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uvahoo06 (Offline)
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Question Visiting Japan (12/21-12/31 or 1/1) - 11-28-2008, 12:27 AM

Hi all,

I'm new to the forum, and I was wondering if anyone has some advice for my upcoming holiday in Japan. I'm planning on flying into Tokyo (12/21) and the departing from Osaka (12/31 or 1/1). My hope is that this will allow me to move in a linear direction while sightseeing--rather than merely making day trips whilst based in Tokyo.

Is there much to do in the latter part of December in Tokyo? What about Osaka, Nikko, Nara, or Kyoto? Admittedly, I'm more of an outdoors and culture guy--not so much with the shopping although I'm not averse to it. So, here are my questions:

1) Given the number of days I'm in Japan, how many should I spend in Tokyo and how many should I spend in other cities? If you had complete control over my trip, what cities would you recommend I visit and for how long each?

2) What MUST I see in each of the cities? I'd love to go to a hot spring and do some Zen Buddhist meditation in Kyoto. Are there other outdoor things, shrines, etc. that I *must* visit?

3) I'm also a school teacher, so I don't make a lot of money. This trip is a pretty big trip altogether in terms of cost, so I'd like to minimize the spending, if possible. That being said, I don't mind eating street food and noodles from stands on the streets--just not out of trashcans . Any recommendations?

Thanks so much ahead of time. Hope to hear from someone soon!

Last edited by uvahoo06 : 11-28-2008 at 12:31 AM.
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11-28-2008, 01:55 AM

Don't worry, there are a ton of cheap and good restaurants all over Japan. Look for the plastic food with prices in the window out front to see what looks good and is in your budget. Try some gyudon, tonkatsu, yakisoba, zosui, kara'age, ramen, etc. For breakfast, just stop at a supermarket or convenience store for some fruit, pastry, and juice/coffee/tea. Never buy drinks in a restaurant, just take the tea or water they give you, because you can get the same drink at a vending machine outside for 1/3 the price, or from a supermarket for even less.

As for your schedule, here's my advice:

12/21 - land, get a place to stay in Tokyo, explore a little and get over some jet lag.

12/22 - Explore Tokyo some more, visit the palace gardens, any other sights you are interested in, such as Akihabara.

12-23 - Day trip to Nikko.

12/24 - Head to Matsumoto, possibly stopping in Hakone alone the way (It's a bit out of the way, though). Visit Matsumoto Castle if there's time.

12/25 - Take bus into Japan Alps, hike around Kamikochi, take another bus to Takayama in evening.

12/26 - Visit the Hida Folk Village and 7 Lucky Gods, and explore this old fashioned town. Possibly begin heading toward Kyoto in the evening, depending upon schedule.

12/27 - Travel to Kyoto, see some temples when you arrive.

12/28 - Spend the day seeing more of Kyoto

12/29 - In the morning, head to Nara to see the Daibutsu and deer park. Can either stay in Nara or head to Osaka that night.

12/30 - Sightsee around Osaka, visit Osaka Castle if you missed Matsumoto Castle.

12/31 - Head to Mt Koya on the Nankai Koya line out of Osaka's Namba station. Visit Okunoin Cemetery and temples. Stay overnight in a temple if possible, though with it being new year's eve, it may all be booked already. (Book this ahead if you can!) See the traditional ringing of the temple bells at the start of the new year, lots of festivities!

1/1 - Visit the temples to get your new year's fortune, then head for your flight out (of Kansai International, I presume?)


JET Program, 1996-98, Wakayama-ken, Hashimoto-shi

Link to pictures from my time in Japan
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uvahoo06 (Offline)
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11-28-2008, 02:19 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by samurai007 View Post
Don't worry, there are a ton of cheap and good restaurants all over Japan. Look for the plastic food with prices in the window out front to see what looks good and is in your budget. Try some gyudon, tonkatsu, yakisoba, zosui, kara'age, ramen, etc. For breakfast, just stop at a supermarket or convenience store for some fruit, pastry, and juice/coffee/tea. Never buy drinks in a restaurant, just take the tea or water they give you, because you can get the same drink at a vending machine outside for 1/3 the price, or from a supermarket for even less.

As for your schedule, here's my advice:

12/21 - land, get a place to stay in Tokyo, explore a little and get over some jet lag.

12/22 - Explore Tokyo some more, visit the palace gardens, any other sights you are interested in, such as Akihabara.

12-23 - Day trip to Nikko.

12/24 - Head to Matsumoto, possibly stopping in Hakone alone the way (It's a bit out of the way, though). Visit Matsumoto Castle if there's time.

12/25 - Take bus into Japan Alps, hike around Kamikochi, take another bus to Takayama in evening.

12/26 - Visit the Hida Folk Village and 7 Lucky Gods, and explore this old fashioned town. Possibly begin heading toward Kyoto in the evening, depending upon schedule.

12/27 - Travel to Kyoto, see some temples when you arrive.

12/28 - Spend the day seeing more of Kyoto

12/29 - In the morning, head to Nara to see the Daibutsu and deer park. Can either stay in Nara or head to Osaka that night.

12/30 - Sightsee around Osaka, visit Osaka Castle if you missed Matsumoto Castle.

12/31 - Head to Mt Koya on the Nankai Koya line out of Osaka's Namba station. Visit Okunoin Cemetery and temples. Stay overnight in a temple if possible, though with it being new year's eve, it may all be booked already. (Book this ahead if you can!) See the traditional ringing of the temple bells at the start of the new year, lots of festivities!

1/1 - Visit the temples to get your new year's fortune, then head for your flight out (of Kansai International, I presume?)

OMG...this is amazing. Thank you SOOOO much If anyone else has any suggestions, please let me know. Thanks a lot, you all. I love this forum!
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MMM (Offline)
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11-28-2008, 02:34 AM

That looks like a decent plan to me.
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11-28-2008, 02:44 AM

Don't worry about the food. There are many low cost, but good, places to eat. Ramen is my favorite.
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uvahoo06 (Offline)
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11-28-2008, 02:56 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by samurai007 View Post
Don't worry, there are a ton of cheap and good restaurants all over Japan. Look for the plastic food with prices in the window out front to see what looks good and is in your budget. Try some gyudon, tonkatsu, yakisoba, zosui, kara'age, ramen, etc. For breakfast, just stop at a supermarket or convenience store for some fruit, pastry, and juice/coffee/tea. Never buy drinks in a restaurant, just take the tea or water they give you, because you can get the same drink at a vending machine outside for 1/3 the price, or from a supermarket for even less.

As for your schedule, here's my advice:

12/21 - land, get a place to stay in Tokyo, explore a little and get over some jet lag.

12/22 - Explore Tokyo some more, visit the palace gardens, any other sights you are interested in, such as Akihabara.

12-23 - Day trip to Nikko.

12/24 - Head to Matsumoto, possibly stopping in Hakone alone the way (It's a bit out of the way, though). Visit Matsumoto Castle if there's time.

12/25 - Take bus into Japan Alps, hike around Kamikochi, take another bus to Takayama in evening.

12/26 - Visit the Hida Folk Village and 7 Lucky Gods, and explore this old fashioned town. Possibly begin heading toward Kyoto in the evening, depending upon schedule.

12/27 - Travel to Kyoto, see some temples when you arrive.

12/28 - Spend the day seeing more of Kyoto

12/29 - In the morning, head to Nara to see the Daibutsu and deer park. Can either stay in Nara or head to Osaka that night.

12/30 - Sightsee around Osaka, visit Osaka Castle if you missed Matsumoto Castle.

12/31 - Head to Mt Koya on the Nankai Koya line out of Osaka's Namba station. Visit Okunoin Cemetery and temples. Stay overnight in a temple if possible, though with it being new year's eve, it may all be booked already. (Book this ahead if you can!) See the traditional ringing of the temple bells at the start of the new year, lots of festivities!

1/1 - Visit the temples to get your new year's fortune, then head for your flight out (of Kansai International, I presume?)

Random question: I hear that the country essentially shuts down on New Years Day. Is this true? If so, how can I get from Koyasan to Kansai airport for my flight at 1:30 PM? Anyone know the distance/time it would take? Many thanks once again, JF!
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11-28-2008, 07:16 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by uvahoo06 View Post
Random question: I hear that the country essentially shuts down on New Years Day. Is this true? If so, how can I get from Koyasan to Kansai airport for my flight at 1:30 PM? Anyone know the distance/time it would take? Many thanks once again, JF!
Stores and such will be closed, but as I recall, the trains were still running as usual. In fact, they'll probably be very busy, since tradition calls for Japanese people to visit a temple on New Years Day.

Koya-san to Kansai International should be roughly 3 hours (you can either head back to Osaka and then go from there southwest to the airport, or change trains at Hashimoto, head west to Wakayama City, and then north to the airport. I think they are about the same distance either way), so it should be no problem getting there before 1:30 PM.


JET Program, 1996-98, Wakayama-ken, Hashimoto-shi

Link to pictures from my time in Japan
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uvahoo06 (Offline)
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11-28-2008, 02:01 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by samurai007 View Post
Stores and such will be closed, but as I recall, the trains were still running as usual. In fact, they'll probably be very busy, since tradition calls for Japanese people to visit a temple on New Years Day.

Koya-san to Kansai International should be roughly 3 hours (you can either head back to Osaka and then go from there southwest to the airport, or change trains at Hashimoto, head west to Wakayama City, and then north to the airport. I think they are about the same distance either way), so it should be no problem getting there before 1:30 PM.

Like the JR Rail Pass, is there a BUS PASS that I can purchase? Are bus trips fairly expensive? I'm excited, but as I mentioned before, I'm soooo nervous. I like traveling alone, but this whole trip seems somewhat daunting and nerve-wracking. I just don't want something to go wrong, especially since I don't speak Japanese!

More importantly, I e-mailed Japan Guesthouse, and they said that all guesthouses have been booked in Koyasan for the New Year. Does anyone else have any suggestions of what I should do? Should I perhaps go elsewhere and change my itinerary? Thanks once again!

Last edited by uvahoo06 : 11-28-2008 at 02:33 PM.
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samurai007 (Offline)
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11-28-2008, 03:42 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by uvahoo06 View Post
Like the JR Rail Pass, is there a BUS PASS that I can purchase? Are bus trips fairly expensive? I'm excited, but as I mentioned before, I'm soooo nervous. I like traveling alone, but this whole trip seems somewhat daunting and nerve-wracking. I just don't want something to go wrong, especially since I don't speak Japanese!

More importantly, I e-mailed Japan Guesthouse, and they said that all guesthouses have been booked in Koyasan for the New Year. Does anyone else have any suggestions of what I should do? Should I perhaps go elsewhere and change my itinerary? Thanks once again!
The great thing about Koyasan is actually staying overnight at a temple, eating the food the priests eat, etc. Here is the list of temples that provide lodging (there are over 100 temples at Koyasan!)

Shukub ,

Temple Stays - Koya-San - Lonely Planet Hotels & Hostels

Now, it's possible all of these are booked as well, in which case, you can stay somewhere off the mountain. Hashimoto (the city I used to live in) is a decent-sized city at the foot of the mountain, and you may be able to find some lodging there. Or you could go all the way back to Osaka, or to Wakayama City. If you do that, you'll effectively turn Koyasan into a day trip, and not be there for the ringing of the bells and celebrations at midnight, though. There might be buses or taxis still running after midnight because of all the people there celebrating, though I don't know for sure...

I don't know of a separate bus pass, but all JR buses are included in the rail pass. You probably shouldn't need to travel by bus very much with the itinerary I laid out... only between Matsumoto and Takayama because there's no train through the alps, and any city buses you may need to get to wherever you're staying or sights you are seeing.


JET Program, 1996-98, Wakayama-ken, Hashimoto-shi

Link to pictures from my time in Japan

Last edited by samurai007 : 11-28-2008 at 03:52 PM.
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11-28-2008, 10:45 PM

I clicked on the link; however, it doesn't seem that there is any way to get in touch with any of these temples. How might I go about booking a room for New Years Eve/Day? Statistically, you'd imagine that out of 100s of temples, there'd be at least ONE bed available

Thanks a lot
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