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Two week trip starting June 12: Kyoto and area-Kanazawa-Alpine Route-Matsumoto-Tokyo

Hi, all. We will be in Japan for two weeks starting June 12, and I wanted to see what the experts here think of this itinerary, and whether I have the right trains for our travel plans. I am planning on purchasing the JR Pass for us.

Arrive in Narita--take the N'Ex to Tokyo; transfer to the Hikari Shinkansen for Kyoto.

We would like to explore Asuka and Kobe. Are there JR trains that we can take for those destinations?

Daytrip to Hiroshima

Kyoto to Kanazawa on the Hikari Shinkansen

Kanazawa to Toyama on the Hikari Shinkansen

Travel the Alpine Tateyama Kurobe (separate ticket) to Matsumoto (on JR train)

Matsumoto to Tokyo on the Super Azusa

I look forward to your feedback on this trip.

Best,
Pamela

Comments

  • Hi,
    You may not be giving your whole itinerary, but I suggest you run it through this rail pass calculator to make sure you are at least breaking even:
    http://www.japan-guide.com/railpass/
    or look up each leg on Hyperdia:
    http://www.hyperdia.com

    Going to Kobe on JR trains is no problem, but Asuka is not served by JR - you need to take a Kintetsu train, which is not covered by any JR pass.
    You can see Hiroshima & Miyajima as a day trip with a very early morning start. You can also use the JR Pass for the Hiroshima City loop bus. But please don't shortchange yourself by just seeing the Peace Park and then leaving the city - so many do and it is just sad. The Shukkeien Garden and Mitakidera Temple are both gorgeous and mostly free of the tourists mobs.
    https://goo.gl/fAz4ax
    Asuka is an unusual first choice - if you have not seen it before, I highly recommend you see Nara Park, as a priority if needed. It has some of Japan's very best sights.
    https://goo.gl/LfvWnL
    You can also go see Osaka in the evening after a day of sightseeing in Kyoto if you have the energy. The city comes alive at night and has some great places - Dotonbori, Shinsekai, and night views from the Umeda Sky Bldg, Abeno Harukas, and Cosmo Tower.
    http://goo.gl/XE5R94
    If you are also seeing Tokyo, then you can mostly skip Osaka during the day though.
    Another option is to make a day trip out of seeing Himeji and Kobe. Himeji has the country's finest original surviving castle, and the Kokoen Garden nearby is magnificent.
    https://goo.gl/65ZtRi

    There is no bullet train between Kyoto and Kanazawa (that will take another 10+ years). You'll need to take the Thunderbird Ltd Express to Kanazawa, which is about 2 hours. If time in Kanazawa is limited, skip everything else if you have to, but don't miss the Kenrokuen Garden - it is widely regarded as Japan's finest. There are also no Hikari Shinkansen on the Hokuriku route - the Hikari run directly between Tokyo and Kansai. For the Hokuriku area, there are Kagayaki, Harutaka, and Tsurugi shinkansen. The Kagayaki will get you there a bit sooner, but they require seat reservations made ahead of time (which are free with the pass).
    For the Alpine Route, you can save money with a Tateyama Kurobe Option Ticket for 9800 yen.
    https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e7550.html
    Matsumoto also has a nice castle, and like Himeji, is one of 12 original surviving ones (all the rest are reconstructed fakes).

    A few things: From early June starts the rainy season, so some days are going to have awful rainy days - check the weather report ahead of time, and have a back up plan (e.g. museums and aquariums). Regardless, it will be extremely sticky and muggy - get ready to sweat like crazy, and be sure to stay hydrated. If you are getting your JR Pass at Narita Airport, there may be a long line with a wait of even 30 minutes. You need seat reservations for the N'Ex, and they can easily be done when you get your pass. If you are going straight to Kyoto from Narita, you can catch the bullet train at either Tokyo Station or Shinagawa - if they can do the seat reservations at Narita, Shinagawa Station is a lot less a labyrinth to navigate. Without seat reservations, you risk the unreserved seats being filled up at Tokyo Stn.
    I highly suggest you pay a visit to the Kyoto tourist office on the second floor after you arrive - you can get free maps and other useful info.
    https://goo.gl/knQtMg

    You can check on train info on Hyperdia - you can see regular fares, routes, and schedules.
    http://www.hyperdia.com
    Under "More Options", with a full JR pass, be sure to uncheck the Nozomi box since you can't ride that train using the pass.

    Also, you can look at some previews of some of the best places to see in Japan on:
    https://www.youtube.com/user/thejapanfaq/videos

    There are also loads of other tips on
    http://www.thejapanfaq.com/the-best-japan-travel-tips/

    Best regards.
  • Tenjin, you are my new hero. Thanks for all that awesome information!
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