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Itinerary review for second time visitors 2019/8/19 12:34
Hi, we are an Australian couple visiting Japan for the second time from 19 October until 6 November, 2019.

During our first visit in 2014 we spent three and a half weeks and visited Tokyo (5 days), Matsumoto (side trip to the Nakasendo), Tateyama-Kurobe Alpen Route, Kanazawa, Takayama, Kyoto (4 days including side trip to Nara), Hiroshima, Miyajima and Osaka. We loved every minute of our trip and can't wait to return.

I'm the big researcher and planner, hubby just tags along! I'm hoping for some measured advice and opinions on the following itinerary proposal for our upcoming trip.

19 Oct - arrive Tokyo Narita AM (staying 3 nights, Yotsuya)
20 Oct - Tokyo, visit some neighbourhoods we missed the first time
21 Oct - Day trip, Tokyo>Hitachi Seaside Park>Ushiku Daibutsu>Tokyo
22 Oct - >Kamakura & Enoshima>overnight stay currently undecided (Yokohama? Hakone?)
23 Oct - >Hakone: Is a full day and additional overnight stay warranted? Or >Nagoya?
24 Oct - From hereon is where it gets a bit wiggly for a few days! Nagoya is on the agenda because we want to visit the Nabana No Sato garden illuminations. We also plan to head down the Kii Peninsula but I'm not sure whether we should go all the way down and around (slow trains?) or just head out and back from somewhere like Nagoya. I think I'm willing to scale back my ambitions and focus on Ise, the Magose and Matsumoto Passes and Nachi Taisha down the eastern side. Allow a couple of days and then ...
26 Oct - >Kobe
27 Oct - >Onomichi via Himeji (castle was under renovation when last we visited)
28 Oct - Shimanami Kaido, not the full extent, just an out and back to Onomichi
29 Oct - >Rabbit Island AM >long train ride to Nagasaki
30 Oct - Nagasaki
31 Oct - >yes, another long train ride to Kyoto, but we can get going early
1 Nov - Day trip, Kyoto>Amanhashidate & Ine>Kyoto
2 Nov - More wiggliness! In these last few days of the trip I thought we might go back via Takayama in an attempt to squeeze in Shirakawago and/or Kamikochi. Suggestions here would be appreciated.
Also on the cards was Nagano for Jigokudani but we won't go out of our way if the monkeys are not inclined to be in the onsen at that time of the year (NB: If I were a monkey, I'd be in the onsen 24/7!).
If we didn't deviate to the Alps at the end here, what other suggestions could be made?
5 Nov - The night of 5 Nov needs to be in Tokyo or at Narita as we depart on 6 Nov AM.

Some additional notes - I have waxed and waned over Hakone and could be persuaded away from it again! Other interesting options around here included the Mishima Skywalk and the new Fuji museum in Fujinomiya. Does anyone have any thoughts about these? Tottori was another option I considered but dropped. Neither my hubby nor I are terribly keen on an onsen experience unless it was a ryokan room with private bath type setup (Hakone?). We would like the itinerary to be a nice mix of cities, nature and walks, shrines and temples and Japanese quirkiness!

I am open to suggestions of how to cut down the hotel changing and choose places to use as hubs for day trips if anyone thinks that makes more sense.

Thanks for reading my War and Peace!!


by Justine (guest)  

Re: Itinerary review for second time visitors 2019/8/19 21:49
Have you considered not only how much of your trip will be spent finding and checking into different hotels, but also how much of it will be spent travelling on trains? Just my view of course, but for my pace this is rushed. I would cut the number of things I plan to do and spend longer.
by LIZ (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary review for second time visitors 2019/8/19 22:19
If you want to do the eastern part of the Kii Peninsula, good for you! It is one of my favorite places in all of Japan. However, do yourself a favor and allow three nights if you want to go to Ise and also hike either Magose or Matsumoto passes. And even then, you will be very hard-pressed to fit Nachi Taisha in. With only two nights I would drop either Ise or Nachi Taisha. Just my own two cents' worth. Also, have some contingency plans for rain. (It tends to rain a lot there, and there are fewer options for things to do in bad weather than there are in most other places.) And figure out in advance exactly what you plan to do with your luggage. Plan everything (transit, meals, luggage management) in detail and still be prepared for a few hitches. A feasible, nice three-night itinerary is a circuit of the peninsula starting out (early) in Nagoya, with one night in Ise, one night around Owase, and one night in Kii-Katsuura or Shirahama, then ending up in Osaka. Ordinarily I do not advocate changing hotels every night, but if you want to get the most out of that region in a short period of time, you almost have to. (Tip: Don't settle for quick and easy choices on accommodations or try to get the cheapest places you can find. There are some really fabulous places to stay around there. Terrific onsens and outrageously good seafood are available if you look for them. Another strategy for this region is to find a marvelous ryokan and hole up there for a couple of nights, fitting in hikes or a little sightseeing on the arrival day, the second day, and possibly the third day.)

I also tend to think you are maybe trying to fit too much into your trip. If it were me, I would probably cut out some places. For what it's worth, Hakone seems to be a place that many people love to hate these days (of course, Kyoto is on that list too! ha-ha). Last time I went there it was not crowded, and I had a splendid time, but that was a few years ago, and I didn't try to do the typical "round course" or expect Mt. Fuji views.

When I plan my trips to Japan I usually start out with a fairly long list of places I want to go, and then when I really think about the nitty-gritty details (transit, accommodations including outrageous upcharges or overcrowded conditions in certain places on weekends, luggage management, etc.) I tend to pare the list back.

A number of places on your list could be done as day trips from a home base in Tokyo or western Japan. Okayama is good for that.

I wouldn't necessarily cut out Nagasaki, although many people will tell you it won't work the way you have it planned. (On the other hand, I would cut out "Rabbit Island." But that's just me. Just be sure you really know what you're getting. I have seen some people be disappointed, and others be absolutely delighted.)

Finally, remember to enjoy your transit and not just see it as a necessary evil. I feel sorry for those people who spend every minute of their train rides in Japan resenting the time it takes and just wishing they could get where they are going faster. Note: if you plan to take a lot of train rides, a green rail pass can be a super-nice indulgence if your budget can gracefully allow it.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary review for second time visitors 2019/8/20 10:54
Thank you for your responses Liz and Kim.

To qualify a little, we LOVE train travel and do not begrudge the time spent getting from place to place, however I can see that reducing the travel a bit will make for a more relaxing holiday. We are reconsidering what type and amount of luggage we take this time and choosing some hubs to work out of will only add to easing that burden.

I think I've tried too hard to avoid a return to places previously visited and perhaps I should reconsider that approach. I may bump up the nights in Tokyo and do more day trips, use Nagoya for the Kii Peninsula, consider Okayama as another hub and day trip around those western prefectures, with Nagasaki possibly dropping off the agenda again.

Like you Kim, I gather lots of information and it all starts getting a bit bigger than Ben Hur, then as the trip gets closer, I regain some rationality and scale it back! I know what my 'must-do' items are, so I'll just focus in on those and go from there. :-) And stop looking at Instagram and feeding my FOMO, LOL!

I really appreciate your advice, thanks again.
by Justine (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary review for second time visitors 2019/8/20 11:32
Hi, I also like train travel so I dont mind 2 - 3 hours a day on trains though I usually stay 2 days everywhere I stop.

Just a couple of things I would mention :

Hakone - look it gets a bad rap because of the number of tourists but it is really pretty with lots to do and a nice train ride. We have been a few times, last time we stayed at Fukumuziro at Tonosawa (just near Hakone Yumoto) and it was like stepping back in time;
Kamakura/Enoshima - I would try staying on Enoshima. If you are there early in the morning you are likely to score decent Fuji views over the bay;
If you are thinking of Nagoya, I would launch from there to Takayama. The end of October beginning of November is where autumn leaves are nicest in the mountains though you might have better luck later in your trip. Also consider the Izu peninsula which we visited last trip and found very nice;
Nagasaki - is there something you are wanting to see in particular there? It is an interesting city but quite industrial and very steep. I dont know that I would go more than a few hours out of my way to see it and the train trip isnt that good. If you are into the early catholic/western influence into Japan it would probably be more interesting than I found it, though the people are very nice. Personally I would go to Yufuin instead.
Trip back - maybe on the way back think of Takayama (great autumn leaves at that time), then bus to Kamikochi (stay overnight at Onsen Hotel (no private onsen but not many people aout so likely to get the outdoor bath to yourself), there are monkeys about but be wary as it will be getting very cold), then on by bus or bus/train to Matsumoto for the castle before heading back to Tokyo.

by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary review for second time visitors 2019/8/21 11:04
Thank you Lazy Pious. :-)

Yes, I'm dropping Nagasaki back off the agenda. If we head any further west than Onomichi, it may just be to revisit Hiroshima or explore further around there.

At this stage I'm thinking to extend our stay in Tokyo and do more day trips from there, head to Kyoto/Osaka/Nara and explore as much into the Kii Peninsula as time allows, do the bike ride we planned from Onomichi and then head back using Nagoya for Takayama and getting into Kamikochi prior to end of season. We loved Matsumoto last time and would happily have that as our last stop before Tokyo again.

I really appreciate your input! Thanks.
by Justine (guest) rate this post as useful

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