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Itinerary Suggestions? Family Travel in March 2019/10/4 11:59
Hi, I've got lots of great ideas through browsing posts on this forum to help in planning a trip for a family of 4 (two kids under 10) in early/mid-March. I'd appreciate any suggestions, advice on our rough 20-day itinerary.

We're seasoned travellers, but this is our first time in Japan. We love to explore, interested in architecture, food, museums, hiking and unique experiences.

Here's what I've got so far (still rough):

Day 1 - Tokyo
Arrive late afternoon, check-in, dinner nearby

Day 2 - Tokyo
Meji Shrine, Harajuku, Shibuya

Day 3 - Tokyo
Tsukiji Market, Ginza/Shinjuku

Day 4 - Tokyo/Kanazawaa
Omichi market, Kanazawa castle, Ninjadera

Day 5 - Kanazawa
Kenrou-en garden, Ishikawa history museum, Higashi Chaya Gai: Ochaya Shima, Yasue gold leaf museum, Sakuda factory gold leaf workshop

Day 6 - Kanazawa/Takayama
Hida folk village, explore Sanmachi-suji District

Day 7 - Takayama/Magome
Hike Nakasendo Trail and stay in Tsumago

Day 8 - Tsumago/Osaka
Umeda Sky Building, Dotonbori for dinner

Day 9 Osaka
Universal Studios Japan

Day 10 - Osaka
Osaka Castle, Aquarium, Noodle factory, Kuromon Ichiba Market

Day 11 - Kyoto/Koyasan
Temple stay, visit Okunoin

Day 12 - Koyasan/Kyoto
Explore Koyasan (Kongbuji, Garan, maybe hike)

Day 13 - Kyoto
Explore east side: Fushimi Inari shrine, Kiyomizu shrine, Yasaka shrine area, Ginkakuji temple and Tetsugaku no michi, Gion area walkin

Day 14 - Kyoto
Arishimaya and area (Kinkakuji temple, Ryoani temple, Togetsukyo bridge, Tenryuji garden, Bamboo grove

Day 15 - Kyoto
Nara: Yoshiki-en Gardens, Nandaimon Gate, Todai-ji, Sacred deer, Nigatsu-do, Kasuga Taisha, Kofuku-ji

Day 16 - Kyoto
Explore new areas, maybe Shunkoin temple meditation class

Day 17 - Kyoto/Tokyo
Visit last areas in Kyoto - head back to Tokyo (staying in Asakusa area)

Day 18 - Tokyo
Asakusa/Ueno area: Senso-ji, Skytree, Asakusa shrine, do some souvenir shopping

Day 19 - Tokyo
Boat ride from Asakusa to Odaiba, Maybe team labs borderless, explore Odaiba and area

Day 20 - Tokyo (depart)
Last wander before evening departure

by SaltyWaves (guest)  

Re: Itinerary Suggestions? Family Travel in March 2019/10/4 14:04

Make sure to check a crowd calendar for USJ. This one tends to be quite good: http://www15.plala.or.jp/gcap/usj/ March tends to be a popular theme park time, I think there is a school/college break then. Though honestly, I'm not sure the calendar is updated for March yet since it seems to have the same predictions for February and March and onwards which just seems very off.

Personally, depending on how much time you want to actually spend hiking between Tsumago and Magome, you might want to add a day there or add a day to Matsumoto before heading there. It's a good 4 or so hours (possibly longer depending on layovers) from Takayama to the Kiso Valley by bus then train then bus again. If you're hoping to do the whole route by train it's going to take even longer.

Good luck!

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary Suggestions? Family Travel in March 2019/10/4 21:41
We will definitely be looking at the USJ crowd predictor - I did see it mentioned before on this forum. From what I've read the school break in Japan is the last week of March so hopefully we miss some of the heavy traffic.

I'll take another look at the Magome/Tsumago hike - I've seen a few accounts where people said one day was enough but you may be right to slow that down a bit.

Thanks for the advice.
by SaltyWaves rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary Suggestions? Family Travel in March 2019/10/5 00:59

One day might be enough, but if you try to do it your first day, even if you leave Takayama at 8:00 am, you're not going to get to the Kiso Valley until closer to noon. It could be as late as 13:00. The sun sets later in March than in February but still not super late. You are also going to arrive with hungry kids. I know for me personally, I can skip meals while on vacation if I am doing something I want to do or have ice cream for lunch, my kid can not. I can't remember for sure, but I think the buses prefer you not eat on them and I know any local trains don't like people eating on them either. I think people who tend to do it in one day either are leaving from Matsumoto or Nagoya which are considerably closer and/or don't have kids in tow.

On your second day in Kiso Valley you're going to Osaka in the evening, and that trip is going to take you at least 2.5 hours. (again depending on layovers) You really don't want to get to Osaka too late because you want to be at USJ super early. I've gone to USJ 2x. The first time, was a regular low crowds day, but by afternoon there will still 1 hour lines for many attractions with the exception of the kiddie rides. We did buy one of the express pass paks. My second USJ trip was two days after the Osaka earthquake in 2018 during a terrible rain storm. The park was completely dead, like so dead nothing had lines at all.. except the train back to Osaka which was running 2-3 hours behind schedule. Trying to get from USJ back to Osaka proper was a nightmare of crowds and i should have just eaten the cost of 1 night in Kyoto and booked a 2nd night at one of the USJ hotels. But suffice it to say, even if the park opens at 9 and it is a quiet day, there will be long lines if you get there at 9, you really want to aim for more like 7:30-8:00 am arrival.

Unlike Tokyo Disney, USJ does not allow you to exit the park and re-enter.

I don't know where in Osaka you are staying, but even within Osaka it can take 20-30 minutes to get to USJ unless you stay near USJ which is not near anything else.

I really liked ninjadera, my child did not because it's a lot of listening to someone explain things in Japanese and reading silently, vs. actually being a ninja and doing activities. She loved Hida no Sato village because it was a lot more participatory.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary Suggestions? Family Travel in March 2019/10/5 02:09
In Kanazawa I would definitely drop by the modern art museum.
Even if you only play on the sound tubes in the garden outside and look at the gswimming poolh piece from the outside.
Fun for kids and adults, and right by Kenrokuen/the castle.
by Winter Visitor rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary Suggestions? Family Travel in March 2019/10/5 02:27
Yes I think I may have to do some adjusting to the Nakasendo trail portion...I know you can do it from both directions so we may arrive from Takayama and stay the night in Tsumago then hike through the next morning to Magome...then on to Osaka.

I am dreading the USJ portion TBH but we never do theme parks and I know my kids will love the Harry Potter part...thanks for the advice though, I'll be sure to make the day after very light.

Added Kanazawaa art museum to my list ....thanks everyone.
by SaltyWaves rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary Suggestions? Family Travel in March 2019/10/5 03:40

We do like theme parks, but we don't like waiting in lines. USJ can be fairly popular particularly the Harry Potter section. If it is within your budget it might be worthwhile to buy express passes. If your children are older than 7 and you do not wish to ride, you can actually give them your express passes so they can ride a 2nd time. If you live in one of the areas JTB offers it, it might make sense to spend the money to do their early morning package. It gives you 15 minutes of early entry which can really give you a leg up. The packages are not offered in my location and again our last trip the weather was awful so we didn't need it. If your children like Harry Potter, they will likely enjoy the Harry Potter section. Overall, visiting USJ is cheaper than visiting Universal Florida or Universal CA once you are in Osaka. I've never been on a crowded day, but friends who have said there is a special ticketing system for visiting the Harry Potter section. I am glad I have not experienced it.

I personally was not that into the Osaka aquarium. It's a beautiful aquarium and well done, but anything interactive is very very crowded. I think my daughter mostly enjoyed it for the merch. She liked our much smaller local aquarium more (even though they didn't have a whale shark) because it is easier to get close to the exhibits.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary Suggestions? Family Travel in March 2019/10/5 03:57
Yes for USJ I've started looking at the skip the lines options and the early access - if we're taking a day out of our schedule to do it we might as well spend a bit more so we're not in lines all day.

Good to know about the aquarium. We don' t have many big ones where we live so I think our kids will be into it but it may be a game-time decision.

Thanks for the info.
by SaltyWaves rate this post as useful

Re: Itinerary Suggestions? Family Travel in March 2019/10/6 12:50
Have you checked the climate of Takayama, Magome and Koyasan in early/mid March?
Located in high altitude inland areas, these places are colder than Tokyo in mid-winter.
Temperature will be around 0`10.
by Chibanian rate this post as useful

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