Hi! my friends and i (group of 4) are planning a trip to Japan this coming August 2013 and would like your help in building our itinerary and in booking our hotels. We are inclined to get the 7-day JR pass coz i heard it is the cheapest way for tourists to travel Japan. so here's our planned itinerary. Suggestions and comments will be very much appreciated.
DAY 1: (Aug 20) We arrive in Osaka at 8pm then we are planning to go straight to Kyoto (using JR Pass) to stay there for the next three nights so as to have a homebase where we can leave all our stuff and travel more conveniently to the nearby cities. Upon reaching Kyoto, we are planning to visit Gion and Geisha sights before calling it a night.
Day 2: (Aug 21) We use the JR Pass to Hiroshima for a day tour then travel back to Kyoto. Where can we have good okonomiyaki??
Day 3: (Aug 22) Day tour of Kyoto. Where is a good place to chill while drinking sake?
Day 4: (Aug 23)We make our way to Tokyo early in the morning and spend the next 2 nights there. Upon arriving, we are planning to go to Sanrio Land ? then head to Roponggi to experience their nightlife.
Day 5: (Aug 24) We make a day trip to Hakone to view Mt. Fuji, Lake Ashi and the hot springs. By the end of the day we make our way back to Tokyo.
Day 6: (Aug 25)We plan to go to the Tsukiji market for the early morning auction sale then visit gardensthen catch harajuku girls in their costumes. By the end of the day we make our way to Osaka.
Day 7: (Aug 26) Day tour of Osaka. im clueless about this place.
Day 8: (Aug 27) we make it to our 2040H flight back home.
is this itinerary practical and enough to make the most of our japan trip??
Any suggestions for cheap and safe hotels with private bathrooms near train stations ?
We can also take another night in tokyo and travel to osaka in the morning of Day 7 if theres nothing much to do in osaka.
your comments and suggestions would help us big time as this is the first time we will be sort of backpacking in japan. thank you very much guys!!!
I have a couple thoughts on your itinerary.
Hiroshima is a great city. It's pretty cool to see the A-bomb memorial, and yes the Okonomiyaka is to die for. But, if you only have a week, I think a day trip is kind of a waste of time. You won't get the chance to really enjoy the city, nor get out to Miyajima, which is one of the main reasons people go. I would say you'd be better off staying closer to your bases and really getting to explore them. Consider Himeji or Nara if you want a day trip from Kyoto.
I wouldn't bother with a whole day in Osaka. It's an ok city, but nothing for the tourist compared to Kyoto or Tokyo. You'll want more time for them, and maybe with the extra day you can stay at Mt. Fuji instead of just doing a quick day trip.
If you don't go to Hiroshima, and your only major train journey is Kyoto-Tokyo-Osaka, then see if the 7-day pass is really worth it. It might be, I don't know.
I would also consider going to Tokyo first. The only reason I say this is because in the end, you'll be in Kyoto, which is less than two hours from the Osaka airport. You could gain another half day in Kyoto, because you won't have to leave until about 4pm to catch your flight. Check out the Kansai Airport website for bus and train details.
So your itinerary could look more like this:
Day 1 - Arrive in Osaka, get into the city by 9:30-10ish. Wander the Dotonburi area and grab some grub.
Day 2 - Train to Tokyo as early as you can get up. Be there by noon. Do what you need to do in Tokyo.
Day 3 - Day in Tokyo
Day 4 - Morning in Tokyo. Head to Mt. Fuji.
Day 5 - Morning hike or trips to onsens and lakes. Train to Kyoto - Evening in Kyoto
Day 6 - Day in Kyoto
Day 7 - Kyoto or day trip (Nara, Himeji, or Hiroshima)
Day 8 - Morning and lunch in Kyoto. Head to the Kansai Airport in the late afternoon.
I think this itinerary will allow you to see more, but with less travel.
For accommodation, one place that I can't say enough good about is K's House. They have a number of backpacker hostels all around Japan, including everywhere you are going except Osaka. For good reason, they are often voted the top hostels in the world. A second choice if they are full is J-Hoppers, which also has hostels most places you are going.
Thank you Degolasse!! your suggested itinerary looks great but the only thing holding us back is the Harajuku girls in Tokyo because we heard they only come out on Sundays. is it really worth it to spend the night in miyajima and Hakone?
One more thing. If we decide to activate our JR Pass on the first day Aug 20 to head to Kyoto using the JR special rapid train, when would the last day of our JR Pass be? Would we still be able to use it on our way to the airport on the 27th?
Thank you so much for your help. =)