Hi there, next year I'm going backpacking with 3 friends (all girls) for 3 months in East and South-East Asia, starting in Japan. We don't want to plan too much ahead, but I feel we still need to do so with Japan so I thought I might run by you my current ideas for the itinerary, if you have any advice.
We'll be arriving in Tokyo on 3rd March 2008. The plan is to spend 10-14 days in Japan (realizing that Japan will be the most expensive part of our trip around Asia, we think 2 weeks is the max), ending in Osaka because we'll be flying on from there, to Beijing. Trying to schedule this in my head I'm thinking:
-5 days in Tokyo (although we would love to go to both Mt.Fuji and Disneyland, don't know if that fits in though)
-From Tokyo to Hiroshima, 2 days there (1 for the city and 1 for the Miyajima island)
-From Hiroshima to Kyoto, 3 days in Kyoto, preferably 1 as well in somewhere in the countryside around Kyoto, I've heard it's really nice for small hikes and maybe onsens?
Do you have any input this itinerary? Do you think we should do it in a different order? Do you think I'm allowing enough time for each place, too little or too much? Is there something that I'm missing? We would like to have a bit of a combination of the big cities as well as the nature and countryside if possible, I feel it helps you get to know the country better to see both sides.
Of course, we will be there in early March so spring has just-barely arrived, should we expect it to be really cold? Will we be lucky enough to see any cherry-blossom? Are Mt. Fuji (not to walk up it but just see it and enjoy the area around it) and Disneyland even an option that time of year?
-Another thing to consider is the JR Pass. We will definitely buy one and are planning on doing so during our 24 hour transit in London. I know it's quite expensive, so if we only stay for 10 days the 7 days pass might perhaps be enough? Does the clock start ticking the minute we enter the country, or would it be possible for us to "activate" the pass only when we leave for Hiroshima, if we spend the first 5 days in Tokyo?
Any advice would be appreciated, thank you so much!
That sounds like a pretty good itinerary. When I went to Japan my favourite places were Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima so for a two week trip I'd basically do what you're doing. Nara is a good day trip from Kyoto.
If you do decide to only go for ten days then I would definitely recommend getting juust a one week JR pass cos I seem to remember the price difference was pretty big between one and two weeks. Also, buses are a lot cheaper than the trains in Japan so you could always use your pass for the start of your trip and then for the last leg from Kyoto to Osaka just get the bus.
I wouldn't spend any time in Osaka either as it was pretty forgettable. They have a street called Den Den town where you can buy electrical stuff, but other than that it wasn't very impressive.
Sounds like a good itinerary. Maybe where the Kyoto bit is and you say 1 day in the countryside somewhere, you could consider adding Nara as your destination. It isn't in the countryside so much but is a really nice place and has heaps of temples (if you aren't all templed out by then!).
As for the Cherry Blossoms, I was there March 24 last year and they had begun but not quite got to full bloom until close to the end of my time (which was also about 2 weeks). If it is like it was when I was there, I reckon you may just see a little bit in early March but not at its best. I'd try to delay your time there by a week or so to see it at its prettiest. It would be worth it and with any luck the weather may be slightly warmer (it was quite cold when I was there and I'm used to cold weather where I live).
For your own reward, don't be a scruge. Spend the extra money and get the longer JR pass to be able to stay the 14 days rather than only 10. You will be pleased you did and would certainly regret not doing so.
[ Edit: Edited on Dec 5, 2007, at 3:53 AM by aharrold45 ]
Thanks so much for your input! I will consider Nara as a day trip. Too bad though that we can't really delay are departure from Japan too long as we want to cover China and SE-Asia as well before having to go back home in early June. I will run these ideas by my traveling buddies though to see what they have to say.
We were thinking about booking the ticked from Osaka to Beijing soon, thinking that being early would be the best bet at getting the cheapest options in Japan. Do you think we're right in doing that or would you just book the flight once we're there?
I've also been advised to book all accommodation in Japan in advance, would you agree that's the right way to go? Any suggestion for a good budget plays in Tokyo while we're at it?
One more thing if anyone knows: I'm really curious to go to a sumo tournament, but read in the Lonely Planet that the sumo season isn't until May, do you know if it's still possible to go to a sumo competition in early March?
I'd recommend K's Kyoto House in Kyoto - definitely a fun place and since there are three of you, you'll be able to get a private room for the same price.
Also if you want to play a bit in a less touristed part of the country I'd strongly recommend Kanazawa. Really lovely area with some of Japan's most famous gardens and its extremely friendly.
As to general rules on places to stay make sure to check out the businessmen's hotels for affordable (often the same price as the hostels) places to stay. The Green and Hearton (spelling?) hotel chains were really good for us.
I'm blanking on the place we stayed in Tokyo but I'll see if I can't look it up for you.
hi, we visited Japan about six years ago and had a great time. I think your itinery sounds good - I agree about Kanazawa being a nice place to visit - we loved it and there is easily accessible countryside nearby. From what I can remember about the JR pass, it is activated the first time you use it, so you could get the shorter one. But I'd check with a travel agent as my memory may be wrong! have a great trip.
Thanks for pointing out Kanasawa, I wasn't aware of that place but it looks really interesting! I think I'll convince my traveling buddies to go there with me, it's always great to go somewhere a little less touristy. From it's location on the map I'm thinking the best way to include it in the itinerary would be:
Tokyo - Kanasawa - Kyoto - Hiroshima - Osaka
would you agree?
I will check it at a travel agency, but I hope you're right vwallop, it would be really convenient if it's possible to not activate the JR pass until the first time we use it, then we wouldn't have to start counting the days until after we left Tokyo.
Kanazawa is easy to do from Kyoto too and you should be able to get a train from there to Hiroshima without a lot of difficulty. A good day trip from Kanazawa is to go see a traditional fishing village of Waijima (about an hour by bus) but its pretty dead in the winter so I'd only recommend it if the weather is warm.
And you Japan Rail pass will be validated and start on the day you first use it - not when you buy it.
Nara is a must see btw. Also if you get a rainy day in Kyoto its worth a day trip to see the aquarium in Osaka (an hour or less away) to see the whale shark on display. Otherwise Osaka is very much like movie set Japan - interesting for a few hours but I wouldn't spend too much time there.
Hey I've been leeching off this thread and was interesting in Waijima but I can't seem to find any information about it.