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December 17 - January 5 2019/8/30 22:32
I am taking my wife on a surprise trip to Japan in December.
We both love architecture, good food and gardens, though I am not sure how the gardens will show at that time of year.
My inclination is to spend most of the time in Tokyo and Kyoto, with side trips from both.
I would like to take in Naoshima and particularly Benesse House and it looks to be open in early January. I wonder how bad rail travel will be from kyoto to Hiroshima, and then down to Naoshima over the holiday dates say Jan 1, 2, 3 and 4. It looks like we could spend at least three or four days around that area
Any other suggestions would be most appreciated.
Thank you

Re: December 17 - January 5 2019/8/31 13:26
Any domestic travel will be very busy over the New Year's period as locals travel to their hometowns for the holidays, then back at the end. Book seats on shinkansen ahead if possible, to avoid having to stand for the journey! JR East allows shinkansen reservations in English on their website (including with a JR Pass). You can also book some shinkansen using the SmartEx app if you are from a registered country. Both of these systems open bookings 1 month before the date of travel.
by / (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: December 17 - January 5 2019/8/31 13:58
https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2276.html have a look here and check pages for places you're keen on for info about closures.
by Sal1980 rate this post as useful

Re: December 17 - January 5 2019/9/2 20:58
This is great information.
Thanks so much
If i am able to get reserved seats, might luggage (one ba,g, one backpack each) be a problem?
Thanks again
by AGVULPES rate this post as useful

Re: December 17 - January 5 2019/9/2 21:01
If the luggage can fit in the overhead racks (similar size to plane and bus ones), no problem. If they are larger, there is some space behind the last row of seats in each car, and if that's full, it's possible to sit the bag in front of you because of the amount of legroom (but this may be uncomfortable depending on how tall you are).

You could use luggage forwarding services to send larger luggage ahead if you're worried. Delivery is normally next day. Hotels can help with the forms and organise the sending for you.
by / (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: December 17 - January 5 2019/9/2 21:16
Thank you very much
I am thinking that during the holiday Ii might be better off travelling out of Kyoto heading towards Hiroshima and Naoshima rather than out of Tokyo and towards Kyoto.
As if planning an itinerary fo a first-time trip to Japan wasn't stressful enough i have to further complicate it by going over the holiday!
by AGVULPES rate this post as useful

Re: December 17 - January 5 2019/9/2 21:58
I've traveled in Japan a reasonable number of times over New Years and it's an interesting time to visit. Here are some my own personal pointers:

(1) On New Years eve - book a hotel as early as possible.

(2) Transport over NY's can be really hit or miss. Sometimes it's totally empty, sometimes it's totally sold out. Do note that Japan busy (apart from non-reserved Shinkansen - standing for hours on a train is not fun!) is better than most places as many people tend to try and give you space.

(3) Rural locations are beautiful, but often have most stores closed on NY's day. For example, I'm visiting Yakushima this year between 31/12 - 4/1 and have been told that all restaurants and stores on the island are closed on 1/1. In most places, many more family run restaurants are close on 1/1 but chain stores and convenience stores are open.

(4) Convenience stores are not gourmet - but are much better than our home countries for food when it comes to meals. Use them as a much better last resort than that sad 7/11 sandwich which may have legs in our own home country.

You are in Japan for roughly 17 nights which is a reasonable amount of time. Spend some time in Tokyo and Kyoto (possibly 4/5 nights each) with stops in between. Kyoto has lots of cities close by which makes it great for day trips. Note that Kyoto could take some people months to finish - but I do suggest completing it earlier in your trip than close to new years. I tend to shy away from very large shrines and temples at or after new years due to large crowds

A couple of nights on Naoshima would be nice. Inujima is nice for art and architecture. Okayama might also be a good secondary location to stop. My profile page has a reasonable number of sites which I've blogged about - with the date shown with the location (just click on my name below). Most major cities are there...
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: December 17 - January 5 2019/9/2 22:33
WOW, thank you so much.
Your blog will keep me nice and busy today.
If you dont mind, i will be back with an initial itinerary.
Thanks again
by AGVULPES rate this post as useful

Re: December 17 - January 5 2019/9/3 06:14
Well i believe i have a good start on an itinerary.
Arrive Dec 17
Depart Jan 6

Tokyo 4 nights side trip to Nikko
Kanazawa 2 nights
Kyoto 5 nights side trip to Nara, Nagoya? Osaka?
Naoshima and surroundings via Okayama 3 nights
Hiroshima 2 nights side trip Myajima
Nagasaki 2 nights
Return to Tokyo

This is very tentative but for a Japan first-timer who is married to an Architect it should cover most of the bases.
Would very much appreciate comments both pro and con as well as suggestions as to the time allotted to each destination.
I believe we will be out of Kyoto by the start of the holiday as you suggested and am hoping that the travel will be less busy in those other parts of the country such as Naoshima and Nagasaki.
Many thanks again

by AGVULPES rate this post as useful

Re: December 17 - January 5 2019/9/3 22:14
Your current plan is totally doable but here are a couple of things to consider

(1) Day trips from Kyoto. There are plenty of day trips from Kyoto - but you are also in Kyoto which is potentially worth many weeks in itself. Two day trips which are probably the best are:

A) Nara half day trip
B) Visit a castle. Hikone is better if you like smaller crowds, but Himeji is probably the crown jewel period.

(2) Why are you visiting Kanazawa? It's nice and all, but is there a specific reason? Meiji Mura is a great option for your husband in Inujima. The town is rather slow and no way as impressive as Kanazawa, but Meiji Mura is the biggest and I consider premier old building museum in the country.


(3) Nagasaki is one of my favorite cities in Japan, but it's also a fair distance from Hiroshima. Another option which is much different but is still on Honshu is Hagi - what I consider the best traditional samurai town in the whole country. I actually visited here in summer and New Years.

https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-1422 (visit during New Years)

(4) Check the dates for the Hiroshima atomic museum - it's likely closed over New Years. Also Miyajima (might) be very busy if it's just after New Years. Major shrines are busy up to a week after the 1st...
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: December 17 - January 5 2019/9/4 10:35
Thank you again and i appreciate your suggestions.
Point well taken re. Kanazawa and i will add those days to Kyoto.
I wanted to do Nagasaki based on your reports:-) it looks like a very interesting city.
I will look up avalable dates at the Hiroshima atomic musuum and see if i can work in a visit.
I think i can skip a visit from there to the island.
Maybe three days in Naoshima and surroundings might be doable.
Thank once again and back to the drawing board:-)
by AGVULPES rate this post as useful

Re: December 17 - January 5 2019/9/10 04:31
OK I have progressed towards a reasonable conclusion but would still appreciate some advice with what I have .
Dec 18-23 Tokyo (with day trip to Nikko)
Dec 23-28 Kyoto (with day trip to Nara)
Dec 28-29 Okayama
Dec 29-30 Naoshima
Dec 30-
Jan 6 Depart Japan
Here is where it gets complicated.
I would like to see Nagoya and the Meiji-Mura. Maybe Magome and Tsumago?
I would also like to see Hiroshima, the Museum (closed 30/31) and Mazda?
Of secondary importance would be Fukuoka and Nagasaki
Since this is our first trip to Japan I have a huge appetite but realise I may be somewhat impractical by expecting what I have listed to be done in a week.
I would very much appreciate your advice as to the feasibility of this as well as alternate suggestions you can make.
Thank you once again
by AGVULPES rate this post as useful

Re: December 17 - January 5 2019/9/10 05:58
Christmas and New Year is a great time to go to Japan.
Book your NY travel early (you can book ahead once youfre in Japan if youfre using a rail pass, or book before you arrive as has been said earlier).
Remember that daylight hours will be short, and ryokan prices will be at premium rates on the holiday days, but you can plan around that, or decide to suck it up.
Ifd definitely go to Kanazawa in winter as Kenrokuen garden is great to see with all the trees lagged in straw and tied up again the snow.
You should maybe also think about fitting in some time in the mountains so that you can enjoy a rotemburo in the snow, and a bit of skiing or sledging or snowballing.
Naoshima is awesome, and, for architecture in Tokyo Ifd go to Omotesando, check out the high-end stores (Prada,etc, great architecture), Andofs Omotesando Hills complex, and the Nezu Museum. Combine that with a visit to the Ota Memorial Museum and a stroll through Harajuku to see the street-style kids, and maybe a walk through the park/visit the Meiji shrine, and youfve got a good themed day out.
by Winter Visitor rate this post as useful

Re: December 17 - January 5 2019/9/10 07:07
If you do go to Kanazawa at that time (agreed Kenrokuen is pretty) bear in mind that it rains as well as sleet and snow, and it is pretty much known for it. It is easy to step into puddles hidden under snow, we spent half our nights drying out the bottoms of our jeans and our socks and boots when we went after Christmas one year. I would wear gum boots if I went back at that time.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: December 17 - January 5 2019/9/11 01:38
Sage advice
Thank you
by AGVULPES rate this post as useful

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