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Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/14 19:04
I just bought a 3 week JR pass, so I'm looking for recommendations of places to visit. Earlier, I spent time in Tokyo, Kamakura, Kyoto, Osaka, Okayama, Yakushima, Nagasaki, and Takayama-Kamikochi area. I liked all of those places a lot. I've also visited Okinawa and it was alright. Haven't been anywhere else.

I like nature, and cities where it's fun to walk around and explore. If there are any festivals or other interesting events, that's also awesome. I do like onsen, temples, castles but have been to quite a few recently.

Would love to know your favorite places, maybe I can visit them this month!
by snowytokyo  

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/14 20:37
Are you a resident in Japan? If so, you arenft eligible to use JRP. If you arenft a resident, how do you plan to even get INTO Japan right now?

Regarding where to visit, generally it is better to make first s plan and then to decide if JRP pays off or not. It doesnft always pay off.

Also there are enough resources on this webpage and the user forum (eg have a look at the travel reports from medfley) to plan your own trip.

Enjoy planning !
by LikeBike rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/14 20:39
Hokkaido seems a good option.
by couldabeen rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/15 07:46
I just bought a 3 week JR pass
Given you need to exchange the voucher within three months, that means you expect to be able to get into Japan by late autumn, and realistically, that is NOT going to happen, and even if it did, you will most likely need to quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
Ok, assuming you are making a five-plus week trip (including the 14 days stuck in a quarantine hotel), why would you buy a 21-day pass without knowing if it was good value or not. At a price a bit over 60,000 yen, you need to do at least 2,000 km of train travel (on shinkansen) before it offers any savings. Surely you had a basic plan/schedule - maybe not.
And, making long trips to justify a rail pass is a bad way to plan a trip and false economy. Sure, travelling to/from Kagoshima or Sapporo would help make the pass "pay off", but if all you wanted is to do a trip covering Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima and the Alps (and many places in between), that can be done much more cheaply.
by JapanCustomTours rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/15 07:54
Buying a JR Pass before planning a trip is never a good idea. You should always plan the trip first and then see if a pass fits your requirements, otherwise you end up adjusting an itinerary to fit a pass and rush things, take long trips that don't make sense in terms of time, etc.
by / (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/15 08:32
Ah sorry for being imprecise. I'm in Tokyo. They (luckily!) allow buying the JRP in Japan now! (Perhaps since a year or two ago? I think they started it as a temporary feature, but I guess they made it permanent.) So I'm already in possesssion of the physical pass, not just the voucher, which starts from tomorrow. So I still have a day to plan a bit.

I am thinking about Hokkaido but was thinking maybe it's better in the winter when they have all the events / festivals? So for now, I was thinking to go towards Kyushu and stop in whatever places look interesting. I did use japan-guide to plan my earlier trips to Yakushima, Okayama, Kagoshima, Takayama (japan-guide was great for choosing those places!). But I thought maybe there are some lesser known personal favorites on the way, where I could stop by. (The only restriction is that I am not renting a car.)

And yes, I'll now look for trip reports too.
by snowytokyo rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/15 11:05
Good for you; I'm jealous! I know there are a lot of people who approach rail pass decisions by "doing the math" and only buying a JR pass if they will at least break even on a fixed itinerary that they come up with based on decisions other than transportation. But I am more inclined to come up with an itinerary based on what I can do with a JR pass. (I would spend months thinking about it and weeks fine-tuning it, so the idea of coming up with a plan in just one day makes my head spin, but I'm sure you will have fun.) What I especially like to do is make one or more home bases using carefully selected hotels that are near a major JR station (usually one where a shinkansen stops). With a week or more I would pick at least two cities. With a three-week pass maybe four or five? I might do some sightseeing in the city where I'm staying, but I always take numerous day trips. I don't completely understand why so many people are dead-set against "long" train rides, as I do not find them unpleasant at all. To each his/her own. One of the great things about rail passes is the value you can get by making round trips from a home base in one day, as opposed to point-to-point travel where you just go from one city to another (and have to change hotels each time).

The sky's the limit, but with a three-week pass starting out in Tokyo, I'd probably confine myself to either Kyoto and points West/south (I particularly love Kagoshima!) or else Kyoto and points east/north (possibly as far as Sapporo), and maybe spend a week in Kyoto and the rest in two or three other cities. Day trips every single day would get to be a bit too much, so pick cities that are fun to just hang around. For that reason, medium and large cities can be a better bet. Maybe Fukuoka, possibly Hiroshima or Okayama. Definitely Osaka or Kyoto. I thought Himeji was actually a nice place to stay, with lots of good restaurants. The hotels there were surprisingly affordable. None of these places are lesser-known, of course, but they give you a lot to do without leaving the city as well as many options for medium and long day trips. (Okayama is particularly good for that. I have made numerous Shikoku day trips from Okayama, and also one to the Adachi Museum in Yasugi, one of my best day trips ever. Of course, you can easily get to Osaka and Kyoto from there as well, if you end up not sleeping in those cities but wanting to sightsee in them.)

Since you haven't been up north yet, maybe Tohoku would be nice? I have found Sendai to be a good "home base," with numerous easy day trip possibilities. Lots of good places to eat in that city, and the Tohoku shinkansen is fast and scenic.

The Hokuriku Shinkansen is another possibility. Have you considered Kanazawa? Nagano is actually not a bad base for day trips, as you can get to Kanazawa easily but also Tokyo, which gives you a huge reach to avoid bad weather or seek out special events (although so many of them are cancelled right now). There are several nice places close to Nagano as well (Togakushi is my favorite; Obuse is also nice, and there's always the monkey park). Anyway, if you are heading west from Tokyo, consider using the Hokuriku shinkansen either on the way out or the way back.

Finally, if you like train travel, consider the JR sightseeing trains. They are an experience in themselves. At present, many have limited schedules because of coronavirus, but they are starting to resume more of them. I'm not up on the current offerings, but you can find a lot of information online. The respective JR companies have special pages devoted to them. (If it's in English just be sure to verify details before you book, as JR tends to not update its English pages very often and the information on them might not be current at all.) I particularly like the ones in Kyushu... Besides the JR trains that are particularly oriented to recreational outings, there are a lot of good limited express trains that can give you a fun and scenic ride. A good example is the Marine Liner from Okayama to Takamatsu. This is a swell ride, not terribly long, and Ritsurin Koen in Takamatsu is worth a trip even if that's all you do there.

As for Hokkaido, I guess I would tend to avoid a spur-of-the-moment trip there without much planning. Sapporo would be okay for that, but Hokkaido is really a gigantic place, and getting around by JR severely restricts you. The trains don't run very often, and the distances are vast. You could end up stuck in the middle of nowhere with not much to do, is my sense. (Admittedly, I haven't spent much time in Hokkaido myself.) I definitely would not limit a trip there to the winter season, but I would approach it with a fair amount of research under my belt. Just my own opinion.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/15 12:26
Thank you so much for all the advice!

I actually used Okayama as a 1-night stopover a couple times, and its garden and castle are amazing (as was http://www.eshi100.com/ exhibition, completely unexpected). I'd be happy to make it a base for a few days. While I'm not into modern art, maybe I'll go Adachi just because of the gardens. You mention other day trips from Okayama; which ones would you recommend?

I do like trains, and was actually thinking about one of those scenic trains. I added Marine Liner from Okayama to Takamatsu to my quickly growing plan! I want to try other trains. I read about Seven Stars in Kyushu, but it's 25x more expensive than I'm willing to spend :) I found this list of cool trains in Kyushu: https://japan-magazine.jnto.go.jp/en/1706_train-kyusyu.html and https://japanrailandtravel.com/trains/jr-kyushu/yufuin-no-mori/, so maybe I'll try one of those. The only problem is that I'm not sure whether the places the trains go to are worth visiting. I read that Yufuin, for example, is overrated. In fact, Kyushu looks so beautful from the train, but when I was reading forums about where to go, I couldn't find good small towns that can be reached without a car.

Haven't been to Nagano, so maybe I can stop there this time. Togakushi and Karuizawa is on my list already! Adding Obuse to that! I've been to Kanazawa, liked the gardens; but maybe worth going again.

Kinugawaonsentaki in Nikko park (and Nikko itself) is also on my list. I don't know how much I can explore Nikko park witout a car though.

By the way I just confirmed buying JR passes in Japan is still a temporary thing (although it was extended in the past): https://www.jrailpass.com/faq/buy-jr-pass-in-japan. Also, it's somewhat more expensive in Japan than from outside.
by snowytokyo rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/15 14:54
If you like large gardens I'd highly recommend Ritsurin in Takamatsu. I've been to Kairakuen, Korakuen, Kenraku and Ritsurin and despite my love of Kanazawa, Ritsurin is my favorite. My daughter who has been to all of them but Korakuen liked Ritsurin the best as well. While on Shikoku, we went to Marugame and learned how traditional fans were made and made one ourselves.

I love Nagano. The big temple in Nagano proper, Zenkoji is also worth a visit. You can pay extra and go under the temple to travel in the dark and possibly touch the key to paradise. I went to Kawanakajima battleground just outside Nagano proper and to Matsushiro Castle ruins. When I went there were a lot of apple orchard in the area, but I think you're a little early for apples.

We really liked Sendai. Kakunodate can still be an interesting visit even in September and my kid wants to do the Pokemon train out of Ichinoseki. If you've not been Hiraizumi is really lovely. We stayed in a ryokan in the Hanamaki group but I would not go back to the big hotel that is specifically connected to Hanamaki onsen. A lot of the other ryokan and onsen in the Hanamaki group are better. There were some interesting sounding tourist spots in town, but my daughter was less interested. Quite a few of the ryokan have free transfers from Shin-Hanamaki or Hanamaki Station, though we used a rental car for convenience. This webpage does a decent job of describing the different springs: https://www.kanko-hanamaki.ne.jp/en/spa/index.html The place I liked was in Shin Namari onsen. I would like to also try Shidotaira, but I'm not going to lie, the place I looked at there had a very family oriented bend.

I'd like to go back to the Dewa Sanzan and Zao onsen at some point.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/15 17:29
Japan Guidefs Okayama page has some suggested trips from Okayama. The ones I have taken, except for Takamatsu, are all farther out, beyond what many people would consider day trip range. That includes Adachi Museum. The train trip is pretty long, but it is quite scenic, which is one reason my day trip there was worthwhile. But for me, the gardens at Adachi are worth even a very long trip. (Getting from the JR station to Adachi also takes time, via free shuttle bus.) The two times Ifve gone I regretted that I didnft leave more time in my schedule to look at the art there but I got so entranced with the gardens that I almost missed the return shuttle bus to catch my train ghome.h They have a nice gift shop as well. As for the gardens, well, there are some people who just cannot accept the fact that they cannot stroll around in them, and others who find their manicured perfection gsterile,h so think about what you are getting into if you do decide on a day trip there. I adore the gardens there, and for me it was as perfect an outing as Ifve had in Japan, starting with the delicious breakfast items I bought at the station and consumed on the train. If you can, pick a pretty, sunny day to get the most out of the scenery. On the other hand, the gardens are exquisite in the rain. Out of this world, Ifd say...

For trips to Shikoku you can look at a map and figure out what is within your range of tolerable for a day trip. For me, I donft need too much sightseeing to make a destination gworthwhile,h because I enjoy the train riding and donft see it as a necessary evil. Ifd say the Yufuin no Mori ride would be a good example. If I were to do it, Ifd probably do it as a loop, and maybe (?) spend a couple hours in Yufuin but possibly more in Beppu, and then return to my starting point (for me maybe Hakata) via Sonic. But I guess you could just do Yufuin as a round trip. I was not wowed by the town itself (I spent one night there once) but some people like it. That train can be hard to get tickets on, normally, but these are not normal times. Ifm not even sure it is running. My favorite Kyushu trains are the ones that run between Kumamoto and Kagoshima, but that is a complicated trip that requires considerable research and may not even be available right now. I really liked the Kawasemi-Yamasemi, but that may not be running. The Isaburo-Shinpei is also great. That line is seriously scenic and atmospheric but planning a trip along it can be challenging even at the best of times. Ifve also taken the Ibusuki no Tamatebako out to Ibusuki a couple of times and really enjoyed Healthy Land Spa (outrageous rotenburo) and Flower Park Kagoshima. You have to take the bus to get to those places but it runs on schedule, so as long as you plan carefully you can get a great day trip from Kagoshima (or in my case, even farther afield).

Of course, I have only been thinking in terms of day trips. Obviously, you can mix in some point-to-point travel and spend single nights in places, the way gmosth people do. Then, you can have more time in the destination city and also get a feel for its nightlife. Day trips work best if you are naturally an early riser and can get somewhere by midmorning or so, and if you arenft intent on visiting all of the recommended tourist sites at your destination. Ifm always happy to pick two or three venues at the most to visit in a relaxed fashion and then spend some time picking a really great bento for the trip back. I am just as puzzled by people who want to spend 10 hours sightseeing in a single day as those folks seem to be by people who can happily spend 4 or 5 hours (or more!) total time on trains in a day.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/22 02:17
Thank you for the awesome advice!

I just got from Nikko and Nagano to Okayama. Nikko was a ghost town, almost no people except at the temple, and many stores closed. The Togakushi area near Nagano was nice - besides the temples, the hiking there is great, even in the rain. I keep comparing Togakushi to Kyoto. I know it's not the right way to think about it, but Kyoto also has temples and beautiful nature, so it's tempting. Because of that, I made a stopover in Kyoto. The crowds and traffic were enormous due to the 4-day weekend (which I didn't know about). Still, Kyoto is full of places to visit, and even the less famous ones are very enjoyable.

Planning to go to Takamatsu tomorrow and Adachi museum a day or two later.
by snowytokyo rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/22 03:48
I am so envious...

Unless you are on a super-tight budget, in Takamatsu I recommend taking a cab from the station to Ritsurin Koen, if that is where you want to go. There are buses, but by the time you determine which one you need to take, wait for the bus, and sit through all the stops on the way, it really eats up a lot of time. With a cab you can just hop in when you get off the train, and be at the gardens in just a few minutes. It's a short trip so it doesn't cost that much. You can catch a cab back to the station on the other side of the gift shop. Walking one way to or from Ritsurin Koen is also not out of the question, if you like to stroll. Pick a route through a main street in the commercial area for maximum interest. As I recall, there is a long covered arcade there.

There is a standing sushi restaurant upstairs in Takamatsu Station that I have enjoyed a couple of times. It is very local-feeling and not expensive. (The sets are a good buy.) I'm not sure if they speak English there, though (if that matters to you).

From Okayama, if you haven't been to Kurashiki, it is nice, and very fast and easy to get to by JR. You don't need a full day for it. (For example, if you wanted to you could visit Korakuen and Kurashiki in the same day, if you plan around opening and closing times.)
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/22 07:02
You realky need to do a lot of traveling to make a 21 day pass pay off. Eg Tokyo to Fukuoka and back.

Dunno what your entry port is. But between northern Kyushu and Tokyo there is so much to see and do. Seems like you've done the regulat tourist hot spots before. Now look for the low key gems in the middle.
by H (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/22 23:24
> Unless you are on a super-tight budget, in Takamatsu I recommend taking a cab from the station to Ritsurin Koen, if that is where you want to go.

Yes, I very much agree. Over time I started to appreciate how quickly those extra 15-20 min add up when I have only 1-2 days in a city. Before I'd never take a taxi if it's just a 30 min walk; now I often do. Ritsurin was great, as was the train ride on the Marine Liner.

Today was the last day of http://www.eshi100.com/ in Okayama - an awesome exhibition if you're into manga art (I think annual, in multiple cities in Japan). And then the rest of the day in Takamatsu. Ritsurin has a nice 400 year old tea house, where you can get tea! And the castle ruins are lit at night so you can walk around and take pictures of the Hiunkaku building and the ruins. Kurashiki looks nice, I think I can go tomorrow - I've been to Korakuen twice before, so I probably won't spend too much time there this time.

> You really need to do a lot of traveling to make a 21 day pass pay off. Eg Tokyo to Fukuoka and back.

Yes, I'm going all the way to Kagoshima, so should be worth it.

> Between northern Kyushu and Tokyo there is so much to see and do. Seems like you've done the regulat tourist hot spots before. Now look for the low key gems in the middle.

Yes, but I also keep coming back to the same places. For example, Kyoto, doesn't matter how many times I visit, I feel there's more to see. Perhaps, next time I'm in Japan, I'll consider renting a car for part of the trip, since a lot of places (like Naruto whirlpools) are kinda troublesome to get to with just public transport.
by snowytokyo rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/23 01:33
So happy to hear the report! If you liked the tea house at Ritsurin, then I highly recommend the tea house with its own garden at Adachi. Most people skip it, probably because they figure they have already paid quite a bit just to get into the main complex (although if you have a foreign passport it's half price, a real bargain). But trust me, it is a very fine experience. Tip: you can see if there are other people having tea by looking for their shoes at the entrance to the tea house. On a slow day, you can sometimes have the house (and more significantly in my mind, its enclosed garden) all to yourself, so it's worth checking a couple of times.

It looks like some rain might be headed your way but the Adachi gardens really shine in the rain. Just check the forecast and make sure the rainfall isn't projected to be super heavy. (I saw something about a typhoon passing just a bit to the east.) This could disrupt train travel in that isolated area.

Glad to hear you are going to Kagoshima. Sakurajima stole my heart... I recommend Senganen. Besides the main complex there are some hiking trails that extend up behind, that I have always wanted to try but never got to. Allow lots of time if you have it to spare.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/24 03:56
Kurashiki was quite nice! Unfortunately half the stores are closed since there are very few tourists now. Still cafes open in the old town have good food / snacks / shaved ice. And there are other interesting shops too (like the one that makes tatami mats: you can see the production through the open door).

Thanks, definitely going to the tea house at Adachi. Somehow Google maps has a problem with Adachi, it claims the only way to get there is by leaving Okayma station at 5:50 am (I know it's not true), and it takes 4.5 hours (which may be true): https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Okayama+Station,+1+Ekimotomachi,+Kita+.... But I'll check with the hotel, Google Maps probably misses some bus / train schedules.
by snowytokyo rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/24 04:08
Just figured out the Adachi schedule. For anyone who has trouble with the Adachi trip planning:

Look up google maps directions from Okayama to Yasugi station. Then check this website for the bus schedule from Yasugi station to the museum: https://www.adachi-museum.or.jp/en/shuttle_bus

The full trip takes around 2.5 hours with a good connection between the train and the bus.

That said, I wonder if it's better to wait for the sunny weather (I have the flexibility to do so)? Kim you mentioned the gardens are also nice in the rain, so what do you recommend? :)
by snowytokyo rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/24 05:18
I guess it's a toss-up as far as when to go to Adachi. It looks like the typhoon is tracking way east now, so you're not likely to have any train disruptions. The gardens will be nice no matter what (although I'd probably give Adachi a pass if it looked like it was going to rain hard the whole time). But the scenery on the train (mountains, river, countryside) will maybe be nicer on a sunny day.

Another thing to consider is that rain will reduce the number of tourists at the museum, which is highly desirable. That place can get pretty crowded although I expect it isn't so bad these days. Since the viewing areas are inside, you won't get wet, so you can essentially have a full day excursion without having to deal with rain gear and an umbrella. Probably what I would do is look at what else I wanted to do on the days available, and maybe "save" good weather days (if you have some coming up) for when you want to be outside more.

So those would be my considerations (plus I would try to avoid Adachi on the weekends). By the way, when I said admission was half-price with a foreign passport, I was referring to the main complex and not the tea house. The tea house is the same price for everyone, and as I recall it is quite expensive (1500 yen, I believe, and that was 2 years ago). It was worth every yen for me and I'm actually not even into tea, because I found the tea garden to be very special. But it is also very intimate, so I probably wouldn't go in if I saw a bunch of shoes at the entrance.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/24 05:31
By the way, I used Hyperdia (plus the bus schedule on the museum's web site) to plan my trip to Adachi, like most of the JR trips I've taken (at least I typically use Hyperdia as a starting point for early planning; closer to my departure date, for shinkansen and limited express train I often use JR Cyberstation, which gives seat availability, but it's Japanese-only plus it is not operational from late evening through early morning). Google Maps has gotten much better over the years but I'm sort of used to Hyperdia. But Hyperdia can sometimes be quite goofy, so it doesn't hurt to use a second means of confirmation.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Recommendations for a JR pass trip 2020/9/24 18:13
Adachi was great, not just the gardens but the art as well. There is a teahouse and two cafes, and all have different views on the garden. I spent 4 hours there, but I think 3 hours would already be a good amount of time walk around comfortably. The buses are more or less timed to the express trains for Okayama. Even the last bus gets to Okayama early enough for shinkansen connections elsewhere.

Note: when taking a train, do not exit at the wrong station. The one just before Yasugi is very close to Yasugi, so it's easy to get confused. Also, do not check the weather in Adachi by searching "Adachi weather" on google -- there are many other cities named Adachi!

There are also ryokan nearby in Yasugi, one on the temple grounds (I didn't stay there, but it looks great).
by snowytokyo rate this post as useful

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