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21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/6 21:16
Hello everyone,
I seek the help of you Japan experts to refine a 3 weeks plan. I'm following the border topic too, so I'm aware it may not happen in 2022, but still, better be prepared.

Maybe you can also help me decide how many days of JRpass are needed.
To give you a bit of background to work on, I'd say we're are 24yo and interested in both classic and modern sides of japan.
Here's what we managed to plan:

Day 1: Arrival in Osaka

Day 2: Osaka

Day 3: Osaka

Day 4: trip to Hiroshima/Miyajima, with night in Miyajima

Day 5: From Miyajima to Kyoto
Visit Ginkakuji, Heian, Yasaka-jinja, KyomizuDera

Day 6: Kyoto
Kinkaku-ji Arashiyama - Tenryu

Day 7: day trip to Fushimi Inari and Nara

Day 8: Kyoto
Castello Nijo, Nishiki Market, Gion

Day 9: Kanazawa (with night)

Day 10: Shirakawa-go and Takayama (Night in Takayama)

Day 11 Matsumoto and Kawaguchiko

Day 12 Arrival in Tokyo
Taito (asakusa) and Ueno

Day 13 Tokyo
Akihabara

Day 14 day trip to Kamakura (and maybe yokohama)

Day 15 Day trip to Hakone

Day 16 Tokyo
Shibuya and Shinjuku

Day 17 Tokyo
Odaiba and Minato (roppongi)

Day 18 Tokyo
Chuo (tsukiji and ginza) and Chioyoda (imperial palace)

Day 19 Tokyo
Mitaka (ghibli museum) and Nakano

Day 20 fly from Narita airport


I purposely left out a day which we will dedicate to the Ryokan stay, depending on where we book the ryokan we'll be able to cover one of the stays above. For example Matsumoto, Kawaguchiko or Takayama may become a morning visit, while in the evening we'll check in for a Ryokan.

I'd love to hear your suggestion, the trip feel pretty standard, if you have alternative less tourist places feel free to propose them.
Domo arigatou
by Margu  

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/7 08:56
If you are intererted in classic part also, why not Nikko and Tohoku region? But yes, you are 20s, you can still do it at the second trip or later and your trip this time can be Tokyo + West Japan one.
by Polenta (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/7 08:57
You might find transportation is going to kill most of your Day 11.
by . (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/7 10:46
I agree with PP, Day 11 is a long travel day. It'll take you a few hours to get from Takayama to Matsumoto via bus and then over 3 hours to get from Matsumoto to Kawaguchiko.

I'm also not sure how much sightseeing you are going to get done when you go from Miyajima to Kyoto. If you have a rail pass, you're looking at 3 hours of transit and if you are using one of the JR West passes that allow use of the Nozomi shinkansen, it's still over 2. You then have to get from Kyoto Station to Ginkakuji. I've no idea what the buses will be like at that time and depending on how much luggage you have with you, where you plan to store it. Pre-Covid, I would never want to take a local bus in Kyoto with anything larger than a backpack, and even that is pushing it.

I personally wouldn't want to do Fushimi Inari and Nara in the same day.

It's weird because you go from these super packed days to these days where I am like, how can you spend an entire day in Akihabara or Day 8 when you want to go to Nishiki Market, Nijo Castle and Gion.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/7 13:44
I don't know your travel style - but it seems as though you like to move around a lot. One thing to consider is Golden Week if your visiting in Early May. Try and avoid major shinkansen trips on the major days like the plague!

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2282.html

One of the biggest problems first timers try and do is moving around so much with luggage. For example - why are you staying in Osaka and then moving in Kyoto. Just stay in one location as they are both really close to one another.

Most people tend to stay in Tokyo for 1 week and Kyoto/Osaka for 1 week. This allows you to branch out and take day trips a lot from these locations. For example - there would be easily over 2 weeks of day trips from Kyoto alone.

To give you an idea of the time needed to travel - here is a basic breakdown (this does not include going to your hotel!)

Osaka - Hiroshima: a bit under 2 hours (Shinkansen)
Hiroshima - Kyoto: a bit under 2 hours (Shinkansen)
Kyoto - Kanazawa: 2.5 - 3 hours
Kanazawa - Shirakawago - Takayama (buses)
Takayama - Matsumoto: 2.5 hours (local train = uncomfortable for long journey!)
Matsumoto - Kawaguchiko: 2.5 hours
Kawaguchiko - Tokyo: 2 hours

Feel free to ignore this - but I'd probably do the following:

7 nights: Stuff in Osaka/Kyoto
2 nights: Hiroshima / Miyajima
4 nights - Stuff in between Hiroshima - Tokyo (potentially 2 nights Takayama / 2 nights Kanazawa)
7 nights: Tokyo & Surrounds

The stuff mentioned above also would allow you to get away with a 7 day JR pass.

Doing Hiroshima/Miyajima in 1 day is technically possible - but it would not be much fun. I also agree that Day 11 is impossible. Kawaguchiko is nice and all - but it's a pain in the butt to get to and Matsumoto is mainly just a castle (although a nice castle). It a lot of traveling for so little pay-off at the current pace. Himeji or Hikone castles + towns would be a better pay off as a day trip from Kyoto.

When visiting Tokyo - you will find visiting particular areas will either float your boat or be a huge waste of time. For example - I think Ueno with it's nice park, museums and people watching make a great day. Some of the other locations you have mentioned you might visit and leave after 5 minutes (Roppongi etc).

Kamakura is also nice - but many people get templed out after Kyoto. Yokohama is nice - but I see Kamakura and Yokohama in the same day is too much. Slow down - spend more time in one place and see more stuff. As I always say - it's better spending time seeing stuff than traveling to see it!

When it comes to other suggestions on places to go - I don't know where to start.
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/7 17:23
Daytrips such as Nara from Osaka/Kyoto or Nikko from Tokyo are very easy to smack in on a whim. And if you are satisfied after two hours or eight hours, it's easy to head back without planning (Nikko less so). I have done Hiroshima as a day trip from Osaka and then continued to Nagasaki, it was enough for me. Shinkansen (and green class) is more like relaxation than transport. Unless you have loads of luggage.

And speaking of luggage. I usually go for one piece of cabin luggage for three weeks using hotel washing machines and buying extras from Uniqlo. It will make your trip a lot easier.

The Tokyo city districts should be treated as one. Not satisfied with Akihabara? You'll be in Roppongi twenty minutes later. You can do a lot in a day to get a feel for the city and then return to your favourites. Transportation is cheap.
by sullon rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/7 17:42
So, what about making some busy cites in Tokyo altogether in one day then do a day trip to Nikko? You can also enjoy ryokan experience there if your schedule allows you stay there one night.
by Me (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/7 20:49
Thank you very much everyone for your answers.
About day 11, as you said it was put together quite bad, the reason is the Ryokan day I left out could easily come in as day 11 or 12. For example, depending on where we book the Ryokan, we could do half day matsumoto, then check in for Ryokan and the day after visit kawaguchiko.

@ mfedley Regarding the luggages we were planning to ship them. This is our idea:

Osaka --> Luggages sent to Kyoto
Hiroshima - Miyajima
Kyoto --> Luggages sent to Tokyo
Alps (Takayama, Kanazawa etc.)
Tokyo

This way we won't have to worry about the luggages during the trips in Miyajima and on the Alps. However I have no experience with the japanese shipping service. Please feel free to object if this is a bad Idea.

We are going to adjust the schedule following your advice as we are not very aware of the timings.
Thank you everyone!!!

P.S. @Polenta If you're from Italy, we are too. Ciao!

by Margu rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/7 23:55
Hello again, I hope that somebody who knows about JR pass well can answer exactly your question for that. What I can say now is, if you stay in Tokyo as you planned -one day Akihabara, one day Shinjuku and Shibuya like that, I think that your JR pass doesn't need to cover that. In the central Tokyo, the other kind of passes or SUICA/PASMO can be cheper and more convenient accounting to my friends visited me.

In fact, I am half eddoko (Tokyo people) and half foreigner, currently living in the serene classic town near Tokyo. I hope your first Japan trip will be realized in May!
by Polenta (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/8 01:06
@Polenta your username was suggesting me you are from here, in fact Polenta is a typical norhern Italian Dish :)
Thanks a million for your advice!
by Margu rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/8 07:56
I think where you want to stay in ryokan will partially depend on what you want in a ryokan and how much money you want to spend. If it were me, I would probably pick Takayama (or even the Okuhida region) or one of the areas outside of or on the way to Matsumoto. I would probably not do one in Kanazawa or Kawaguchiko. I really really like Kanazawa, but it's an actual city, much more so than Takayama. I'm a little unsure what you mean about having a day for a ryokan stay because I am not seeing it unless you a subtract a day from elsewhere. Day 10, 11, and 12 are all either full or too full.

If it were me, I would probably get a JR West Pass to cover the trip to Miyajima and then pay out of pocket for everything else. You definitely want to take a bus from Kanazawa to Takayama (with Shirakawa Go on the way) and then do the bus from Takayama to Matsumoto train to Kawaguchiko and then bus from Kawaguchiko back to Tokyo. If Kawaguchiko gets shunted to a day trip from Tokyo you can travel from Matsumoto directly to Tokyo. There use to be a 3 Star Bus Pass that covered Matsumoto to Kanazawa (or Kanazawa to Matsumoto) and it would work great for your trip.

I'm a huge fan of takkyubin. I use it all the time. It's around 2000 yen for a large suitcase and it usually arrives next day. Hotels are use to sending and receiving takkyubin luggage because many Japanese use the service. I've found it very safe and reliable. I last used it in Summer 2019. I didn't need to use it in February 2020, because I was staying at the Tokyo Station Hotel, so I just dropped off my bags before going on the shinkansen to Nagano. Which I guess ties into the point on why stay overnight in Osaka. Is there are specific reason you want to stay overnight in Osaka and not just stay in Kyoto (or stay in Osaka) both times you are in Kansai? If you were to start in Kyoto many hotels would be willing to hold your bags for your overnight to Miyajima and you wouldn't even need to use takkyubin. It's really easy and cheap to get from Osaka to Kyoto. Unless you are doing something early in the morning in Osaka, it is easy enough to catch a train to Kyoto to make it back before trains end for the night. I've stayed around Kyoto train station because it just means I need to take the last train back to be safe.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/8 21:51
Hi @rkold
talking about Ryokans I heard check in usually starts about 15:00, and you should arrive by that time if you want to enjoy all the activities. We'd like to spend around 20000 yen, what it's necessary to have a nice stay in a real onsen. What I mean about having a day for Ryokan is that we actually have another day plus, not mentioned in the schedule. I've only written down 20 days, while we are going to stay 21 days in Japan. It could be rescheduled like this:

Day 10: Shirakawa-go and Takayama (Night in Takayama)

Day 11 Matsumoto and Ryokan

Day 12 Kawaguchiko

Day 13 Arrival in Tokyo

...Day 21

We planned 2 days in Osaka because we didn't want to travel for 2 consecutive days from Kyoto to Osaka. This way we can enjoy osaka by night and try different hotel. I understand your point that Osaka and Tokyo are so close it seems useless to ship the luggages. Maybe we could rethink the way we placed Hiroshima between the 2 cities like they're distant.
Thanks again for your support
by Margu rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/9 00:12
For a good ryokan experience it should include dinner (and breakfast). So 20,000 Yen for 2 people is likely not enough.
Also if you are a vegetarian ryokan dinners can be complicated. (@rkold could give you more suggestions if thatfs the case)

On a ryokan you can spend a lot of money if you want. But theoretically also very little money, because the term gryokan g is used quite liberally. It includes from luxurious, old , traditional ryokans to 1980s run down , modern buildings with a tatami room.

So just have a very good look at the pictures so you are not surprised at what you get.

Just compare these two :

https://www.ochiairo.co.jp/?utm_source=googleMyBusiness&utm_medium=ref...
In this one on Izu peninsula a night can cost something like 100,000 yen
And it is a superb experience. I was in that Ryokan a few years ago for a weekend and still remember it.

While this one in the North of Tokyo was a very simple hotel, but also called ryokan. I had a nice night there but probably it did cost something like 8,000 yen. And it definitely wouldnft be what foreigners refer to as gRyokanh but in Japanese it is a ryokan, because ryokan essentially means ghotelh. Or gJapanese style hotelh

J
+81 280-76-2132
https://goo.gl/maps/rEWqd7dqbyEczEux8
by LikeBike rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/9 02:48
I'm not going to lie, @LikeBike, that place for 100,000 yen looks amazing. I can't remember if it was @Lazy Pious or @Winter Visitor, but they recommended this lovely ryokan in Kurokawa Onsen Takefue which is still in my plans when I can make it to Japan when it isn't Summer or only have 1 week for the trip (aka February break) The oldest physical structure I've stayed in I think is the Hotel Fujiya in Hakone. Most of the ryokans I have stayed in have been rebuilt, though they have 100% varied in quality. (And it's not just in terms of more expensive == better, it's also about location.)

I think I've seen ryokan for closer to 20,000 yen in the Okuhida Region. Wasn't Hirayu no Mori relatively inexpensive? I've not stayed there overnight (no veggie options) but I think you did @LikeBike? I only went for the onsen as a day tripper and the onsen were great. I stayed at Nakanoyu outside Kamikochi. It was not luxurious and I think the baths could have been nicer, but I want to say it was under 20,000 yen. I might have seen places outside central Matsumoto for close to 20,000 yen, perhaps a bit more. I remember one did seem to offer vegetarian options but it might have been closer to 25,000 yen. But, I am unsure if I am seeing the true cost of two people since I tend to travel with my child whose status for room rates just truly varies across Japan.

It's not close to a ryokan, but the Hotel Associa in Takayama has great baths and my hotel rate has always been quite cheap to me. I think about $150 or less for 1 adult and 1 child with breakfast.

I think the issue is... Takayama lodgings can vary a lot in price but if there are any true ryokan there, they tend to be expensive. Okuhida might have a lot of options and is on the way to Matsumoto, but it is unlikely you are going to be able to reach one by 15:00-17:00 AND spend time in Shirakawa Go and Takayama. I cant find the places I saw outside Matsumoto, but they are outside Matsumoto (like Utsukushigahara Region) and involve travel by bus, so again you need to be careful with time.

I've not gone to Kawaguchiko. Because of when I tend to travel, it is less appealing to me. But I would think it will be harder to find what you are looking for in a ryokan there since it is very easy to reach from Tokyo.

And I mean it is your trip. I've transferred between Osaka and Kyoto because I wanted to be waiting a good hour before USJ opened to go to USJ. But assuming you are coming into KIX, getting from KIX to Osaka vs. Kyoto is not a big deal. Your other option is you can stay in Osaka the whole time and ask the hotel in Osaka to hold your bags until you get back. I like Kyoto, but again going back and forth from Osaka isn't that hard. You could do Nara and then Fushimi Inari and then circle back to Osaka. When you visit Arashiyama, you can take the Hankyu line directly there. Gion is right near the Keihan line which goes to Osaka, and You can use the same line to get relatively close to Kiyomizudera. Even though I had a rail pass, I often took the Keihan line between Kyoto and Osaka when I was staying off the Keihan line. It also doesn't increase the time for the train that much to Kanazawa if you start in Osaka vs. Kyoto. I guess a lot would depend on where in Osaka and where in Kyoto you were thinking of staying. Outside of going to USJ, I tend to stay in Kyoto because I think they have more middle 80-150 a night accommodations than Osaka. Osaka tends to have more budgetary and more western style luxury hotels. For USJ, I always stay in one of the hotels that are a part of City Walk. They're much lower priced than I would have expected.

If you don't mind doing laundry, I like to limit how much I do because Japanese dryers are awful and I don't really enjoy having to find time to do laundry on vacation. You can also pick up a cheap suitcase in Tokyo to cover any purchases there. I think it was Ginza Karen, that was selling large check in bags for 5500 yen. Assuming it survived the pandemic, it was super easy to find because it was right on Chuo dori in Tokyo near the giant Ginza Mitsukoshi department store. I buy a lot, and I buy bulky things (dolls and doll playsets) and it is always cheaper to spend 5500 yen for another suitcase vs. shipping to the USA.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/9 03:45
@rkold, yes Okuhida would be a great location for an additional day with a ryokan stay.

You remember correctly, I stayed at Hirayunomori. I did very much like it, because I am a rotenburo (outdoor onsen) freak and that place had like the most diverse rotenburos I have ever seen in Japan.

I am just not sure if the hotel would qualify as gryokanh. I guess it depends on your personal definition of ryokan. I had a tatami room and a nice dinner, but for me the building itself isnft like a ryokan in MY definition. So I wouldnft necessarily define the place as ryokan. But I LOVED it and would go back there for sure!!! (Actually a great idea. Hopefully next year I can go for a WE :-)

Anyway, this is my description of this trip:

http://bicycletraveljapan.blogspot.com/2017/10/day-30-takayama-sightse...
by LikeBike rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/9 06:22
If your trip is in May, I'd consider Bessho Onsen for the ryokan stay. It is close to Tokyo (by shinkansen), the ryokans are very reasonably priced, and you tend to get cherry blossom later than Tokyo.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/9 19:31
Thank you for al the amazing informations, I'll be sure to read everything and come back with an answer.
Meanwhile I have to correct my previous post as I've been misunderstood.
The Ryokan Budget is about 20,000 yen for each person, 150/200€ for every one of us.
by Margu rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/9 20:10
P.S. We are 4, and we might be more
by Margu rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/10 02:33
@LikeBike, I thought you stayed there! Glad I remembered right! I loved the onsen at Hirayu no Mori. I went about ~12 years ago and was the only person there that day lol I can't remember, have you been to Zao Onsen?

But.. I think that is a good point. I think OP needs to decide what they want most out of a ryokan experience. I do know people who would count Hirayu no Mori as a ryokan experience. Since I've not stayed there I can't say how I would feel. Generally, I am pretty lax in definition, though there are certain places that are just not ryokan that call themselves one. It's the budgetary places that are simply Japanese style rooms, with not particularly any let alone good service. My very first trip to Japan, I had a much tighter budget and stayed at a few places from a brochure I got from JNTO on "economical" places for tourists. A lot of places called themselves ryokan on it. A lot of those places I would not stay in again. It was a long time ago, and there was not as much information out there on Japan as there is now. I'm much older now and I travel with a kid. Having nicer accommodations is much more important to me, though I have occasionally still experimented with more budgetary options, like renting a cabin in Kamikochi.

Kyoto has a lot of very traditional and some extremely well regarded ryokan (like Tawaraya) with impeccable service and impeccable food, but no real onsen. (which makes sense because outside of Kurama and maybe Arashiyama, I don't think onsen when I think Kyoto.) I've not stayed in the Okuhida region, I only visited Hirayu no Mori before heading back to Takayama, but it's very easy to imagine the area is one of those places to go if you like rotemboro onsen and is just going to do a great job with that, maybe the room or the food won't be as impeccable though. Kanazawa and Takayama have ryokan with onsen, but they're not cities known for their onsen water vs. say Okuhida or the Utsukushihara Highlands outside Matsumoto city or Bessho onsen (which is not that convenient unless you decide to get a JR East rail pass and you would be making a trip from Tokyo just to go there as from Matsumoto it's about 1 hour to Nagano, you then need to get from Nagano to Ueda and then from Ueda to Bessho. To get from Bessho to Kawaguchiko you need to either backtrack to Matsumoto or backtrack to Ueda and then go to Tokyo to Kawaguchiko. If you have a car it is much easier to reach from Matsumoto, but I don't think there are any direct buses from Matsumoto to Bessho.) I've never really thought of Kawaguchiko as an onsen area either (vs. Hakone or Izu, where the place for 100,000 yen @LikeBike shared.) I'm sure it has some ryokan with baths, but it's not really known for onsen.

So I personally think you, OP, need to decide what you think is the top priority for your ryokan experience. Also if you or anyone in your party has tattoos, and onsen are important to you, you need to find some place that either allows tattoos and/or has private baths.

Good luck!

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: 21 Days Itinerary - May 2021/11/14 10:53
I would just spend a whole day in Nara for day 7. Fushimi Inari you can visit it on other days that you spend in Kyoto.
Also, for accommodation in Miyajima, we love Mikuniya. It's a fusion of a ryokan and a guesthouse.
This article gives you more info.
https://visitjapan-vegetarian.com/mikuniya-spend-a-night-at-miyajimas-...

Happy planning!
by Lily (guest) rate this post as useful

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