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Using JR Pass for April

Hi
Below is the second half of our Japan trip (first half being April 6th to 12th spent in Kyoto).

Planning to use the 7-day JR Pass for April 13th to 19th. Would appreciate it very much if you could let us know if the JR Pass would work for our itinerary and whether JR trains cover the routes.

13th – Kyoto to Himeji / Himeji to Kobe for dinner / Kobe to Kyoto
14th – Kyoto to Odawara (overnight at Hakone Hotel)
15th – Odawara to Shinjuku
16th – Shinjuku to Hitachi Seaside Park
17th – Shinjuku to Kawaguchiko (for Fuji-5 lakes / overnight at FujiGenki)
18th – Kawaguchiko to Shinjuku
19th – Shinjuku to Hitsujiyama Park
20th – nothing planned
21st – flight home

Would appreciate suggestion if there is better option for Pass or Routing or any other advice.

Thank you.

Comments

  • edited December 2017
    Hi,
    JR trains will get you to most places, though with a few caveats.
    You would get your money's worth on a 7 day pass with all your destinations - though I calculated it using bullet trains as much as possible (like Himeji to Shin-Kobe to Kyoto) to make things faster and maximize your savings.
    I presume if you are going to Odawara, you are planning to visit Hakone. If so, a Hakone Free Pass would save you some money and you can see all the sights in a full day.
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5200.html
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2358_008.html
    The Loop Course is a common way to see all the sights.
    http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e5210.html

    For the Fuji 5 Lakes, you can only take JR up to Otsuki and then you'll need to take a Fujikyu train the rest of the way (1 hr, ¥1140 one way).
    There are some good tourist discount tickets to see the area:
    https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6905.html
    You'd also likely be just in time for the shibazakura there:
    https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6919.html

    The Hitachi Seaside Park is a great addition but won't fill up the whole day. If you want, along the way in Mito you could also go see the Kairakuen Garden, which is one of Japan's Top 3 historical traditional gardens. And it's free!
    https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6201.html
    To get to the Seaside Park, you need to take the JR train up to Katsuta Stn. From there, you'd need to pay for a 15 minute bus ride to the park (400 yen).
    For Hitsujiyama Park, you can only take JR part of the way there too. See:
    https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6551.html
    It is the same shibazakura that I mentioned at the Fuji 5 Lakes. You can see both if you want, or there are a few other choices. If you want to make the most of your JR Pass, you could take a day trip to Nikko, which is one of the top sights in the Tokyo area.
    https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3800.html
    Another possibility is Karuizawa, which is easy to reach also by bullet train.
    https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e6030.html

    One other choice if you like nature is the Ashikaga Flower Park in Tochigi. From the end of April there is an explosion of wisteria flowers and it is something stunning to see.
    https://goo.gl/YB6hfj
    https://www.ashikaga.co.jp/english/
    You might be a bit too early, but with things warming up more lately, you could get lucky. You may want to check with the park before going, and keep a flexible schedule if it appeals to you.

    For your unplanned day, if the above falls within your interests, there is also the Showa Kinen Park.
    https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3034_showa.html
    There are also numerous traditional gardens in Tokyo:
    http://teien.tokyo-park.or.jp/en/
    https://www.tsunagujapan.com/7-best-japanese-gardens-within-tokyo/
    https://hubjapan.io/articles/10-best-japanese-gardens-in-tokyo-for-a-nature-break

    And for one last option, you could take a day and go visit Kamakura and Enoshima. There is a cheap ticket for both.
    https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2166.html
    https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3117.html
    http://www.odakyu.jp/english/deels/freepass/enoshima_kamakura/

    If you are leaving Japan from Narita, the cheapest way is the 1000 yen bus.
    http://accessnarita.jp/en/home/

    You can see previews of some of the best places to see in Japan on:
    https://www.youtube.com/user/thejapanfaq/videos

    Hope that helps.
  • Hi Tenjin
    Thanks so much for your response and many suggestions. They are most helpful. Our initial plan was to do Sakura in Kyoto in early April and hoped to catch Wisteria in Tokyo. But we reckoned that we might be too early for wisteria. Well, now, we’ve got some hope that we may be able to view some Wisteria.

    I have a few questions on the trains. If we are getting the Green Seats,
    (1)Is it difficult to reserve a seat on the day itself instead of booking prior? Looking at Hyperdia, for e.g. Kyoto to Odawara (Shinkansen Hikari 512), we would most likely go for 0832, but should we be late, we would go on the next train at 1032. So we don’t want to reserve beforehand and not make it for the train. So, is it possible to just book on that day?
    (2) Other than the longer timing, is there any difference in train (e.g. seat comfort) between Hikari and Kodama? Reason why I ask is because Kodama runs every hour while Hikari runs every two hours (Kyoto to Odawara).
    (3) Looking at Shinjuku to Otsuki, there are 3 different trains we can take – Ltd Exp Azusa, Ltd Exp Kaiji and JR Chuo Line Rapid Service. Again, are the trains similar in terms of comfort?
    (4) Closer the date, is there a website we can check to see if wisteria, shibazakura etc are in bloom?
    (5) We will be leaving from Haneda Airport. Would the Airport Limo be the best option?

    And, WOW!! The youtube previews you included are great. Will take my time to enjoy them.

    Thanks again.
  • Hi,
    I'll try to answer your questions.
    1) There should be no problem in getting seats during your travel time. You can reserve seats even 10 minutes before departure if you want. There is no penalty for making seat reservations and missing your train, but as a courtesy it would be better to notify them if you fail to show up. You can make the seat reservations in any JR station, so you don't always have to do it at the station you depart from (which may be big and with a long line).
    2) There is no real difference, but I strongly suggest you avoid the Kodama trains if you can - they stop at every single bullet train station and it would take you an extra hour to go between Tokyo and Kyoto for example.
    3) The Ltd Express trains will be more comfortable, as well as faster in most cases. The rapid trains are ordinary trains with fewer stops than local ones.
    4) None that I know of. There are tons of them for the cherry blossoms or sakura, like
    http://sakura.weathermap.jp/
    http://www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/index.php
    http://www.rurubu.com/season/spring/sakura/
    because it is a nationwide thing in Japan - but there are only a handful of places across the country to really enjoy the wisteria and shibazakura.
    There are other flowers and places to enjoy too - such as the annual tulip fair - but it is in Toyama which is a bit far from where you are going.
    http://fair.tulipfair.or.jp/
    There are also the rapeseed blossoms (nanohana) which you should be able to see growing here and there nationwide as well, and in Iiyama City, Nagano there is another large place for them.
    http://www.iiyama-nanohana.jp/
    You may be too early for that one, though.
    5) If you mean the limo bus, it is the most expensive, but if you are staying at one of the big tourist hotels the bus stops at, it can be the most convenient as well. Dragging heavy bags around is certainly no fun. The other option would be to go to Hamamatsucho Stn and catch the monorail to the airport. If you were still on a JR Pass, it would be covered. Although the fare is not much.

    If you'd like some more travel tips, you can see oodles of them on
    http://www.thejapanfaq.com/the-best-japan-travel-tips/

    Have a great trip.

  • Thank you so much for all your suggestions and great recommendations. Really appreciate that.
  • Hi Tenjin

    It’s been a month since we returned from Japan and I want to thank you for all your suggestions and advice regarding our rail transport to the various places. We made full use of the JR Pass and were fortunate to enjoy Sakura in Kyoto, Nemophila in Hitachi Seaside Park and Wisteria in Ashikaga Flower Park, among other things. Having someone like you answer all our questions makes our planning so much easier and our time in Japan so much more enjoyable. Thank you again and appreciate all your help.
  • You're quite welcome. I'm glad you had a great time.
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