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25 Day Itinerary Feedback 2021/9/28 23:34
Hi Guys,

SO, I have been working hard on an itinerary for my trip to Japan with my girlfriend, and have come up with the below. I would love some feedback on pacing, and if there is anything absolutely essential that I have omitted.

A couple of things to note:

1. Yes, I know C-19 may kill this plan (if so, we will consider delaying to Autumn or the following year).

2. On any days with 2+ hours travel time, I have avoided putting in any activities as I know we will be packing up/settling in at each place. On days with shorter travel times, I have sometimes put in activities.

3. We have 1 day which is unaccounted for and can be put in at any stage. So any suggestions are welcome.

4. Due to the time of year we are going, I have flipped the standard itinerary to start in Kyoto and end in Tokyo. Hopeful of catching Sakura in Kyoto, and being late enough arriving at Fuji Five Lakes to go to Fuji Shibazakura Festival.

April 8th: Overnight flight from London to Osaka.

April 9th: Arrive in Osaka; transit to Kyoto.

April 10th: Kyoto: Arashiyama District.

April 11th: Kyoto: Day Trip to Nara.

April 12th: Kyoto: Northern Kyoto inc Kinkakuji and Ryoanji; An experience (cooking class, samurai lesson, etc)

April 13th: Kyoto: Eastern Kyoto inc Philosophers Path.

April 14th: Kyoto: Day Trip to Osaka (aquarium and castle).

April 15th: Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Taisha; Nishiki Market.

April 16th: Travel from Kyoto to Mount Koya; Explore Mount Koya; Temple overnight stay.

April 17th: Temple morning rituals; Travel from Mount Koya to Kanazawa.

April 18th: Kanazawa: Kenroku-En; Omicho Fish Market; Kanazawa Castle and Garden.

April 19th: Travel from Kanazawa to Shirakawago; Farmhouse overnight stay.

April 20th: Explore Shirakawago; Travel from Shirakawago to Takayama; Ryokan dinner and stay.

April 21st: Takayama: Old Town; Miyagawa Morning Market; Higashiyama Walking Course.

April 22nd: Travel from Takayama to Fuji Five Lakes:

April 23rd to 25th: Fuji Five Lakes: Unsure of exact plans, but hopefully a Ryokan with private onsen, and some combination of Oshino Hakkai; Chureito Pagoda; Fuji Shibazakura Festival; Fuji Panoramic Ropeway.

April 26th: Travel from Fuji Five Lakes to Tokyo.

April 27th: Tokyo: Asakusa and Akihabara.

April 28th: Tokyo: Ghibli Museum; Shinjuku Gyoen Garden.

April 29th: Tokyo: Shibuya Crossing; Meiji Shrine; Night Time Photography Session.

April 30th: Tokyo: TeamLab Borderless; Tokyo Tower and Central Tokyo.

May 1st: EXTRA DAY, can be another day in Tokyo or inserted elsewhere.

May 2nd: Fly Home (sad face emoji).
by chrissimmons21  

Re: 25 Day Itinerary Feedback 2021/9/29 14:18
Overall the pace is very relaxed, which I think is a good thing, because if you want to can fit in more things ad hoc.

A few more detailed comments:
- Hanami is unpredictable, so if youfll be able to catch peak Hanami with this schedule or not, no one can tell.
- I would NOT go to Osaka castle, because youfll be going to Kanazawa castle. Osaka castle has been rebuilt after WW2 and komme the part. However if Hanami is nice that day, seeing the park around it IS nice. And if the aquarium is a must youfll be in Osaka anyway, so you can give it a shot. But if the Ariadni isnft so important Ifd do a day trip to Himeiji instead. With Shinkansen it doesnft take much longer from Kyoto and itfs totally doable as daytrip.
- if Hanami is at the peak you might also consider to do a daytrip to Yoshino. (In Nara prefecture)
- transport to Koya San takes a long time, and is actually faster I think from Osaka rather than from Kyoto. Did you check the timing of all the transport that you have enough time to actually enjoy Koyasan? (Koyasan - Kanazawa is probably something like an 8 h trip, just guessingc) thatfs fine in itself, but just make sure you have enough time planned on Koyasan.
- Ghibli museum tickets l, at least pre pandemic were incredibly difficult to buy. Essentially they sell out within a few minutes for an entire month when the presale opens. Read the description about how to buy tickets carefully.
- from all I hear Shirakawago is a bit of a tourist trap. I hasnft been, I went to Ainokura and Gokayama instead. Specially Ainokura was very nice. As you plan a word day for the village anyway, I would try to stay in Ainokura and skip the other 2 villages. Yes, it makes transport more complicated, but your trip is relatively relaxed in transport terms. Alternatively you could scrap Shirakawago completely and just visit it on the way to Takayama or only visit the open air museum in Takayama.
- Ryoanji and Kinkakuji (at least pre pandemic were very overrun). The solution here is to be at the ticket gate of Ryoanji approximately 10 minutes BEFORE it opens. That is quite early, but if you plan you can do it. I was lucky enough to be able to go at there beginning of the pandemic and see a nearly tourist free Ryoanji and Kinkakuji: http://bicycletraveljapan.blogspot.com/2020/04/kyoto-without-tourists-...
by LikeBike rate this post as useful

Re: 25 Day Itinerary Feedback 2021/9/29 15:02
How lovely to see an itinerary post after all this time & a nice relaxed one at that. I don't have much to add to what @Likebike has said except be prepared to swap days around depending on the weather.
You can hire bicycles from hotels & other places in Kyoto & elsewhere. If you want to do this from the hotel then let them know in advance as they tend to get booked quickly.
There are some lovely places north of Arashiyama that are quiet if the rest of the area is busy.
I didnt enjoy Tokyo tower and would suggest the Skytree instead. The trick as @LikeBike said is to be there as it opens. to avoid having to queue.
If you are interested in Akihabara then I would suggest a visit to Nakano Broadway as well
Where are you flying home from? If Osaka then I would travel back there on your extra day. I do know people who have taken multiple hour shinkansen rides to the airport but I would find that too scary.
by Stan Norrell rate this post as useful

Re: 25 Day Itinerary Feedback 2021/9/29 15:59
Hi ..
16. April: Reise von Kyoto zum Berg Koya - The journey from Osaka to Koya is much faster.
From Kanazawa I would go straight to Odawara (it's 230 minutes) for 2 days, it's more than enough to visit the Five lakes.
The remaining days (you cut the 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd) you would dock before Kanazawa and go 2 days in Hiroshima visiting Myiajima, on the way back through Himeji (beautiful)
27. April: Tokyo: Asakusa und Akihabara? very difficult, could visit more with the time left.
1. May: EXTRA DAY. !!! necessarily know Nikko.
Roberto
by pirataurbano rate this post as useful

Re: 25 Day Itinerary Feedback 2021/9/29 18:08
Thanks all for your helpful responses.

On the subject of visiting Koyasan, I have been a bit worried that I haven't allocated us enough time to actually enjoy it (especially considering the context of visiting Koyasan should be relaxing!).

"transport to Koya San takes a long time, and is actually faster I think from Osaka rather than from Kyoto. Did you check the timing of all the transport that you have enough time to actually enjoy Koyasan? (Koyasan - Kanazawa is probably something like an 8 h trip, just guessingc) thatfs fine in itself, but just make sure you have enough time planned on Koyasan."

1. I was under the impression that you can get from Kyoto to Osaka in like 15 minutes via Shinkansen? So I didn't think it would make much of a difference if we headed to Koyasan from Kyoto or Osaka. Am I missing something?

2. Point taken about the journey from Koyasan to Kanazawa. It seems the most obvious route would be to go back to Osaka and then catch the train, so realistically I think you're right it probably is around 8 hours all-in.

3. Considering the above, I wonder whether changing the itinerary for April 10-17 like the below would be better. Essentially then we would do all of the Kyoto-based activities between April 10-14, then travel to Koyasan, return to Osaka and do our day trip to Nara from Osaka instead. Although it doesn't change having to go from Kyoto to Koyasan, it does eliminate having to do the big 8 hour journey from Koyasan to Kanazawa, which should free up a valuable half-day for exploring Koyasan.

4. The modified itinerary below would mean we use up an extra day in this Kyoto-Koyasan-Osaka section. Wondering whether it would be realistic to condense the revised April 13-14 in to one day, or whether that again would contradict the purpose of a leisurely trip to Koyasan?

April 10th: Kyoto: Arashiyama District.

April 11th: Kyoto: Eastern Kyoto inc Philosophers Path.

April 12th: Kyoto: Northern Kyoto inc Kinkakuji and Ryoanji; An experience (cooking class, samurai lesson, etc)

April 13th: Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Taisha; Nishiki Market.

April 14th: Koyasan: Travel from Kyoto to Mount Koya; Explore Mount Koya; Temple overnight stay.

April 15th: Koyasan: Temple morning rituals; Explore Mount Koya; Travel from Mount Koya to Osaka.

April 16th: Osaka: Aquarium; Castle.

April 17th: Osaka: Day Trip to Nara.
by chrissimmons21 rate this post as useful

Re: 25 Day Itinerary Feedback 2021/9/29 18:24
Sorry about these questions in advance. We used to get lots of these threads but it's been 18 months so you'll probably get LOTS MORE help than you would usually get which is a good thing.

How fast do you normally travel? Are you fast or a slow traveler? I do agree that some days are extremely cruisy (aka - Fushimi Shrine)

What type of things do you like to do? What interests do you have? Aka - are you more about temples, gardens, experiences, castles, traditional buildings, futuristic stuff, traditional performances, anime???

Do you have a tight budget or is it reasonably comfortable? This is more important when you consider how you travel around Japan along with what you do.

I've visited Koyasan and found that you really only need around half a day. Hiring a bike speeds things up and I really enjoyed a night tour of the gravesite that was offered through the temple. I stayed at the eko-in, who spoke English and it's was comfortable enough. Note that it is all Buddhist vegan food which I find delicious and there were no convenience stores when I visited so take that into consideration.

Is there a reason you want to visit Fuji Five Lakes? It's reasonably nice and all - but it's a bit annoying to get to. Hakone has nice views of Fuji and has quite a lot to do as well.

The locations you are visiting is basically a stock standard loop which is not a problem - but will include areas with larger crowds. If you mention what type of stuff you like to do - I'd be happy to suggest an alternative itinerary that could focus more on secondary cities if that interests you. Once you mention what you like and if this is ok - I am happy if you use or ignore my suggestions.
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: 25 Day Itinerary Feedback 2021/9/29 19:05
I'll answer these one-by one:

1:

How fast do you normally travel? Are you fast or a slow traveler? I do agree that some days are extremely cruisy (aka - Fushimi Shrine)
- We are normally quite busy travellers and are both physically fit. For example, we went hiking in September 2020 in the Italian mountains and were doing approx 10km hiking, sometimes with a drive at the start and end.
- The reason I have gone for what appears to be a leisurely trip is that Japan will be by far the most out of our comfort zone we have ever been, and I don't want to feel lost and like I am rushing around trying to keep up with my itinerary. For example, if a day of activities in Kyoto or Tokyo is over by lunch-time, I'm sure we will find stuff to keep us occupied.

2.

What type of things do you like to do? What interests do you have? Aka - are you more about temples, gardens, experiences, castles, traditional buildings, futuristic stuff, traditional performances, anime???
- We want to strike a good balance between cities and countryside, and really experience variety.
- On other trips, we are guilty of just doing walking tours of all the sightseeing locations and forgetting to do any experiences. Again, this is a reason for a leisurely itinerary as we would like to fit in some experiences (i.e. cooking classes, sake tasting, perhaps sumo or NJPW events).
- I would say our interests are food, history, photography, the countryside, walking, and pop culture (we love anime, JRPG gaming especially Final Fantasy/Pokemon).
- Personally, I would have liked to fit in some more "off-the-beaten-track" locations, and was interested originally in Shikoku, Kurashiki, and even Yakushima island. However, being realistic (and not wanting a ridiculously hectic itinerary), I felt that the middle section through Shirakawago, Takayama, and Fuji Five Lakes, as well as Koyasan, would satisfy that desire to experience nature and countryside too.
- We (my fiancee especially) is a massive foodie, so a part of our journey will be trying to find great places to eat all kinds of food.

3.

Do you have a tight budget or is it reasonably comfortable? This is more important when you consider how you travel around Japan along with what you do.
- My rough estimate at the minute including flights, internal travel (inc. JR 3-week pass), food, accommodation, and experiences was around £6500 ($8700USD, 977,822JPY).
- In the city sections (Kyoto, Kanazawa, Osaka, Tokyo) we will most likely go for budget hotels, in Takayama/Fuji Five Lakes we want to use Ryokan, in Shirakawago a farmhouse stay, and in Koyasan a temple stay.
- Food-wise we tend to eat cheaply during the day (street food, convenience store) type stuff, and in the evenings we will probably go out for dinner when we can. Again, we don't really go to expensive restaurants, but we would like to eat dinner out say 5 to 10 times throughout the trip (not including the Ryokan/Temple where we will have some meals provided).

4.

Is there a reason you want to visit Fuji Five Lakes? It's reasonably nice and all - but it's a bit annoying to get to. Hakone has nice views of Fuji and has quite a lot to do as well.
- It didn't seem especially inconvenient to get to from Takayama, and seemed geographically logical on the way from Takayama to Tokyo.
- As for reasoning, probably the same as a lot of people, the draw of getting good views of Mount Fuji and potentially being able to experience Onsen. My fiancee isn't too keen on public Onsen, so we are hopeful of getting accommodation that has private Onsen available for booking on-site.
- If I do as suggested by you guys and rent a car, we should have a good amount of freedom to explore the area even if the weather isn't right for viewing Mt Fuji. We could even go on day trips to Hakone or other parts of the Izu Peninsula.

5.

The locations you are visiting is basically a stock standard loop which is not a problem - but will include areas with larger crowds. If you mention what type of stuff you like to do - I'd be happy to suggest an alternative itinerary that could focus more on secondary cities if that interests you. Once you mention what you like and if this is ok - I am happy if you use or ignore my suggestions.
- Sure, I really welcome suggestions so thank you very much.
by chrissimmons21 rate this post as useful

Re: 25 Day Itinerary Feedback 2021/9/29 19:08
I should have also said that the budget of £6500 was for 2 people!
by chrissimmons21 rate this post as useful

Re: 25 Day Itinerary Feedback 2021/9/29 20:12
I was originally going to go through a day by day breakdown - but I thought showing different blocks would be good instead.

Interesting 5 day driving loop near Kyoto (Lake Biwa - Shiga Prefecture). This area has just as much history as Kyoto - but lacks the tourists!

https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3376
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3377
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3378
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3379
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3380
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3381
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3382

This trip also missed Hikone which is one of the better castle towns in Japan.

https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-1074

4/5 Day Chugoku Driving Loop (Start @ Fukuyama) --> Matsue --> Izumo --> Iwami Ginzan --> Hagi --> possibly Miyajima (not sure about parking) --> Tomonoura

https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3284
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3285
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3286
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3287
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3291
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3292
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3293
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3294
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3295
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3296
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3297

Onsens - Hakone OR Fuji Five Lakes OR Nikko (near Tokyo - overnight trip!)

Hakone: https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-964

Fuji Five Lakes: https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-936

Nikko:

https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-1099
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-993

Art Islands - Naoshima & Teshima. These islands are in the Seto Sea and give you a real feel for life on depopulated islands. I actually stayed in a Yurt next to the beach in winter on Naoshima - one of the oddest places I've ever been!

https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-2479
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-2487
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-2492

Day Trips in/around Kyoto

https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-1011
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-1013
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-1068
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-1075
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-1076
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-1077
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-1078
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-1079
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3041
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3383
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3386
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3387
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3388
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3389

Osaka

https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3036
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3037
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3038
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-3039

Some things to consider. When visiting Tokyo or Kansai - it often helps to choose one location as use there as a base for a week.

Osaka, Nara, Kyoto and even Hiroshima is possible as a long day trip. So is Hikone and Himeji. If you visit Koyasan - I suggest leaving your main luggage at your main hotel and taking a day pack with you. Go mid week if possible

Your original Kanazawa - Shirakawago - Takayama trip is nice but can get busy. Shirakawago is nice but it takes like an hour or so to walk around and your done.

If it was me - I'd probably split up my trip into 3 different weeks. One in Kansai (Kyoto), one Tokyo area and one wider travel. One of my favourite places in Japan is Hagi which is on the Chugoku loop. Note that driving in Japan is slow! There are also odd rules like you must come to a complete stop before train lines and look left and right.

Some of your later times are also peak season for Hanami or Cherry blossoms in Tohoku which is some of the best areas of Japan. However - April can be a little chilly at that time.
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: 25 Day Itinerary Feedback 2021/9/29 20:59
It's a very nice trip, I hope you'll enjoy it. Lots of different experience and a nice pace.

Do you travel by train (maybe using 14-day JR passes from the 17th onward) ? Takayama to Fuji Five Lakes looks like a long train ride between two locations both remote from high-speed trains. Bus transportation between Takayama and Matsumoto might be worth looking into to shorten transport time.

On the extra day I would consider a last one-day-trip out of Tokyo : depending on your preference and the weather forecast, Kamakura and nearby Enoshima, Nikko, or a little hike in the outskirts of Tokyo (mount Takao or mount Mitake for example).
by strayhound (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 25 Day Itinerary Feedback 2021/9/30 07:45
Hi!

If you do not change your itinerary at all from what was originally posted to add in more far flung destinations, you do not want a 3 week rail pass. You're not taking a long distance JR train until you are going from Osaka to Kanazawa. Your next long travel day possibly by JR is Takayama to Fuji Five Lakes. But again, I am not 100% sure going the more costly JR way: Takayama to Nagoya to Mishima to the bus then to Fuji Five Lakes is the fastest. I'm honestly not sure even a 1 week rail pass is worth it with your itinerary as it is currently planned.

You might be better off taking the direct highway bus from Takayama to Fuji Five Lakes detailed on this website: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6905.html?aFROM=5900_6900

You are 100% better off taking the bus from Kanazawa to Shirakawa Go and then bus from Shirakawa Go to Takayama.

This is all working under the assumption you are leaving from Haneda or Narita Airport and not going back to KIX, but if doing so I would still price things out.

Assuming this remains on offering and that you are flying into KIX to start your trip (and not flying into Tokyo and then transferring to Itami)

I would get this ticket to get from KIX to Kyoto: https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/icoca-haruka/

Depending on how fast tourism returns to Japan (and once the doors re-open, tourism could return awful fast, just ask the US state of Hawaii, which went from "we need tourism dollars" to "OMG, please stop coming tourists" in a matter of months) none of your country side places are really that empty or untouristed? I personally do not like Shirakawa Go. I think they deserve their tourist dollars but it still feels like a tourist trap. I know a lot of people like Kamikochi for nature. We were there for awful weather, but if you like hiking I can see the appeal.

Koya-san to Kanazawa should be about 6 hours. There are just a bunch of transfers. I've gone from Kyoto to Koya-san, and the issue is just more transfers vs. time. Even without taking the shinkansen (which if you are using a rail pass only runs like 3 times or so an hour, so I would not plan for it.) it's only 20-25 minutes by Special Rapid (aka the fastest local train) and it takes you to JR Osaka Station instead of Shin-Osaka Station which is a tad more useful in my opinion.

Honestly, if hanami is important to you, I would be looking at Yoshino more (on the Kintetsu line, again not JR so no need for a JR Pass) because at least the last few years I think you're going to be a little past peak in Kyoto.

This was the timing in 2021: https://www.japan-guide.com/sakura/

Here is 2020
https://www.japan-guide.com/blog/sakura20/

and here is 2019
https://www.japan-guide.com/blog/sakura19/

good luck!



by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: 25 Day Itinerary Feedback 2021/10/7 17:58
Thanks all for the links, feedback etc, it really is helping a lot!

I have read that renting a car is a viable option for the Fuji Five Lakes section of the trip. Because of this, I have slotted in our extra available day into that section of the itinerary as I figure with a car we will have a lot of freedom to find activities to keep us occupied.

Whilst I have driven abroad before, and driven in mountainous regions, I am still conscious that driving in Japan is going to be a challenge. So, ideally I will stay away from city driving as much as possible. Realistically, with a Kawaguchi-ko base is it realistic to expect to drive on quiet-ish roads and tour the Fuji Five Lakes region, and potentially venture out to Lake Ashi/Hakone and the western coast of the Izu Peninsula?

Also, if anyone has any suggestions of "off-the-beaten-track" locations we could drive to easily from Kawaguchi-ko for the day then I am keen to hear them!
by chrissimmons21 rate this post as useful

Re: 25 Day Itinerary Feedback 2021/10/11 10:54
Your itinerary looks good. We always find something by accident on slow days, that either catches imagination or interest, and fills the time nicely. Particularly in Kyoto a walk a bit off the beaten path can show you some hidden treasures.

If you're doing some time around Lake Biwa, Enryaku-ji on Mt Hiei is a great destination. Lots of walking and nature to see, and the ancient temples and grounds.

In many trips and extended stays over the years Fuji five lakes always falls off the list, don't know why. We went to Ghibli Museum a couple of years ago, very crowded and not as enjoyable as we hoped, but very much enjoyed the walk through the park and the area around the station, for another look at how people live in Tokyo.

We're also fans of the Hagi area, remote but quite lovely, full of history.

Have a wonderful time in Japan!

by Who? (guest) rate this post as useful

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