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Japan 3 weeks - itinerary review

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  • Jun 22nd, 2016 5:46 pm
[OP]
Newbie
May 14, 2009
22 posts
2 upvotes

Japan 3 weeks - itinerary review

Hey everyone,
We're a couple in our early thirties, traveling to Japan for the first time for 3 weeks (mid Nov - early Dec). We've done a decent amount of research and talked to friends who've visited, and we decided to do a Studio Ghibli inspired(ish) tour of Japan. Must-sees for us are the Ghibli Museum, Yakushima (inspiration for Princess Mononoke), Dogo Onsen (Spirited Away), and the Totoro House in Nagoya. Another wishlist item is to see the snow monkeys near Nagano and visit an outdoor onsen, preferably with some snow outside but we realize that might be unrealistic in late November/early December. Overall, we're covering a lot of ground, and we're trying to balance that by having less activities/sights per day - it's OK if we don't see every temple / castle / shrine. Please review our itinerary, this is a first draft and we focused on the broad strokes, i.e. how to connect our must-sees in Matsuyama, Yakushima, Nagoya and Nagano. If you know of any other Studio Ghibli sights in Japan, we'd love to hear about it. Thanks for your feedback!

Day 1
Arrive in late afternoon, head to Tokyo. Sights TBD.

Day 2 and 3
Tokyo Sights (TBD), possibly day trip to Kamakura

Day 4
Take train to Hiroshima, explore museum / park. We are thinking of purchasing a 14 day JR pass and activating it here, it will last us till midnight of Day 17.

Day 5
Take ferry to Matsuyama, go to Dogo Onsen and explore area. Return to Hiroshima for the night. Q: Is it worthwhile staying here overnight?

Day 6
Take ferry to Miyajima, return mid-late afternoon. Take train to Kagoshima. At this point, send luggage to hotel for Day 8. Spend night in Kagoshima (Q: anything to see there?)

Day 7 - National Holiday
Take ferry to Yakushima, hike Shiratani Unsuikyo. Stay overnight. Q: any accommodations recommendations?

Day 8
Morning hike on island, take ferry back to Kagoshima after lunch. Take train to Kurokawa or Beppu onsen. The Beppu onsen area is close to a bakery modeled after Kiki's Delivery, but I read it's more commercial compared to Kurokawa. Any suggestions / advice?

Day 9
Spend relaxing day in onsen area, ideally visiting multiple onsens with different types of water. Take train to Kyoto / Osaka

Day 10, 11, 12, 13, 14
Spend 5 days in Kyoto/Osaka/Nara area, including one overnight stay in Koya-san at a temple. This is currently the least planned portion of our trip, and we'd welcome any suggestions. Our main goals are to see some temples/shrines/castles (the rest of our itinerary doesn't feature those much), go to the Deer park, dress up in a kimono, go to a tea ceremony, and eat, eat, eat. Q: Should we base ourselves in 1 location (Kyoto or Osaka)? Should we go to Koya-san at the beginning or end of the 5 days?

Day 15
Send luggage to Day 16 or 17 hotel. Travel to Nagoya, visit the Totoro House. Stay in Nagoya. Q: is this worthwhile? Would it be better to travel onwards to the north?

Day 16
Travel to Takayama to visit Hida Folk Village (love architecture and crafts), travel onwards to Kanazawa. Stay overnight.

Day 17 - JR Pass expires @ midnight
Explore Kanazawa in the morning, leave in the afternoon for Nagano. Head to ryokan near the snow monkeys park, relax for the evening.

Day 18
Go to snow monkeys park, visit Kanaguya Onsen (said to be where Miyazaki came up with Spirited Away) if possible, take train back to Tokyo (purchase one-way fare).

Day 19, 20, 21
Spend remainder in Tokyo. Go to Ghibli museum (+ bakery where they sell Totoro cream puffs), take a day trip to Hakone. Other sights (TBD, and suggestions welcome)

Day 22
Go to Narita for late morning flight.
13 replies
[OP]
Newbie
May 14, 2009
22 posts
2 upvotes
Thanks for the link, but we're not big fans of fox village. If anything, we'd love to visit cat island but hear it's not very accessible starting in November.
What areas are you guys planning to visit? Have you decided yet which season to go?
Deal Fanatic
May 18, 2009
6350 posts
1522 upvotes
Richmond Hill
i want to visit a soapland one day
Member
Nov 1, 2010
397 posts
56 upvotes
You had me at Totoro cream puffs! Hope you have a great trip. Sorry I cannot provide any advice.
Deal Addict
User avatar
Aug 21, 2009
4598 posts
330 upvotes
Don't have too much time to type out a proper response but I found Nara, Miyajima and Hiroshima as possible day half day trips (each). You can choose to make your hub in Kyoto or Osaka and get around the cities using your JR pass.

I also take it you are a huge fan of Studio Ghibli's productions but I find the museum a little underwhelming, I can appreciate it but felt my half day could have been better spent elsewhere however I only had a 2 week stay and getting around Japan was based off of a strict schedule (not rushed but had to adhere to a very unforgiving itinerary).

Good luck.
[OP]
Newbie
May 14, 2009
22 posts
2 upvotes
Thanks, we'll most likely base ourselves in Kyoto and take half day trips as you suggested. We're actually re-working the itinerary, someone suggested flying into Yakushima from Tokyo (especially since we can take advantage of the Yokoso / Visit Japan discounts), and then work our way east-wards.

That's a bit disappointing to hear about the museum, we'll try not to get our hopes up too much. We're not huge fans perse (i.e. don't know all the trivia), we mostly like the famous Miyazaki films and it was a good way for us to focus our wishlist / sights. :)
Member
Nov 24, 2008
316 posts
143 upvotes
Dartmouth NS
I can recommend a visit to the Imperial Palace. You need to apply in advance, see this link http://sankan.kunaicho.go.jp/english/guide/koukyo.html and click on the Application Guidelines button. You can apply online or in person. The tour, which is free and in Japanese, but there are audio tours that non-Japanese speakers can use. It's not as 'padded' with information as well as one would like, but with the audio tour and a booklet, I found the visit fascinating. The tour lasted about an hour, but the grounds are very lovely and relaxing. There's a visitor center with lots of information in a few languages and I spent about 3hrs in total there. I enjoy visiting places where I can show respect for their culture and I felt the visit to the Imperial Palace also gives one a good sense of the people and country.
[OP]
Newbie
May 14, 2009
22 posts
2 upvotes
The Imperial Palace wasn't really high on my list but that sounds really amazing, thanks for the tip! Did you apply in advance (and if so, how? online?) or in-person?
Sr. Member
User avatar
Mar 8, 2008
754 posts
36 upvotes
Base yourself in Kyoto when you're in Kansai, then just take the train to Osaka, Koyasan and Nara using the rail pass. There's more to see and do in Kyoto than Osaka, and the attractions will likely be closer (walking distance) to your hotel in Kyoto than in Osaka, which is a huge city and a harder place to pinpoint a hotel for this reason.

Might as well visit Nikko using the rail pass, which is near Tokyo.
Member
Nov 24, 2008
316 posts
143 upvotes
Dartmouth NS
Nordly wrote: The Imperial Palace wasn't really high on my list but that sounds really amazing, thanks for the tip! Did you apply in advance (and if so, how? online?) or in-person?
Check the link I supplied in my previous post. There is an online application if you chose that route. I applied a couple of weeks before my visit to Japan for the afternoon of my arrival day in Tokyo. I knew that it was going to be a long flight and the tour was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. The Imperial Palace destination is not as 'flashy' as many of the other sites to see in Tokyo, but it can be a welcome respite from all the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and a busy itinerary!

You can do same day tickets, but depending on how busy they are, you may not get in. Remember to take your passport and use that as your ID.

Oh, one other thing I enjoyed was going to the 'Kitchen' district of Tokyo. It's an area of the city that has a very large number of kitchen-type stores. Whole stores are devoted to one aspect of kitchen-ware. I LOVED the rice bowl store and picked up a cute kitty bowl for the daughter and the fake food store had some very realistic sushi. I wished I could take the sushi clock home with me, but it was far too large.

Some surprising things:
No garbage cans. Take your garbage home with you.
No eating in public. This is considered bad manners. I had gone to Ueno market early in the morning and picked up some fruit for lunch and had to hide my consumption of the food while I was sitting in Ueno Park - which btw is gorgeous.
Deal Fanatic
Feb 23, 2004
6256 posts
2017 upvotes
Nordly wrote: The Imperial Palace wasn't really high on my list but that sounds really amazing, thanks for the tip! Did you apply in advance (and if so, how? online?) or in-person?
I applied online for the Imperial Palace tour.

It's ok; I wouldn't rate it as a must do.

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