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geronimo21 (Offline)
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Travel Itineray advice - Aomori to Kyoto... - 04-09-2010, 09:32 PM

Hello,

I was wondering if someone would be so kind as to provide their opinion on our travel itinerary.

My wife and I are taking her mother, who is 91, to Japan...for maybe her last time. She is Kibe, born in U.S., but raised in Wakayama-ken from ages 10-20.

She has wanted to see the cherry blossoms in Japan again for some time. Due to our work schedule, we are not able to leave for Japan until April 23rd. I have read in the cherry blossom forecasts that they are blooming 6 to 12 days early this year. Because of that, we felt that we would have to go to Tohoku region to see them.

We were planning to fly from LAX on April 23.

April 24 - Arrive in Tokyo (Narita), spend night at Haneda Otorii Honkan (Toyoko Inn) – possibly visit with friend in Tokyo (if we can find him)

April 25 - JAL flight Haneda (2:55 p.m.) to Aomori (4:10 p.m.) –
Reservations for 3 nights Aomori-eki Shomen-guchi (Toyoko Inn)

April 26 – Hirosaki – view cherry blossoms, castle, samurai district

April 27 - Aomori (and surrounding area) – perhaps Sannai Maruyama Historical Site, Tsugaru-nuri and Kokeshi dolls. Also, any advice on natural scenic places or food experiences not to be missed. Mom loves beautiful natural scenery and sashimi!!!

April 28 – JAL flight Aomori (10:40 a.m.) to Osaka Itami (12:15 p.m.)

Kyoto 28th and 29th at Kyoto Gojo-Karasuma (Toyoko Inn)
Sightseeing recommendations?

April 30 – Japan Rail to Hiroshima to visit aunt and uncle

May 1 – Hiroshima sightseeing (Miyajima Island?)

May 2 – Japan Rail to Wakayama – Shirahama onsen?

May 3 – Wakayama - Visit mom’s high school in Hidaka (Gobo) and her village (Betsuin – near Kainan-shi)

May 4 – Wakayama - Japan Rail to Osaka Kansai – Depart at 4:50 p.m.

Any recommendations or suggestions on our itinerary are greatly appreciated! This is my first time to Japan and I am trying to put it together on very short notice. We received some very helpful maps and brochures from Japan National Travel Organization. Our international flights are booked, but all travel within Japan has yet to be booked, so it is flexible at this point.

We originally wanted to stay at Ryokan/onsen in Hirosaki/Aomori, but JTB agent booked a $570/night accommodations for 2 nights on or near Lake Towado as most places are booked due to hanami at that time. We are still open to staying at a more reasonably priced Ryokan/onsen in the general Aomori area, but booked at Toyoko Inn as rooms in the area were very scare to non-existant. We thought we would save money on accommodations and have more for sightseeing, gifts, etc. and maybe splurge at a place here or there.

Also, we are thinking about renting a car for 2nd day in Aomori and possibly for Wakayama area. Any advice on this is also appreciated!

Exact itinerary and accommodations for Wakayama-ken are not set in stone.

Thank you!!!
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MMM (Offline)
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04-09-2010, 10:00 PM

Why are you flying domestically when there are trains that go to all those places? I don't have the impression that flying is cheaper?
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geronimo21 (Offline)
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Post Aomori to Kyoto - Japan Rail vs. Domestic Flight - 04-11-2010, 05:55 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MMM View Post
Why are you flying domestically when there are trains that go to all those places? I don't have the impression that flying is cheaper?
MMM, Thank you for your question. It was thought-provoking. We had wrestled with that same question for a while and, after reading your question, wrestled with it some more. We are leaning towards domestic flights for a couple of reasons.

1. Mom is 91 and we were not sure if it was wisdom to subject her to the long train rides to and from northern Honshu. We were not so concerned with the ride up to Aomori (728km/approx. 4 hours) as much as the train down to Kyoto (1241km/approx. 7 hours plus 2 transfers). After the 12 hour flight from LAX, we weren't sure she could handle it. We felt it would be a little rough on us to will all that we are trying to fit in.

2. We considered taking the train one-way up to Aomori and flying back, but were advised by JTB agent that we would not get the discounted domestic airfare if we flew only one sector as opposed to 2.

I recall being told that the 2 sectors (Haneda to Aomori and Aomori to Osaka Itami) were going to be about 20,134.5 JPY ($215US). However, we spoke with a different JTB agent the other day to add 1 day to departure from Aomori and she said the flights were going to be about 28,094.7 JPY / $300US...That was a bit of a surprise. Still, after crunching the numbers and distances and times, we are leaning towards flying. If we had more time, we would definitely take the train. We are wondering what the scenery is like going up and back from Tohoku region. If anyone had feedback regarding the scenery on those trips, that would be appreciated.

I guess it basically comes down to spending the extra $900 (originally thought it was $645...) and vs. saving 6 hours and 34 minutes of train travel time plus wear and tear.

One thing we are wondering though…we see that when we look at the Japan Rail fares for the different legs, there is a train fare, seat fee and bus fare. Does anyone know if all of those fees are covered by the Rail Pass? That might make a difference in planning.

Thanks for your advice. If we are missing something here, please let us know. The flights sure seemed like a better deal at $645 for 3 people vs. $900…now I am really going to take a hard look at it.

Thanks again.
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allhailhata (Offline)
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04-11-2010, 06:45 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by geronimo21 View Post
One thing we are wondering though…we see that when we look at the Japan Rail fares for the different legs, there is a train fare, seat fee and bus fare. Does anyone know if all of those fees are covered by the Rail Pass?
JAPAN RAIL PASS validity
Basically all of those fees are covered by the Rail Pass.But,The JAPAN RAIL PASS is not valid for any seats, reserved or non-reserved, on "NOZOMI" shinkansen.
Quote:
Originally Posted by geronimo21 View Post
If we are missing something here, please let us know.
Do you know Golden Week ?Golden Week (Japan) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
One of the worst season for elders to travel in Japan with public transportation.If you use Japan Rail, reserved seats are essential for your mom,especially for so long train ride.
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geronimo21 (Offline)
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04-11-2010, 08:14 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by allhailhata View Post
JAPAN RAIL PASS validity
Basically all of those fees are covered by the Rail Pass.But,The JAPAN RAIL PASS is not valid for any seats, reserved or non-reserved, on "NOZOMI" shinkansen.

Do you know Golden Week ?Golden Week (Japan) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
One of the worst season for elders to travel in Japan with public transportation.If you use Japan Rail, reserved seats are essential for your mom,especially for so long train ride.
allhailhata,

Thank you for your comments. Yes, I have been hearing about Golden Week. Thank you for the information regarding reserved seats. I am wondering how early we can reserve them. Does anybody know? I've read the Japan Rail Pass brochure cover to cover. Maybe I missed it. It sounds like we purchase the pass prior to departure from U.S. and obtain the exchange order in Japan. So, I'm guessing that we can get the exchange order after landing at Narita on Saturday April 24 at 4:30 p.m. and make reservations right then. Is that correct?

By the way, we talked it over with the family and decided to take trains to and from Aomori. We are thinking we should avoid connecting in Tokyo around rush hour...probably best to connect in Tokyo before 3 p.m. Is that assumption correct?

MMM, I guess that goes to show never underestimate the power of a well placed question...

Thank you for the feedback!
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allhailhata (Offline)
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04-11-2010, 08:34 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by geronimo21 View Post
So, I'm guessing that we can get the exchange order after landing at Narita on Saturday April 24 at 4:30 p.m. and make reservations right then. Is that correct?
You should get the exchange order in US. You can get JR pass after landing.
How to turn in an Exchange Order to receive
Where Exchange Orders are sold
Stations with JAPAN RAIL PASS exchange offices
How to use a reserved seat

Top page of official site.You can get any info.
About JAPAN RAIL PASS
Quote:
Originally Posted by geronimo21 View Post
We are thinking we should avoid connecting in Tokyo around rush hour...probably best to connect in Tokyo before 3 p.m. Is that assumption correct?
correct.

Last edited by allhailhata : 04-11-2010 at 08:54 AM.
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geronimo21 (Offline)
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Thumbs up 04-12-2010, 05:37 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by allhailhata View Post
You should get the exchange order in US. You can get JR pass after landing.
How to turn in an Exchange Order to receive
Where Exchange Orders are sold
Stations with JAPAN RAIL PASS exchange offices
How to use a reserved seat

Top page of official site.You can get any info.
About JAPAN RAIL PASS

correct.
Thank you for all the information on Japan Rail pass. I will be looking at it.
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MMM (Offline)
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04-12-2010, 05:46 AM

The shinkansen is as fast if not faster than an airplane, and I would think that with a 91 year old mother, is less stressful, but you would know your situation the best.
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geronimo21 (Offline)
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Hiroshima accommodations - 04-12-2010, 09:28 AM

We decided to go by train the whole way.

Now we are trying to book accommodations in Hiroshima. I searched for ryokan in the Japanese Group Inn booklet, but didn't find any with great recommendations. Agent booked us at Hotel Granvia Hiroshima for April 30 and May 1. Prices are 27,374 for Twin for 2 nights and 18,826 for a single for 2 nights.

Does anyone have any other recommendations for places to stay in Hiroshima?

We are booked at Toyoko Inns in Aomori and Kyoto and I tried to reserve one in Hiroshima, but they are all booked. I was looking at Higashihiroshima as there are still some rooms available there, but it looks like it is a bit of a distance outside the city... Any recommondations?
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allhailhata (Offline)
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04-12-2010, 10:45 AM

I can't recommend any specific hotel.But these sites may help you.
Hiroshima Hotels: Read Hiroshima Hotel Reviews and Compare Prices - TripAdvisor
Hiroshima hotel - Rakuten Travel
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