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Proposed Itinerary - 17 days 2019/9/14 01:39
Hi there!

I will be visiting Japan with my girlfriend on the 2nd of April for 17 days (first time visit) and we were wondering if the itinerary below is a good fit for us. We are in our late 20's-early 30's and are keen to experience an authentic side of Japan, while simultaneously seeing all the "musts" for a first time visitor with emphasis placed on the culinary aspects of the country.

Proposed itinerary:

Day 1 - morning arrival in Haneda airport and day in Tokyo
Day 2 - Tokyo
Day 3 - Tokyo
Day 4 - Tokyo
Day 5 - Tokyo - Day trip to Nikko
Day 6 - Tokyo
Day 7 - Tokyo - Day trip to Disney Sea
Day 8 - Hakone
Day 9 - Kyoto
Day 10 - Kyoto
Day 11 - Kyoto - various possible day trips
Day 12 - Kyoto - daytrip to Uji and Nara
Day 13 - Osaka
Day 14 - Osaka
Day 15 - Head to Hiroshima and visit Himeji castle en route
Day 16 - Hiroshima
Day 17 - Transit to Tokyo and spend day there. Departure at midnight from Tokyo Haneda

Any tips or advice, as well as comments on the above will be greatly appreciated!
by NickM8  

Re: Proposed Itinerary - 17 days 2019/9/15 11:00
Hi, the itinerary looks fine - it is pretty usual for a first trip and you will see some great stuff. Kyoto however is very crowded these days especially around the main attractions and I'd expect around mid April will be very busy. If you dont like crowds there are alternatives which would not be as busy, let us know.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Proposed Itinerary - 17 days 2019/9/15 19:02
I second what @Lazy Pious says about Kyoto being busy. I arrived here today for the first visit in a decade and boy is it busy. Personally I would take one of your Tokyo days & use it to split the long journey back from Hiroshima stopping somewhere like Hikone. Or to go from Kyoto to Hiroshima & then visit Osaka on the way back.
by Stan Norrell rate this post as useful

Re: Proposed Itinerary - 17 days 2019/9/15 21:49
Thank you to both of you for your help. Would you say that Kyoto is so packed that itfs best to avoid it or that we should just be prepared to face these crowds?

Ifve heard that itfs one of the most amazing cities in Japan and if itfs not necessary I would rather if we experienced it.
by NickM8 rate this post as useful

Re: Proposed Itinerary - 17 days 2019/9/16 01:31

I was in Kyoto in June 2019 (and June 2018, 2017 and 2016) It is more crowded than it use to be, which can be shocking for someone who was there pre-2010, like presumably @Stan Norrell.

Personally, I've noticed certain places in Kyoto are crazy crowded (I'm looking at you in particular Fushimi Inari) but other temples, some of them quite easily accessible like Kodaiji and Ninnaji are not that bad. I think if you want to go to: Fushimi Inari, Kiyomizudera, Kinkakuji, the Nishiki Market and the Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama, like pretty much everyones else going to Kyoto, it's going to be crowded and you should go to all those places as early as possible. The shopping streets are just going to be full of people shopping, though some of the small temples and shrines in the area are not as crowded as you would think. We went to Hozoji, to get their famous skull goshouin and outside a few other Japanese people we were alone.

I will say unless you want to go to USJ; you are really into shopping; or you have the sort of niche hobby that makes Osaka super interesting, I don't know why you would need 2 days in Osaka. I would switch those days out with either a stopover in Okayama or Himeji or Hikone depending on your interests.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Proposed Itinerary - 17 days 2019/9/16 04:50
All those locations Tokyo, Kansai and Hiroshima will be busy in April. April cherry blossom and dec/jan new years are the two most busy times of the year.

Kyoto's main tourist locations just have become overcrowded these days. This isn't a reason not to go to Kyoto. Just a warning to be prepared and plan accordingly. That doesn't mean the whole of Kyoto city is crowded though. Hit The bamboo grove and Fushimi Inari a 7 am etc etc to avoid crowd.
by hakata14 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Proposed Itinerary - 17 days 2019/9/16 05:03
Kyoto and Nara Park are overrun with foreign tourists, especially Chinese.
But for Kyoto particularly, it depends on which temples or shrines you go to, and when. The big icons of the city are Fushimi Inari, Kiyomizudera, and Kinkakuji.
They are overpublicized, and so get mobs of people. That said, you can still go see them without the tidal wave of people - you just need to avoid the crowds, such as by going early in the morning ( very early) such as around 6-7 AM. And the most famous places are not necessarily the "best". Kinkakuji is a lot harder - if you get there before it opens at 9 AM there will already be a line of people waiting, though still not as crowded compared to mid-morning when it turns into an urban rush hour subway station.
Plus you'll be visiting during the cherry blossom season so some places will be even more jammed with people. Some of the popular places to see are at
The trick again is to go during the off hours, as well as find the lesser known gems that fewer people know about.
by Ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Proposed Itinerary - 17 days 2019/9/16 07:58
@Rkold is right I was last here (here being Kyoto) in 2007 & 2009 and it was much quieter. I would say, as have others come to Kyoto by all means just be aware that it is busy but It is busy for a reason. If you are going to the iconic places then try to get there early to avoid the tour groups. I'm off to Arashiyama today even though I know it's going to be busy. and then I will make my way down the river to the station area. I'm really looking forward to it.
by Stan Norrell rate this post as useful

Re: Proposed Itinerary - 17 days 2019/9/16 08:29
Honestly, I would avoid Kyoto altogether in cherry blossom season (or autumn) or limit it to a day or two. I'd suggest a night in Hikone which is really pretty and not as busy (awesome castle and garden), then one in Nara rather than a day trip, so that you can get out and about before the buses roll in. Nara is much less crowded than Kyoto - places like Todaiji do get crowded in a festival kind of way, but because it is all central it is easy to get out in the park and avoid the crowds.

Also going to the markets in Kyoto is something I really dont recommend. There are markets in pretty much every city in Japan, none of them are particularly interesting as most of the shops are selling rubbish from China anyway, then there are others with interesting-ish food items that you cant take with you. I spent about 3 hours in the markets in Kyoto 10 years ago (admittedly 2 and a half of them were trying to find my way out), I am still scarred by the monumental waste of time, it wasnt much different to the flea market here on the Gold Coast.

For a nice touristy shopping street that wont be as busy as those in Kyoto (Fushimi Inari and Kiyomizudera areas in particular are just wall to wall people so there is no point even trying to shop there), I'd suggest a day trip from Tokyo to Enoshima and Kamakura. Kamakura has a lot of nice shops, Enoshima also has a great little street heading up toward the top of the island. For excellent fun shopping and a nice town, a daytrip from Tokyo to Karuizawa would be awesome. Karuizawa has some of the most fun shopping around (in the little Ginza street) and is a lovely resort-y town. It might be very cold that time of year.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Proposed Itinerary - 17 days 2019/9/16 09:25
I respectfully disagree with @Lazy Pious, I've had fun shopping even in current day Kyoto. It just depends on what you are shopping for and what you are hoping to buy.

Last trip to Kyoto I shopped at:

The Disney Store (they do carry VERY different merchandise than in the US and one year we got an amazing Stitch special edition)
Lupicia (the Teramachi branch has a bunch of Kyoto limited editions)
The Pokemon Center (they have some Kyoto only merchandise and activities)
Lush (again there are Japanese exclusives, and I honestly don't know why but every time we went to one in Japan, they gave my daughter free bath bombs)

This trip we got something from the honey store. Its a Japanese chain and there is one in Nara and Kamakura as well. We just happened to hit up that one and bringing back honey, like tea is not a problem to our home country.

I've also enjoyed some of the monthly flea markets. We bought some lovely paper cut out cards and I've bought some little wallets. We also bought peaches that were seconds from a farmer. They were dirt cheap and absolutely delicious but did not last long. It was a struggle to get through them all and I wish I had a better bag to carry them in. We went to the one in Toji and Kitano Tenmangu.

I still like Kyoto, it just can be very crowded and honestly it's unclear where sakura will be when they are there. Lately' it seems like sakura has been super early and will have already peaked.

We went to Fushimi Inari around 8:00 am. We managed to get some pictures which make it look like no one else is there and did the longer loop which was also less crowded, but by the time we finished closer to 11 the walk back was insanely crowded and the main part of the shrine was as crowded as a theme park.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Proposed Itinerary - 17 days 2019/9/16 19:26
I have just spent a wonderful day in Arashiyama on the public holiday(Respect for the aged day). While completely understanding @Rkold's points I would say if you want to see the famous sites go early & then find what you want to see that the tour groups might not go to.
by Stan Norrell rate this post as useful

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