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Japan for three weeks in spring - ideas please!

(4 Posts)
nooka Sat 15-Nov-14 20:06:30

Hi there, our family (dh, me and teenage ds and dd) are going to Japan next spring for three weeks (first three weeks in March). We are planning to get a Japan Rail pass and travel around a fair bit. Both dd and ds are learning Japanese at school so will have some familiarity with the language (dh and I are hoping to have a bit of tutoring too) but it's a bit daunting!

We were planning to spend a few days in Tokyo, and definitely want to go to Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Yakushima (ideally with a bit of a loop, from Tokyo to Yakushima and back). We want to stay at an onsen and I'd like to stay at a temple too. Looking for a bit of new Japan and a bit of old, and to see some countryside, town and city. dh and dd are huge anime fans and we all love Studio Ghibli (will be going to the museum and hopefully to see the house from Totoro too).

If anyone has done a similar trip and could share what worked for them, or lives in Japan and has some insight we'd be very grateful. We've booked our flights but are getting a bit scared about booking everything else.

AttilaTheMeerkat Sun 16-Nov-14 09:37:16

Hi nooka

Which airport will you be arriving into?.

Do not get into a taxi on arrival particularly if you are arriving into Narita; it will cost you a small fortune!. You would be far better off getting the orange and white Airport Limousine bus into the city which run from both airports (tickets are available at the counters in the arrivals hall and staff there speak good English). These buses do leave on time!.

The famous vending machines are very well maintained and stocked with all sorts of non alcoholic drinks and iced teas.

Will you want to make a trip out to the Disney parks; if so I can advise you further re that.

You may find it a lot easier to buy the Japan Rail Pass in this country prior to travel if you have not already purchased it.

You're right in that Japanese as a language is somewhat daunting. Its also a very formal and structured society as well.

If you do visit the Studio Ghibli go there on a weekday rather than at the weekend. Most of the exhibits and the short film itself shown are written in Japanese only but the film can be understandable even without a knowledge of Japanese. Its located in Mitaka which is quite an easy ride on the train from the city of Tokyo. I would also suggest you buy these tickets online well in advance (but they can also be purchased at Lawsons convenience stores in Japan). Its over 3 levels and would probably take you all around 2 or so hours to see it all. The winding staircase and the robot statue are wonderful to see. The gift shop and cafeteria there can become very crowded.

Do visit the Tokyo Skytree (you will have to line up for this on the day of your visit as you cannot buy tickets in advance. Buying tickets online is an option only available to Japanese residents). There is also a large shopping area and restaurants around the Skytree as well.

There is a store called Daiso in Harajuku which is well worth a look at, its a 100 yen store.

Very few Japanese people on the streets themselves speak English but people always stopped and tried to help us with directions when we were lost in the maze that is Shinjuku train station. Do keep a close eye on all of your party particularly in large places like that due to the sheer size of that station. Also be very mindful of the number of the station exit, exiting from the wrong exit could leave you about 1/2 mile from where you wanted to be!.

The department stores (like Odakyu and Takashimaya in Shinjuku to name but two) are always worth a visit, generally these have the restaurants on the top floors and the food halls in the basement. I would certainly recommend a visit.

Its a country I would very much like to revisit.

ShanghaiDiva Sun 16-Nov-14 11:51:10

I went to Kyoto this year and stayed in a traditional house there which was lovely. Check on flip key which is part of the trip advisor website. We were in walking distance of lots of temples and a good shopping area.
Nara is great and only about 40 mins on train from Kyoto. Everything there is within walking distance of the train station.
Recommend a day at Disney sea - really well presented.
Second the suggestion of airport buses. I have taken the bus from narita airport to the Disney area and all the info is available on line.
Daiso stores are great - full of stuff I never knew I needed! Great for origami paper, gift bags etc.

MillyMollyMama Thu 20-Nov-14 23:54:27

We used Audley Travel to suggest an itinerary for us and suggest hotels . We also had a huge dossier of notes and it made our trip very easy. Although be aware the signs for hotels can be tiny and discrete. We collected the rail passes at Narita.

We found Japan absolutely stunning. It was easy to get everywhere on the train and although we were not a fan of the Onsen, we did stay at one at Hakone. We did enjoy the Ryokan experience though! We stayed in a small village called Tsumago and did a short hike on an old post route. I would highly recommend this. Allocate plenty of time to Kyoto and Nara as there is so much to see. We saw a Geiko/Maiko show in Kyoto and had a wonderful cookery lesson via the Women's Assiciation of Kyoto. There were wonderful restaurants in Kyoto and I second the restaurants in the department stores in Tokyo. Eating out cost less than we thought.

We would never bother with Disney when there is so much of real Japan to see! Going to Kamakura on the Enoden line interested us a lot more! Also the Museum of Japanese art in Tokyo is great.

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