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13 Day Itinerary + Rental Car Question 2020/1/16 06:46
Hi, I would appreciate if you could give me feedback on the following itinerary for 13 days in Japan in mid/late April, with any suggestions/changes that you can offer:

1. Tokyo (3-4 days) - take Bullet train to Kanazawa (3 hour ride)
2. Kanazawa (2 days) - Rent a car and drive to Shirakawa-Go or similar mountain town (1 hour drive)
3. Shirakawa-Go or similar (1 day) - drive to Takayama (1 hour drive)
4. Takayama (1 day) - drive to Kiso Valley/Magome/Tsumago (2 hour drive)
5. Kiso Valley (1 day) - drive to Nagoya (1.5 hour drive), drop off car (hopefully feasible) and get on bullet train to Kyoto (2 hour train)
6. Kyoto (3-4 days) - bullet train to Tokyo for flight back to NYC

Additionally, could you let me know if it's feasible to rent a car in Kanazawa and be able to drop it off in Nagoya 5 days later? Are there big costs involved?

by Ryan (guest)  

Re: 13 Day Itinerary + Rental Car Question 2020/1/16 10:39
Hello! Where did you want to start? I would probably try to do west to east instead of going back and forth as it would make more sense to do so. If you want to drive around, just check the policies as some agencies have different rules and prices for where you can drop off cars.

In regards of taking the shinkansen, you could actually just do a local train from Kyoto to Nagoya instead of Shinkansen. It's a lot less expensive and it only take 1 hour longer to get there.

by Motti15 rate this post as useful

Re: 13 Day Itinerary + Rental Car Question 2020/1/16 11:46
Hi Ryan,

I know there are no direct flights between Kansai and NYC but if you've not booked flights yet, you can see if you can do: NYC to Tokyo and Itami to NYC going back. You will end up changing planes in either Haneda or Narita but it will save you having to go by train back to Tokyo. (You could also look at KIX to somewhere else and then that location to NY, but I know when I flew to Japan last June from JFK I actually got a better airfare going JFK to NRT to Itami and then HND back to JFK.) It's counterintuitive but sometimes a split fare like that is cheaper. Itami is readily accessible from Kyoto as well.

I think... you need to make sure you know what the drop off fees are ahead of time, usually it's at least 10,000 yen if you don't return the car in the same prefecture but it can be much higher. If you are renting the car in Kanazawa and returning it in Nagoya they can be quite substantial. I also have to wonder if the Google estimate for the drive between Takayama to the Kiso Valley might be a bit off. I know buses are slower, but the bus trip is more like 4+ hours. On the bright hand side if you're taking a shinkansen between Nagoya and Kyoto it should only be about 30-45 minutes.

If you have another day to spare, you could easily do bus from Kanazawa to Shirakawa Go to Takayama to Matsumoto and then take the train from Matsumoto to the Kiso Valley. There is a special bus fare between Kanazawa and Matsumoto so it should only be about 6000 yen.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: 13 Day Itinerary + Rental Car Question 2020/1/16 14:08
I am Japanese. I would like to tell you about cheap car rental prices. I use a company called "https://www2.tocoo.jp/jp/";. Car rental fee for 4 days is from 32,000 yen. Drop-off fee
(Kanazawa-Nagoya) costs 12,000 yen to 20,000 yen.
I am also looking for a hotel that is easy on the above sites.
However, free member registration is required.
The cost of the Shinkansen (JR) from Tokyo to Kanazawa is about 13,000 yen, but if it is a highway bus
It is around 4000 yen.
by Teruhiko (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 13 Day Itinerary + Rental Car Question 2020/1/16 14:47
I made a mistake in the above car rental fee. From 32,000 yen for 5 days. Gasoline fee will be less than 5000 yen. The current gasoline price is (140 yen / L).
by Teruhiko (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 13 Day Itinerary + Rental Car Question 2020/1/16 16:51
Agree with what @rkold said.

Yes, there will be drop off fees for returning the car outside of the Prefecture you rented out in. The car rental company you choose will tell you how much it is.

If you have a car I would not go to Shirakawa but to Ainokura instead. I havenft been to Shirakawa but all I hear is that it is very touristy. I went by car to Ainokura and Gokayama instead and both were enjoyable. Ainokura was best. But you probably have time for both. There are also some onsen in that valley to try out.

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

Re: 13 Day Itinerary + Rental Car Question 2020/1/17 08:41
Hi Ryan,

One more thing to note, what makes the most sense also partially depends on how large your group is.

I'm going to be upfront now, I generally try to plan my trips combining speed of travel vs. cost. So I've often gotten a JR Pass because even though the Nozomi are faster, I'm traveling enough that I will still save money to make up for that extra time on the shinkansen, but I don't want to take locals or limited expresses or much slower buses that could cost me time. Sometimes bus though is the fastest and most convenient option (or only option) and I've done that as well.

I also travel as a party of two, me and my child, which is why I put speed as such an important metric. In your particular case, outside of the bus from Takayama to Kiso, I am unsure where you are saving a lot of time driving and you are most definitely spending a lot more money (again unless you are 3+, but then your rental car is also likely to cost more. I rented the smallest size car for the two of us, but I can't imagine having 3+ people in that car, each with carry on items.)

Just using the amounts Teruhiko posted, you're looking at spending 32,000 yen for the car, 12,000 yen for drop off fees, on top of any gas, parking fees, and expressway tolls. So 44,000 yen vs. doing the same route via bus and train will be: 6000 (the bus from Kanazawa to Matsumoto with all of your stop offs in Shirakawa Go and Takayama included) + ~4200 yen to take the train from Matsumoto to Nakatsugawa plus 570 yen for the bus, going back to Nagoya you are looking at a similar bus fee and 2900 yen for the train. So you're looking at 13,100 vs 44,000. You can also depending on time of year take a direct bus from Takayama to the Kiso Valley and the total should be pretty similar to the 13,100 to 44,000.

Good luck!

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: 13 Day Itinerary + Rental Car Question 2020/1/20 13:18
Thank you for all of your responses! One further question - would you recommend visiting Matsumoto over Takayama? Or do you think I could visit Takayama for a few hours on my way to Matsumoto and spend the night in Matsumoto? Or is that too much for one day.

Thank you again.
by Ryan (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 13 Day Itinerary + Rental Car Question 2020/1/20 14:49

I think... a lot depends on what you want to do and what your interests and priorities are...

If you already spent most of a day visiting Shirakawa Go and staying there overnight, then yes, if you got to Takayama by 10:00 I could easily see you seeing the town and being ready to go by 14:00 or earlier. Though you might not make it to Matsumoto in time to see anything that day, you would still have time to see things there the next morning before heading to Kiso.

But a lot depends on your touring speed and what interests you. I did a day trip to Shirakawa Go and that was more than enough time for me. But some people really love it. For a lot of people staying overnight is the highlight of their trip. Given my choice I would prefer to stay in Matsumoto or Takayama. I do prefer cities though, which I know makes me an outlier on this forum. I like some countryside but I am not bothered by spending a lot of time in cities. I also use to live in the countryside and I suspect most people posting on this forum live in cities so the countryside is a lot more exciting. If you decide you want to skip Matsumoto, again there is a bus direct to Kiso from Takayama. It's long, but I think that is the only time it is longer by public transit than driving.

If you do decide to go Kanazawa to Shirakawa Go to Takayama to Matsumoto while in Tokyo you should buy this ticket:
https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/ticket/ Supposedly it is only available via JR East. There is a slightly more expensive one via bus for 6000 yen but why pay 500 yen more because you didn't get one in Tokyo.

Ah, actually I was wrong, the bus from Takayama directly to Kiso probably makes the most sense unless you want to go to Matsumoto. The bus only takes just under 3 hours from Takayama to the Kiso Valley:

Though you would need to overnight in Takayama to catch it since I don't think you can get from Shirakawa Go to Takayama in time. If you are on a budget, going by bus from Kanazawa to Shirakawa Go, Shirakawa Go to Takayama and then Takayama to Kiso is hands down the cheapest and fastest and should be under 10,000 yen per person. You would then just need to pay to get from the Kiso Valley to Nagoya and Kyoto. If your trips Tokyo to Kanazawa, Kiso Valley to Nagoya, Nagoya to Kyoto, Kyoto back to Tokyo all fit within 7 days a JR Pass might make sense and pay off, if all those trips do not fit within a week it is likely a JR Pass does not pay off. If you have a good idea of when you are traveling in advance you can save some money buying a ticket ahead of time. There are pluses to not having a JR Pass. The Nozomi are much more frequent and are faster. There are of course buses and other routes between locations, but it really depends again on money vs. time spent. In the case of the bus between Kanazawa to Kiso, using JR trains saves you no time and Shirakawa Go is only accessible via bus. I think you only save 1 hour by rental car and it costs considerably more. However, if you opt for bus from Kyoto to Tokyo, it will take ~7 hours. To me 3 hours vs. 7 hours is a big difference but it might not be to you.

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

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