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Old Mar 13, 12, 5:04 am   #1
 
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Critique my Japan Itinerary

I'm traveling for 1st time to Japan and have planned the following plans. Is it too busy?

I have 7 full days in Japan excluding travel days and wanted to know if the following itinerary is feasible.

Day 1: Tokyo (Asakusa Temple, Sumida River Cruise, Hama Rikyu Garden, Ginza, Akhibara)
Day 2: Leave for Kyoto via Hakari train. PM: Guided tour (Sunrise) of Sanjusangendo Temple, Kiymizudera, Heian Jingu Shrine)
Day 3: Sunrise JTB Guided Full Day Tour (Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji, Deer Park, Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Taisha Srine,)
Day 4: Leave for Hiroshima: PM: Itsukushima Shrine

Day 5: Hiroshima: AM: Peace Park, Mazda Museum, Peace Memorial Museum, Hiroshima Castle, Peace Memorial Museum PM: Train to Tokyo

Day 6: Meiji Shrine, Edo-Tokyo Museum, Sumo Museum, Imperial East Garden

Day 7: Shibuya, Ueno Park
Day 8: Leave 12 PM for airport: AM: Tsukiji Market
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Old Mar 13, 12, 5:20 am   #2
 
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Is it too busy?
Yes, especially if you're visiting anywhere near summer, which will be broiling hot.

I'd plan on visiting a max of two Attractions with a capital A per day, leaving you some time to explore on the side as well. I'd also stay away from all-day guided tours, which in Japan tend to be organized with the relaxed pace and joie de vivre of a military bootcamp.
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Old Mar 13, 12, 7:08 am   #3
 
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Depending on what day of the week Day 1 is, I'd consider making the Tsukiji trip at that time. That's when you're likely to be suffering the effects of jet lag, so there's a good chance you might be up at that hour. Don't forget that Tsukiji is closed every Sunday, some Wednesdays and some other days ... http://www.tsukiji-market.or.jp/tukiji_e.htm

After visiting Tsukiji and having breakfast you might be able to go to the Hama Rikyu En and take the river boat up to Asakusa.

If you were to do that, I'd recommend staying on the East side of town for that first Tokyo stint rather than in Shinjuku as you indicated in another thread.

For Day 2 (depending on what day of the week that is) I'd suggest "Edo-Tokyo Museum, Sumo Museum, Imperial East Garden". Don't forget that museums are commonly closed on Mondays or on Tuesday if the Monday is a holiday. Check the websites of the museums to confirm.

Then Day 3 to Kyoto. Avoid Japanese guiided tours, as jpatokal said.

Then Hiroshima - but aim for less than you're attempting to fit in there.

Then back to Tokyo - and this time stay in Shinjuku - visit Harajuku, Meiji Shrine, and Shibuya.
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Last edited by jib71; Mar 13, 12 at 7:15 am..
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Old Mar 13, 12, 9:46 am   #4
 
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Unless you have a specific interest in seeing the Hiroshima museum (which is located in Peace Park, so they're not really two attractions) rather than something you need to cross off your list, I'd suggest skipping it and taking Kyoto at a more leisurely pace. (Hiroshima Castle is a reconstruction. If you want to see a reconstructed castle, the one in Osaka is only an hour southwest of Kyoto by commuter train or 20 minutes by Shinkansen, and if you want to see a genuine castle, the one in Hikone--that's Hikone, NOT Hakone--along the shores of Lake Biwa, is an hour east of Kyoto by slow train.)

Tokyo and Kyoto alone are plenty for a seven-day trip.

Large bookstores usually have maps of both Tokyo and Kyoto in their travel sections. Use these to cluster your sightseeing, so that you see the sights in one part of a city on one day, as jib71 suggested, instead of zigzagging around. For example, Tsukiji--Hama Rikyu--Boat ride up the river--Asakusa, plus the Ueno area if you're feeling ambitious, is a good itinerary for your first day.

If you haven't already, invest in a guidebook for each city.
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Old Mar 13, 12, 11:46 am   #5
 
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What time of year will you be going? Depending on dates, there may be a sumo tournament at the Kokugikan. Since you are planning a visit to the Edo-Tokyo Museum right next door, a couple of hours seeing some matches might be interesting. Even if no sumo, the E-T makes a fine use of a few hours. The sumo museum, which is in the basement of the arena, is small and will only take a few minutes to see.

Your Day 1 could be a little more efficient. The river cruise and Hama Rikyu are better in the morning so I agree with the suggestion to take the cruise FROM H-K up TO Asakusa. The temple at Asakusa won't take all that long but there is plenty to see in the surrounding old neighborhoods and the Nakamise Arcade. (I actually did the cruise and garden in the direction you propose during my first visit but I was staying in Asakusa and just walked to the boat dock in the morning.)

I like your proposed sites to see in Kyoto but you can quite easily see them on your own, avoiding the whirlwind tour groups. Get a day bus pass at the transit office just outside the Karasuma exit of Kyoto Station and use buses #100, 101 or 102 to ride the tourist loop, getting on and off at the major sites. Grab a cab when you are tired or finished for the day. You will find them at every tourist venue. Take a brochure from your hotel and just point to it when you are ready to call it a day.
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Old Mar 13, 12, 2:19 pm   #6
 
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Itinerary

I'm going in 2 weeks so weather should not be a problem. I reserved Keio Plaza hotel at beginning and end of trip. Sumo wrestling would be interesting but I heard the tournaments matches are very short.

I was thinking of booking a Tsukiji Tour recommended in a prior FT post with (Naomto) however, its quite expensive, 7,500 yen per person x 4. Is this worth it?

I live in Thailand where getting around by bus as a foreigner can be challenging because all signs are in Thai. Thats why I was going to book a tour in Kyoto and I thought it was a more efficient way of seeing the sights.

Thanks for everybody's comments.
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Old Mar 13, 12, 2:40 pm   #7
 
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The only reason to join a tour is if you want to pack in as much as possible in a day. Otherwise, the buses/subway in Kyoto are fine.

As for Tsukiji tour, 30,000yen can do a lot of other things. You can walk around the market on your own.

I have no idea about the specific tour you mentioned but in general, people like a tour because the guide has very good social skills, but you have no idea if the information provided is accurate, or merely to entertain the guests with tales.
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Old Mar 13, 12, 3:15 pm   #8
 
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Originally Posted by beep88 View Post
I have no idea about the specific tour you mentioned but in general, people like a tour because the guide has very good social skills, but you have no idea if the information provided is accurate, or merely to entertain the guests with tales.
I think most people like a tour to be both informative and engaging. With a good guide you can have an enjoyable time and understand things that you would have sailed straight past on your own.

Although I haven't taken his tour myself, I've corresponded by email with Naoto Nakamura and introduced a couple of people to his tour. They were very happy with it. I think he's the guide that the OP is refering to. Here's what you could expect from his tour:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8eAMttTluk#t=2m30s

Is it worth 7,500yen per person? Depends what kind of person you are, I guess.
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Old Mar 13, 12, 3:35 pm   #9
 
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if you feel you really need a guide in tokyo give tokyo free guide a shout.google them. i think japan is easy to tour on your own but thats me
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Old Mar 13, 12, 5:29 pm   #10
 
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Originally Posted by tony View Post
... Sumo wrestling would be interesting but I heard the tournaments matches are very short...
I'm not sure what you have heard, but during the Grand Sumo tournaments, matches run almost all day. The younger, trainee fighters are early and the 2 upper divisions are in the afternoon and evening. The top, championship division runs from 4:00 PM until around 6:00. You are correct that each individual match usually lasts only seconds but there are many matches each day. You buy a ticket and stay as long as you want. Many folks bring, or buy on-site, boxed meals and beverages and make a party of it.

It doesn't really matter in your case as the current tournament in Osaka will be ending by the time you arrive and the next one in Tokyo isn't until May.
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