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Need help on JR West rail pass use for our itinerary

Hello everyone,

We are now planning our Japan trip for a family of 2 adults with 3 young kids (aged 3 to 8) in June 2019 for 12 days. We will be arriving and leaving Japan on the 12th day morning at 10.25am via Hiroshima Airport.

It is our first time visiting these places and driving in Japan too.

We gathered 2 groups of transportation passes for our trip. However being first timer, we really need helps to decide which group has better coverage for our itinerary?

Here are the 2 groups:
 Group 1 passes combination:
“7 days Sanyo-Sanin Area Pass” plus
“Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass” - both the small and wide area (we are not sure if the wide area pass will be made available by June 2019 or not).

 Group 2 passes combination:
“5 days Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass” plus
“5 days Hiroshima Yamaguchi area pass” plus
“Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass” the small area.

Also, appreciate if you could share thoughts on our itinerary? Any thoughts of suggestion better deals and places not to be missed to replace what we have planned will be much appreciated. Thank you very much.

Here is our planned itinerary:

Day 1 – Arrive at Hiroshima Airport morning 9am. Activate the Sanyo-Sanin Area pass. Leave for Wakayama for 2 nights. Visit Marina City, Kuroshio Ichiba Market and the Tama train (Wakayama Electric Railway). If time and energy permit we will have a quick view of Wakayama castle and Ohashi Roka Bridge.

Day 2 – Day trip to Kyoto from Wakayama. Visit the Kyoto Railway Museum and Amanohashidate area.
=> Question: will skip Amanohashidate if we are not getting the “5 days Kansai Hiroshima Area Pass” that covers this area. Is there any 1 day deal that we can consider if we like to visit Amanohashidate, please suggest?

Day 3 – Leaving Wakayama city for Kumano. Staying 1 night at Katsuura. Driving from Wakayama station to visit Yunomine Onsen district, Kawayu Onsen, *Maruyama Senmai Rice Field and Nachi Falls.
=> Question: *will skip Maruyama Senmai if it is not advisable for first timer driving in Japan mountain area. Appreciate anyone could share their driving trip to Maruyama Senmai with us?
=> Anyone could share their driving trip in Kumano? Did you take the inland route or the coastal route towards Kii-Katsuura?

Day 4 – Leaving Katsuura for Shirahama sightseeing then to Okayama for 2 nights. Visit Scannbeki Cavern, Senjojiki, Shirahama Beach, Engetsuto. Return car at Shirahama station. Leaving Shirahama for Okayama via Ltd Ex *Kuroshio train before 18:00.
=> Question: *Last Ltd Ex Kuroshio train leaving Shirahama and Wakayama station is 18:19 and 19:49 respectively. Hyperdia shows it will takes 1.5 hour longer if it is not via Ltd Ex Kuroshio? Please share if there are shorter alternative route like Kuroshio from Wakayama to Okayama in the evening?

Day 5 – Day trip from Okayama to Kobe.
We have 2 plans. Please share your thoughts which is less hassles and much interesting for the kids? Is it possible to do some of plan A and plan B combination?
Plan A: Visit Arima Onsen town via Rokko cable car ride.
=> Question: Do we need to get the 1 day Arima & Rokko 1 Day Pass @2360 yen as we are not doing any onsen?
Plan B: Go for Shin Kobe Ropeway, Kobe Habourland and Chinatown. Is there any tourist day pass we should be getting?

Day 6 – Visit Grand Seto Bridge via the Seto-Ohashi Line. Is Mt Washuzan Observatory worth a visit? Leaving Okayama for Hiroshima. Staying 6 nights until we leave Japan. Try not having to change accommodations too much.
=> Question: Is it possible to visit Akiyoshio cave in the late afternoon after check in Hiroshima hotel? What would you suggest we could do/go if Akiyoshio cave is not advisable on this day?

Day 7 – Last day of Sanyo-Sanin Area Pass usage. Day trip from Hiroshima to Yamaguchi. Driving from Shin Yamaguchi station to Motonosumi Inari Shrine and Tsuenoshima Ohashi Bridge. Will visit Akiyoshio cave too if Day 6 not possible.
=> Question: Can anyone share the best route to drive for these 3 places?
=> Question: Are these places worth visiting? Please share.

Day 8 to Day 11 – Activate Visit Hiroshima Tourist Pass – Small and Wide Area Pass
Wide Area Pass: uses it to go out of Hiroshima city. Visit Shimanami Kaido via Flower Line b/w Onomichi and Imabari, Tomonoura and Takehara town preserved district.
=> Question: If the Wide Area Pass is not available, what is the economical route to visit Shimanami Kaido and Onomichi from Hiroshima city? Any 1 day pass we could get?

Small Area Pass: uses it to explore Hiroshima city sightseeing tourist spots / Miyajima / Iwakuni bridge.

Day 12 – Leaving for Hiroshima Airport. Our flight leaving at 10.25am

Lastly, do we need a ICOCA card?

Thank you in advance for any suggestion and advise which we greatly need and appreciate.

Comments

  • edited December 1
    Hi,
    I can try to answer at least some of your questions, although for some like what driving is like at such and such a mountain I have no details. Also please remember that June is the rainy season - you can expect a lot of days with pouring rain and for the rest some sweltering muggy humidity. For some of the big questions first, regarding some suggestions of other places to see, I can give a few ideas. One easy one is the beautiful Sankeien Garden right next to Hiroshima Airport. It is a great way to stretch your legs and get your bearings after a long airplane flight. You also might consider going to see the Sandankyo Gorge (75 min by bus from Hiroshima City), or the beautiful flowers at Sera Kogen.
    http://sera.ne.jp/en/
    Some very big and popular places you don't seem to give any attention to, so perhaps you went there before? Nara is one of the jewels in the region.
    http://bit.ly/1Rhxg0E
    Himeji also has the nation's best castle and the Kokoen Garden is magnificent.
    https://goo.gl/65ZtRi
    You also only mention Kyoto for seeing the railway museum.
    You noted some very nice places like Amanohashidate and the Motonosumi Inari Shrine, but it seems to me that it would entail a lot of time, energy and effort to get there, and you may simply be overreaching. You seem to know about all the relevant rail passes; I can't suggest anything better like a one day pass to Amanohashidate. The only other option is really by car or bus. Willer bus might have something:
    http://willerexpress.com/en/
    https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3991.html
    and for the Shimanami Gaido, see:
    https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e3478.html
    I also don't see the point of going to Arima Onsen if you are not going to see the hot springs. Instead, why not go to Mt Rokko, Mt Maya, or the Nunobiki Waterfall + Herb Garden?
    For your other question, the Sanyo Sanin Area Pass vs the other 2, it really is up to how much you can fit into 7 days. If you can fit in all the long distance trips, then the former is much better. But if you don't want to give up on a number of places or rush too much, then the two others which add up to 10 days makes more sense.
    Regarding the Hiroshima Tourist Passes, most likely they will be renewed, but naturally, no guarantees.
    http://www.hiroden.co.jp/en/e-vhtp.html
    I'd say check back at the end of January or February - by then they most likely will have decided. You could get by with the Medium Pass to get over to Iwakuni.
    https://goo.gl/V8YF4J
    As for getting from Shirahama to Okayama, the Ltd Express is your best bet before catching the bullet train. I can't think of any faster way - you are going about 360 km and taking about 3½ hours is as good as it gets.
    Akiyoshido closes at 4:30 - going there from Hiroshima in late afternoon is unworkable. Trying to do it with Motonosumi Inari as a day trip is in theory possible, but very ambitious and extremely time-consuming. You could rent a car from Shin-Yamaguchi or in Nagato City. With 3 kids it would be very hard unless you stay in Yamaguchi for the night. The only good thing you have going for you is that the shrine really doesn't close, and June has the longest daylight hours. The San-in side of Japan is really inconvenient to get around, compared with the Sanyo side which has the bullet train.
    The IC cards are convenient but not really necessary. There is negligible savings in them but they are convenient.
    For other places to consider, you also might look at:
    https://www.japan-guide.com/list/e1106.html
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