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Japan 3 week trip planning review

Level Contributor
25 posts
Japan 3 week trip planning review

Greetings fellow travelers. I am excited to report that I am finally fulfilling a dream of going to Japan next year and for 3 weeks. This will be the first time I am going overseas by myself so everything is a bit daunting when planning. My goal for this trip are to have a good mix of things while still having relaxing days. I have been trying to mix sight seeing and relaxing countryside areas with city entertainment and food. I would also like to experience some onsen and ryokan but not sure where the best place would be. I have come up with the following general idea. I am essentially wanting input on how my itinerary looks to somebody that has been before and if there are some other locations I should consider checking out as well. I will be in Japan in the early spring for sakura, fyi)

Tokyo (6 days): Plan on seeing the general touristy stuff in the city and see fuji-san at lake kawaguchi on a day trip.

I will be buying a 2 week JR Pass but not activating it until I leave Tokyo. I will be leaving Japan exactly 2 weeks from that day so I figured this was better than a 3 week pass as I've read you do not need one if you are just staying in Tokyo.

Hiroshima/Miyajima (2-3 days): I am torn on how long to stay here. Plan on taking JR train here and then slowly working my way back to Tokyo. I want to maybe stay at a Onsen Ryokan on Miyajima (unless there are better areas?) I feel Hakone would be too crowded and not allow single travelers. I want to climb Mt. Misen on Miyajima too.

Take the JR train to Osaka. I felt this would be best to use as a base. Being the "kitchen of Japan" I felt it was a good spot to stay at and I can easily take day trips to Himeji Castle, Nara and Kyoto.

Osaka as base to do the following (This is not necessarily in order):

Osaka (2 days): See Osaka Castle, Dontonbori and various other things in the area

Nara (1 day trip): Feed the deer, relax and sight see.

Kyoto (5 day trips): I hear there is lots to see here. Figure it best to not be rushed and be able to relax and enjoy seeing things. Is 5 days too long?

Himeji (1 day trip): Go see the castle here and see what else is nearby.

Kobe/Other location as a day trip:

Take JR back to Tokyo for 1 day and then fly out.

I would love to experience a Ryokan but I am not sure where would be a good place to go. I would prefer one with a scenic onsen and would also like to see scenic onsen outside of a ryokan. I know Hakone is very famous but are there some more unknown places that might not be so crowded? Or should hakone not be that bad?

Thank you in advance for your help. I apologize if my thoughts are all over the place. Take care.

15 replies to this topic
Ireland
Level Contributor
79 posts
80 reviews
1. Re: Japan 3 week trip planning review

HI Scott K

We too are planning a 3 week trip to Japan in October. The first week is taken up by a family wedding in the Tokyo area, followed by 2 weeks where we look after our own itinerary. I'd welcome responses to you itinerary from those who know Japan. It's certainly given us some good ideas.

Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
6,883 posts
190 reviews
2. Re: Japan 3 week trip planning review

Overall your plan looks fine.

For peak sakura in Tokyo and Kyoto, aim for early April.

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2011_when.html

My visit in Kyoto for late blooming sakuras

japantravelinsights.com/jp-2017-sakura-kyoto…

Hiroshima/Miyajima (2-3 days) - that's fine. STaying overnight in Miyajima would allow more time to hike to Mt Misen. Don't miss Daisho-in apart from Itsukushima. Both are World Heritage. Enjoy the local oysters.

refer to my last visit in last Nov.

japantravelinsights.com/jp-2017-koyo-kansai-…

>> I would prefer one with a scenic onsen and would also like to see scenic onsen outside of a ryokan.

Arima onsen town - historical and famous onsen for centuries. 1 hour by express bus from Osaka/Umeda uphill.

Fuji 5-lake - pick an onsen ryokan/hotel on the northern shore of Kawaguchi-ko. On clear days Mt Fuji can be seen unblocked.

Our last stay during sakura season.

japantravelinsights.com/jp-2017-sakura-tokyo/

Izu Peninsula - plenty of onsens in the mountains and along the coastlines. Consider Izu Shuzenji onsen town in central Izu.

https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6311.html

Level Contributor
25 posts
3. Re: Japan 3 week trip planning review

Thank you for your reply!

I will be in Tokyo the last week of march then heading on to other locations the first two weeks of April and stay the last day or two in Tokyo before flying out.

How fast do the ryokans usually get booked up? I have a rough idea when I want to go but I know they do not post the sakura forecast until like February 2019. I feel like that would be way too late. Almost feel like it might be best to pick a place with a good view and have the mindset that cherry blossoms will be a bonus rather than a requirement.

I noticed for the property you stayed at in Miyajima if i try to view prices it tells me to contact the property. Is this primarily due to me looking so far in advance? Also you noted that the onsen is artificial here. Is this common? I would ideally like an authentic onsen.

Do you have a recommended onsen near kawaguchiko?

Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
6,883 posts
190 reviews
4. Re: Japan 3 week trip planning review

In general, hotels/ryokans in Japan release their rooms 3-6 months in advance for booking.

Book those with free cancellation options and refine it re Sakura forecasts in next March.

For Kyoto hotels though book those 6 months in advance due to very high demands.

It’s likely that there’s no true onsen in Miyajima, otherwise Arimoto would hv sourced it for few centuries.

In Kawaguchi-Ko we stayed twice in Kukuna. It’s also in high demand due to good value in terms price food onsen n Fujisan views from rooms.

Edited: 11 August 2018, 18:30
Level Contributor
25 posts
5. Re: Japan 3 week trip planning review

Kukuna looks nice but it does not appear like they rent rooms out to just one person. 😣 I fear I am going to run into this problem a lot. I don't mind paying like 20% more but I am not paying a 2 person rate lol.

Level Contributor
25 posts
6. Re: Japan 3 week trip planning review

Given the fact I am just one person would I be better suited staying at a non Ryokan and just using the onsen during the day? Although I read one of the biggest perks of staying at a Ryokan onsen is that you can enjoy the baths when it is closed at night to people who aren't staying.

Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
6,883 posts
190 reviews
7. Re: Japan 3 week trip planning review

For single traveller, consider visiting the public onsen facilities in Arima and Kawaguchi-ko onsen and stay in a normal hotel with single rooms.

If onsen hotel/ryokan accept single traveler, room rate would likely be 75% for 2ppl staying, though it’d cost less in remote areas in Nagano, Tohoku etc.

Used to stay in those as single.

Also search on Rakuten and Jalan on their English pages. These are 2 large booking sites in Japan.

Edited: 12 August 2018, 06:32
Level Contributor
4,524 posts
9 reviews
8. Re: Japan 3 week trip planning review

There are onsen facilities here, there, and everywhere in Japan; for a particularly good water or for a good view you'd have to search a bit and go.

In the large cities such as Tokyo, Hiroshima, Osaka, or Kyoto, you are recommended to go to the day spa facilities, such as Niwa no Yu in Toshimaen, Tokyo; Spa World in Shin-Imamiya, Osaka; Asian Spa Resort Seare or Honoyu in Hiroshima; Fufunoyu in Arashiyama, Kyoto.

Staying at a ryokan with onsen in Miyajima is a good idea; there are many other onsen ryokans and hotels along the coast and in the islands of Seto Inland Sea with ocean view. Hakone is not a bad place at all, but it gets a bit too many tourists nowadays especially in the weekend, and Hakone Yumoto onsen town is not that particularly beautiful (although I go to Tensei-en for relaxation once in a while). Although there are a few/several onsen towns along or nearby the Tokaido and Sanyo Shinkansen route, such as Atami, they can be a bit too popularized with old concrete buildings (popular onsen towns have their own charm if you get used to them, like being in the Back to The Future Movie, Japanese version). You'd have to detour a bit for a more countryside feel.

Kusatsu Onsen town is my favorite: https:/…72157696193902141 ; Trip Report: https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/ShowTopic-g294…

Edited: 12 August 2018, 07:41
Level Contributor
25 posts
9. Re: Japan 3 week trip planning review

I started to think maybe in place of taking a day trip to Kawaguchiko taking a day trip to Hakone and instead stay a day or two so I can experience Mt. Fuji hike and relax afterwards. However reading threads on here it appears more often than not Mt. Fuji is surrounded by clouds/mist and you can't see it well. Supposedly the best thing to do is to be spontaneous and go whenever there is a clear day as a day trip. Is there still enough magic and wonder around Kawaguchiko that I won't be disappointed if I stay a night or two there and my views aren't the best?

Tsukuba, Japan
Level Contributor
9,362 posts
313 reviews
10. Re: Japan 3 week trip planning review

If you want to hike around Mt. Fuji, consider the Ochudo Trail from the Fuji Subaru Line 5th station, as follows.

Take the Hiking Bus heading to “Mt. Fuji 5th Station" from Kawaguchiko.

https:/…course2.html

If you want to see a nice view of Mt. Fuji, Kawaguchiko is better IMO, and there are more hotels and Ryokans where you can see Mt. Fuji from your rooms. In Hakone, there are many hotels where you cannot see Mt. Fuji from.

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