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Japan 17 day intinerary advice 2019/5/19 21:09

I am planning my first trip to Japan with my husband from August 20th to September 7th. We'll be getting in late the first day and leaving early the last, so in the end we'll have 17 full days to explore. We enjoy visiting historical/cultural sites (we've got a pretty high tolerance for visiting lots of temples, shrines, etc.), long walks through cities just to get the feel of the place (even though I understand that our dates will be pretty brutal temperature-wise), with a little bit of nature as well.

Given our interests, we're focusing our trip on the Kansai region, but since we'll have extra time we'd like to explore some other areas as well. I've crunched the numbers and we'll be getting a 14 day JR pass for the trip.

Our current itinerary is the following:
- August 20th: Arrive in Tokyo from Narita airport in the evening.
- August 21st -23rd: Three full days in Tokyo.
- August 24th: Takayama. Leave Tokyo in the morning to get to Takayama early afternoon, spend afternoon exploring the town. 1st day of JR pass.
- August 25th: Kanazawa. Leave Takayama in the morning to get to Kanazawa early afternoon, spend afternoon visiting the garden and exploring the town.
- August 26th-30th: 4.5 full days in Kyoto (leave Kanazawa on the morning of the 25th and get into Kyoto around noon).
- August 31st: Day trip to Nara, still based in Kyoto.
- Sept 1st: Koyasan. Leave Kyoto in the morning to get to Koyasan in the early afternoon, spend the night in a temple stay.
- Sept 2nd: Osaka. Leave Koyasan in the morning to spend the afternoon in Osaka.
- Sept 3rd: Osaka + day trip to Himeji.
- Sept 4th: Hiroshima. Leave Osaka in the morning to spend the afternoon at the Peace Park.
- Sept 5th: Miyajima as day trip from Hiroshima.
- Sept 6th: Train back to Tokyo, last day of JR pass.
- Sept 7th: Fly out of Narita on early morning flight.

My main concern is balancing the desire to explore with not moving around and changing hotels too frequently, since that cuts visiting time and is a general pain. I also want to make sure that we'll have enough time to spend in Kyoto, since normally we love walking around to visit the sites and get a feel for the city, but given the heat and humidity I imagine we'll want to to take things a little slower with more breaks than if we were visiting another time of year.

Takayama seems like of a bit of a detour, though combined with Kanazawa it makes for a relatively straightforward side trip between Tokyo and Kyoto. Part of the appeal is getting up into the Japanese Alps and seeing some mountains/nature, especially since it looks Mt. Fuji won't be particularly visible at that time of year, so the more nature-oriented side-trips to see it (like Hakone) may not be worth it.

I also wonder if there isn't a way to simplify the Kyoto/Koyasan/Osaka part to keep a single base city longer, but Koyasan really did seem like too far to do as a day trip (and I have heard nice things about staying for the night at a temple).

I'd love to get any feedback about this itinerary, as well as suggestions for any alternatives I didn't think about! Thank you for your help!
by dreamoutloud87 (guest)  

Re: Japan 17 day intinerary advice 2019/5/21 01:11
2 ideas:
- in general I would put the moving time at the end of your day. You donft have that much time and things in Japan close pretty early (around 17:00). So if you have the energy try to move to your next location with the last (or at least a late train) rather than moving in the mornings. This advise doesnft apply to the Koyasan part though.

- For Kansai you could do all you Kyoto, Nara,Osaka from just one hotel (Kyoto or Osaka would be a good base. Kyoto potentially better), then leave for your Koyasan stay and at the day of departure from Koyasan go directly to Himeiji. You could be there around 12:30. Visit the castle and park and then take the last / a late train to Hiroshima and spend the night there before exploring Hiroshima on the next day. This will be a long day with a lot of time on trains but eliminates some hotel changes.

Just an idea.

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

Re: Japan 17 day intinerary advice 2019/5/21 03:04

Question if it's not rude, are you going to Takayama because you specifically want to go there, or are you just looking for something more rural, mountainous and different from the other bigger cities you are visiting?

One idea is instead of Takayama you could do a train trip through Kurobe Gorge: ( https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e7575.html ) and then spend the night in Kanazawa. You would then be doing 2 nights in Kanazawa vs. 1 in Takayama and 1 in Kanazawa. Another option would be taking the train from Tokyo to Nagano (where I know just outside the station there are tons of lockers) and you could visit Zenkoji and Togakushi jinja ( https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6005.html ). We always end up missing Togakushi jinja but I really like Zenkoji, and you could easily still continue onto Kanazawa for the evening. I am not trying to knock Takayama, it's just 4.5 hours from Tokyo and for just part of an afternoon and part of a morning that seems like an awful long trip. By switching to Kurobe Gorge or something in the Nagano area you'll be cutting back on your transport times and you will still get to see something different from Tokyo and Kyoto. I've not been to that part of Japan in August, but in late June I did find Nagano slightly cooler than Takayama. I visited both in 2017.

On September 3rd I might after visiting Himeji just continue onwards to Hiroshima. Most Sakura or Hikaris (the trains the JR Pass is valid on stop at Himeji, there is no reason to back track to Osaka to leave the next morning. That's one place I wouldn't double up on nights since you're just backtracking. I've not had to use the luggage storage at Himeji, but going by a few threads I've found using Google, there is storage available. You could even takyuubin any large bags to Hiroshima and just bring an overnight bag. Heck, depending on how you pack you could even send nay larger bags directly to Narita or Tokyo and just manage with a smaller bag for the 3-6th or 7th.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Japan 17 day intinerary advice 2019/5/22 04:13
Thank you both for your helpful replies! I'll look into the possibility of changing the traveling to the evening.

Thank you in particular for the suggestion Zenkoji and Togakushi jinja! I was indeed hoping for an opportunity to do some light hiking/get out in nature a bit, and this seems to correspond perfectly and it's an easier stop off on the way to Kanazawa. That's exactly the sort of idea I was hoping for from some more experienced travelers. :-)
by dreamoutloud87 (guest) rate this post as useful

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