After numerous readings and research on the internet, I came up with the following itinerary for our 7-day trip to Kyoto next month.
My goal is to mix urban and rural, old and new, sight seeing and sight doing in a slow travel fashion. (My family is just this type. We found we have better travel experiences and memories when done in a non-rushed manner.)
Day 1 - mid-morning arrival in the Higashiyama area.
Visit Shimogamo-jinja (I don%26#39;t see much write up on this shrine, but the surrounding area looks nice and it may be a little less crowded than the other ones), walk along Philo Path. Settled in our machiya in Higashiyama %26amp; check out neighborhood. Evening - pontocho
Day 2 - South Higashiyama area - Kiyomizu, Sannenzaka, Ninenzaka. Evening - Gion area. We will have a volunteer guide that day. Although we can navigate on our own, we like to meet local people for their insights.
Day 3 - Arashiyama/Saga area. On return,visit Nijo Jo.
Day 4 - Umekoji Ateam Locomotive Museum (my husband is a train buff) in the morning. Afternoon - Nissin Noodle Museum in Osaka for their Hands-on Noodle Workshop. My 12 and 13 yo like to participate in activities. Evening will be spent in Osaka Namba/dotombori area.
Day 5 - Uji, then visit breweries in Fushimi, then Fushimi-Inari Shrine - all along keihan train route.
Day 6 - Hiking in Kurama/kibune in the morning. Late afternoon - Japanese cooking class for myself and daughter. Free time for husband and son to just wander around/people watch.
Day 7 - Move to Osaka hotel for our last night. Train to Nara to visit Nara koen and Naramachi.
Originally, I wanted to add Hemiji, but I feel it is too rushed and have to save it for next time. And I left out Kinkaku-ji too because I worry that the kids will get templed out fast.
Please advise if this is a good paced itinerary. I hope this gives us a good sampling of Japan, while allowing us enough free time for unstructured things in this short trip.
Is this itinerary a good sampling of what Kansai offers?
Just a note about Hemiji Castle. It%26#39;s up for restoration from 2010-2014. It is not closed during the period, but I suppose the view will be partially obsured by scaffolding or other renovation stuff. So try to include it this year or wait 4 years for it to regain its full glory.
Is this itinerary a good sampling of what Kansai offers?
Your plan sounds good, but if you will be there during cherry blossom seaosn, expect large crowds at some of those places (esp. Arashiyama %26amp; Philosphers%26#39; path). Also, the Imperial Palace is open to the public (it is only open to the public twice a year) during cherry blossom time if you%26#39;re interested. Kinda cool, and the cherry blossoms on the palace grounds are just gorgeous! (check exact dates when you get there)
%26lt;%26lt;And I left out Kinkaku-ji too because I worry that the kids will get templed out fast.%26gt;%26gt;
That%26#39;d be a shame. I guess they sure will like it if you put it in day2...
I think the worry about the kids getting templed out is a reason to go to Himeji, and a reason to NOT skip Kinkakuji; it%26#39;s a pretty cool temple.
Himeji is not all temples and shrines. It%26#39;s impressive and I%26#39;d go before the renovations really kick in; the kids can still see the way samurai lived, you can walk through the castle walls and view how Japanese castle defenses worked, and I doubt the view from the top is an excellent way to see how a Japanese city is laid out. Near the castle is a zoo, which is kind of pitiful in a way but it%26#39;s still a zoo and that%26#39;s always appealing. There are playgrounds between the outer walls and the castle%26#39;s main structure (there used to be one in the park beyond the wall, but I don%26#39;t know if that%26#39;s going to be rebuilt), and Kokoen is a decent garden next to the castle. Mt. Koya has Shosha, a mountain temple/shrine complex that was used as the set for The Last Samurai, so if you/your kids like that movie it will have particular meaning; it%26#39;s a really cool place nonetheless, with a lot of walking through old forests. Shosha is about a half hour from the castle (I suggest going there first; it opens earlier and the bus leaves from the station, passing the castle along the way).
If you truly want to slow down and see a different side of Japan, Himeji also has Tegarayama; you will be one of the few foreign tourists to visit there (few Japanese do, outside of school trips), but it%26#39;s a quirky place. There%26#39;s a tiny aquarium, an old amusement park that is very kid-friendly, and a massive series of play structures that look like an eastern European fortress; the views of the castle are good (you can see Tegarayama from the castle; as you face the station it%26#39;s to the southwest - on the right side past the station). Closer to the castle is Otokoyama, a small hill west of the castle. The shrine on the hill (senhime shrine) is unimpressive, but there are great views of the castle (many of the postcard views are taking from there). Be forewarned: there are a couple hundred steps (give or take) to the top of the hill.
Himeji is a great place to slow down. It%26#39;s a small city and not very touristy. There are ample restaurants and stores and it%26#39;s very easy to navigate around. You can rent bicycles to ride around if you want. Let me know if interested and I can provide more detailed information and routes to any of the above.
Missing Himeji Castle would a mistake, indeed! The kids would find it very cool!
Isn%26#39;t there something called ';Himeji Central Park';, some sort of amusement park? The kids might like that (but it will be crowded this time of year,undoubtedly)...
%26gt;%26gt; Isn%26#39;t there something called ';Himeji Central Park';, some sort of amusement park? The kids might like that (but it will be crowded this time of year,undoubtedly)...%26lt;%26lt;
There are two problems with Central Park. First, I%26#39;ve never been so I can%26#39;t say if it%26#39;s any good or not. The second problem is that it%26#39;s not easy to get to.
I suspect it%26#39;s a very Japanese tourist spot and might not have much information in English; there probably are no English guides. It%26#39;s on the to do list, but I just never get around to it.
Looks like Himeji is a sight not to be missed.
I am looking into going there on Day 3 instead of Arashiyama. We will probably go early and get there when it opens. Do you think 2 hours is enough for the castle?
Yes, you can walk through it in under 2 hours. Getting there early is a good idea.
%26gt;%26gt; I am looking into going there on Day 3 instead of Arashiyama. We will probably go early and get there when it opens. Do you think 2 hours is enough for the castle?%26lt;%26lt;
Factor in the time it takes to get to the castle; if you walk it%26#39;ll take about 15 minutes (give or take, depending on how fast you walk). You can take a cab and cut that down to 5 or less (cabs leave from right in front of the station). The last time I went to the castle we took a little over 1.5 hours at the castle itself; it%26#39;s fairly extensive. If there are no crowds you can get through faster.
Just out of curiosity, what are you doing on day 7 in Osaka? You can combine Himeji with a trip to that city, depending on what you%26#39;ll be doing there. Get to Himeji in the morning and you can be in Osaka by around 1 pm or so.