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First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/9 22:43
Dear all,

I have been scrolling through this forum countless times, and am very impressed by the length and quality of the answers. I hope to be able to contribute soon too :)

I am currently planning my first ever solo trip from Amsterdam to Japan for mid- to late November 2022, for which I am incredibly excited, of course. However, I struggle with deciding on a good itinerary given the jungle of opportunities and rail passes. Below, you'll see my plan so far.

Perhaps it's good to mention that I am a massive culture junkie who is looking for the traditional Japan, beautiful autumn foliage, and lots of delicious, Japanese food. Feel free to let me know what you think!

Tokyo (4 days)
- Arrive at NRT Airport at 9AM, head to hotel (possibly Shinjuku area)
- Day trip to Nikko
- Would love to see National Museum + Edo Museum, Meiji Shrine, Senso-ji, Konraku-en gardens, Ameyoko market

Kusatsu Onsen (1 day)

Kanazawa (2 days)
-See Kenroku-en gardens and beautiful old town

Kyoto (3 days)
- Day trip to Magome-Tsumago trail
- Seeing countless temples (Kinkaku-ji, Ginkaku-ji, Kiyomizu Dera, etc.) and old houses, Nishiki Market

Mt. Koya/Koyasan (1 day)
- Head to Mt. Koya, temple stay, roam around the town and explore Okonuin in the evening

Osaka (3 days)
- Day trips to Nara and Himeji
- Evenings in Osaka, eating, visiting izakayas
- Depart from Osaka KIX

Questions:
1. I've been looking at countless rail passes, but it seems that JR Rail Pass (14 days) would be a good deal, but perhaps travel from Tokyo to Kansai and get a Kansai Thru Pass (4 days) or JR Kansai Wide Area Pass (5 days)?

2. I would love to include an onsen in my trip; hesitating between Kinosaki Onsen (cons: long train ride, incredibly tourist-y?) and Kusatsu (cons: quite difficult to get there). Any tips?

3. I am a big fan of hiking, so would like to include an autumn hike as a day trip. Nakasendo trail a good idea, or rather a small trail in Kii Peninsula?

4. Is Mt. Koya worth the effort? Or rather add days in Kansai/Kanazawa/Takayama?

Thanks in advance. This forum has been an incredible helpful place so far. Looking forward to your advice!
by DennisSchmennis  

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/10 14:39
14 JR pass wouldnt pay off.
by H (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/10 17:43
Here is a breakdown of the times needed to travel between locations (just main stations - not to hotel)

Tokyo - Kusatsu (train + bus): between 3 + 4 hours

Kusatsu - Kanazawa (trains + buses): between 4-5 hours

Kanazawa - Kyoto: 2.5 hours

I would not include travel times between Koyasan & Kyoto/Osaka as it's short.

Now onto your main topics. Kusatsu and Kinosaki is nice - but why not choose an onsen town on the Tokyo - Kanazawa Shinkansen line. Some places include:

Karuizawa: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6030.html

Nozawa Onsen: https://www.japan-guide.com/destinations/nozawa-onsen/

Kurobe Gorge: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e7575.html

Check to see if this place has nice fall colours around your visiting time!

Kaga Onsen: https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4275.html

This one is on the way from Kanazawa to Kyoto so you would visit it after Kanazawa

For Kyoto/Osaka - I'd just stay at one hotel and move between them. It's even possible (and highly reccomended) to leave your luggage at the hotel and just take a day pack to Koyasan.

On visiting Magome to Tsumago. Although it is technically possible to do this as a day trip from Kyoto - it's 5+ hours and note that the trains and buses are infrequent in this location.

Possible other options for walks which are spectacular near Kyoto include:

Mt Hieizan: https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-1078

Ohara: https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-1077

Now to answer some of your questions.

Q2) Mentioned above. I'd change your location. Kinosaki is nice and all - but I don't think much of the water there. Kusatsu is nice but it's like way out of your area. Choose from the suggestions mentioned above.

Q3) Look above. There are plenty of nice hikes near Kyoto - which is surrounded by mountains. The Nakasendo is just really an add on - staying overnight at Magome or Tsumago is the special part. The walk itself is reasonably pretty but nothing spectacular.

https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-1399

Another option for a walk near Kyoto is the Yamanobe Trail. I've only visited parts of it - but it looks pretty enough

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4189.html

Q4) I enjoyed Mt Koya. Some people love it - some people find it tacky. Just note that YOU WILL GET SICK OF TEMPLES and especially in Kyoto the entry fees will quickly add up.

https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-982
https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/report-985

That should get you started.
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/11 03:33
Regarding temples, don't let the "fear of missing out" syndrome suck you into only going to the most famous places. The three temples you specifically mentioned in Kyoto are places I will probably never visit again because the crowds have ruined the experience (at least they ruin what for me is most satisfying and meaningful about visiting Japanese temples). And they are certainly no nicer than some other places in Kyoto that are not on any top-ten lists. I'm not saying you shouldn't go to ANY famous places, but given that you seem to have a good appetite for researching, I would advise you to visit at least one less-famous temple for each famous one that you visit. And if you are really intent on visiting "countless" ones, I can pretty much guarantee that they will start to become "meaningless" ones. It wouldn't be all that different from trying to visit two or three aquariums every day for a week, even if you like aquariums.

Finding less-famous places to visit takes more time, but imaginative searching will bring up all sorts of possibilities. There are plenty of web pages and forum posts devoted to them. Personally I don't share my own favorite places because I am afraid they will become tourist magnets once a critical mass of people discover how fabulous they are. For example, Fushimi Inari Shrine used to be off the radar map, but now it has become all but intolerable. Even the "secret" back route, which for some years had remained magical, is no longer secret, and the bamboo has been defaced by idiots carving their names in it. I used to love that place, but now I won't go anywhere near it. However, I have found other places that really float my boat. Kyoto has an endless supply of them, and Kyoto is only the beginning...

This all holds true for places other than temples and shrines, of course. You will have a good time and experience a lot of Japanese culture even if you limit yourself to popular tourist attractions, but you will probably have a richer and more memorable trip overall if you seek out at least a few places that are not mobbed with tourists.

My approach to major rail passes is to look at several options and formulate some possible itineraries that make particularly good use of them, then pick one and hone the itinerary to perfection. (In other words I look at a pass and ask "where can I go with it?" rather than looking at an itinerary and asking "what pass should I get for it?") I also use this approach with day passes. The alternative of coming up with an itinerary first and then using a "do the math" approach to try to find a rail pass that saves you money is typically just an exercise in frustration. If your priority is visiting a lot of famous places, then there may not be any passes that pay off, but in the end you typically don't save that much money with passes unless you use them quite strategically. So if you already know where you want to go, don't sweat it if there isn't a pass that fits.

But another thing to consider with rail passes is that they can give you a lot of flexibility for weather and unexpected circumstances. When I plan my itineraries, I always have a laundry list of things to do, including some options for rainy days or days when my feet hurt and I just feel like sitting on a train with a scenic route, looking out the window and enjoying a good bento. So even if you "do the math" and it looks like it will come out cheaper just to get point-to-point tickets, consider that it might possibly work out better in the long run to pay a little more for the rail pass. But it all boils down to different styles and approaches.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/11 03:41
I agree with @Mfedley about considering the Yamanobe walk. I did part of it as well and would love to do more. Getting to Sakurai from Kyoto is pretty easy, I would recommend use Kintetsu over JR because the Tenri line does not run very often. We managed to just make a train, but the next one wasn't for more than an hour vs. the Kintetsu trains ran a lot more frequently. You could also go to Akame 48 Waterfalls. There is the hike within the park as well as I think some other hikes in the area. I did ninja training there. It was hard for a only so athletic American like me. My kid did a LOT better. We both passed. There was a really delicious sweet potato ice cream treat there as well. I believe there are onsen but we didn't get a chance to use them. You can easily get to Sakurai from either Osaka or Kyoto, as I did both in the same trip. lol

I also agree with staying in either Kyoto or Osaka. It's very easy to get between the two and there are lots of transport options. I'm not a huge night life person, being married and traveling with a kid, however, I have a friend who lives in Osaka and I've come back quite late a few times from visiting her.

I've only been to Koya-san once and coincidentally it was in November. My date happened to coincide with the day the cable car received maintenance and outside of being pregnant, I have never been as car sick as I got on the bus to Koya-san. When I was there it was also quite cold and koyo was done. There were actually some areas with dirty piles of snow. So overall, it was much colder than Osaka or Kyoto had been. I didn't find it particularly touristy in a bad way, but I also went a long time ago.

I've been to Mt. Hieizan, I've not done the longer hike down to Biwako, but I know it is possible because I have friends who did it by accident.

It's an easy hike, but you can get from Kurama to Kibune and then walk to Kibune-guchi Station. I was there for Golden Week, but I imagine it is lovely in November.

I know @Lazy Pious loves Bessho onsen, and it's not so far off the route from Tokyo to Kanazawa even. You just go to Ueda and take the Ueda Railway to Bessho. I've just visited the ruins of Ueda Castle as well as Nagano and Matsushiro. I was there at the end of October and the leaves were lovely, but depending on the weather it could last until November. I admit, I enjoy leaf viewing, but leaf viewing is also something that has always been very possible nearly everywhere I have ever lived.

by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/11 06:24
Hi, yeah I am quite fond of Bessho-onsen, though they can keep their horse meat sashimi to themselves.

Personally didnt find much not to like about your plan, I would try to hit Takayama which is a nice mountain city with a good historic part. I wouldnt bother with the Tsumago-Magome trail, it is a hassle getting there for really a glorified bushwalk. It isnt dripping with history (which I expected). I'd go back, but with low expectations. Now that I have dashed yours, you'll have a lot better time if you do it!

I would stay in Nara, really it is by far my favorite part of Japan, and it is awesome that time of year. If you stay a night or two you can get up early and have the place to yourself, there are heaps of walks in forests with deer about, if nature is your thing then it is the place to go.

Personally I'm not wild on Osaka, some people love it but I dont really like cities, you will see a lot of concrete when you are in Japan and they seem to have been particularly fond of it in Osaka.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/12 02:00
Overall, I think your plan is a little too ambitious. I don't blame you, because there are so much to see and do.

As previously mentioned, a day trip to Tsumago-Magome from Kyoto is not reasonable. Go there on your way to Kanazawa. I recommend staying 1 night in Narai/Magome/Tsumago area.

Skip Osaka and stay in Kyoto instead. Izakaya is everywhere (even in the smallest towns) and you don't need to go to Osaka for that. I eat at izakaya every night where ever I am in Japan.

You can do a day trip to Himeji from Kyoto using 1-day Kansai Area Pass, if you don't buy the nation-wide JR Pass. I have done it. And don't forget to visit Koko-en Garden next to the Himeji Castle.
https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/pass/

For such a short trip, go to an onsen ryokan along the route, not out-of-the-way places. Kanazawa has some onsen ryokan.
by kamahen (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/12 20:51
Thank you all. This is even more than I expected, so lots to think about!

@mfedley, I'm happy to read about good walks that are near to my main itinerary. The Ohara area immediately caught me attention, so thank you for the wonderful tip! The Yamanobe walk looks very promising too,

@ Kim, I especially like the point of changing perspective to the possibilities of a rail pass, rather than cramming your ideal itinerary into one of the options. I have lots and lots to think about and consider. Although my first post does not really reflect this, I am somewhat nervous about the 'big locations', as I found it loses some of the magic that everyone is looking for.

A friend of mine, who has lived in Japan for some time, has recommend to just go to neighbourhoods and wander around, and follow your nose and look into interesting little shrines and alleys instead of following 'routes'.

This friend also really recommended Osaka, because he said it was easier to talk to locals than in other places. Osaka doesn't really appeal to me apart from this aspect. If I understand correctly, this isn't necessarily the case, and Kyoto would be a great vantage point too.
by DennisSchmennis rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/13 01:48
Are you fluent in Japanese? When you say friendly, do you mean random people wanting to chat with you, or do you mean friendly, like looking for something romantic?

I'm old married and travel with a child. No one is trying to flirt with me in Japan any more (thank goodness, because that felt super awkward in the past.) but I've found people all over the place are friendly in the want to chat with you way. From the mother with two kids at the Pokemon Cafe in Tokyo, to random older people in Ichinoseki. I have also had a lot of people just want to chat with me pre-child, because as a foreigner by themselves, I guess I felt more approachable. Older women at onsen are always chatty. I would be surprised if the same didn't hold true for older men.

I like Osaka, but I go to see my friend and to go to USJ. If you're just going because you hope people will be more outgoing there and not because there are specific things that interest you, I wouldn't stay there.

I've had trips where I didn't plan much and just sort of wandered and went to cafes. Again, it's really about what you want in a trip.
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/13 06:25
I can add a few impressions on your plans here.

The first thing is not overdo it, especially on your first day. Depending on how much you rest on the flight going over, you might arrive ready to go, or you could arrive an exhausted brain-dead zombie. Not the best for wanting to go around and storm the sights.
For Nikko, I suggest an early morning start, and look into getting the NIkko Pass (or a local bus pass, if you take JR). If you don't mind splurging a bit, get the extra cost of taking the limited express trains to get there faster. It's up to you if you want to get it returning to Tokyo, or just economize and take the slower trains. You can see a number of good places there, but you'd be hard pressed for time to also venture over to Okunikko. It is time consuming and buses are not that frequent. It also has a number of great sights, like Kegon Falls.
https://youtu.be/WWHYZfUr6Xk
Actually, for all your day trips, I suggest you go on a weekday if possible. Some places famous for their autumn leaves can get pretty packed on weekends.
I would also echo what mfedley mentioned about going to Tsumago & Magome as a day trip. I suggest you consider going somewhere else closer by, unless you really have your heart set on going there. It is a huge time commitment round trip, and by the latter part of November the days are already getting pretty short. To add another suggestion for a nice walk, you could try the Akame 48 Falls in Mie. Far more natural beauty than Nakasendo type history though. It's a bit of trouble getting there too, but it doesn't take that long, and in Sakurai, Nara, there are some other lesser known but gorgeous temples to see.

I highly recommend seeing Koyasan if you can. The Koyasan World Heritage Ticket can save you some money and is convenient. But again, save some time and use the limited express version. There is simply no other place in Japan like it. Just don't make the mistake that I did. Like you, I wanted to see Okunoin both during the day and at night. But I found out too late that the temple I was at had an evening curfew (many do), so it completely frustrated my plans. I went in the spring when the days were longer, so you possibly could still do it and get back to your temple (the walk each way can take 30-40 minutes though) with it getting darker earlier, but there is nothing worse than having a ticking clock in the back of your head. So look for a place with no curfew!
https://youtu.be/uquvCbWANBo

To add a note on endless temples, it is very possible to get "templed out" if you are going around Kyoto. The key of course is to add enough variety in it as well - such as the Toei Eigamura, Iwatayama Monkey Park, Kyoto Station in the evening, the railway museum, some beautiful gardens like Heian Shrine (it's hidden in the back - most never find it), the Shoseien Garden, Murin-an, Jonan Shrine, etc, not to mention the beautiful Imperial Villas (Katsura, Shugakuin, Sento Palace).
There are a number of places in Kyoto famous for the autumn leaves, and you probably know you will be there at the right time (Tofukuji, Yoshiminedera, Rurikoin, to name a few). Most are along the east and west mountainsides. Needless to say, they can get very crowded by people going to see them. There are also a few temples that are only open to the public a few times during the year - one of them being that time, so you may or may not want to take advantage of the opportunity. Plus, some places have special evening hours open to see the autumn leaves as well.
https://goo.gl/knQtMg

I would also agree with what was mentioned above that the places trumpeted in all the tourist guidebooks can get swamped with people, and there is no shortage of places that are not as famous but are no less beautiful. But you can still see a lot of the more famous places without most of the crowds if you do things more strategically. Fushimi Inari is open 24/7 and if you go there in the very early morning or evening, you will find few crowds there at all. Same thing for the Sagano Bamboo Grove. And there are some places like Kiyomizudera that open at 6 AM - inconvenient to get up that early of course, but if you are there when others are still asleep, you will find very few people stepping on your toes. Likewise, the Kamo shrines and Honganji temples both open around dawn.
That time of year is the absolute best for the weather - there are far fewer days of rain, and the brain crushing humidity like in the summer is long gone. Nevertheless, you should check the weather forecasts the day before, and as much as possible, keep a flexible itinerary with a back up plan (e.g. museums, aquariums, etc). You will not see it all (nor should you try), but to me, simply getting on a train and going nowhere is a really wasted opportunity. By all means though take some time to just explore the mundane - walk through a supermarket and look at what Japanese people buy and eat - plus the prices they pay. Go to a convenience store and try some of the unique items. Walk through a typical residential neighborhood and see how people live. And skip the bars - just get a can of beer, find a street or park bench, and so some people watching. It can be much more educational than yet another old temple.

BTW - I ran the numbers - and if you do things taking JR as much as possible and your plans the whole way, you would make a 14-day pass pay off very nicely. Not saying that is always the best way to see Japan, as I mentioned above, but if you insist on your plans, the numbers don't lie.


by Ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/13 07:30
For a week in Kansai I would probably stay in Kyoto the whole time, and pick a hotel near the main JR station. Then I would take day trips to Himeji, Nara, and possibly Koyasan from there. Tsumago-Magome I wouldn't attempt as a day trip from Kyoto, but if you really have your heart set on it, you certainly could do it as long as you plan carefully. (But you will have to sacrifice other things you could do in Kyoto that might be better.) Staying in the same hotel the whole time gives you a lot more flexibility for when you make your day trips, as you don't have to fit in a hotel change, baggage transfers, etc. Even if you are the kind of traveler who can fit all of their stuff into a single backpack, dealing with hotel changes is a time-consuming hassle. If you want to do very much at all in Kyoto, AND you want to take two or three day trips, you probably don't want to be dealing with a hotel change as well. You can get to the airport from there easily at the end.

Not many people would recommend Koyasan as a day trip from Kyoto, so I'm not particularly recommending it for you, but it worked great for me because I'm an early riser. I took an early Haruka to Osaka and was at Okunoin shortly after 9 a.m. It was blissfully uncrowded at that time (on a weekday in the off-season, admittedly). I recommend going to Okunoin in the daylight because the natural setting (an ancient forest) is exceptional and will be hard to see at night. But given the length of your trip it's possible that you might want to leave Koyasan for your next visit to Japan.

I stay in Osaka mainly to enjoy some hotels there that I particularly like. But I'm pretty sure that hanging around a hotel room is not what you had in mind for this trip! Osaka actually has some nice things to do (my personal favorites are the aquarium and Sakuya Konohana Kan and also the city views, although none of these things are particularly "Japanese"; they are just very good examples of what they are). But Kyoto has a lot more.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/13 08:06
One minor point: I like Omicho Market in Kanazawa better than Nishiki Market in Kyoto, which has just gotten too mobbed with tourists. In particular, if you like to take photographs, Omicho is a much better place. Nishiki is too narrow and crowded, and if you stop to take photos it obstructs traffic and the shop owners are likely to glare at you.
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/13 17:20
After looking at the passes, the only pass that might make a little sense is a Horuriku Arch Pass. This would be in effect for the first seven days of your trip.

I also agree with Mfedley about choosing an Onsen close to Kanazawa. Traveling to Kanazawa from Tokyo may be shorter than travel Tokyo to Kusatsu. There are several Onsen towns near Kanazawa that are covered by the arch pass.

Say, for instance, you choose Kaga Onsen, which is between Kanazawa and Kyoto. Kaga Onsen is only 28 minutes away from Kanazawa by limited express.

Here is a possible plan:
Day 1-4: arrive at NTR, get the arch pass, and use it to go to Tokyo, and some limited transportation around Tokyo. I would plan to stay at a station somewhere on the Shinkansen line near Tokyo, but towards Kanazawa. A Hotel near Ueno or Omiya station works. Ueno station is within Tokyo, and Omiya Station is kinda between Tokyo and Nikko.
The Shinkansen bullet train between Omiya and Tokyo is about a half hour.

Day 5-6: go to Kaga Onsen for two nights. From Tokyo, that will be a little over three hours of travel, but from Omiya, less than three hours. You could stop in Kanazawa, shove your bags in a locker, and spend the day there, before continuing to Kaga Onsen. On day 6, you would do a day trip to Kanazawa.

Day 7: check out of the ryokan, but have your bags held. If you want to, make another day trip to Kanazawa. Return to Kaga Onsen in the late afternoon, and travel to Kyoto.

I usually get a day bus pass around Kyoto. This is the main part of your transportation. If you want a second Onsen experience, you might try something around Kyoto.

I might also move your visit to Mount Koyasan to the end. A 4 day Kansai Thru Pass could get you from Kyoto to Nara to Osaka, if you stay in Namba using Kintetsu trains. The thru pass also goes to Koyasan from Namba, and also to Kansai Airport from Namba, with the Nankai trains.

Donft force yourself the four day pass. A two day pass for Koyasan and to the airport might work. The JR train fare from Kyoto to Nara is 720 yen, and I not 640 yen for the privately owned Kintetsu train. Should you decide to stay the night in Nara, the single train fare will be less than a pass, which is expecting you to use the trains several times. The train from Nara to Namba is 570 yen for either JR or Kintetsu trains.

This may give you some ideas that you may not have thought of.

Good luck, in planning your vacation.
by ebaychucky311 rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/14 04:05
It's up to his final plans, but he's not returning to Tokyo by train, so I don't see how the Hokuriku Arch Pass would pay off.
by Ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/14 11:04
Based on your itinerary, I'd say go for Kinosaki Onsen. You can combine the trip with Amanohashidate in Kyoto which is one of the Three Views of Japan. Take the sightseeing train and maybe even drop by the smaller attractions along the way. Here is an article for more info.

https://visitjapan-vegetarian.com/amanohashidate-one-of-the-three-view...

Or, as a different suggestion for hot spring, you can visit Arima Onsen in Kobe. It's easier to get to and has rich historical elements. You can then take a ropeway to Mt. Maya and Mt. Rokko that have even more attractions.
https://visitjapan-vegetarian.com/arima-onsen-kansais-best-onsen-town-...

Lastly, Kanazawa has more attractions that go nicely with Kanazawa Castle and Kenrokuen Garden. Here is an article for more ideas :)

https://visitjapan-vegetarian.com/your-ultimate-kanazawa-travel-guide/

You can even extend your visit to Ishikawa Prefecture outside of Kanazawa city to Noto Penisula and Kaga Onsen!
Noto Penisula: https://visitjapan-vegetarian.com/noto-peninsula-and-the-stunning-coas...
Kaga Onsen: https://visitjapan-vegetarian.com/kaga-onsen-the-charming-onsen-resort...

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

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/14 11:36
It is very close. I am going use Hyperdia for the price estimates.

NEX to Tokyo: 3070 yen
Tokyo to Kanazawa: 14380 yen
Kanazawa to Kaga Onsen: 2060 yen
Kaga Onsen to Kyoto: 6140 yen

This adds up to 25650 yen, and the pass is 24500 yen if purchased outside of Japan. The pass is also good on JR trains in central Tokyo, so I added an extra 400 yen per day for days 1-4. This makes it about 10% better value, which is not much of a benefit, but it is slightly less.

Now if you stay at Kaga Onsen and do two day trips to Kanazawa, that adds an additional 8240 yen.

It is also possible that hotels in Omiya may be less than central Tokyo, but perhaps not. I canft give a yen amount to this. Without tourism, I believe that the hotels are under-booked, and have lowered their prices. I have myself stayed in Omiya, and it was very nice.

I stand by my recommendation.
by ebaychucky311 rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/14 11:40
I've just had another look at this thread and noticed that it's starting to look quite daunting for a first timer in Japan. This forum has not had a lot of travel questions - thus the sheer detail in answers compared to what you would normally get.

One thing to remember is that it's basically impossible to see all of the major sites in Japan within 2 weeks (which I think you already understand).

I'm also happy to see that people have suggested Kaga Onsen. From memory - the water in that area is quite good compared to places such as Izu or Kinosaki.

It should be noted that there are in many different types of ryokans and both serve a different purpose. Some are well priced - some are ridiculously expensive - specifically if they include meals.

If you do decide to stay in Kaga Onsen, then the Yukai Resort chain are known for their value. Expect to pay between 8-12,000 yen for a single with 2 meals (breakfast and dinner). Japanican, jalan and rakutan travel are the sites which are more likely to include meals.

Something some people often try and do in their first trip to Japan is to continually move around. An example of this is the difference between Kinosaki and Kaga onsen. Kaga onsen is on your way back to Kyoto. Kinsaki onsen is a 5 hour round trip. I should confirm that when I talk about moving around a lot - I'm mainly referring to with luggage.

One thing you have not mentioned yet is budget. If you are on a tight budget - then a lot of these suggestions will come to naught. Note that Kyoto can be amazing but it's also a money trap. For example - most nice looking temples in Kyoto have an entry fee (300 - 1000 yen) while similar looking temples in smaller cities may be free or much cheaper.

On Arima onsen - it's nice but can be expensive when it comes to accommodation. It's short distance from Osaka and Kobe can often make it cost over 20-30,000 yen a night per person. I also strongly suggest not staying in an onsen town on the weekends as prices increase significantly during fall. Also note that most rooms are not available in ryokans until 3 or 6 months before the staying date. This is an odd Japanese tradition I don't pretend to understand but I don't need too now that I'm aware it exists.
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/14 16:10
Mfedley: did I overdue it? I did use terms like NEX, an did not explain that this was the Narita EXpress. To a first timer, that might not be understood.

To the original poster: another possible pass that you might consider is a Tobu Nikko World Heritage pass for your day trip to Nikko. This could also be an overnight, and you could do stay at Kinogawa Onsen. Should you decide to get this, Then I would think about staying near Ueno Station while in Tokyo.

What you are going to discover is that lots of attractions have private companies doing a good job of bundling transportation within their area. The JR passes are good at long distance travel, but may fail to give you good coverage in an area.

Kyoto is a good example. The JR pass will get you to Kyoto, but if you want to go the the Golden Pavillion, you are most likely going to use a bus. It is a lot easier to get to many of the attractions in Kyoto by bus. There are exceptions to this, even in Kyoto, and I would use a local train to go to the Inari shrine.

Your trip has a few long distance moves, but not many, so it is difficult to recommend getting any of the JR passes.

You still have time to research what you are going to do. Good luck, in doing that.
by ebaychucky311 rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/14 17:51
Hi ebaychucky,

No it wasn't you. I just noticed the huge amount of info that was getting thrown at the poster with myself being one of the worst offenders.

I guess seeing a post suggesting places which are far off and/or require a lot of travel sent off red lights in my head. For example - I like Noto Hanto but it's difficult and slow to travel around without a car. Arima onsen can be difficult to get to with large luggage and requires multiple transfers either through trains or buses from Kyoto etc.

For the original poster - building on what ebaychucky mentioned the train system in Kansai is a dogs breakfast for JR Passes.
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: First 14-day itinerary in November 2022 2021/11/15 14:59
Ifm going to take a second stab at suggesting a pass, this time, the seven day JR pass. This pass is about 25% more than the arch pass, and the arch pass was close to break even. The plan also required passing up going to Kusatsu Onsen, which, if your heart is set on going there, you should.

Before I ago any farther, Ifm going to mention that sunrise in Kyoto today was 6:32 AM and 4:51 PM. I did a pilgrimage in Chichibu several years back, and found many shrines and temples were staffed between 9:00 AM and between 4-5:00 PM. Since I was collecting stamps at each temple, I usually halted the pilgrimage for the day around 4:00. Since you will be touring the country in November of next year, and you will be losing daylight at 5:00 PM, you need to plan around this. You will have to guard carefully your time between 9-4.

The Tokyo National Museum, for instance, is open until 7:00 PM. This means that can visit shrines and Temples in the morning and afternoon, and then plan to visit museums in the late afternoon.

Many people stay up much later, and I am going to suggest that between 5-8 PM is the ideal time for long distance travel. It will be after sunset, but the trains will still be running. The exception to this rule is going to an Onsen Town.

In general, when going to an Onsen town, you arrive around 3:30-4:00 PM, check in, and possibly take a hot spring bath before, your multi course meal. I like taking a bath in an open air bath while the sun is setting. Exiting the ryokan is usually later, because you will have a large breakfast, and may even take another bath in the morning.

Should you have your heart set on Kusatsu Onsen, you can do it, but it is out of the way, and will cost you a lot of precious time between 9-4 traveling to get there and getting back out. That is why I suggested Kaga Onsen as an alternative. It is 30 minutes away from Kanazawa, and it can be a destination either before or after visiting Kanazawa. I am going to include an extra day near Kanazawa, which you can remove, and substitute Kusatsu Onsen. I am going to once again have you staying two nights at Kaga Onsen, and have you visit Kanazawa from there. You can substitute Kanazawa for Kaga Onsen, if you wish.

Here is a stab at an alternative itinerary. A JR 7 day pass is 29650 yen, which is about 4300 yen a day.

Day 1: travel from NRT to Ueno on the either the Kristin Skyliner (faster, 2520 yen) or the Keizer limited express (slower, 1050 yen). The Skyliner takes about 43 minutes, and the limited express takes about 76 minutes. Stay somewhere in Ueno for several days. It will be too early to check in, so just drop your bags off. Ifm going to add some flexibility to your trip, so staying an extra day in Tokyo is possible. Walk around Ueno, and possibly take the subway from Ueno to Asakusa to visit Sensoji Temple(Ginza line, 170 yen each way), get an IC card (Suica) to pay for small trips like this.
Visit the Tokyo National Museum, if you can, before returning to you hotel and checking in. You may be jet lagged, so make this an easy day.

Day 2: use the IC card to pay to go to Ryogoku Station (160 yen), and see the places around there,. Depending on how much you did on day 1, you might need to go back to Ueno, or, you might go to Shinjuku to see the park there., or, maybe go to Shibuya Crossing. This is an IC card day, and you will probably not rack up more that 800 yen in charges.

Day 3: Day trip to Nikko. Subway to Asakusa again, and then to Nikko on a World Heritage pass. The pass will also cover busses in Nikko. Transportation to and from Nikko takes about 2 hours, so this is a full day. You could include an additional day of just using the IC card to get around Tokyo.

Day 4: Check out of the hotel, and have them hold your bags until the evening. You will activate the 7 day JR pass, and use it to finish up anything you still want to see in the Tokyo area. If you have already checked off all the things on your Tokyo list, you may want to visit someplace a little further away, like Kamakura and Yokohama to the South, Kawagoe to the East, or Mastushima Bay to the North. Travel in the early evening to Shin-Kurube station for the night. This is about a two and a half hour train ride.

Day 5: (My substitution) visit Kurube Gorge, and take the train. Return to and continue on to Kaga Onsen for two nights.

Day 6 & 7: Visit Kanazawa during the day, and the Ryokan in the morning and evening. On day 7, you will again check out and have your luggage held for the evening. You will travel in the evening to either Kyoto, or Shin-Osaka station for a hotel.

Day 8: Day trip to Himeji, and possibly Okayama for the garden there. I am including this here so that you can use the JR pass to pay for Shinkansen tickets. You will have a two days use of the JR pass in the Kansai area before it runs out. So if you want to go to Kinosaki Onsen, the Kii Peninsula, or even Nagoya to see Nabata No Sato, you can do it. The plan should be to get to Kyoto before the pass expires.

Spend days in Kyoto, using bus passes to get around.

Day 12: Visit Nara and then go to Namba

Day 13: Visit and stay in Koyasan

Day 14: return from Koyasan and head to airport. I am going to recommend a Kansai Thru Pass for going to Koyasan, because the Nankai Line that services Koyasan has a direct train to the airport. The Koyasan world heritage pass will not cover transportation to the airport, but the Thru Pass will.

I hope this is helpful.
by ebaychucky311 rate this post as useful

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