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16 thoughts on “Comments”

  1. I would like to know how much I can see or do, using a 21-day Japan Rail Pass – starting in Sapporo and making my way back to Tokyo by train. Places on my “wish list” are:

    Sapporo- Otaru – Yoichi – Daisetsu-zan National Park, Shikotsu-Toya N.P – Noboribetsu Forest – Lake Toya – Hakodate – Lake Onuma – Aomori – Lake Towada – Sendai – Yamagata- Matsushima – Niigata/Sado Island – Nikki – Nagano

    I would prefer to concentrate my time in Hokkaido, Tohoku and Central Honshu, and not trying to do too much in one trip. Ideally, have a few bases and do day trips from each one. Does this make sense to you?

    I would also like to see Tokyo during this trip.

    I think it would be unwise for me to go south of Tokyo as I think I would need another 3 weeks!

    My interests are nature, shrines, scenery, walking, lakes, countryside, the snow monkeys.

    Hope this helps you to understand me. I am 72 years old, who is active and enjoys the outdoors life. I really enjoy walking and I can walk for many hours in one day

    Thank you for all your help. Brigid

  2. Dear Brigid,
    Agree with your travel philosophy. I’d plan similarly to enjoy rather than rushing through too many spots in one trip.

    To rely on public transports, use hyperdia.com to check train schedules. Consider using Takuhaibin to send luggage to next destination hotel/ryokan 1 day in advance.
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2278.html

    Refer to a high-level travel itin by public transports below.

    Hope this helps. Let me know if you have further queries.
    Regards,
    DLi

    In Hokkaido (11N)

    Sapporo- Otaru – Yoichi (3N) by frequent JR commuter train based in Sapporo.
    Daisetsu-zan National Park (2N) – Sapporo > Asahikawa by frequent JR Kamui express train in about 90min, then change bus to Asahidake onsen
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6776.html

    Shikotsu-ko (1N) – Asahikawa > Sapporo > Chitose by train then change bus to Shikotsu-ko, which is a serene and beautiful lake on clear days.
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6736.html

    Noboribetsu (1N) – Chitose > Noboribetsu by train then change bus to onsen town

    Toya-ko (1or 2N if you visit Usuzan, lake cruise) – Noboribetsu > Toyako by train then change bus to onsen town. Fireworks after dinner every night from May till end Oct.

    Hakodate (2N) – Toyako > Hakodate by JR Hokuto express train. Onuma NP can be visited either en route or as a day trip from Hakodate. There is a train station for Onuma NP. Don’t miss the night view on top of Mt Hakodate and better take ropeway up there to avoid traffic congestion. The seafood morning market is famous in Japan.
    Amongst the old historical buildings, the ex-British Consulate has a nice tea room with tea set served overlooking a nice garden. We were there twice.
    http://www.hakodate.travel/en/sightseeing_spots/historic-building/former-british-consulate-of-hakodate

    In Tohoku (about 7N)

    Towada-ko (1or 2N if you visit nearby Oirase stream) – Shin-Hakodate > Shin-Aomori by Hokkaido Shinkansen then JR bus to Yasumiya in Towada-ko.

    Sendai (2 or 3N) – Shin-Aomori > Sendai by Tohoku Shinkansen. Day trip to Yamadera and Matsushima Bay by JR express train in about 30min.

    Niigata/Sado Island – Sendai > Omiya by Tohoku Shinkansen then change Joetsu Shinkansen to Niigata. Take ferry/jetfoils to Sado Island.
    I have not visited these places and thus not in a position to make recommendations.
    Niigata > Tokyo by Joetsu Shinkansen direct.

    Tokyo (5N)

    – visit the Snow monkey park as day trip or stay overnight in nearby Shibu onsen, Yudanaka onsen or in Nagano city.
    Tokyo <> Nagano by Hokuriku Shinkansen, then change bus or Nagaden private train to Yudanaka onsen town.
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6028.html
    October is the harvesting season of apples and chestnuts in farms nearby Obuse town. In Nagano city, don’t miss famous Zenkoji.

    Nikko can be easily visited as day trip from Tokyo by Tohoku Shinkansen to Utsunomiya then JR Nikko train. Don’t miss World Heritage Toshogu Shrine.
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3800.html

    For temples and shrines, consider also Kamakura about 1 hour by JR Yokosuka commuter train.
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2166.html

  3. Thank you so much for all this info – it is exactly the kind of things I wish to do and see.

    Questions:

    1. Did you stay in expensive accommodation on each trip? I am a backpacker, because I travel alone I meet other like-minded hikers in hostels or family homes – would this be a problem? Also, my budget has to include: long-haul and short- haul flights, accommodation, food, entrance fees to places of interest and a 21 day JR Pass. Do you think I would be able to get reasonable accommodation for 5000 Yen per night? Any idea what a daily budget should be – excluding JR Pass and flights.

    2. During your 5 nights in Tokyo did you do the day trips as extra nights or were they INCLUDED in these 5 nights?

    The more I read about Japan I am wondering if I should spend 25 days to cover the area from Haikkdo as far as Tokyo – including the day trips to Nikko, Nagano and Kamakura.

    3. Do you know anything about internal flights to Sapporo from either Haneda or Narita airports?

    4. I am still not sure if my best choice would be to fly directly from my international flight, on an internal flight to Sapporo as I now know that there are some flights from London which arrive in Tokyo at 1.30 pm – this would allow me enough time to take an onward flight to Haikkado.

    5. I shall make a list of my must see places and prioritise them, before I write to you again.

    6. I definitely feel that going south of Tokyo is not an option on my first trip. I do not want the rush from one place to another – I wish to explore at a leisurely pace – like you have done.

    I hope this is not taking up too much of your time – I appreciate your help.

    Kind regards.
    Brigid

  4. Q1.
    Accommodations
    There might be more hostels and guesthouses in larger cities like Tokyo, Sendai and Sapporo along your itin. Note that you might have to share bathroom/toilet depending on premises. I have not stayed in this category though. You may search on the TA forum for past comments or post a new thread. Alternatively, you may check out local no-frill business hotels for budget travellers. Toyoko Inn is one of those often mentioned in the forum. It has all the basic facilities of a hotel room including own bathroom and toilet. Daily rate is around JPY10K, maybe less for single room and depending on location. However, in rural areas like Asahidake onsen, Toya-ko etc, search for pensions whose daily rates range from JPY5-10K+, including 2 meals. Most likely you’d have to share bathroom/toilet in these as well. We have stayed in pensions twice in Biei, though we picked a room with own bathroom and toilet which cost a bit more. While searching via 3rd party websites, book lodgings with free cancellation option as Japan hotels/ryokans usually allow 3 to 6 months booking in advance.

    Transports
    The national 21D JRP is not cheap at nearly JPY60K. After your itin is fixed, it’d be in a better position to evaluate the most valued option on rail passes. For bus trips, roughly estimate JPY1.5K for a journey over 1 hour.

    Food
    Prices of normal meals have remained more or less flat over the last 20 years – due to their deflationary economy since I first visited Japan for business and subsequently personal travels. In all major cities, you could have a beef/pork/chicken rice set of less than JPY800 in 24-hour local chain shops. In the basement floor of larger department stores, cooked food in all sorts of varieties are sold at a bargain of few hundred Yen from 18:00 each day for take-away. Local vege and fruits are extremely fresh and delicious. You can smell freshly baked bread rolls from over 50m away, while patisseries are eye-catching and not sweet. In all convenience stores round every corner in major cities, you can buy bento, rice balls, sandwiches, bread rolls etc.

    Thus, you may estimate a rough daily budget of JPY15-20K, excluding train rides and flights. It might be easier to meet the lower end of the budget in Hokkaido and Tohoku before you return to Tokyo.

    Q2. The 5N in Tokyo that I have proposed does include day trips. If you intend to visit certain spots in Tokyo, do add days as appropriate. For 1st-timers in Tokyo, I usually recommend 4 days. Though for your interests, you may visit city parks like Shinjuku Gyoen and possibly 1 day to Takaosan for an easy hike. Don’t miss Senso-ji in Asakusa, though it’s pretty crowded most of the time. An afternoon/evening visit to Shibuya, Shinjuku and Omotesando would let you feel the vibrancy of the modern mega-metropolitan.
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3029.html
    my visit to Takaosan in 2013.
    http://www.japantravelinsights.com/2016/12/23/jp-2013-nov-tokyo/

    Q3+4. Re the forum, domestic airlines like ANA and Air-DO operate cheap flights to Sapporo-Chitose in less than JPY10K one-way, much cheaper and faster than by train. From London, consult with your airlines to issue one single ticket to Sapporo-Chitose (CTS) via a transfer in Haneda (HND) or Narita (NRT). Partner airlines will arrange appropriate connections while abiding by IATA rules in allowing enough buffer for pax to transfer from international to domestic flight.

    Q5. That’s fine, but if you have other questions in mind, just feel free to shoot them over.

    Q6. Agree. I’d do the same to focus my visits on particular themes or spots, not just in Japan but also elsewhere in the world. After a few weeks, the law of diminishing marginal utility will start kicking in.

    I have been advising other travellers on the TA forum anyway, so no worries 🙂

    Kind regards,
    DLi

  5. Hello,

    My husband and I plan to take a trip to Japan next year from mid May to early June for about 20 days. Our focus is the Japan Alps and Kansai, so my plan is to fly into Kansai Airport and travel in a loop before departing from the same airport. I’m trying to build an itinerary right now but have some considerations and wonder if you can give me some advice.

    1) Is the weather in the Alps still too cold in mid May? Does it make a difference if I schedule the Alps in the beginning or end of the itinerary?

    2) What will be the most efficient route for visiting the following places: Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route, Takayama, Shirakawa-go, Shin-Hotaka Onsen, Gero Onsen, Kanazawa, Kyoto, and Nara? Is it wise to add Hiroshima?

    3) What regional rail passes will best suit my purposes? Can I still make use of the regional passes if I want a more relaxed pace since those five or seven day passes are all based on consecutive days?

    I was amazed at your extensive travels in Japan and would really appreciate the assistance.

    Thanks,
    Julie

  6. Hi Julie,

    1. May is in general Spring in Japan (except in higher elevations such as the Alpine route). Thus weather is pleasant and good time for visiting those locations. If you’re worried about cold weather, better cross the Alpine route towards end May/early June. Besides, it’d less crowded for the Snow-wall walk which is the main theme till late June.

    2. Consider a high level itin to avoid backtracking :
    – 1st week in Kansai area including Kyoto and Nara (Hiroshima/Miyajima can be added but better stay 1 to 2 nights for a less rushed trip. Buy a 5-day JR West Kansai Hiroshima Pass (KHP) ONLY IF you visit the latter.
    https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/pass/kansai_hiroshima/

    – 2nd to 3rd week Kyoto > Gero onsen (1N) via Nagoya > Takayama (1N) > Kanazawa (2N) while stopping over Shirakawa-go for few hours by Nohi bus > crossing the Alpine route via Toyama and exit in Shinano-Omachi onsen (1N) > Shin-hotaka onsen (1N) via Matsumoto > Kyoto via Nagoya

    Matsumoto is a good base to visit other JP Alps locations such as Kamikochi, Kiso valley etc.

    Notes – days suggested in the JP Alps are the minimum to explore without rushing. You may adjust according to your travel pace.

    3. The JR regional passes in Central Japan and Kansai are by consecutive days. This 5-day Alpine-Takayama-Matsumoto Area Tourist Pass might be more relevant to your itin though the whole loop needs to be completed in 5 days to payoff.

    http://touristpass.jp/en/alpine/

    Otherwise, just buy the JR option ticket for crossing the Alpine route one-way.

    you may refer to our trip in late May 2007 covering parts of the JP Alps in 1 week.

    http://www.japantravelinsights.com/2017/03/06/jp-2007-may-hida-road-part-1/

    cheers,
    DLi

  7. hi, loved reading your articles and it is really useful.
    I am planning a trip to be in Tokyo Nartia airport on 22 Sep 2018. Leave on 9 Oct 2018

    Could you guide me on what should i do for these 18 days?

    Should i cover Kyushu, Osaka, Ishikawa, Toyama area, the head to Hokkaido on 3 Oct to catch the Autumn leaves before returning to Tokyo on 6 Oct to shop in Tokyo then leave?

    That is my initial thought.

    You can email me at goodvaluehouse@gmail.com

    So much thanks!!!

    1. Hi,
      Is this your first visit to Japan ? What are your interests ?
      With 18 days, consider the golden route where most tourists cover both the modern and historical Japan. e.g.
      Tokyo > Kyoto/Nara/Osaka > Hiroshima/Miyajima > Kanazawa > Tokyo

      Better visit Kyushu and Hokkaido as separate trips by car to explore the countryside where public transports are less efficient. Besides, the city areas like Sapporo would have peak koyo by late Oct.

      For koyo (fall foliage) consider crossing the Alpine route where it’d be at peak in Murodo @2400m in early Oct.
      My crossing in mid-Oct 2010.
      http://www.japantravelinsights.com/2010-the-alpine-route/

      refer also to Japan guide with suggested itin
      https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2400.html

      Cheers, DLi

  8. Hello! Your info is very helpful. What rental car company do you use so as to avoid drop off fees in same prefecture–like in your trip from Wakayama to Koya to Kumano to the beach town? Thank you!

  9. Hi Lisa,
    I always rent directly from Toyota Rentacar online. You may obtain online quotations and including from other car rentals/brokers in Japan.

    cheers, DLi

  10. Hi DLi,

    We are a couple travelling with 3 kids of aged 8, 5 and 3. We will be arriving and departing from Hiroshima airport. Arriving on 2June2019 9am and leaving on 13June 2019 10:25am for a 11 full days trip in western Japan.

    We hope to visit Hiroshima, Yamaguchi and Wakayama. Ideally, have just one base in each of the 3 areas and do day trips from each one. Minimising hotel transfer as we are travelling with young kids.

    Does it make sense to you that we are spreading out the area of coverage? Do you think it is better to just concentrate on either Hiroshima, Kansai-Wakayama area only or Hiroshima, Yamaguchi-Hakata area only?
    This will determine if I should purchase the JR Sanyo Sanin area pass or to buy the JR Kansai Hiroshima area pass.

    I am working on the itinerary so that I can start booking accommodation however there are many uncertainties I have while planning.

    I hope to get some advise and suggestions on my itinerary as well as transportation passes, self driving tips in Japan and and scenic route to consider.

    Places on our wish list are:
    1) Hiroshima
    > 1 day city sightseeing at the common tourist spots
    > 1 day at Miyajima Island
    > 1 day Okunoshima Island and Iwakuni bridge
    Question 1a) any interesting nature sightseeing spots to suggest, to add or to replace from the above within Hiroshima?
    Question 1b) Which “Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass” (small,middle or wide) will cover Okunoshima Island and Iwakuni bridge?
    Question 1c) is it worth visiting Okunoshima Island and Iwakuni bridge if time is a factor?

    2) Yamaguchi – pickup and return car at Hiroshima
    > Tsuenoshima Ohashi Bridge and the island surrounding.
    > Motonosumi Inari Shrine
    > Akiyoshio cave
    Question 2a) we are considering to rent car for visiting these sites. Do you think it is crazy to do a day road trip from Hiroshima to cover all 3 sites?
    Question 2b) if need to stay 1 night just to break up the journey, where is a good stopping base before heading back to Hiroshima?
    Question 2c) may I ask for your opinion in which sequence should we cover these 3 spots?
    Question 2d) any other interesting nature sites between these spots and the drive back to Hiroshima that worth seeing just to break up the journey?
    Question 2e) Google map usually gives 2-3 driving routes, along coastal or inner land. May I know where to get information on the toll charges and how many tolls there will be in any particular route that we decide to drive from google map?
    Question

    3) Wakayama
    Day 1 – travelling from Hiroshima to Wakayama.
    > riding on Wakayama electric railway and sightseeing any interesting stops along Kishigawa line.
    > Visiting Marina City (Kuroshio Market).
    > Wakayama castle (might visit on day 5 before heading back to Hiroshima by train)
    > Ohashi Roka Bridge (same as Wakayama castle schedule)
    Day 2 – Kumano and Hongu (renting car)
    > Yunomine Onsen district
    > Kawayu Onsen
    > Nachi Falls
    Day 3 – Shirahama (either a continuous driving trip from day 2 or by public transport if day 2 is just a day trip)
    > Shirahama Beach
    > Scannbeki Cavern
    > Engetsutu Island
    Day 4 – shirahama
    > Adventures World
    Day 5 – heading back to Hiroshima
    Question 3a) Where to stay? To stay near Wakayama station, Kii Tanabe or Shirahama as base for the 5 days itinerary? Minimise hotel changing.
    Question 3b) is it better to swap day 4 with day 1?
    Question 3c) Google map shows 3 different routes, which will be your preferred route? Any difference in its toll charges?
    Question 3d) where can get information on the toll charges for these routes?
    Question 3e) which is a better sequence for day 2 and day 3?
    Question 3f) is it possible to do a day road trip for day 2 without staying a night near the Onsen area?
    Question 3g) is it easy to find food around the Onsen area/district?
    Question 3f) you were there in late May, could you share the weather then?

    Lastly, upon arriving Hiroshima Airport, which section should we cover 1st? Hiroshima, Yamaguchi or Wakayama?

    We definitely have to be at Hiroshima on the 11th day and night as close to Hiroshima airport as possible because our flight back is 10:25am on the 12th day.

    Hope you could share your opinion and suggestions for my itinerary.

    Appreciate and thank you very much.

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