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Japan Itinerary help please!

Bournemouth, United...
Level Contributor
17 posts
6 reviews
Japan Itinerary help please!

Desperately need some help from the experts please! I have a rough idea of what I want to do but finding it difficult piecing the puzzle together now, especially with travel.

Travelling with my wife in November this year for 14 days/13 nights to see the Autumn colours and soak up the culture, the first 7 nights of the itinerary looks ok but after this I'm struggling.

04/11 - Land Osaka 7pm, eat in Dotonbori and stay in the area

05/11 - Osaka to Koyasan, stay in a temple

06/11 - Koyasan to Nara, most of the day there then on to Kyoto

07/11 - Kyoto - Arashiyama

08/11 - Kyoto - Fushimi Inari

09/11 - Kyoto - Gion, temples, etc

10/11 - Kyoto - Himeji and more Kyoto site-seeing

We leave Kyoto on 11th November and then we have 6 more nights and we need to squeeze in Takaragawa onsen (must), Nikko, Kawaguchiko to see Fuji (must) and at least 2 days in Tokyo. Also interested in Kanazawa and/or Takayama.

Would the below work, how to get between these places?

11/11 - Travel to Kanazawa, stay in Kanazawa

12/11 - Kanazawa to kawaguchiko, stay Kawaguchiko

13/11 - Kawaguchiko to Takaragawa onsen, then on to Nikko, stay in Nikko

14/11 - Most of the day in Nikko then on to Tokyo

15/11 - Tokyo

16/11 - Tokyo

17/11 - Take flight from Tokyo 12.30pm

If one place could be cut I think it would be Kanazawa as the wife is particularly keen on 'walking around the lakes' near Fuji and Takaragawa onsen looks like the stuff of dreams in the pics. Nikko also should be good for Autumn colours around this time of year I believe. I'm also open to cutting one night in Kyoto to squeeze more adventures in elsewhere.

Any suggestions for the 2nd half of our trip would be very welcome.

12 replies to this topic
Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
7,306 posts
190 reviews
1. Re: Japan Itinerary help please!

Note that your timeline is early for Kyoto city areas to reach peak koyo (fall foliage) - less than 30% in early Nov, whereas it'd be at peak in Koyasan @1000m. In northern Kyoto, head up to Hieizan @1000m where World Heritage Enryaku-ji is. Koyo might be 50%.


>>12/11 - Kanazawa to kawaguchiko, stay Kawaguchiko

These two are on the wrong side which entails connections in Nagano, Matsumoto, Kofu by bus. Better travel to Tokyo by Hokuriku Shinkansen in 2.5 hours direct. Kawaguchi-ko can be reached from Tokyo/Shinjuku by frequent express bus in 2 hours direct. Pick onsen hotels along the northern rim of Kawaguchi-ko for unblocked views on clear days, and with reflections on calm days.

my visit in Fuji 5-lake in mid-Nov 2016 by car.


>>13/11 - Kawaguchiko to Takaragawa onsen, then on to Nikko, stay in Nikko

Note that the best koyo spots are in Okunikko @1200m+ which usually reaching peak in mid to late Oct. By mid-Nov koyo would have descended to Nikko town where Toshogu Shrine is. You may go but manage your expectations.


I'd not bother heading to Takaragawa onsen in Gumma which is quite out of your way. Consider Oku-hida onsen where there are 5 onsen villages nestled inside the JP Alps. If you're looking for large rotenburo (open-air onsen) beside river stream, check out Shin-hotaka onsen with views of northern JP Alps on clear days.


Edited: 4:17 am, June 07, 2018
Tsukuba, Japan
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10,075 posts
317 reviews
2. Re: Japan Itinerary help please!

I agree with Mr. DLi_hk that Autumn Colors in Kyoto and Tokyo are too early, while you can enjoy it in mountain areas, such as Oku-hida Onsen, Kawaguchiko, etc. I recommend you to go to mountain areas where you can enjoy Autumn Colors at first on early Nov. and go to city areas such as Kyoto later. Please look at these sites.






Bournemouth, United...
Level Contributor
17 posts
6 reviews
3. Re: Japan Itinerary help please!

Thanks both for your suggestions and the links, DLi - the coulours at Fuji five lakes look amazing in your pics, good work!

Unfortunately the flights into Osaka and out of Tokyo are booked so starting in Kyoto and ending in Tokyo cant be changed much, even though it’s earky for koyo I’m sure there’ll be loads to see.

Is takaragawa Onsen not on the way to Nikko? However, if you think Oku-Hida is better this is between Kanazawa and Takayama so should work well. Do you think I should skip Nikko if the trees are all bare by mid nov? Any other must see locations for koyo around this time that I’ve missed?

DLi - slightly confused about your comments on Kanazawa to Kawaguchico. Are you saying we should go to Tokyo from Kyoto, then bus to Kawaguchico and then I to Kanazawa? I saw there is the thunderbird which is 2 hours from Kyoto to Kanazawa...

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5,088 posts
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4. Re: Japan Itinerary help please!

>>Is takaragawa Onsen not on the way to Nikko?<<

No, it's in Minakami area, to be precise a few kilometers away from JR Yubiso Station. In the grand scheme of things, it is nearer to Nikko than Bournemouth...

It has fans and some haters I believe because of its mixed gender concept.

Edited: 1:09 pm, June 07, 2018
Level Contributor
5,088 posts
11 reviews
5. Re: Japan Itinerary help please!

If you are going to Takaragawa Onsen, an idea is to go there by coming from Kanazawa by Hokuriku Shinkansen to Takasaki, then detouring north to Minakami on Joetsu (conventional) Line (plus bus from Minakami). Depending on the hour, there is a bus connection between Minakami Station and Jomo Kogen Station (on the Joetsu Shinkansen Line), which might work better for you. After Takaragawa Onsen, you might head south to Tokyo and Kawaguchiko.

There is a whole chunk of mountains between Minakami and Nikko (as seen in the pictures below): akicafe.com/2017/01/26/huyubare_akagisan/

Edited: 2:53 pm, June 07, 2018
New York City, New...
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2,401 posts
4 reviews
6. Re: Japan Itinerary help please!

You really should have at least three full days in Tokyo IMO, unless you have been there before. In terms of Kyoto I think the three full days is is good enough for kyoto itself so on the Himeji day if you are soo inclined you could add something else in like Hiroshima or maybe one of the other places you wanted to visit etc.

Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
7,306 posts
190 reviews
7. Re: Japan Itinerary help please!

#3, consider this itin

Kyoto > Kanazawa (2n) > Shirakawa-go for few hours > Takayama (1n) > Okuhida onsen (1n) > Toyama by Nohi bus > Tokyo by Hokuriku Shinkansen direct.

Another option

Okuhida onsen > Matsumoto via Hirayu onsen > Kofu by JR express train > Kawaguchi-ko by bus in 1 hour.

Nohi bus schedules in JP Alps.


My first visit to Nikko (for koyo) was in early Nov 1999. Chuzenji-ko was almost barren so we headed back downhill to Nikko town to visit the World Heritage Toshogu Shrine - lessons learned. All my subsequent 4 visits were in mid to late Oct.

If you have 1 more day to spare in Tokyo why not though better skip Okunikko - it's any easy day trip.

In your timeline, consider dropping by Yamanaka-ko for diamond Fuji on clear days if you'd stay overnight.

check out exact location and timing in Nov.


Edited: 11:46 pm, June 07, 2018
Puerto Princesa...
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8,841 posts
549 reviews
8. Re: Japan Itinerary help please!

On 7th and 8th you will still have spare time to see other attractions after visiting Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari, so perhaps consider Nishiki Market.

Bournemouth, United...
Level Contributor
17 posts
6 reviews
9. Re: Japan Itinerary help please!

Thanks again all for your suggestions, really helpful. I’m nearly there I think....

I’ve decided Kanazawa is a must and Nikki town a potential day trip from Tokyo if time.

Still not sure about swapping Takaragawa Onsen for Okuhida - the main reason is that we want a mixed gender rotenburo where you don’t have to be completely naked, my wife will not do it otherwise and I reallly want to do it but also share the experience. Please can someone recommend a rotenburo or ryokan in okuhida similar to takaragawa?? (I.e, mountain + river + mixed gender + covering up of lady’s personals). Suimeikan Karukaya may be the one?

Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
7,306 posts
190 reviews
10. Re: Japan Itinerary help please!

just few days ago another poster mentioned on this forum that she went to Yarimikan in Shin-hotaka onsen for daytime onsen with her husband. She was allowed to use a towel to wrap-up in the public onsen.

We stayed in Yamano hotel in 2010 after taking the Shin-hotaka ropeway. The huge rotenburo was beside a stream and onsen was gushing out from a well. Apart from the huge rotenburo for both genders, there's a smaller onsen solely for ladies. My wife and I have always been fine to enjoy rotenburo in gender-separated public onsens. She never bothers to soak in an onsen where there might be other naked men in it.

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