mountain huts need to be reserved in advance or they might fill up. Just to be clear, many places in the Alps will really just be opening for the Season in mid April. Depending on where you want to climb there will still be snow, like as in a lot of it. I found some pictures for someone else who was asking about climbing near Kamikochi in May and the whole top of the mountain was just COVERED in snow. So do be aware because people have died climbing in Japan when they've not been prepared. Higher altitudes in Japan can be very slow to lose their snow. I share this story often and I know it is anecdotal, but when driving on a recently opened road near Towadako in late April I got caught in a blizzard with barely any visibility. Places that are just opening in April get a lot of snow.

Many Mountain Huts have ways to reserve on-line or via email. Just search for the names. I booked a cabin in Kamikochi via email. I've had hotels help me book some activities but I've never had them book other accommodations for me, that sounds a little weird.

Unlike @Guest I do tend to actually use Booking.com. I've not yet had any problems and I've booked 3 different trips to Japan with them. I've found most of the hotels I've booked have been cheaper via Booking when I compared with the actual website. I like Booking because they tend to include all taxes in their prices so you know what the price is ahead of time. Depending on where you are going their selection is more limited. I'm looking at some less touristed places so I am unsure what I will use for booking, though I am also trying to figure out how I want to end my trip. (Visiting Nikko or visiting someplace else.)
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/1/28 10:13
Actually, it looks like it varies by hut and how many beds there are.

Here are examples of mountain huts when one wants to climb Mt. Yarigatake, a popular climb from Kamikochi. It also includes pictures of what the snow looks like in April, May, and June.

http://www.yarigatake.co.jp/english/

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/1/30 03:35
Thanks a lot to both of you for your detailed answers!
I'll do more research and then I have to hurry up booking.

Cheers!
by kirby (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/1/30 06:01
Amazing that you have a month to spend.

We visited Japan in May last year for 21 days, you can see a really detailed break down of our itinerary here

https://nothingbutblueskies.co.uk/21-days-in-japan-travel-itinerary/

there is soo much to see and do in Japan, i think if we had the extra time we would have extended our trip out to Okinawa
by bill johnson (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/1/30 07:37
If you want to see the cherry blossoms, your timing should be good and you can even follow them northward if you wish. That said, you'd really be cheating yourself to just see that - the latter half of April especially is one of the best times to be in Japan - you can see a whole range of beauty - the azaleas, the wisteria, the tulips, the canola blossoms, plus the nemophila. If they don't ring a bell like the cherry blossoms, they soon will when you see them.
In Tokyo, there are some excellent places to see the azaleas, like the Nezu Shrine or Shiofune Kannonji.
https://is.gd/5WAkxh
https://is.gd/aVz9Yr
There are some even better places in Saga, down in Kyushu - Mifuneyama Rakuen and the Komyozenji Temple, as well as others across the country.
https://is.gd/iLbPSH
https://is.gd/DW1oMv
There is also the Hitachi Seaside Park, with amazing tulips and the nemophila.
http://en.hitachikaihin.jp/
It's pretty safe to say the tulips won't compare to seeing the Keukenhof in Holland, but they are still very beautiful.
If spring starts early again this year (and there are some signs that it will), then you can perhaps see the beautiful wisteria in Japan - the Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi as well as the Kawachi Fujien in Kiyakyushu are famous and they can be jaw-droppingly beautiful.
https://goo.gl/z6T2bB
There's also the Fuji Shibazakura Festival near Mt. Fuji.
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6919.html

Are far as volcanoes go, your best bet is likely to go down to Kyushu - there is Sakurajima, Aso, and Unzen.
https://goo.gl/Q843Bg
You can walk up to the crater rim at Aso, if it will let you - some days there is too much poison gas coming out.
http://www.aso.ne.jp/~volcano/info/
For costs and transportation, it depends on your comfort level and where you go. Make your itinerary, and after that you can find the best way to get there. Don't forget also that aside from the rail passes, you can fly dirt cheap on some low cost carriers and special tourist fares.
http://www.jetstar.com/jp/en/home
http://www.flypeach.com/pc/en
http://ana.ms/20Xtf8t
by Ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/2/4 08:08
Hello,

thanks for the useful links! I'm trying to plan everything in, but it's difficult.

My trip is now as follows:

5 nights Tokyo
3 nights Kyoto
1 night Osaka
2 nights Hiroshima-then train to Fukuoka and ferry to see the Sakurajima volcanoe, stay one night in Kagoshima, return to Hiroshima and from there go to Kanazawa. Is Nara really worth going? If not I would go straight to Kanazawa and stay there for a few days and do daytrips to Shirakawa-go and Gokayama. Are each of them doable in one day? Is Takayama a must, and Matsumoto and Obuse?
I would then go back to Tokyo and from there visit Nikko and the Ogasawara Archipelago. On the archipelago it's not possible to see the volcanoes in Ogasawara as it's apparently only possible once a year to go to the Iwo islands.
Has anyone been to Kii peninsula and should I try to plan this in (although it's then already too many places I guess).

Cheers!

by kirby (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/2/4 08:21
Nara is definitely worth it. Most people do it as a daytrip from Osaka or Kyoto. (Although I would stay there 2 days).
I find your time in Kyoto is really short, but it depends, maybe you only want to see a free places.

Sakurajima, I believe that the only ferry is from Kagoshima, not Fukuoka. Have you considered instead to rent a car and go to Asosan close to Kumamoto?

Overall for my feeling you are traveling way to quickly changing hotels ever 1-2 nights for a month. This will be exhausting.

Try to write down for yourself transportation time vs time staying in any given place.

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

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/2/4 09:54
1 night Osaka Why not just visit from Kyoto - 30 minutes away, avoids a hotel change.
train to Fukuoka and ferry to see the Sakurajima volcanoe A ferry? That's going to take a long time - why not get the train to Kagoshima and ferry from there?
Is Nara really worth going? For most people yes - visit from Kyoto - 14 million do it as a day trip (only 1 million actually stay a night).
daytrips to Shirakawa-go and Gokayama. Are each of them doable in one day? Peole can do both in a day, but my understanding is it is less advisable, and they are similar - Gokayama with less tourists.
Is Takayama a must, and Matsumoto and Obuse? Personal opinion, but nothing is a "must" Takayama is a good place to visit, but I often do not include Matsumoto on my trips. Obuse, no, but it might be important for you.
Ogasawara Archipelago. Just be aware of the travel time/restrictions - 1,000 km each way and fixed schedules means this could be 5/6 days out of your month.
Has anyone been to Kii peninsula and should I try to plan this in be aware of the travel times, especially if you are doing the courses around the coast or up to the main shines.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/2/6 16:53
Hi,

actually, I'm staying 4 nights in Kyoto, then do Osaka for 1,5 days to have some rest and then go to Hiroshima and from there to Fukuoka. From there to Kagoshima, stay there for a while and see Sakurajima because I would really like to see an active volcano.
I looked into Asosan, but actually I didn't want to rent a car cause I haven't been driving for a long time and I guess it's expensive?

Going back from Kagoshima it gets a bit tight in the sense that I would go back to Fukuoka (2:30h train), then to Hiroshima (~1h) and then to Tokyo (4h). Then it would probably be best to stay one night and take the 24h ferry the other day to Ogasawara to stay there for 5 days, then go back to Tokyo and do day trips from there, for instance to Nikko?
Only the Alps are then missing and I would like to go to Gokayama at least, maybe it's easier from Kyoto? There seems to be a JR Tohoku Shinkansen that I could take.

Cheers
by kirby (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/2/6 20:45
Flying to Tokyo from Kagoshima is only 1.4 hours and only 10,800yen with ANA. Don't waste your time with the shinkansen. Even adding the bus to the airport and check-in process at KOJ, it's less than 3 hours. It'll take you about 8 hours by trains.
by John B digs Japan rate this post as useful

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/2/17 21:58
Hello John B,

is there a cheaper possibility if you buy your ticket directly in Japan? Cause the tickets to fly to Tokyo from Kagoshima is now already 170€.

Cheers
by kirby (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/2/18 01:18
Did you search from here?
https://www.ana.co.jp/en/us/promotions/share/experience_jp/

or here?
https://www.world.jal.co.jp/world/en/japan_explorer_pass/lp/

These are special fares specifically for foreign tourists. Generally, people who live in Japan and are looking for discounted airfares use the discount carriers like Peach, Jetstar and Skymark. You can find links to their sites on this website.

Make sure you're not planning to return during Golden Week since that could affect fares.

Good luck!

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/2/18 04:38
Thanks, it's booked!
JAL had cheaper flights. I'm already gone when golden week starts, so that was fine.

Cheers!
by kirby (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/2/18 20:30
I think one night for Hiroshima is enough. If you come in the morning (like around 10-11am) you can do the city tour on first day and visit Miyajima on the second day. In the afternoon you can easily travel to another city. But if you stay for two nights then go to Miyajima on your "full day", there are some interesting hiking trails on the island so its worth the full day visit.

If you go for the data SIM card then make sure that your phone supports the corect LTE bands.
by haens (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: One month trip to Japan 2019/3/2 06:30
No, you've got it in reverse. You have to use it within 90 days of purchase. So if you were 5 months out, you'd have to wait.
by Sal1980 rate this post as useful

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