We are a couple of seniors (70 plus) planning to travel to Japan for three weeks in March 2018. This is our first and possibly only visit to this country. We want to get a flavour of japan without too much hectic travelling but going budget. Can you pl suggest a suitable itenerary covering all main areas to get a feel for the country? Also the mode of transport to be used ? Thanks
Possibly recommend a 14d or 21d JR pass which gives you use for most Bullet trains and JR local trains (excludes subways and private lines). The classic itinerary may be Tokyo-Kyoto/Osaka-Hiroshima. If you want to catch the cherry blossums, you could try head further south (Kyushu island-Fukuoka,Nagasaki). Main cherry blossum peak in Tokyo/Osaka is usually 1st week of April.
I think 3 weeks might be a little ambitious to see ALL the country, but you can get in a decent chunk. The JR Pass is probably your best bet, although it’s not “budget” per se - just much cheaper than if you have to buy long distance rail tickets separately. As beautiful as the north is, I would suggest sticking to Tokyo and more southern places. March in Hokkaido/Tohoku can be quite wintry and the ground can be very icy with the snow melting and then freezing overnight. Unless you are accustomed to icy winter weather, I’d recommend avoiding it.
I would recommend starting in Tokyo, doing some day trips to places like Hakone, Nikko and Kamakura and then head south to the Kansai region and look around Kyoto, Nara and Osaka. After that, keep heading south to HImeji, Onomichi, Utsukushima and Hiroshima. You could pop over to Shikoku and have a look at part of the 88 temple pilgrimage route. If you head down to Kyushu, I’d recommend Yufuin for a lovely onsen village experience and Nagasaki for a fascinating glimpse into the last 500 years or so of Japanese history.
I did a three week trip in February this year, definitely agree that it’s too ambitious to see the whole country. You can easily cover the main popular areas around Japan though. I would suggest Tokyo, Kansai (Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto) and Hiroshima/Miyajima as well.
I noticed that many have suggested using the JR Pass. I have used it myself during my February trip and recommend it as well if the price is not a problem. Otherwise, I suggest catching a bus (I have attached a link to the company I used down below). Personally, I found it very comfortable and just as convenient as the bullet trains, however time does have to be considered. I took the bus at night so I could sleep and not waste any of my time exploring on travel. If I had to compare it to something, I would say the seats reminded me of business class on a plane but a bit smaller.
Going back to areas of Japan to visit, I have written a list of places I enjoyed down below. Please keep in mind that a few are the popular tourist sites while others are more local spots that I preferred when I lived there for two months.
Tourist spots: Sensoji Temple, Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Sky Tree, Ramen Museum
Personal Favourites: Tamagawa River (especially during sunset and Sakura season), Yushima Shrine (there are quite a lot of stairs though so please keep that in mind), Ikegami Baien Park, Kiyosumi Garden, World Porters (the food on the top floor is delicious!)
Tourist sports: Dotonbori, Osaka/Umeda Station
Personal Favourites: Nakanoshima, Osaka Castle
Tourist sports: Any place with Kobe beef, Arima Onsen, Kobe Harbour
Personal Favourites: Nunobiki Falls/Herb Garden (you can choose to walk or take the cable car), Mt Rokko (tickets are available for purchase at Umeda Station)
Tourist spots: Gion Street (Each icecream store has different depths and levels of bitterness for their green tea icecream. I suggest the ones on the right side of the street if you want sweeter icecream and the left side of the street for a less sweet taste.), Arashiyama, Kinkakuji, Fushimi Inari-taisha
Personal Favourite: Kyoto Tower (I don’t suggest the restaurant there though)
Tourist spots: Atomic Dome (easily accessed via bus), Peace Museum, Sadako’s statue, Miyajima Island, Itsukushima
Personal Favourite: Mine align with the tourist spots mainly because I didn’t spend a lot of days there, but do try the oyster curry buns on Miyajima Island. They taste absolutely amazing!
Link to buses: http://willerexpress.com/en/
Also, public transport is the most convenient in Japan. I suggest getting a SUICA to travel since it is accepted in the areas I have listed, but if you go to Hiroshima I suggest getting an ICOCA card when you get there as well (based off memory the SUICA doesn’t work on their streetcars). I had a PASMO card from my previous trip but that didn’t work in Hiroshima.
If you would also like some other recommendations, I loved Yamadera in the Yamagata Prefecture as well as Sendai (they have a loop bus that goes around to all the tourist spots for 600 yen for the day). Unfortunately I have yet to really travel anywhere else apart from these areas but I hope this helps.
I think three weeks is plenty to cover these places. Don’t worry too much about the amount of walking, most times on public transport you will be able to sit and the areas I suggested have plenty of sitting areas as well (exc. Sensoji Temple). If you are worried about accommodation as well, I used booking.com and ended up spending around AUD$3000 for my friend and I combined (mainly due to staying in 4/5 star hotels and travelling over 8 different cities). If you look for 3 star hotels or apartment style hotels that amount can drop to under AUD$2500.
P.S. Personally I think you have time to go even further south or north if you wanted.
Good luck and have lots of fun!
We have made the following proposed itenerary. Pl suggest improvements. We were thinking of buying a 14 day JR pass and using it right from Narita and travel around. Thereafter 4 days in kyoto and 4 days in Tokyo before leaving Narita.
Day 1 Narita to Kyoto
Day 2 Day Trip to Osaka from Kyoto
Day 3 Day Trip to Nara from Kyoto
Day 4 Go to Miyajima and stay at Hiroshima
Day 5 Sightseeing at Hiroshima and return to Kyoto
Day 6 Day Trip to Himejee from Kyoto
Day 7 Go to Odawara and Hakone.
Day 8 From Hakone go to Nagoya for a night halt
Day 9 Nagoya to Takayama (wide window train)
Day 10 Takayama to Kanazawa via Toyoma
Day 11 Kanazawa sightseeing
Day 12 Kanazawa to Nikko
Day 13 Nikko to Kyoto
Day 14 Day trip to Kobe from Kyoto
Day 15 Kyoto
Day 16 Kyoto
Day 17 Kyoto
Day 18 Night bus to Tokyo
Day 19 Tokyo
Day 20 Tokyo
Day 21 Tokyo
Day 22 Tokyo
Day 23 Leave from Narita.
Any suggestions to cover more or better places or to drop some place or follow a different route will be welcome. Thanks
Sounds like you can see a lot. The first 14d seems to be pretty travel heavy (e.g. kanazawa to Nikko takes 5h and 3 trains), especially if you are going to kyoto in two different parts of your trip.
One possible alternative is
1st 14 days:
Narita–> nagoya–> Takayama (+ 1/2 day bus tour to Shirakawago) --> Kanazawa–>Osaka–>Hiroshima/Miyajima–>Kyoto(if you stay near the shinkansen station,use as a base for daytrips to Nara, Himeji, Kobe),
Afterwards: local sightseeing in Kyoto (Nara is also not too far/expensive)–>night bus to Tokyo–>Tokyo base + optional 3d JR tokyo-wide pass (10,000yen) to do daytrips to Nikko, Lake Kawaguchiko (ie Mt Fuji)
It may be difficult to work around an itinerary already made by me. If you have to make a fresh travel plan covering the following places, how would you do it. (using a 21 day pass instead of 14 if needed)
Tokyo, Nikko, Mt. Fuji, Kanazawa, Takayama, Shirakawa-go, Motsumoto, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Himejee, Okayama, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Fukuwoka, Nagasaki and Naoshima. Is this too hectic or doable comfortably? If it is too much, which places would you drop ?. This is our first and possibly last visit to Japan and therefore would like to cover as much as practically possible. Thanks
sorry for late reply
If you take 14d, here’s a possible itinerary. Although it’s still a lot of different hotels in the 1st 14d
6) Kanazawa-> Osaka
7)Osaka >Himeji (opt daytrip if you base yourselves in Osaka)
8) Himeji >Hiroshima
12) Fukuoka >Nagasaki
13) Nagasaki > Kyoto
14)Daytrip somewhere from Kyoto (Nara or Amanohashidate, which is further, more value of pass)
15-18)Kyoto, local sighseeing +/- Nara daytrip
19-23) o/n bus to Tokyo; Tokyo local sightseeing +Hakone using hakone-kamakura 3d pass (6500yen) or hakone 2d pass(5140yen)
I omitted Nikko as its a little out of the way, and you may see similar things elsewhere. If you prefer to buy a 21d pass I can make a suggested itinerary
Thanks a lot for your suggestion… this seems definitely more practical…
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