Planning Your First Japan Trip Part 2: Planning an Itinerary
DECIDING WHEN TO GO
When is the best time to go? The one thing everyone seems to agree on is this: Beware of Golden Week. Other than that, July and August are hot and humid, but there are great summer festivals. June is rainy but otherwise fine. Winter is dark and cold, but airfares are low, and you can go skiing or snow boarding. Most people, myself included, like spring and fall best. But who cares? It’s your trip.
Two years ago I brought a friend along on what was her first trip to Japan. Here’s where we went on our whirlwind 12-day trip: Himeji Castle, Hiroshima and Miyajima, Kyoto, Obama, Shiraishi Island, Awashima and Shodoshima (last two islands on the Moooo! boat), Mt. Koya, and Tokyo.
SKETCHING OUT THE ITINERARY
Find the places you want to visit on a map of Japan, how far apart they are , and decide how much time you have. Here are some helpful rules of thumb:
If possible, spend no more than 3 or 4 hours per day traveling between destinations. You’re going to Japan to see Japan, not just ride the rails and listen to your iPod (unless of course, you came with “Train Away Tours” from Australia).
Time your travel so you’re around when the places you want to visit are open for business. I find that jet lag somehow turns me into a morning person, so I take mostly early morning trains.
When making hotel reservations, pick a late check-in time, say, 7pm. It’s OK to show up early (though you usually can’t enter the room until about 4pm), but if you’re running late, call and let them know so they don’t give away your room.