Hmm. I think I can be considered as a fast traveller. I typically don't spend a lot of time in a single attraction and I'm constantly moving between spots. I personally like that way of travelling though since it means that I can visit a lot of different places.
I would stay that day in Nagano and I would stay 2 nights in Shibu Onsen. Ie leave on day 3 for Shibu Onsen. On the way to Shibu Onsen you could also visit Obuse.
The problem of your current plan is that you donft have enough time in the afternoon. In Japan in general but obviously in winter even more it gets dark really early and things close. So I think it is better to spend the night before visiting the monkeys already in Shibu Onsen (or closeby ) so you can go there directly. Depending on the mode of transport you choose iltgere is also a small hike you need to do. Once you have seen the monkeys itfs time for you to experience the onsen. But you can do that only if you stay in Shibu Onsen (theyfll give you the keys). Shibu Onsen is also a nice quaint village which you can visit a bit.
That actually is a very valid point! I haven't considered the time taken to see the monkeys and then get back to onsen for a bath. I won't do too much onsen hopping though. Probably will be taking a bath in the ryokan I'm staying while waiting for dinner to be served.
As for Obuse, I might be wrong but from looking at the Japan Guide page there doesn't to be anything there that interests me. It seems that it is famous for it's museum and old town (which houses various museums). Hard to admit but I'm not that fond of museums.
in order to avoid too many hotel changes I would stay after the anime tour in Kanazawa instead of Toyama. Itfs not about 20 min by Shinkansen from Toyama to Kanazawa and the last train is very late . you could drop your bags during the day in a locker at Toyama station. I personally would also add a day more to Kanazawa. If you are looking for more things to do, Noto peninsula is really nice and has some great onsen. But that part is best visited with a car.
So you propose I just leave my luggage in a locker in Toyama, go for the anime tour, return back to Toyama to grab my luggage and then go to Kanazawa by Shinkansen to check in at a hotel? Am I understanding it correctly?
Yeah I reckon that 1 day in Kanazawa is a bit too short considering that there are a lot of attractions there. Though some of them seem pretty similar (Higashi Chaya vs Nishi Chaya) and others are more like museums (Ninjadera), so I'm actually fine with not visiting each and every one of them. The only must-gos in my book so far for Kanazawa are Kenrokuen, Kanazawa Castle, Omicho Market, and Higashi Chaya. All of them are pretty close to each other so I believe I can cover them in a day. I'll have to spend an extra day if I want to visit the other attractions though.
Noto Peninsula looks amazing! I assume it will take a whole day right? Since it takes 60 mins to go there by JR Limited Express. Unfortunately I'm not getting a car in Japan so so you still recommend going there with public transport?
if you have a car and road conditions are okay (are you okay to drive on snow????) i would go to Ainokura instead of Shirakawa
No car :( planning to go to Shirakawago by bus. Hence the day trip.
Any particular reason of preferring Ainokura instead of Shirakawa? Just want to know since Shirakawa seems to be a more popular place for tourists.
if you are looking for more you could spend a day or more in Hirayu onsen and hop from one rotenburo to the next. Bathing at its peak.
Is Hirayu the one in Okuhida? Is the onsen spectacular? I'm afraid that if I spent too many days bathing in onsen I might get tired of them (and it gets expensive really quick especially if you have to stay in the ryokan). I'm aiming at around 2-3 onsen activities this trip so I want to make sure I'm picking the best possible spots.
With those additions you nearly have your 2 weeks full and could spend a few more days at the end /beginning eg in Nara or go to Hikone or maybe Ise. Assuming that you donft want to go to Tokyo/Osaka/Kyoto.
Oh yeah maybe I should consider going to Hikone since I haven't visited the area yet. Never been near Lake Biwa before.
As for Nara, I've already visited it before and I'm not planning to visit it again this time (as much as I love the city). Should've mentioned the list of places that I have already visited before: Tokyo, Kamakura, Enoshima, Hakone, Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nara, Nagoya, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Kurokawa, Beppu, Nikko.
Looking forward to visiting new places I haven't before (hence the focus on Nagano-Toyama-Gifu area).
Ps: regarding looking forward to the snow: that is all fine, but sightseeing 2 weeks under the snow might get a bit heavy. In Tokyo or general on the pacific side from Tokyo towards the south, weather will be cold (generally above 0 though) but generally sunny. So actually very good for sightseeing. And depending on when in February you can get the first ume (plum) flowers.
If I have extra time in Tokyo (since I have to go to Tokyo for my flight back anyway), I'm considering going to Nikko. I visited there once before but I wasn't able to complete everything in a day since I spent too much time walking between attractions there. Haha.
And, where do you suggest I can see first ume flowers?
Anyway, I really appreciate your replies. Thanks a lot for the input :)