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Is this itinerary for a trip to Japan reasonable?
March 15, 2013 8:23 PM   Subscribe

I am traveling to Tokyo next week and have not been there before. Is this itinerary reasonable?

I will be traveling alone to Tokyo for the first time. After doing a ton of research, I have been able to put together an itinerary, but am not sure if it is a reasonable one. My plan is as follows:

SA - March 23rd - TOKYO

- Arrive Narita 4pm
- Take train to hotel/check in
- Explore area around hotel
- Akihabara?
SU - March 24th - TOKYO
- Asakusa Shrine– Tokyo SGG club
- Nakamise Shopping District
- Shibuya
- Meiji Shrine/Harajuku(best on Sundays/Shibuya
M - March 25th - TOKYO
- Tokyo
- Tsukiji Fish Mkt./Ginza/Sony/Imperial Palace – Gardens East/Nissan Gallery
- Tokyo Sky Tree
Tu- March 26th - KYOTO
- Kiyomizudera Temple – Higashiyama District – Ginkakuji
- Kinkakuji Temple – Fushimi Inari Shrine
- Philosophers Walk?
Wed- March 27th - TOKYO
- UENO PARK TOUR – Tokyo SGG Club
- Akihabara/Asakusa(Sensoji Temple)
Thrs- March 28th - TOKYO?Hiroshima?
-
Fri- March 29th - TOKYO
- Kamakura to see Daibatsu (Great Buddha)
- Antique Mall Ginza
- Oedo Antique Market
- Shinjuku – Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observation Deck (Closes at 11pm)
Sa- March 30th - TOKYO
- Depart for Narita at 130pm
- Depart Narita at 555pm
- Land in LAX at 1130AM


Is this plan unreasonable? Are there things that I absolutely should not miss? Is hiroshima from Tokyo, a reasonable day trip? I have already purchased a rail pass and would like to use it as much as possible.
posted by Heliochrome85 to Travel & Transportation around Tokyo, Japan (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hiroshima is a not a reasonable day trip, IMO. For that matter, you've got one day in Kyoto, which is really cramming it in. I realize it seems a shame to go to Japan and not visit Kyoto, but you're really driving yourself hard there. Nikko is a good day trip from Tokyo, and is quite sufficiently eye-popping. I'd do that instead of Kyoto.

Sunday you're hitting the east side of Tokyo and the west side. It would be easier if you picked a side and stayed with it for the day. Perhaps do Asakusa/Namamise-dori as part of your Monday activities, and Shinjuku on Sunday.
posted by adamrice at 8:45 PM on March 15, 2013


Wow that's a lot to see! Everyone varies on what they can do on vacation, though, are you a person who likes to GOGOGO? When I went to Tokyo I planned two areas of the city a day, with a loose itinerary in each. I was happy with how that turned out, but I was purposefully trying to be relaxed about the whole trip. Definitely make use of your rail pass, and definitely check out Tsukiji (gotta be there REALLY early). My favorite neighborhoods were Akihabara, Asakusa, and Shibuya. My trip out of the city was to Fuji, sorry I can't advise on Hiroshima. Oh also I remember the train from Narita took a while to get into the city-ymmv but exploring was not on my mind by the time I reached the hotel. If you think of any more questions feel free to message me. Have a great time, Japan is amazing!!!
posted by PaulaSchultz at 8:47 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is hiroshima from Tokyo, a reasonable day trip?

No, it's about 4 hours each way on the very fast Nozomi Shinkansen, which I don't think is covered by the rail pass. The types of Shinkansen that you can catch with a pass take a bit longer.

Kyoto isn't really a day trip either, but it's definitely worth going. If you're going to go there I'd suggest spending a couple of days at least (on preview, as adamrice says Nikko is also really nice and much closer).

The things you've listed are all of the standard tourist attractions and they're all worth visiting, although your schedule is pretty tight and you won't get to spend much time at any of them once you've caught the train, walked from the station etc. Are there anything other kinds of things you'd like to see?
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 8:49 PM on March 15, 2013


I organize trips to Japan as a side business, and I would say that your itinerary is a little ambitious in some places:

SA - March 23rd - TOKYO
- Arrive Narita 4pm
- Take train to hotel/check in
- Explore area around hotel
- Akihabara?

NOTES: This is fine


SU - March 24th - TOKYO
- Asakusa Shrine– Tokyo SGG club
- Nakamise Shopping District
- Shibuya
- Meiji Shrine/Harajuku(best on Sundays/Shibuya

NOTES: This is doable, but you're going to spend a couple of hours (round trip) travelling from one side of Tokyo to the other. You may just want to stick to one side: Asakusa vs. Harajuku. Shibuya and Harajuku/Meiji can be done together. You could also fit in Shinjuku in there too, as a hub.

M - March 25th - TOKYO
- Tokyo
- Tsukiji Fish Mkt./Ginza/Sony/Imperial Palace – Gardens East/Nissan Gallery
- Tokyo Sky Tree

NOTES: This seem do-able.

Tu- March 26th - KYOTO
- Kiyomizudera Temple – Higashiyama District – Ginkakuji
- Kinkakuji Temple – Fushimi Inari Shrine
- Philosophers Walk?

NOTES: This isn't do-able even if you spent the night in Kyoto. Higashiyama and Kinkakuji and Fushimi are all in different parts of town, and it's not easy or quick to traverse these distances. I would suggest staying overnight in Kyoto for a couple of nights. Kinkakuji is almost a day trip from a Kyoto Hotel, combined with other sites in the area.

Wed- March 27th - TOKYO
- UENO PARK TOUR – Tokyo SGG Club
- Akihabara/Asakusa(Sensoji Temple)

NOTES: This is doa-able.


Thrs- March 28th - TOKYO?Hiroshima?

NOTES: Not a day trip. Combine it with the trip to Kyoto.

-
Fri- March 29th - TOKYO
- Kamakura to see Daibatsu (Great Buddha)
- Antique Mall Ginza
- Oedo Antique Market
- Shinjuku – Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observation Deck (Closes at 11pm)

NOTES: Not do-able; Kamakura is a day trip from Tokyo. Ginza and Shinjuku are on opposite sides of the city.



Sa- March 30th - TOKYO
- Depart for Narita at 130pm
- Depart Narita at 555pm
- Land in LAX at 1130AM
posted by KokuRyu at 8:51 PM on March 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


You can use Hyperdia to look up train timetables. It looks like it's four hours from Tokyo to Hiroshima.

I thought the Tokyo National Museum was really good. It's in Ueno Park, but I'm assuming the tour you have planned is a walk round the park, rather than the museums.

I'm not much of a tourist, but I would assume the Sky Tree is eminently skippable. I had three days in Tokyo (including the day I arrived) and besides the National Museum went to Miraikan (not really worth it, though perhaps better if you read Japanese) and wandered round the Imperial Palace Gardens and round the city (I was with someone else that day).
posted by hoyland at 8:53 PM on March 15, 2013


I would suggest that you do the Tsukiji fish market as soon as possible after arriving, while you are still jetlagged and waking up at the crack of dawn. The earlier you get there, the better.

Also, I would say that you could skip the Meiji shrine and instead stop at the temple in Narita village on your way back to the airport. It's convenient and quite nice.
posted by overleaf at 9:56 PM on March 15, 2013


If the goal of the trip is to see Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima, I'm trying to think of a good travel plan that's efficient.

I think you're going to need to stay overnight in at least two of the cities (Tokyo and Kyoto) and ideally in Hiroshima as well.

You can kind of divide Tokyo into east and west hemispheres (bound by the JR Yamanote line), or like a clock - 3 o'clock is Tokyo Station; Ueno and Asakusa is at one o'clock, Akihabara is at 2 o'clock, and Ginza and Tsukiji are kind of in that quadrant - Ginza and Tsukji are within walking distance of Tokyo Station, and are an easy subway ride for Asakusa, which in turn is an easy subway ride from Ueno. Ueno itself is pretty cool with the National Museum, the National Gallery, the National Science Museum, plus cherry trees, and on the south side (?) of the station complex there is the interesting Ameyoko area.

Going back to Tokyo Station, the Imperial Palace is close by.

So it would make sense to set up a base camp in that quadrant to visit these places.

Shibuya, Harajuku and Shinjuku (Takashima Times Square is interesting with a 6F bookstore, a large department store and another large "hardware" store called Tokyu Hands; Shinjuku is also a rail hub with an easy cross-town connection) are in the quadrant between, say, 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock.

So you might want to base yourself somewhere around there.

I say this because you also really ought to consider staying at least a couple of nights in Kyoto. So, you'll be breaking up your stay in Tokyo anyway - you can stay in one region at first, and then the other region when you return after Kyoto.

On the tail end (if you decide to stay in Kyoto), when you return to Tokyo make sure you're somewhat close to a rail hub with a direct connection to Narita. I believe the Narita Express leaves from Shinjuku. On the other side of town, there are frequent express trains to Narita from Ueno and Tokyo.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:21 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


With Kyoto, you'll probably want to find a hotel near JR Kyoto Station. There is a north-south subway line (actually two north-south subways - one is Keihan on the east side of the Kamo River), plus another line that bisects it, but besides the subway most people get around the city by bus.

So, lugging around a suitcase to get to your hotel can be quite a pain (you can send your baggage ahead if you like by courier, but still...).

Plus, JR Kyoto Station is a transport hub with the shinkansen bullet train, the city bus, and the north-south subway. JR Kyoto Station also has a large mall and department store where you can buy cheap food for breakfast and lunch, buy souvenirs, and also get help from several excellent tourist info desks

Here's a map of Kyoto's east side that I made for a client. The walk from Kiyomizu Temple to Starbuck's at Sanjo-bashi is pretty nice at this time of year. There's also a couple of places in the northwest corner of Kyoto, which is a little more time-consuming to get to.

Anyway, if you stay a couple of nights in Kyoto, it would go something like:

Day 1 (Kyoto)
9AM Depart Tokyo on Shinkansen
12PM Arrive Kyoto Station; check bags in lockers on south side of station, below Shinkansen tracks; grab some lunch at a convenience store
1PM Take JR Nara to Fushimi
4PM After retrieving bags etc arrive at hotel for checkin (checkin is usually after 3)

Day 2 (Kyoto)
Head over to Higashiyama
Wind up in Kawaramachi; get some lunch or a coffee at Starbucks at Sanjo Bridge; walk up Shijo Ave to Karasuma; take subway back to your hotel near JR Kyoto Station

Day 3 (Kyoto)
Take bus to Kinkakuji. Maybe try to fit in Ryoanji
Get back to Kyoto Station by 3PM
Arrive in Tokyo by 6-ish; Get to hotel by 7-ish

OR

Get to Kyoto Station by 3PM
Arrive in Hiroshima by 4:30-ish
Get to hotel by 5PM
Next day is Hiroshima until 3-ish (short day!)
Arrive in Tokyo by 6-ish
Hotel by 7-ish
posted by KokuRyu at 10:44 PM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had a bunch of stuff written out, but I'll put it this way instead. A week is not a long time. We went to Japan twice in the last 12 months, and the first time we went for one week. We split the week between Tokyo and Kamakura and it was fabulous (overnight 2 nights in Kamakura). It really would have diluted the experience had we tried to go to Kyoto and Hiroshima on that trip (both of which we went to later on our second trip).

So, I recommend you make some choices because your experience will be better for it. You can never see everything there is to see in Tokyo, so you should consider spending just two full days there seeing the things you want to see most in those two days. Also spend one night overnight in Kamakura and spend most of two days there. It is so lovely. That would leave you enough time to go overnight to Kyoto (which you will have to do if you want to see it, to be honest).

Anyway, my two cents. Have a wonderful time.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:17 AM on March 16, 2013


Both times I have gone to Japan, I have gone for two weeks at a time, spending a week in a city (Tokyo once, Kyoto once), then traveling around on a rail pass for a week, usually with another city taking up about half that time and a bunch of small stops the other half. With only a week, I would be tend to suggest you stay in Tokyo with day trips (Nikko and Kamakura/Hase?)

Kyoto in a day is pretty crazy. It's not a particularly compact place, and it takes time to get around. I usually plan one big or a few small and close things for each morning/afternoon. If you are very energetic, you might manage more. If you are going in the summer and are not inured to heat and humidity, you might do a bit less. I also divide things into -- things I must do and things I might do. So, In Kyoto, Sanjuusangendou is a must-see for me, there is a nice museum right across the street and a couple of big temples around the corner. I go to my must see (it's not a big place, but nice), see how I feel, check out the museum, maybe I am not excited by the current exhibits, so I go to a temple and wander around, then decide the museum would be nice because of the AC, so I go back. Then lunch and on to my must-see for the afternoon. It's helpful to be a little mix-and-match; if it's pouring rain, the Inari shrine is not as much fun, so go to the museum instead and so on...

Rereading, I see you have a rail pass already. In that case, maybe fly into Tokyo, spend the night at a hotel, take the Shinkansen to Kyoto, spend 2-3 days there, then return to Tokyo for the rest of the trip (with maybe a day trip in there somewhere) would give you a much better flavor. Something else to remember -- you will be flying a long way and probably somewhat jetlagged. You know yourself best, but that first evening is probably going to be a success if you manage to check into your hotel, have some hot noodles and cool beer and a long long bath (not necessarily in that order), then bed and an early start the next day.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:41 AM on March 16, 2013


If you are looking for hotel suggestions in Kyoto, memail me; I've stayed at a couple ryokan (somewhere between a hotel and a B&B) that were pretty nice and low-key, short walks to the train station, and conveniently located to at least some sights.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:45 AM on March 16, 2013


I would say more Kyoto, less Tokyo. While in Kyoto, take a side trip to Nara. While in Kyoto you should see Ryoan-ji (the classic zen garden) and also Sanjusangendo

The Philosopher's walk doesn't seem like much, but I really liked it when I was there.

I would skip Hiroshima for this short trip.
posted by mbarryf at 5:46 AM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


A note about the Tsujiki Fish Market: For what it's worth, a couple of weeks ago some friends got up very early and tried to visit the Tsujiki Fish Market. They were quickly stopped by security and escorted to the exit. Since the retail part wasn't up and running yet, their outing was a bust. They believe that there's a crackdown underway to discourage visitors from entering the wholesale area during the early morning hours. YMMV.
posted by MelissaSimon at 8:46 AM on March 16, 2013


Although I understand why people want to go to Tsukiji I can never really recommend visitors get up early to go see the tuna auction. Tourists are tolerated at best, so why go someplace that you're not really wanted? That said, the area around Tsukiji is pretty interesting - there are lots of little restaurants that sell fresh sushi.

Rereading your question, I'm glad other people that don't suffer from my tunnel vision pointed out that your itinerary is overly ambitious for one week. For whatever my opinion is worth, it does make sense to focus on one destination over the course of one week. Obviously I've focused on Kyoto, so you know what gets my vote.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:29 PM on March 16, 2013


When in Akihabara do not miss this store, seriously. You will never see anything like it in the US and it will be a nice contrast to all those temples! It's not just porn -- it's the Art of porn.

Also don't miss going to a Don Quixote discount store.

We went to Japan for 10 days a couple of years ago and went to Tokyo and Kyoto and it was barely enough time. Oh we also did a little diversionary afternoon in Nara before Kyoto.
posted by DMelanogaster at 12:52 PM on March 16, 2013


I tend to plan extremely packed itineraries and even I think that your daytrip to Kyoto seems overly ambitious if not impossible. I went to Japan for a week this past December, going westwards from Tokyo then riding the ferry to Korea.

The things you listed in Kyoto are all on opposite ends of the city from one another - Kinkaku is in the north, Fushimi Inari is in the south, and Higashiyama is in the east. Fushimi will take you at least a few hours if you want to walk all the way around the mountain, and getting there and back from central Kyoto takes a bit of time as well. It's relatively quick to see Kinkaku itself, but being in the north it does take some time just to get there on the bus. And in Higashiyama there's tons and tons of temples - you could spend a whole day just walking around seeing temple after temple.

I'd also recommend checking out the sites in Arashiyama to the west - more temples, there's a nice bamboo grove, but my personal favorite was the monkey park. It's a mountain with lots of Japanese macaques running about freely. You can see them up close and you're allowed to feed them from inside a little house.

I think your Kyoto trip would work well if you were to spend one night there. There are some nice ryokan there that are used to foreign guests; I stayed at Motonago and had a wonderful time.

If anything, I'd reduce your days in Tokyo and increase the time in Kyoto and other cities. I spent only two full days in Tokyo and I felt like it was enough.

Have a great trip - Japan is a lovely country to visit.
posted by pravit at 2:14 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want to thank everyone's assistance so far. I have started to redo my itinerary based on your recommendations. I greatly appreciate everything you have had to offer and am very much looking forward to this trip. Ultimately, I will revise my Kyoto plan and split it across two days. Hiroshima, while tempting, is likely impossible as above noted. Thankfully, I have a few days before I travel and so have enough time to make the necessary reservations. Again, thank you everyone! If anythig else comes to mind, please dont hesitate to message me or post here as I will continue to check for updates!
-Tariq
posted by Heliochrome85 at 2:21 PM on March 16, 2013


Going to Kamakura just to see the Daibatsu: You'll spend more time in transit than actually seeing the Daibatsu. Kamakura is wonderful and well worth the visit so don't limit yourself to just the one thing. You can easily spend multiple days there.
posted by Runes at 3:00 PM on March 16, 2013


Others have addressed the logistics admirably.

I just want to mention that you must venture into a Japanese Department Store! I'm not a traditional shopper, but they have amazing things in their housewares sections. The lowest floor is filled with individual food shops. I found I was so exhausted after sightseeing each day that I hit the basement food shops and brought back an amazing assortment for dinner and breakfast the next day. The food gets marked down drastically at the end of the day so quite affordable!
posted by cat_link at 6:44 PM on March 16, 2013


There's a lot of good advice here, and you should really think about how whirlwind this trip needs to be. For Kyoto, for example, I tend to think of the city in zones of things to see, and the thing is, each zone is pretty much a full day, and even then, it's a lot of walking at a pretty quick pace. If you're not accustomed to walking a lot, you really, especially with this kind of itinerary, should do some walking to get ready for it. When my friends, many of whom are more 'fit' than I am, came to visit, they were stunned by the amount of walking, and didn't see how I did it. Kyoto doesn't have nearly the transportation network that Tokyo does, and you need to make allowances for that.

Anyway, Kyoto, and zones:

Zone 1, Northwest Kyoto: Kinkakuji, Ryoanji, Kitanotenmangu, Daitokuji. Daitokuji is a complex of a couple dozen temples, many of which are open to the public, but each one charges an entry fee. Many of them have stone gardens that are just as good as Ryoanji, and much less crowded. Kitanotenmangu is pretty awesome if you get there when they've got a flea market going on. On the way back to the city center, you might have time for Nijo Castle.

Zone 2, Northeast Kyoto: The Philosopher's walk is pretty much an all day thing. You can start at either end, and you've got Nanzen-ji (amazing cemetary), Eikan-do, and Ginkakuji all along a nice path with coffee shops and restaurants along the way. It's quiet, and it's awesome.

Zone 3, East/Southeast Kyoto: Fushimi-Inari (there's a great hike that takes you over the mountain, around the back, and out to anothere nearby temple, it takes two hours), Kiyomizu dera. There's a lot of walking, and you also have to get around by train a bit.

Zone 4, Central Kyoto: Heian Jingu, Imperial Palace, downtown with the shopping arcade, Pontocho night district along the river.

Like I said, each one of those is a day, easily. Like others have said, I'd think more about spending less time in Tokyo and really getting into Kyoto and areas nearby.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:32 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was going to offer a bunch of advice that's already been given better - so I'll skip that!

In short, I think you should revise your original estimates of the time taken to do any of these things to roughly 2X what it is now. There'll be less rush and a little time to stop and check out interesting/tasty things between points A and B.

I went to Kyoto for a couple of days and found everything much further apart than anticipated, and it took ages to get around. Fushimi Inari was my favourite bit (it was sunny).

Also, if you are a fan of food at all (and not vegetarian/vegan) you will definitely want to make food a significant part of your trip. (In Asakusa, try the white miso tonkatsu here). Also, Oden!
posted by dickasso at 10:11 AM on March 18, 2013


Is flying into Tokyo and out of Osaka an option? There are direct flights from Osaka to SFO, so you'd have to take another flight down to LAX, but that would give you some extra time in Kyoto.
posted by armage at 7:43 PM on March 18, 2013


I'd second (third) the suggestion to go to Nikko. Maybe in place of the 25th plan.

M - March 25th - TOKYO
- Tokyo ???
- Tsukiji Fish Mkt. Skip it.
- Tokyo Sky Tree Long lines. Skip. Also, you already have the Tokyo Met Building for a sky view. In place of both, consider the viewing deck from the Mori Museum in Roppongi Hills. One sky view is prolly enough. Mori is right in the center and gives a great view of Tokyo Tower.

Or, go to Kyoto earlier to actually fit in the things you want to do there.

What are you really into? You've listed the big sights, but fit in something off the beaten track that matches your interests. Lots of small museums, small temples, cool neighborhoods that you can check out.
posted by Gotanda at 11:44 PM on March 18, 2013


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