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Another 2 Week Itinerary 2019/3/17 23:40
Hi everyone. We've booked a two-week trip to Japan (from the UK) for end of May / beginning of June. It's our first time and deciding on the precise itinerary is very overwhelming, even with the plethora of information out there! We fly in and out of Tokyo (Narita) and plan to use the JR Rail Pass - I haven't yet calculated whether the 7 or 14 day pass would be better for us (the upgrade from 7 to 14 days is only around £125, so not huge) - if anyone has an opinion on this, then that'd be great.

Both early thirties, like a good mixture of culture and nightlife (food and drink a big thing for us) - we like to keep busy but also don't want to sacrifice exploration with too much travel time / lugging baggage around, so trying to concentrate accommodation (though this goes a bit wrong after Kyoto!)

Number of nights as follows:

Tokyo - 4 maybe day trip to Kamakura
Kyoto - 5 day trips to Nara / Osaka
Koyasan - 1 Temple stay
Hiroshima - 1
Miyajima - 1 Ryokan maybe
Hakone - 1 haven't read great things, but might be a nice pitstop after a long journey?
Tokyo / Narita - 1 we've an early flight, so thought we'd try a pod hotel after a final afternoon / evening in Tokyo

As I say, haven't read great things about Hakone but might - also keen to fit an Onsen into the trip, so maybe it's a good plan, unless anyone has a better idea? The travelling between Koyasan and Hiroshima isn't ideal, nor is Miyajima to Hakone, but should we just bite it? I know itinerary is a very typical route (I usually try to avoid the obvious tourist trails, but I think I'll feel sufficiently like a fish out of water anywhere in Japan), but happy to hear any alternative suggestions too.

Any advice at all would be hugely appreciated.

by oysteroyster  

Re: Another 2 Week Itinerary 2019/3/18 10:56
Hi, depending on cloud cover there can be quite a big shift toward heat at the beginning of June, and while Tokyo is quite feral in the heat, Kyoto is feral-er. Personally I'd go to Kyoto pretty much straight away. Those few days might not make any difference but it could. I'd knock it on the head and then go down to Miyajima (which at least has the breeze, quite a strong one sometimes) then come back.

Hakone is nice enough. It doesnt really live up to the hype but at least you can hop on and off the train at different sites though the water there is very smelly. Maybe Atami might be an option (never been there, going in May), and I also really like Kamakura and Enoshima (closer to Tokyo). Also think about a night at Nikko toward the end of your trip. Nikko is also quite cool, and it is easy to get to from Tokyo.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Another 2 Week Itinerary 2019/3/18 13:07
Unless the money issue is getting really tight for you, I suggest you get the 14-day pass. Also as mentioned, the heat and humidity will be getting pretty thick by that point, and the rainy season about to seriously kick in. Expect the weather is abysmal at least 1/3 of the time, and have a backup plan (museums and aquariums for example).
The good news is hydrangea season is really nice, and there are many great temples in Kamakura to enjoy them (Meigetsuin for starters, but also Hasedera and others). In Kyoto, the Yoshiminedera Temple is another gem. I also think taking a day off of Tokyo (which would leave you with 3) and going to see Nikko is a great idea and a good escape from the heat. If you want both Nikko and Kamakura Enoshima, you could pull a day off of Kyoto - seeing Nara Park is totally worth it but you can do it in half a day.
You'd still have time for Osaka in the evenings after seeing Kyoto - evenings are best there anyway, for Dotonbori, Shinsekai and many great city views.
On another evening, you can also go see Kobe.
Two days are more than enough for Hiroshima & Miyajima - so if you like, along the way there or back you could see Himeji, with the country's finest original surviving castle, and the Kokoen Garden nearby is also excellent.
For Hiroshima itself, so many just rush to the Peace Park and leave, but don't cheat yourself like they do - the Park is good and sobering, but there is a lot more, and not overrun by the tourist mobs, like the Mitakidera Temple and Shukkeien Garden.

If you are staying overnight on Miyajima, be sure to see the Itsukushima Shrine at both high & low tides.
At low tide, you can go out on the beach to the giant torii gate. And if you can get there in late May before they cover up the torii gate for 12+ months of renovations in June, you are one lucky person.

For Koyasan, if you are doing the temple stay, you might bring a few snacks with you - some people have said they felt hungry later since the Buddhist vegetarian food is so light and doesn't leave you full for long. There is a convenience store there but you might have to walk 40 minutes round trip to get something. If you want to see the Okunoin cemetery at night (a surreal experience) be sure to pick a temple with no 9 PM curfew. You don't need any tour - you can just go yourself.

Your biggest question is about Hakone - and in the end, only you in hindsight can really say if it is worth it. Yes, it is touristy - flooded with them in fact. If you go really early and do the Loop differently (clockwise) than the crowds, you might be able to escape some of the chaos. Consider a good view of Fuji as a big bonus, but don't get your hopes up - it frequently is bad. You can always look at the live web cam and check the weather report to increase your chances, if you are flexible.
The best views of Fuji are usually early in the morning or evening.

Aside from the JR Rail Pass, there are other passes for Hakone, Nikko, Koyasan etc you should look at.
by Ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Another 2 Week Itinerary 2019/3/19 18:42
Thanks both - lots of really useful information there.

I should say, we're arriving on the 21st of May, and leaving on the 4th June, so only a very small part of our trip will be in very early June, which will hopefully mean we miss the worst of any bad weather and extreme heat (and catch the torii gate pre-renovation)?

Presuming that is the case, we have planned our trip so we're doing most of the busy big city stuff first, then having more of a relaxed second half, a format that tends to work for us.

Will definitely consider Nikko and take on board what you say regarding properly appreciating Hiroshima - I'm generally not one for rushing around seeing every tourist site and taking a photo; would much rather visit the backstreets, grab a drink and do some people watching. Good advice re the Koyasan Temple food quantities - I'll bear that in mind given my appetite!

Both your comments re Hakone just seem to reinforce my initial concerns and so I'm tempted not to bother. I am quite tempted by Takayama and other places inland and in the Alps region, but I don't know if I'd be trying to pack in too much into the two weeks? Do you think my itinerary could be sensibly improved taking all of the above into account?
by oysteroyster rate this post as useful

Re: Another 2 Week Itinerary 2019/3/19 18:56
Hi. You could get Takayama in pretty easily a few different ways.

First, you could go by train Tokyo to Matsumoto (2.5 hours) and see the castle there and then bus on to Takayama (3 hours). Most people would spend the night at Matsumoto which is a nice little city in the alps. The bus trip is nice too.

Second, you could shinkansen Tokyo to Nagoya then catch the wideview Hida to Takayama. That would be a longer trip, but the Nagoya - Takayama leg is probably one of the prettiest trips I've seen through the alps. But really you'd see more if you went to Takayama via Matsumoto and then went Takayama to Kyoto by train via Nagoya, and that is a pretty trip too.

Takayama is one of our favorite places in Japan. Some people love it, others think it is overrated. We stay at Hotel Associa which is a little out of town but is a great onsen resort. I'd recommend 2 nights, though some feel that one is plenty. You can always bus off to Shirakawa if you get bored.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

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