Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Destinations > Asia > Japan
Reload this Page >

Please suggest a base for visiting Japan

Please suggest a base for visiting Japan

Old Sep 10, 17, 3:05 am
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Posts: 2,861
Please suggest a base for visiting Japan

I would like to visit Japan in September 2018 and feel I am not ready for Tokyo yet. I generally like smaller cities better. Could someone suggest such smaller city that can serve a base for doing day trips nearby by train/public transportation?

Like many, I am sitting on a big pile of AA miles, and would like to redeem AA miles on JAL, therefore it would be nice if JAL served the city in question or if there was direct train service from Narita.
michael_v is offline  
Old Sep 10, 17, 5:57 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: LHR, NRT
Programs: HH, BD
Posts: 8,880
It's possible that you might find Tokyo less overwhelming that other big cities that you're used to - Some neighborhoods are built on a human scale. The streets are less frantic and chaotic than other big cities that I can think of. You rarely hear horns and sirens in the way that you do, when wandering around large US cities.... But YMMV.

Kyoto seems like an obvious "smaller city" to use as a base. In terms of touristic sites and history, it has plenty to offer in its own right. It's also conveniently located for daytrips to Nara, Koya, Osaka, etc. If you can fly into KIX, that's the closest airport. From NRT, you need to travel 3.5 hours by train. (Or you could connect to a flight to ITM, but it won't be any faster). That said, I find Kyoto to be a pretty huge city with lively bars, restaurants, and industry ... all the stuff of a city.

If you really want a green city - Nara comes to mind. It's not so easy to reach from NRT, but it's a very small city with lots of parkland, full of deer. It has lots of history (temples and some ruins) and it's a reasonable train ride from Kyoto, Osaka, Koya-san etc.

Osaka and Nagoya are smaller than Tokyo, for sure, but I think they still have the "big city" feeling. I find that Nagoya itself has little that interests me, but it's good for overnight trips to Takayama, the Kii peninsula, etc.

If you're looking for a "base" in the Tokyo area, I would suggest, maybe Yokohama (for a modern city) or Kamakura (for a small town with lots of greenery and historical sites). They're both in easy striking distance of NRT.

Some people have used Narita City as a base to explore Tokyo. I guess it works for them. Doesn't really appeal to me.

Other options to consider ...
Kanazawa (fly from NRT to Komatsu or take the Shinkansen)
Hiroshima (flight to HIJ from NRT or take the Shinkansen)
Fukuoka (flight from NRT to FUK)

I guess it really depends what size and style your "Goldilocks" city is - What is it that you dislike in the big cities that you are familiar with?
Pureboy likes this.
jib71 is online now  
Old Sep 10, 17, 7:12 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Smyrna, GA, USA
Programs: DL DM 1MM
Posts: 1,639
As above, the answer to me depends heavily on what it is about Tokyo that you wish to avoid or dial down. It also depends heavily on what sorts of sights you'd like to visit while in Japan.
angra is offline  
Old Sep 10, 17, 7:22 am
  #4  
Four Seasons Contributor BadgeHyatt Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Parts Unknown
Posts: 7,289
Nagoya is centrally located if you're going to be using a JR Pass to go east-west.
Aventine is offline  
Old Sep 10, 17, 7:30 am
  #5  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: トロント
Programs: AC E50K, Accor , ANA, Avios
Posts: 4,523
I would just pick Tokyo, a quieter part. If you stay away from the typical places like Shinjuku, Shibuya, etc you can find some very quiet and interesting areas. A short walk brings you into older neighbourhoods with nary a tourist in sight.

Cities like Nagoya, and Kyoto are still large cities.

Don't underestimate the size and scope of so called small cities in Japan. ....they are really not that small and a lot of them have the same look.

If you want quieter, go north of Tokyo---Sendai and smaller towns like Morioka, Hirosaki etc. You can get flexibile rail passes for that area..eg 5 days out of 14 etc.
mapleg is offline  
Old Sep 10, 17, 7:54 am
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Posts: 2,861
Originally Posted by jib71 View Post
What is it that you dislike in the big cities that you are familiar with?
Two things come to mind:

1. Having to walk a certain path in the subway, otherwise you'll face the crowds heads on.

2. Having to line up everywhere, even when exiting a building.

Hope this makes sense.
michael_v is offline  
Old Sep 10, 17, 8:34 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: LHR, NRT
Programs: HH, BD
Posts: 8,880
Originally Posted by michael_v View Post
1. Having to walk a certain path in the subway, otherwise you'll face the crowds heads on.
2. Having to line up everywhere, even when exiting a building.
Depending on the degree of your dislike for crowds (enochlophobia) you may need to avoid cities altogether... The points that you highlight as unpleasant are hard to eliminate entirely.

1. A few people on Flyertalk have commented that it's hard for them to understand which side of a given path to walk on in Japan. They always find that they're facing crowds head-on. Unfortunately, you're going to find that around railway stations pretty much everywhere. And when you're visiting famous temples and castles and the like.
You could stay in a pleasant "backwater" town like Kamakura or Nara. Very green, generally uncrowded (or easy to escape from the crowded parts). But if you decide that you want to make daytrips into places like Tokyo or Kyoto, you're going to be navigating crowded railway stations when you get there. In that sense, taking a counter-intuitive approach, it might even be preferable to stay within those mega-cities, to be able to avoid daily subway experiences. Hard for me to tell what would work for you.

2. Having to line up everywhere is going to be a problem if you're visiting major tourist attractions. I guess the best thing that I can suggest is to take a holiday in rural Japan and enjoy hiking in the mountains and away from cities altogether. Spend the time wandering the Kii peninsula, for example. (But avoid the really famous shrines at weekends or holidays because they'll get crowded).
jib71 is online now  
Old Sep 10, 17, 8:37 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Smyrna, GA, USA
Programs: DL DM 1MM
Posts: 1,639
What would you like to see while you are in Japan?

Crowds versus ease of access is a continual tradeoff in Japan.
angra is offline  
Old Sep 10, 17, 8:40 am
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
Posts: 2,861
Originally Posted by angra View Post
What would you like to see while you are in Japan?

Crowds versus ease of access is a continual tradeoff in Japan.
I would like to see Japan off the beaten path, but like you said, I do realize ease of access may be a problem.

Last edited by michael_v; Sep 10, 17 at 8:54 am
michael_v is offline  
Old Sep 10, 17, 9:16 am
  #10  
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: トロント
Programs: AC E50K, Accor , ANA, Avios
Posts: 4,523
Originally Posted by michael_v View Post
I would like to see Japan off the beaten path, but like you said, I do realize ease of access may be a problem.
Tohouku is where you want to be.

http://www.japan-guide.com/list/e1102.html

I suggest this rail pass. Will get you from Narita to wherever in the region you want to be and it is flexible...any 5 out of 14 days.

https://www.jreast.co.jp/e/eastpass_t/

and
http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2361_tohoku.html

Or, you could even consider this if you want to go as far as Hokkaido. Although priced similarly to a 7 day nationwide pass, you can use it 6 out of 14 days which can be very handy when you want to stop and "smell the roses" in various places.

http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2361_southhokkaido.html
mapleg is offline  
Old Sep 10, 17, 9:47 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Smyrna, GA, USA
Programs: DL DM 1MM
Posts: 1,639
Since there is tons of time prior to your trip, I highly recommend doing some personal research on Japan Guide or reading a guide book or two to pick out some cities and sights you'd like to visit. We can help with suggestions and the logistics of what you pick, but it's beyond scope for us to pick out your whole trip for you, I think.
angra is offline  
Old Sep 10, 17, 9:47 am
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: LHR, NRT
Programs: HH, BD
Posts: 8,880
Originally Posted by mapleg View Post
Tohouku is where you want to be.
Good idea. And that rail pass is spot on.
Shikoku and Hokkaido are also be worth considering.
In any of these cases, I would suggest staying at a small town / rural location and exploring the national parks etc.
jib71 is online now  
Old Sep 10, 17, 9:56 am
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: LAS
Programs: Hilton Diamond, IHG Spire Ambassador, Radisson Gold, Hyatt Discoverist
Posts: 3,150
I'd recommend Yokohama. It's only 30 minutes from central Tokyo by train but has a separate feel and is quite walkable and has an interesting European influence. It's very quick and easy to get to from Haneda airport if you can fly into there.
jphripjah is online now  
Old Sep 10, 17, 10:23 am
  #14  
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Hampton->Conrad->Hampton again
Posts: 4,858
OP's criteria are still no definitively clear, but I agree with everything in jib's 1st post. He does say he wants to use public transport to get around... I think that makes Hokkaido not a great option. I love Yokohama personally, but Yokohama is very much like Tokyo in that main stations will be crowded and the trains will have lots of people. When one says he wants to see a country and stay off the beaten path, it's never clear how literally he means it. I have based myself in Kofu for numerous nights and have loved it because the town is laidback, the hotel has onsen, amazing views of Mt.Fuji, and shopping/food within walking distance, plus I know many great off-the-beaten-path spots around Kofu. However, I know Kofu won't work for most people, even those who say they want to be off the beaten path.

Anyways, I would recommend Okayama. It's a big city that offers plenty to do/eat, but it's certainly not Tokyo or even Kyoto. It is amazingly well-connected by trains to so many attractions that are both prime (Kyoto, Himeji Castle, Hiroshima Peace Park, Miyajima) and second-tier (Kurashiki, Onomichi, Matsue, Matsuyama / Dogo Onsen, Shodojima).
evergrn is offline  
Old Sep 10, 17, 10:31 am
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Central California
Programs: Former UA Premex, now dirt
Posts: 6,526
Originally Posted by evergrn View Post
... Anyways, I would recommend Okayama. It's a big city that offers plenty to do/eat, but it's certainly not Tokyo or even Kyoto. It is amazingly well-connected by trains to so many attractions that are both prime (Kyoto, Himeji Castle, Hiroshima Peace Park, Miyajima) and second-tier (Kurashiki, Onomichi, Matsue, Matsuyama / Dogo Onsen, Shodojima).
+1. For this trip, I'd recommend looking for international flights into/out of KIX rather than NRT or HND.
abmj-jr is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: