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Stepping Out of Our Comfort Zone - Japan 2019!

We (my husband, daughter and myself) have decided to attempt to visit Japan in 2019! We are looking for advice as to when the best time to visit would be (leaning toward late August-early September). We will be looking for advice on Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara and Miyajima, and are planning to visit the Tokyo DisneySea and Universal Studios theme parks while we are there. We usually drive everywhere, but I have been advised that to do all we want in 10 days-2 weeks, we will have to take a lot of trains. I've been reading everything I can get my hands on but am still in need of guidance! Any and all advice will be welcomed! Thanks!

Posted by
9991 posts

We are going next year ourselves, in November (autumn colors). August and September are the height of typhoon season, so you might consider going later if you can.

I was there 20 years ago with my son, just in Kyoto, Nara, and Ise. I loved Kyoto in particular, and am planning to spend three days there before meeting our group (we are doing an active guided tour with hiking each day). I have found the people in the Tripadvisor Japan forum to be extremely kind and helpful with details like train travel, hotel location, etc. You might look into the JR rail pass since you will be using trains quite a bit.

Posted by
3570 posts

I'd suggest you think twice about the timing of your trip. Summers in most of Japan can be miserably hot and unbelievably humid, really uncomfortable. Personally, I wouldn't go in August, try to push out your trip to begin in late September if you can. October is a perfect time to go.

Do NOT drive!!! First, they drive on the left - and if you don't have a lot of experience with "wrong side" driving, Japan is no place to start gaining experience. Can you read Japanese? If not, that's going to add to the challenge of driving (yes, some signage is in English, and some is based on pictograms, but a lot is in Japanese characters).

Japan has probably the best public transit system in the world (if there's one better, I'd like to hear about it). Trains go everywhere, easily and so efficiently it'll shock you. For a first time visitor, to the main tourist parts of Japan (which equates with your list) there is no reason to drive and a million reasons not to. Forget the car.

Get yourself over to Japan-Gude.com (https://www.japan-guide.com/). It's a wonderful resources with a helpful forum, with oceans of information. You should (and probably will) be spending a lot of time there as soon as you get a look at it.

Japan is wonderful, you will love it. Have fun.

Posted by
9991 posts

Hey David, I managed to score seats in First for the flight back. We decided to fly to SFO to spend a few days with family, and that JL plane is a 4-class 773. We will fly over on the new Seattle to Tokyo (NRT) run, in Business. It was all really easy to book on the Alaska Airlines website. After all I had read on FlyerTalk about “phantom availability” of JL awards, it was not a problem at all.

Posted by
3570 posts

Well done, Lola - I'm sure you're going to like it! Your flights are on JAL, I think, right?

Don't want to hijack the thread so will send you a PM...

Posted by
1564 posts

We are also going to Japan this year - June for 17 days. I'm taking a big group and so I'm only planning about a week of it. The other 10 days are a tour so I can relax and not be in charge of so many things. I've done a lot of research if you have specific questions. Pre-buy your Disney tickets so you don't get shut out.

I spent a ton of time choosing hotels - that took my longer than it seems to for Europe. I'm happy to share my choices if you're interested - just Tokyo and Kyoto.

Posted by
2501 posts

We visited Japan during the summer (no choice, school teacher), and saying that the weather is hot and humid doesn’t begin to convey how hellish it is. I’d wait until September, if possible. My daughter, who lived there for four years, says that the worst is usually over by the end of August.
If you go to Miyajima, you should really stop in Hiroshima first, to visit the Memorial Peace Park, a unique place in the world.

As I recall, the ferry ride out to Miyajima is very short, 5 or 10 minutes. While there, don’t omit a visit to the History and Folkore Museum.
I’m in total agreement with the opinion above concerning driving.

Posted by
2297 posts

We went at the beginning of the Cherry Blossom Season - and that is a wonderful time to visit Japan. It changes slightly each year, of course, but if you plan for end of March - beginning of April that should give you a good window. It is a very popular time to travel for the Japanese people so early reservations are a must.

My daughter just came back from a trip this past August and she experienced a Typhoon as well as hot and humid conditions ...

Posted by
146 posts

If you are spending a lot of time in or around Tokyo, I recommend visiting Hakone, which is close by and easy to access. Hakone is known for its hot springs, and while there you could stay in a ryokan with an attached and private onsen. I preferred that to visiting a public onsen in Tokyo, thought I'm sure that is also a great experience. There is a lot to do in Hakone, including hiking, taking a cruise on a pirate ship, and taking a ropeway up to a volcanic zone that has great views. I found it to be very relaxing after a busy itinerary in Tokyo.

Posted by
1970 posts

We visited Japan in 2015 and loved the country and its people. It is the cleanest country in the World (Switzerland a close 2nd). It is not as expensive as we thought.

Kyoto is amazing. We spent some days in Tokyo and then took a tour down to Kyoto and Nara on the bullet train for three days. Then we took a cruise that stopped in more Japanese ports, including Okinawa, then stopping in Taiwan, ending in Hong Kong. Great cruise.

Here is our detailed review:
http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=518503&et_cid=2531924&et_rid=17221689&et_referrer=Boards

I assume you are going to Disney and Universal for your Daughter. Why do this when you can go to the same in the USA? I would spend more time exploring Japan.

We found our tours on Viator. They subcontract out to local companies, so if you find the local company, you can book directly or just use Viator. The prices for tours are usually about the same as what the tour companies charge.

Posted by
941 posts

Please write a trip report when you return. We are looking to go to Japan in 2020 when we retire. We were thinking April. Just curious, are you flying multi city or in and out of Tokyo?

Posted by
1970 posts

We did Japan in October and the weather was nice. From what I have read, you don't want to go in the Summer, its very hot. September would still be nice and probably so in April.