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11 day trip to Japan

I am planning an 11-day Mother and adult daughter trip to Japan in October of this year. We are flying into and out of Tokyo. We arrive at NRT at 7pm (and also depart at 7 PM). We currently have plans to spend the first night in Tokyo and then head down to Kyoto for the next 4 nights then stay in a temple in Koya San for one night then return to Tokyo for the remainder of our trip. I have rooms booked at the Tokyo Westin and the Westin Miyoko Kyoto. But, since we arrive late on Friday evening and plan to head out to Kyoto the next day I question whether it is worth paying for the pricy hotel that first night because we will probably be jet lagged and not have time to appreciate the expensive hotel. I would appreciate some advice or suggestions since I have no idea how long it will take to get around (I am hoping we can travel on the train).

Posted by
2556 posts

Cyndie, Cyndie, Alas... Rick and all the Steverinos cannot help you. Look up at the Masthead ... it's Rick Steve's EUROPE. Japan is in the FAR East. You will need to go to a travel forum such as "Thorn Tree" (the Lonely Planet Forum) and go to their Japan section. I believe that TT has more experienced world-wide travelers than many other internet travel BBs. Good luck! And BTW, I hope that you are also consulting some good travel guidebooks Rough GUide is usually good on details and maps. DO do some book-work and not try to get it all from the internet. Good luck!

Posted by
22 posts

Thanks. I have Rough Guide, Lonely Planet and Fodor's books, but I don't find them as user friendly as Rick's books. Ah well, its time to venture out of Europe. Thanks again for your tips and your redirections. Happy travels.

Posted by
1751 posts

Cyndie, Cyndie, I can tell you this: 3 years ago we stayed at the Westin Miyoko Kyoto and enjoyed our stay. Primarily, the location is excellent, with easy access to the historic sections of the city. Some people complained about the long walk to the subway station; turns out they were unaware of the station about 200 feet away from the hotel's front door (when you exit turn right, not left, or you will have a very long walk). Our room was comfortable and stylish...even equipped with an electric toilet!). Staff were helpful. It was more expensive than we normally pay, but wasn't that crazy compared to the high costs of lodging we found in Kyoto. We never ate in the hotel. There are many dining options quite nearby. Kyoto is fascinating, and offers several days of sightseeing activities. Beautiful temples and gardens abound. The subway in Kyoto is handy. We travelled to Nara and Fushimi Inari's famous torii Gates...easy by train and very worthwhile. One thing I soon learned: I was overwhelmed by the Japanese language and learned a few basic phrases...go the extra mile (and extra syllables) and learn the formal (longer) versions...incredible what a differenece it made. Japanese society is very big on formality and politeness, or so it seemed to us. Happy travels! Sayonara!

Posted by
22 posts

That is good to know about the hotel and the subway! Thank you for sharing your experience!! This is going to be quite an adventure and I appreciate all the advice I can get.

Posted by
11261 posts

I was in Japan in 1997, so my information may be outdated. When I went, the price of a one week Japan Rail pass was about the same as a round trip on the Shinkansen (bullet train) between Tokyo and Kyoto. So, since we were taking this round trip anyway, every other train ride was "free" with the pass. However, it's not good on non-JR lines. So, if your train from Kyoto to Koyasan is a JR train, be sure to investigate the pass. You have to buy it in the US; once in Japan at a rail station, you then exchange the coupon you got in the US for the actual pass. You must be using a tourist visa (not a student visa or other type), and they checked this very carefully when we got the passes. It ended up saving us a fortune, as we took a day from Kyoto to go to Hiroshima, then to Miyajima, and all this travel was included (over $200 worth!) It's not good on the nozomi (the fastest bullet train), but the hikari (next fastest) were quite fast enough for us. Similarly, we didn't pay extra for "green car" (first class), but the ordinary class (like second class in Europe) was quite nice enough. My father was relieved (so to speak) to see that the trains had both a "Western toilet" and "Japanese toilet," so labeled, in each car. Lots of information about Japanese trains, including links to schedules, here: http://www.seat61.com/Japan.htm continued..

Posted by
11261 posts

continued.. If you have the money (or have a day on your railpass anyway), be sure to take the NEX (Narita Express) from the airport to the city, or vice versa. It was much faster and nicer than other methods. It does get full, so be sure to get you seats in advance if you're taking it from the city back to the airport (Our first choice train was sold out, and the next one - which we had to take to be sure not to miss our plane - required us to sit in separate cars, as they no longer had two together).

Posted by
9110 posts

Undisregard Janet completely. She has no faith and shall be condemned to eternal perdition. Some of us have lived in Japan a couple of times, did our master's fellowship there, go back frequently, did relief work following the tusnami, and speak the language well enough that you can't tell where we're from on the telephone. The last time I was in Japan was a few months ago, but things probably haven't changed much. Your picks wouldn't be mine, but they're a good start for a first trip - - especially Kyoto. The only thing I'd quibble about is Hiroshima - - the memorial just isn't worth the trouble to get to it. Maybe nest time you can get to northern Honshu and even up into Hokkaido. You can also start nosing around and see how the small inns work. You can easily get about anywhere you want to go by train - - but I tend to drive since I poke around. Since my train trips are one-leggers, I have no idea how passes work. Stay in the fancy hotel the first night. I don't know how long the flight is from where you are, but it's a thirty to thirty-five hour evolution for me - - plus the time to and from the airports. I'm a fifty bucks a night guy, but after that stretch I head straight for the Okura (which might be a bit steeper than the Westin). In short, transpac flights suck, especially from the eastern part of the US. I make maybe a half dozen a year and do well to stagger off of the plane.

Posted by
802 posts

the narita airport is not very close to downtown tokyo, and you also need to figure out the train system from tokyo to kyoto. maybe take a next day train is a better idea to give you some time to adjust. take it easy.

Posted by
9110 posts

The airport and Kyoto trains I do know about. The express train into the city runs a couple of times an hour and takes about an hour. There's also a bus, but I only did that once a long time ago and it took seven evers. The bullet down to Kyoto leaves five or six times an hour and takes a bit more than two hours. All the signs have english subtitles. You get a seat reservation when you buy the ticket. I've never had trouble just showing up and getting on the next train. I have no idea how to buy advance tickets, nor if you get a discount by doing so.

Posted by
22 posts

I appreciate all your advice! I am leaning jumping on a train as soon as I arrive in Narita and go straight to Kyoto. (I have a 21 hour flight from JFK that arrives in Narita at 7:15PM). I am going to spend about 4 nights in Kyoto and take in as much as I can and do some day trips. I then need to pick out Monastery (and suggestions would be appreciated) for a 1-2 night stay then end with 4 nights in Tokyo.

Posted by
671 posts

Tokyo can wear you out. I lived in Chiba Prefecture in 1994 and commuted to Tokyo almost daily for 8 of the 11 weeks. However, I also managed to travel around Japan quite a bit during that time (Kagoshima, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kobe, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Kamakura, Hitachi-Taga, Nikko, Morioka, Ina, etc.). So, do see the sights of Tokyo (Tokyo Tower, Akihabara, Akasaka shrine, Takashimaya and/or other department stores, Edo-Tokyo Museum, the Ry?goku Kokugikan - the sumo hall and museum next to the Edo-Tokyo Museum, and so on) but I suggest taking a day trip to Nikko sometime during your last 4 days. "Nikko is a town at the entrance to Nikko National Park, most famous for Toshogu, Japan's most lavishly decorated shrine and the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. Nikko had been a center of Shinto and Buddhist mountain worship for many centuries before Toshogu was built in the 1600s, and Nikko National Park continues to offer scenic, mountainous landscapes, lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, wild monkeys and hiking trails." (From: Japan-guide.com). Nikko is located about 75 miles north of Tokyo (see http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3805.html). It is also the home of the famous "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" monkey carving (on one of the temples). The peacefulness and beauty of the area, as you visit the shrines and temples while walking in a cedar forest, is a great contrast to the crowds and craziness of Tokyo.

Posted by
2 posts

Took my family a few years ago to - Tokyo, Nara, Kyoto, Kamakura. GOing back in October. - Kamakura is day trip worth doing from Tokyo, get out at the first station, walk to/through temples, if you have time go to top of mountain behind Kench?-ji - walk ends going through very nice shopping area in Kamakura possibly on to Buddha - Nara, short sitance from Kyoto, huge deer park, temples, etc. - Tokyo,Koenji area is great at night (see NY Times article) Arctower hotel had decent prices near the station - Tokyo Free Guides - awesome personal service - must reserve ahead of time - volunteeer based, you just buy them lunch - skip Akakusa (tourist trip - go to Kamakura instead) - get the train pass at the airport - department stores at Shinjuku - check calendars for festivals - Ryokans can be a great price value but you may need to use Google translate to make reservations in some
- hoping my next trip to try temple lodging ...