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Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/1/30 15:35
My husband and I are currently scheduled for our first ever overseas trip. We are very excited to be traveling to Japan from Feb 21 through Mar 10th (17 days). We will be arriving a day later than scheduled (Feb 22) through a direct flight. We will be traveling with our 11 year old son who is a Pokemon Fanatic aside from my husband who is a Gundam Fanatic. Part of our trip will include the theme parks as well. Our questions will be presented below.

I have created a semi break down of how we would go about on our days and a list of things we would like to see and go to while we are in Japan. We will be arriving in Narita in the late afternoon Friday Feb 22nd. Here are the areas we would like to go to and have planned out for length of stay:

Day 1 Tokyo
Day 2 Tokyo
Day 3-9 - Osaka, Kyoto and Nara
**Osaka :
Universal Studios
Abeno Harukas
Umeda Sky Building
Osaka Castle
Tennoji Park
Science Museum
Bay Area/Minami
Tenjimbashi-suji Shopping
Shitennoji Temple
Arashiyama & Sagano District
Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji
Kiyomizudera and Higashiyama District
Fushimi Inari Shrine
**Nara would only be a one day trip**
Todaiji Temple
Isuien Garden
Nara Park
Toshodaiji Temple
Kasuga Taisha Shrine

Day 10 - 17 Toyko
Tsukiji Fish Market - Questioning if its worth going
Tokyo Skytree
-Sensoji Temple
Meiji Shrine
-Yoyogi Park
Tokyo Dome City
Tokyo Disney
Tokyo Disney Sea
Sunshine City

I would like to see how we could fit Hakone (to see Mt Fuji) and Kamakura into our schedule as well.

What does one recommend for stay in Osaka? We will be staying in Osaka for the days that we are travelling to Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. I would really like to get the experience of staying in a Ryokan, does anyone recommend that or a hotel? And if so, what area is best to stay that will work with the flow of travel?

Also, my husband and I are debating if it would be worth getting a Shinkansen Ticket for travel or just use the JR Rail Pass and if we would have access to what we would need with the JR Rail Pass. If Shinkansen is recommended, what pass should we get? To include we will also be getting a Suica Card.

Please help as we are stressing on creating an perfect itinerary for our first trip and making sure our trip from place to place is smooth.

Thank You
Karen M
by kmaya  

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/1/30 17:29

Also, my husband and I are debating if it would be worth getting a Shinkansen Ticket for travel or just use the JR Rail Pass and if we would have access to what we would need with the JR Rail Pass.

For starter, since you will be going Tokyo-Osaka-Tokyo, it would be better to get a 7-day JR Pass (not to mention within those days you will be moving round trip between Osaka-Kyoto-Nara more than once since you mentioned you will be staying in Osaka). However, you will need to cut 1 day from your Kansai plan (for example, day 3 heading to Osaka from Tokyo means you need to head back to Tokyo on day 9, otherwise your JR Pass will expire).

I would like to see how we could fit Hakone (to see Mt Fuji) and Kamakura into our schedule as well.

You can easily fit both Hakone and Kamakura (2-3 days) while still keeping your original itinerary and it is still not going to be a tight schedule. And based on your plan, Hakone will be the best place to experience staying in a Ryokan.

What does one recommend for stay in Osaka?

If you have the JR Pass, I would say basically anywhere near Osaka Loop Line area (such as Osaka, Tennoji or Shin-Imamiya station).
by JPN48 rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/1/31 02:27
Hi Karen,

I'm from the USA too. :)

I've personally never seen Mt. Fuji from Hakone. I've been to Hakone 4 or 5 times including in March. I would not go to Hakone unless you want to go to Hakone. A lot of Americans enjoy Yunessun because it is a bathing suit "onsen." It's really more water theme park and a bit silly, but it allows bathing suits so it is mixed gender and your family could all be together in the water. However, if you have tattoos it's not an option.

I would highly recommend you spend some time with the Tokyo Disney Crowd Calendar.
http://www15.plala.or.jp/gcap/disney/ It looks like most of your stay in Japan is during heavy crowd times at the parks. I suspect there must be some sort of High School or college break time since both parks are incredibly popular with young people. I've been to the US parks multiple times, the Japanese parks, especially Sea, can be much worse in terms of crowds just because there are fewer rides and attractions. Pray for rain on the day you visit or consider staying on property. The 15 minutes early entry has a bigger impact then you would think. The rooms are also quite large by Japanese standards and it might be one of the few hotels that doesn't seem to charge the adult rate for 11 year olds. Many hotels/ryokan in Japan charge adult rates for anyone over the age of 7, sometimes it is as low as 6.

USJ also has a crowd calendar: http://www15.plala.or.jp/gcap/usj/
USJ also has the opportunity to buy express passes. My first time to USJ I bought them and they were great. Lots of rides had long lines by lunch time, and I used my passes then. My second trip the weather was pouring so the park was completely empty and I didn't need express passes. If it looks like you will be in USJ during a popular time, try contacting JTB so see if you can book one of their special packages for a room in one of the hotels close to USJ to get a free 1/2 hour of early admission. This is only available through JTB and is not true for guests just staying near USJ.

If your child is into Pokemon I would highly recommend the Pokemon Cafe. https://jw-webmagazine.com/tokyos-new-pokemon-cafe-is-opening-in-2018-... It's also located near the new and large Pokemon Center in Nihombashi. My Pokemon loving child also liked the store in Ikebukuro (they were doing a lucky draw last time we were there) and the Pokemon Store in Kyoto which was giving away a free card last time we were there. I've not been to the Skytree branch because I've been avoiding Skytree.

Generally, people do: Tokyo to Hakone to Osaka or Kyoto back to Tokyo or Tokyo to Osaka or Kyoto to Hakone to Tokyo, since Hakone Yumoto Station (the first stop in Hakone) is only about 20 minutes from Odawara which is on the Tokkaido line. Honestly, I am not sure I would get a JR Pass in your case. It's unclear if you're going to be using the train enough in 7 days to make it worth while, It might just be easier to pay out of pocket. The JR Rail Pass does allow you to use the shinkansen except for two specific types of shinkansen: the Nozomi and the Mizuho. The Nozomi, Hikari, and Kodoma all pretty much run from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka. The Nozomi are the fastest they also run the most frequent, every 10 minutes. You can not take one with a rail pass.

Osaka is not really known for ryokans. I tend to not stay there except when I want to be near USJ for a day there. I prefer to stay in Kyoto. Where is the best place to stay in Kyoto depends a lot on your budget and what you want. Kyoto seems to constantly be opening up new hotels and lots of the newer places are Apartels. I'd recommend looking someplace like Booking.com I like Booking because they tend to include city taxes, though I do not include the new 200 yen per person accommodation fee. On a personal level, I've stayed at: The Royal Park Shijo, the Hana Touro, and the Intergate. Royal Park is currently the cheapest (at least for my dates in June) but the Hana Touro was hands down the nicest. You might do well in one of the apartels or if you want to splurge there are cute villages of little rental machiya I've seen. We're a party of 2 (me and my now 8 year old daughter)

I would talk to your 11 year old and see what they want to do outside of Pokemon. My daughter enjoyed the deer in Nara and monkeys in Arashiyama. I found giving your child a camera of their own to take pictures makes a lot of places more interesting for them than they would be otherwise.

Good luck!

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/1/31 07:59
You need to cut about 25% of you list to make it work. You dont have enough time.

Pokemon shops/centres are dotted all accross the country. I've been to a few. They are almost the same. So if you are running out of time, just hit the Ikeburkuro store. It is probably the best.
by hakata14 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/2/4 04:32
Thank you all for your response. It helped. I just am still a little confused if it would be worth getting the JR Pass or not.

The question would be that if we are able to use the JR Pass when we are in Osaka to travel to Kyoto and Nara. Or is it better to use the Suica Card.

Same question goes for when we go from Tokyo to Kanazawa, and Hakone.

by kmaya rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/2/4 04:59

I love Kanazawa, but when did you add that in? Assuming you are flying onto and out of Tokyo It might make more sense to do:

Tokyo to Hakone to Osaka or Kyoto (whichever you prefer to stay in) then take a Limited Express Thunderbird to Kanazawa and then go from Kanazawa to Tokyo, making a big circle. Unless you can get in all your travel from departing Hakone towards Osaka or Kyoto (you can just use Odakyu from Tokyo to Hakone) and coming back to Tokyo in 7 days, it's not worth it to get a pass, because unless you are making expensive unlisted day trips your not traveling enough in 14 days to make a 2 week rail pass worth it.

You can use a JR Pass to go from Osaka to Kyoto and from Osaka to Nara. JR Nara Station is slightly further from the main sights in Nara than Kintetsu Nara Station. Each way is not terribly expensive. (~800 yen each way via JR not inclusive of any subways you might take.) There are limited shinkansen per hour between Shin-Osaka and Kyoto which you could use a JR Pass for, so you are more likely to just use a Special Rapid which is 560 yen each way. Depending on where you are staying in Osaka and where you are trying to get to, Hankyu a non JR line or Keihan might work better.

Have you tried using a JR Pass calculator?

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/2/4 07:51
Hi Rkold....

Thank you for the wonderful information you are providing.

Yes, In my original post i advised that I wanted to squeeze in Hakone and Kawazana into the trip. I was hoping to see if a day trip to each one would work in the first 2 days of the trip. Meaning Day 1 and 2 travel to Hakone or Kawazana and then back to Tokyo and same for Day 2. Hakone is just to see if we can see Mt Fuji. We are looking in to day tours as well that travel to Kawazana and Hakone.

For Osaka, Kyoto and Nara - Is it easier stay in Osaka or Kyoto?

As far as using the JR Pass Calculator. I went online and got this information:

Would a Japan Rail Pass pay off for your trip itinerary?
Approx. Cost

Tokyo Osaka
13,500-14,000 yen
Osaka Tokyo
13,500-14,000 yen
Osaka Kyoto
500 yen
Kyoto Osaka
500 yen
Osaka Nara
800 yen
Nara Osaka
800 yen

29,600-30,600 yen
7-day Japan Rail Pass
29,110 yen
close call
14-day Japan Rail Pass
46,390 yen
does not pay off
21-day Japan Rail Pass
59,350 yen
does not pay off
by kmaya rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/2/4 08:12
I wonder if you mean KANAZAWA, a city severs hundred kilometers apart from Tokyo on the Japan sea side Or KAMAKURA as you wrote in your initial post, an old city close to Tokyo.

Both are well worth visiting. But Kanazawa as a daytrip would seem a bit far. (Not totally undoable though).

If we are speaking Kamakura it is easy to fit it into your schedule as a daytrip from Tokyo or if you donft mind changing hotel as a Ryokan stay.

Your trip is however already in a few days, by now you should have all your accommodation booked hopefully.

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

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/2/4 09:58
For your schedule do not buy the JR pass. You have too long in Osaka/Kyoto to make the 7-day pass work and the 14-day pass is more expensive than single tickets.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/2/4 10:03
Hi Karen,

Not to be pedantic or anything but you've actually mentioned two different and very far from one another locations.

Your first post says and I quote:
I would like to see how we could fit Hakone (to see Mt Fuji) and Kamakura into our schedule as well.

Your second post says and I quote:

Same question goes for when we go from Tokyo to Kanazawa, and Hakone

I love both Kamakura and Kanzawa but they are nowhere near each other and are not the same place. Getting from Kamakura to Hakone is easy, natural and cheap. Kanazawa is no where near Hakone and makes much more sense to get to from Osaka or Kyoto

This is Kamakura: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2166.html

This is Kanzawa: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2167.html

You have 17 days (2 of which are flight days) but it's still enough time to go to Hakone, Kamakura, and Kanazawa if you so wish, but where you fit them into an itinerary is vastly different.

The thing about your estimates, is technically, your paying for Odawara to Osaka not Tokyo. And the other complication is if you don't have a rail pass, you can take the Kintetsu line to Nara for 560 yen and be at a station closer to all the tourist sights in Nara. Your costs will also vary (along with time) depending on where you are staying in Osaka. But the real question is, can you get done all your travel from Odawara to Osaka and back to Tokyo in 7 days. (You don't need to include getting to Hakone, particularly if you want to go from Kamakura. It costs under 1100 yen to get from Kamakura to Hakone-Yumoto and 310 yen of that cost is the private Odakyu line that you will be paying no matter what. ) The other plus of not having a raill pass if you can take the slightly faster and definitely more often Nozomi vs. the Hikari. There are 2 Hikari an hour to Tokyo while there are 5-6 Nozomi.

If you want to see Mt. Fuji generally people recommend Kawaguchiko (Fuji Five Lakes) https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6900.html over Hakone. I've not been to Kawaguchiko because frankly, it looks boring and I'm quite happy to see Mt. Fuji from Tokyo and/or the shinkansen and/or the air, until at such time I plan to climb it.

You can also see Mt. Fuji from various places in Kamakura. In fact, that's where I first saw Mt. Fuji. But I would just think about what you really want to do.

Whether to stay in Osaka or Kyoto is a personal taste issue and depends on your budget and what you want in a place to stay. I tend to prefer staying in Kyoto. But it's really about what you want and what you want to experience. If you have the budget, you can stay somewhere far more traditional in Kyoto easier than Osaka. It is easy to get to Nara from Kyoto as well. Think of Osaka, Kyoto and Nara as a triangle.

I hope this helps.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/2/4 11:13
Hi Everyone

To you all that commented of the incorrect City. Thank you for that. My bad...I meant Kamakura NOT Kanazawa.

As for accommodation, yes we have a hotel for the whole stay in Tokyo but we are looking to stay in Osaka during a portion of the Osaka, Kyoto and Nara part of the trip.

I was told that staying near the Osaka Station would be best that way travels to and from Kyoto, Nara and back to Tokyo are easier.
by kmaya rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/2/4 11:54

The shinkansen doesn't go to Osaka Station. You will have to take a local train up to Shin-Osaka Station. It's a very short, cheap and frequent trip, but depending on time of day it can be quite crowded.

It really depends on what you want in a hotel room. I find Osaka itself not all that interesting. I mostly go to shop and see my friend who lives there. I usually only stay there right before visiting USJ and in that case I stay near USJ which is not all that convenient to anything else. I would also highly avoid staying near Shin-Osaka Station. It's really boring.

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/2/5 12:50
Hello rkold

Between Kyoto and Osaka, which one has the hotels with onsen in them? I would think neither but I could be wrong.

Also, I take it that Kyoto is more centralized and has a homey stay feel where Osaka is more hotel like. Correct? Which is easier to travel to and from?

I think after looking over our itinerary we are probably going to remove USJ from the trip. And adding to see more Gundam and Pokemon.

I feel so lost... and confused. I think I am over thinking all of this. LOL
by kmaya rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/2/5 13:21

I don't know your price range. There are some very lovely and very expensive more traditional ryokan with onsen in Arashiyama which is a part of Kyoto. There are also a few cheaper places with an onsen, but they are hotels and I don't know if the onsen is actually from a spring or whether it is just heated. Osaka will have some as well.

It's not that I think Kyoto is homey... it just has more pockets that look and feel more traditional along with plenty of areas that are more city. I just also in general like the dinning options more in Kyoto, but I know that could just be me, many people like the food in Osaka.

I think the real question is your budget and where you want to stay and what you want in a hotel. You're getting awful close to your stay now. What I like about Kyoto is I think my money goes further. I am not looking to stay in super budgetary accommodations and I don't have the money to do my entire trip in luxury accommodations. I think in what I consider the mid range $120-200 a night in US dollars, Kyoto has a better selection of options and your money goes further for a nicer place with a good location. I mean if you have the money to stay at the Ritz Carlton Osaka or the Westin or one of the other high end luxury hotels, Osaka might seem really different. But for example the Mitsui in Osaka that is closest to Osaka Station costs more than the Mitsuis in Kyoto and I'm not really sure the Osaka Mitsui is any nicer. (Just to use a Japanese chain that I really liked when I stayed at one of their hotels in Tokyo.) If I was a larger group, Kyoto has a lot of cute apartment hotels and cute machiya you can rent but they can be a bit pricier for 2 people because they are designed for 3-4 people. I admit, I also just find a lot of the places in Osaka less compelling than places in Kyoto. But this is really a personal thing and comes down to what you want to see and do.

In regards to Gundams, outside Odaiba, Akihabara, and maybe Shizuoka I am not sure if there are a lot of Gundam things to do elsewhere. I really liked the Pokemon Store in Kyoto. My daughter is a large Pokemon fan and they were giving out some sort of special freebie card in June. And who doesn't want a free Pokemon card lol

But again, where you want to stay is really dependent on you. My daughter and I like going to temples and shrines. Our next trip we want to try some traditional crafts and we positively adore flower viewing. Your family might not be into that and it's really OK, no one should tell you what you want to do.

I hope this is helpful!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/2/5 13:54

Thank you very much for all your comments and suggestions. I really do appreciate it. I just feel that I cant get this trip organized because I want to do and see so much.

As for budget, We are budgeting stays and food for shopping and tours. We were looking at hotels in Kyoto and found a few places that were less expensive than what we were looking at in Osaka.

So, just to question. Is it easier to travel from Tokyo to Kyoto than to Osaka and than to Nara, and cheaper too? Or Do you think Going to from Tokyo to Osaka, Kyoto and Nara is best. Just keep in mind we will be traveling to Hakone and Kamakura.

Also, have you been to Gundam Square in Osaka?
by kmaya rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/2/5 14:22

I'm about to go to bed but.... honestly, cost wise in terms of transport to/from Tokyo (or Hakone or Kamakura) to Kyoto vs. Osaka is going to be negligible. I think Kyoto is slightly cheaper, but not by a lot. It's 560 yen one way from Kyoto Station to Osaka Station. Depending on where you are staying in Kyoto it might make more sense to to take the Hankyu line to Umeda Station (next to Osaka Station) or take the Keihan to Yodoyabashi Station where you could then either walk to Osaka Station or take the subway to Namba or Shinsaibashi or Tennoji. It is between 620 yen and 1120 yen between Kyoto Station and Kintetsu Nara Station on the Nara line or 710 yen one way on the JR Nara line from Kyoto Station to JR Nara. The Keihan line is slower than the JR line, but I found it tends to always have more empty seats and I like to sit on 30+ minute train trips.

Honestly, the biggest difference is going to come in terms of how much accommodations cost. And again, it's about where there are more things you want to do. And I get it's hard. I have 3-4 days towards the end of my trip I'm debating what I want to do. I was originally thinking Nikko but some of the trains/driving I would need to do costs more than I would like so now I'm debating going further afield on a general pass. We like flowers, so I just found out about some famous flower fields to visit.

Nope, the statues weren't open in Namba pre-kid when I use to to go to that area, we now mostly shops more in Shinsaibashi.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/2/6 07:45
Have you confirmed that you cannot choose Kansai Airport [KIX]?

My estimation of your cost on Tokyo -- Kyoto -- Osaka -- Nara round-trip rides and the three tips in Kansai Region is shown below.

You already have many destinations in Kyoto and in Osaka.
Depending on your | your husbandfs | your sonfs interests, maybe you add some sites.

It sounds better not to cut one day for Kansai Region just to make use of a slightly cost-saving option.

When you do so,
in other words, when you get from and back to Tokyo in 7 calendar days,
the JTB JAPANiCan Tokyo -- Kyoto round-trip package sounds suitable for you and your husband (each).
There seems to be no child-rate version of this package.

For your 11-year-old-son,
the price of the child 7-day Ordinary-Class Japan Rail pass
is about the same as the total JR regular cost (#);
the above package is for Shinkansen Nozomi train rides,
which are not allowed by the Japan Rail Pass.
Therefore, when you take this package, traveling by JR regular tickets seems best for your son.

(#) Strictly, the price of the JRP is a little higher in Japanese yen, and you have to pay also a handling charge to get the Exchange Vouchers; you pay all the amount for the passes in your currency.

-- Estimation of the cost on your trips (other than Tokyo trips) --

The child-rate prices apply to your 11-year-old son.


Traveling from Tokyo via Kyoto and Osaka to Nara then back to Tokyo, 
within 10 calendar days.
Staying near Kyoto Station then near Osaka Station.

[Cost: JR regular tickets + non-JR passes]

Total cost
: 31460 yen per adult
/ 15620 yen per child.

Total JR regular cost
: 28060 yen per adult
(or 27020 yen when you do without seat reservation)
/ 14020 yen per child
(or 13500 yen).

JR regular fees in detail
: 17280 yen / 8640 as JR basic fare
(after 10 percent long-distance round-trip discount)
for Tokyo -- Kyoto -- Shin-Osaka -- Osaka -- Nara round trip within 10 calendar days.
:  5390 yen / 2690 yen
as JR Shinkansen Hikari surcharge, with your seat reserved,
for Tokyo | Shinagawa -- Kyoto (on the 24th of February 2019).
:  5390 yen / 2690 yen
as JR Shinkansen Hikari surcharge, with your seat reserved,
for Shin-Osaka -- Shinagawa | Tokyo (by the 20th in March).
: When you do without seat reservation,
the price of the Shinkansen surcharge
is lower than the above
by 520 yen per adult / 260 yen per child,
regardless of whether you choose Nozomi or Hikari.

Total non-JR cost
:  3400 yen per adult
/  1600 yen per child.

Non-JR cost in detail
:   900 yen on Kyoto 1-day Subway & Bus pass
/   450 yen per child.
:   600 yen on Kyoto 1-day Bus pass
/   300 yen per child.
:   800 yen on Osaka Metro 1-day pass "Enjoy Eco Card" for weekdays
/   300 yen per child.
:   600 yen on Osaka Metro 1-day pass "Enjoy Eco Card"
for weekends and holidays (to be used on the 9th of March)
/   300 yen per child.
:   500 yen on Nara Kotsu 1-day Nara Park - Nishinokyo Pass
/   250 yen per child.
by omotenashi rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary and travel assistance 2019/2/6 13:54

Thank you for the long and detailed information regarding the cost of travel it would be for us. But I would like to apologize that it was a bit confusing. I know you but some time into this post, and I really appreciate it. I am assuming that the result in the end, is that it would be cheaper not getting the JR Pass.
by kmaya rate this post as useful

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