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First time to japan 2019/10/30 05:58
Hi, Ifm planning to visit Japan for the first time ever in May 2020.
I would appreciate any suggestions/amendments to my itinerary bellow
Land in tokyo and stay 3 nights
Train to Kyoto and stay 4 nights
Trains to takayama and stay 2 nights
Side trip from takayama to kamikochi via buses. Stay 1 night
Back to takayama and stay 1 night
Trains to Kanazawa and stay 2 nights
Train to Tokyo and stay 1 night
Fly back to Uk
The grey area for me is getting from kamikochi to my next destination, Kanazawa? Looks like takayama is on the way so i thought to stay another night in takayama to break up the journey. I havenft particularly been drawn to visit Matsumoto. (Although I can see itfs quite well connected)

Looking forward to your thoughts, thank you!
by Suky C  

Re: First time to japan 2019/10/30 07:34

Have you thought about doing:

Kyoto to Kanazawa to Takayama to Kamikochi to Matsumoto to Tokyo rather than your current plan?

Assuming this version of the pass gets renewed (which seems likely as their has been some version of this pass for a while) You would then do:

Pay out of pocket for a train ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto, (~13,000 yen) pay out of pocket Kyoto to Kanazawa, (~7,000 yen) use this pass to get from Kanazawa to Takayama. Use this pass to get from Takayama to Hirayu (where you would pay additional for the round trip bus to Kamikochi) Use this pass from Hirayu to Matsumoto. From Matsumoto you can either train it down to Tokyo or take a bus. (There is a limited express from Matsumoto to Shinjuku (~6000 yen) as well as a bus.)

The older version of the 3 star pass was only good for 4 days and so would have just barely worked for your trip (2 nights in Takayama and 1 night in Kamikochi) but this newer version is good for 7 nights.

I wouldn't get a 1 week or a two week pass as I don't think it would pay off without travel to other places not listed. You can't fit all your travel in via a 1 week, and a two week is over 47,00 yen and still won't include the bus between Takayama and Kamikochi.

I hope this helps!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: First time to japan 2019/10/30 07:58
Thanks for your reply
I did consider Matsumoto. And I can see how your suggested itinerary works well.
Matsumoto isnft a place I am particularly drawn to visit. Ifm not sure how others feel about Matsumoto??
Which is why I planned to return to Takayama. (So 2 nights before kamikochi and 1 after)
Is that too much?
Regarding JR pass. I still need to get my head around that! Itfs all new to me. At the moment Ifm trying to finalise an itinerary.
Looking forward to your replies :-)
by Suky C rate this post as useful

Re: First time to japan 2019/10/30 08:15
I think 3 nights in Takayama are too much. If you like hiking or staying in nature, you could do 1 or 2 nights in Hirayu onsen.

I think that the idea of @rkold to do Kyoto - Kanazawa-Takayama-Kamikochi-Tokyo makes a lot of sense. If you donft want to visit Matsumoto thatfs fine, but you can still do this travel direction.

I have been to Matsumoto only one nearly 25 years ago and still remember the castle. I know that @rkold likes Matsumoto and from what I can judge on the internet there are good reasons for it. Unless you dislike castles, I think Matsumoto is at least as nice as Takayama. Actually I personally did not like a Takayama that much as I found it overrun by tourists. ( but then I had come from very remote places, with barely any tourists). If you do Kyoto first Takayama wonft feel overrun.

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

Re: First time to japan 2019/10/30 09:33

@LikeBike is correct, like she often is, I do like Matsumoto. I happened to be there during an art show by Kusama Yayoi and got to see an exhibit that was pretty hard to see in my home country by just walking to a museum. It also cost less. I do like the castle as well. I also just like the town in general, it's cute and I thought had a bunch of nice cafes to eat in. I admit, it's also a reason I liked Kanazawa so much, it too had a lot of cute cafes to eat in.

I have mixed feelings about Takayama. I find it a pain to get to and a pain to get out. The train to and from Nagoya is just long and the train to Toyama is shorter but the time table is the pits and being stuck in Toyama for 45 minutes for a layover is also not particularly fun imho. For the difficulty in getting to Takayama it felt the same size as Matsumoto except with a lot less cute cafes that were actually open. Our last trip every place we wanted to eat was closed. I didn't feel like there were hoards of tourists despite the tour bus of them staying at the Associa with me. Possibly because none of those tourists used the onsen. (Which is very weird because the two floors of onsen are the only reason to stay in the Associa.)

I went to Hirayu in 2010 as a day tripper The onsen was spectacular and I think I was the only person there.

Technically, even if you don't want to go to Matsumoto it might make sense to do your trip as: Kyoto to Kanazawa to Takayama to Kamikochi. I think it overall cuts down on your travel as you would only have a long day on the Kamikochi to Tokyo day. You don't need to stay overnight in Matsumoto, you could just use it as a transfer point. You could take the train directly upon arrival down to Tokyo and use that other night for somewhere else. Overall, I also think your travel is cheaper this method, but I don't know if that is a concern.

I stayed in Nakanoyu just outside Kamikochi proper and in a rental cabin in Kamikochi. It poured the entire time I was there and I regret not canceling and taking a loss and going back to Matsumoto.

The other trip would cost: Tokyo to Kyoto, Kyoto to Takayama (which is going to run you ~8500 yen) Takayma to Kamikochi (round trip ~5100 yen) Takayama to Kanazawa (~6700 yen if you get a limited express and shinkansen or ~5040 yen local and shinkansen) and then Kanazawa to Tokyo (approx ~14,000 yen) At that point you would want to get a two week pass and just pay out of pocket for the bus to Kamikochi, since it would cover a NEX one way (to or from the airport) If you're using Haneda, it's a bit more complicated since it is not as expensive to travel to. Your rail pass would either run out before you leave to return to the UK or would not have a start day until your first full day in Japan, because I believe your current itinerary puts you at 15 days.

If you wanted to go to Shirakawa Go, it would be included in my route but would cost extra on your current route. My route does not include the 2000 yen you would need to pay to go round trip from Hirayu to Kamikochi or taking the the train to Narita assuming you are using Narita, though your current trip only covers that one way and you need to use JR to get the most out of your pass. (Keisi I hear is very good and is very convenient depending on where in Tokyo you stay. I tend to stay near Tokyo Station so use Keisi, but if I was staying in Ueno or Asakusa I would look a lot more Keisi. Haneda is a completely different beast and much cheaper to get to and from.

Good luck!

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: First time to japan 2019/10/30 17:16
Matsumoto is one of the best cities of all japan. How can someone not visit it, if time permits :-) ?
by Glimpigumpi rate this post as useful

Re: First time to japan 2019/10/30 17:56
3 nights in Takayama is too much for me, unless you spend one of those nights in an onsen ryokan nearby.
by Winter Visitor rate this post as useful

Re: First time to japan 2019/10/30 18:06
Thanks, I think I need to look at Matsumoto again and decide if I want to stop over there.
Going straight from kamikochi to Tokyo is very loooonnggg and off putting. :-(

A few more questions :-) Your knowledge is excellent!...........

Is the route between Takayama and Kanazawa a pain because of the infrequency of trains between them via Tomaya?

Regarding Takayama, it seems to have mixed opinions. Is it worth the visit? (this is my first visit to Japan)

I can see that the visit to kamikochi is bringing on my dilemma with regards to travelling on from kamikochi.
Would people generally recommend I make the effort to visit kamikochi? or skip it and spend more time in the other areas, perhaps Kanazawa??

Would anyone suggest some other places to visit that I havenft mentioned. Ifm open to ideas

Many thanks!
by Suky C (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: First time to japan 2019/10/31 01:13
Please remember, this is only my opinion.

I was going Takayama to Toyama to Nagano, so there are fewer shinkansen from Toyama to Nagano vs. Kanazawa, but I felt like Takayama to Toyama is not a frequent route. I thought it was quite pretty, but I looked at train times and thought there was a noon local to Toyama, when in fact it was a local that ended at an earlier station and then I would be stuck waiting in a station for an hour for another local and at that point it gets in within minutes of the Hida that left Takayama at 13:30. I should have checked Hyperdia or Google on my phone before leaving Hida no Sato village, instead of relying on the sign that said there was a noon train in the direction of Toyama. It is possible to do the route, but it is one of those things you need to make 100% sure you know the train times for.

I think Takayama is OK? I really like the onsen at the Associa and I like the onsen in Hirayu. I really enjoyed Hida no Sato village, much more so than Shirakawa Go.

I like Matsumoto a lot as I wrote before, I'm also a huge fan of Nagano, which I think is super underrated.

Kamikochi is beautiful even in buckets of rain, it can be pricey to stay the night there and food is very limited for dinner if it's not included with your accommodations. Because of the pouring rain, I should have canceled my cabin reservation the day before, put my things in a locker upon arrival in Kamikochi, gone to the cafe and walked around, gotten my things and caught a late evening bus to Matsumoto and looked for an open hotel room there. I admit, the next day the puddles were very deep and the river was very high and it looked like it was close to jumping the bank.

I really like Kanazawa. I would love to plan a trip back. My daughter was less keen on it.

I think in the end...you need to decide what interests you and what you enjoy, and it's OK if it isn't what I would pick or LikeBike or anyone else. Your interests are your interests. I know I certainly do things in Japan no one else on this forum is particularly keen on and I'm OK with that, just always be aware of your own interests and what you want to do.

If you like walking around in nature, then Kamikochi is a great place to go. If you like cute cafes, some nice old fashioned looking streets, a small but nice art museum and a castle, Matsumoto is a good choice. If you like huge Japanese gardens, art museums and more cafes, try Kanazawa. If you want to see a huge Buddhist temple complex and more cute cafes, try Nagano. Takayama has a scenic old town with some interesting shops and I do like Hida no Sato village. I also like the cheezy two floors of onsen at the Associa, but if you're not planning to go to an onsen I would not stay there. I like the onsen in Hirayu it felt truly in nature and I saw a serrow by the side on the road from the bus between Takayama and Hirayu.

If you want to spend more money, you can take a train (local or limited express) to Nagano from Matsumoto and over night there instead and then just shinkansen down to Tokyo. Heck, you could rent a car in Matsumoto and stay overnight in Yudanaka or Shibu onsen and return the car in Nagano Station and take the shinkansen down from there. There are generally no drop-off fees if a car is returned in the same prefecture.

Good luck!

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: First time to japan 2019/11/1 07:42
I'm not a big Matsumoto fan. But if you're thinking that train route, you might consider Chino, which is about 30 minutes by rail from Matsumoto. The town itself is small and rural, but if you look at the chinotabi website, there are activities you can do with the local people that you might find memorable. My wife and I just came back from Japan, and we did the soba making and the cooking with the grannies. Just wonderful!
by nealson rate this post as useful

Re: First time to japan 2019/11/2 23:35
Thank you for everyonefs input!
Ifm considering going straight from kamikochi to kazanawa. Would this be the quickest route and are the buses and trains involved, regular?
-Local bus from Kamikochi to Hirayu Onsen (about 20 mins)
-Express bus from Hirayu onsen to Tomaya station (about 3 hours)
-Shinkansen from Tomaya to Kazanawa (About 25 mins)

Thank you
by Suky C rate this post as useful

Re: First time to japan 2019/11/3 05:04

There are a lot of buses (about one every 30 minutes between Kamikochi and Hirayu.) There are relatively frequent trains between Toyama and Kanazawa, both shinkansen and non-shinkansen.

This is the bus schedule from Hirayu to Toyama:

It is probably the fastest route just be aware of the bus times since there appears to be only 4 through buses a day.

If you wanted to end in Tokyo still, you could just take the bus direct from Kamikochi to Tokyo in 4 hours and 45 minutes:

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: First time to japan 2019/12/18 02:01
Hi everyone
I finally booked my flight tickets to japan for May :-) (return flights to Haneda)
Which of the following would you recommend:

Tokyo 3 nights
Kyoto 4 nights (day trip to Osaka and Kobe if time)
Takayama 2 nights
Kamikochi 1 night
2 buses and 1 train to next destination
Kazanawa 2 nights
Tokyo 1 night plus late flight

Tokyo 3 nights
by Suky C rate this post as useful

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