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japanesegeek

Visit to Japan with a friend and his family – advice needed

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How does this look for a first draft of an itinerary to Japan (going with a couple and their two boys ages 8 & 11). Nothing set in stone, will likely also do a week in Singapore afterwards (and doing 2-3 weeks in Asia for the trip overall just trying to figure out how to split it), so any suggestions to make this a once in a lifetime vacation (none of us have every been to Asia). For what it's worth none of us speak Japanese, and we are US citizens. Aside from what to see (any advice appreciated there), struggling with where to go (my friends and I love good food of both the fine and street variety, but their boys are much less adventurous and while not bad kids they are rowdier then one would like to see when having a contemplative meal -- wouldn't want to disturb anyone).

Day 1 (for discussion sake assuming this is a Thursday just so I can seperate activities that are better done on weekends or week days).

Land at Narita airport

Take Airport Limosuine (actually a bus) to Grand Hyatt Tokyo.

Go to the Meiji Jingū (明治神宮) shrine.

Go to Inakaya - a robatayaki restaurant.

Day 2 (Friday)

Tokyo DisneySea plus Pooh Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland (said to be the best ride ever).

Dinner at Sailing Day Buffet

Day 3 (Saturday).

Tour Ginza. The shopping heart of the city, great for looking at crafts

and the basements of department stores are known for good fast food.

Eat at lunch Chikuyōtei (竹葉亭), Ginza 8-14-7 (Higashi-Ginza stn), ☎ +81

03-3542-0789, an eel restaurant.

Dinner at Kozue at the Park Hyatt

Day 4 (Sunday)

New York Grill at the Park Hyatt

Head to Kyoto via the Nomino shinkansen.

Go to a geisha run teahouse.

Stay at Tamayara Ryokan.

Day 5 (Monday)

Visit Himeji Castle. $40.

Visit Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion).

Back to Tokyo.

Have dinner at Roku Roku (六禄) at the Grand Hyatt.

Day 6 (Tuesday)

Either go to a sumo match (if there is one to go to during the trip) or attend a practice match at the Isenoumi Stable

Eat lunch at Chanko Tomoegata (巴潟), 2-17-6 Ryogoku (3 min south from JR Ryogoku West exit), ☎ 03-3632-5600, [6].

Hopefully attend and participate in a festival with yukata (would be willing to arrange our schedule so that a festival coincides as this is the top request of one of my nephews). Any suggested festivals would be appreciated.

Take a boat ride on the Sumida River from Asakusa.

Top of the World Trade Center Building at dusk for great view.

Day 7 (Wednesday)

Start off our day bright and early with a visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market (6am). Eat a sushi breakfast at Daiwa Sushi.

Hopefully find some event where we can see yabusame, or mounted archery.

Tour Kappabashi-dori (aka "Kitchen Town")

Dinner at Ten-Ichi (天一) for Tempura

Day 8 (Thursday)

Tour Akihabara, the gadget/anime district.

Maid cafe. Is this appropriate for kids?

Sushi dinner at Fukuzushi, 5-7-8, Roppongi (behind Hard Rock Cafe), ☎ +8103-3402-4116.

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You need to take your kids to the Ghibli museum (make a morning of it and have lunch at the soba place across the street).

I'd avoid taking kids to a maid cafe. It's not inappropriate per se but they'll be pretty bored. It's kind of awkward if you don't speak the language, as well.

I wouldn't take them to the fish market either. It's EXTREMELY hectic and not tourist-friendly at all.

Nijojo/Nijo Castle in Kyoto is a must-see. I plan to make this my headquarters when I conquer the world, so enjoy it while you can. Also Kyozumi-dera (plan to do some souvenir shopping on the walk back down, the road is lined with handcrafts shops on both sides).

Back in Tokyo, you should visit Edo-Tokyo museum as well as the other museums around it if you find the time (there's a large cluster of them around a huge park, and several important shrines and temples within short walking distance).

About Kappabashi, you can't really go there and not get a nice knife or four. The owner at the place with the suit of armor outside (I forget the name of the place) speaks perfect English (and Spanish!) and is very helpful. The plastic food places also sell food keychains etc. that make nice souvenirs for your friends.

EDIT: You should also hit the store with all the cast iron enamel stuff (you'll know it when you see it). The proprietor is a bit of an ass but he has very nice wares indeed.


Edited by Dakki (log)

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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Just a few comments, mostly on restaurant choices.

Day 1 - You might want to put off Meiji Jingu until later in your trip - I think the actual shrine area closes rather early. If you go on Sunday there's a lot more activity around the shrine, including lots of people who dress up in cosplay outfits. You can combine your trip to Meiji Jingu with a walking tour from Harajuku station up Omotesando to Aoyama-dori, then down to Shibuya. As for dinner at Inakaya - in my experience, let's just say that I think you can find better value for money at almost any other restaurant in Tokyo.

Day 3 - "basements of department stores are known for good fast food" - not really. They're good for take-away prepared food that you can eat at home (or in your hotel), but not so much for eating on-premises. They're certainly fun to browse around though, and you can probably find some interesting-looking crafts in the department stores also. For Japanese crafts I really like the Japanese Traditional Crafts Center that's in a department store right next to Ikebukuro Station. I haven't been to Chikuyotei, but it's rated very highly. Kozue is a good choice I think.

Day 4 - if you're staying at the Grand Hyatt, lunch at the Park Hyatt is quite out of the way if you're taking the shinkansen afterwards. New York Grill is okay, but if you've already been to the hotel the night before I'd say skip it. (Ignore these comments if you're actually staying at the Park Hyatt.) There are thousands of places to eat either near Roppongi or Tokyo station. Maybe Ekki in the Four Seasons next to Tokyo station might be a nice choice that's also more convenient. Or someplace at the top of the Marunouchi Building next to Tokyo Station if you want lunch with a skyscraper view. (Ekki is on a skyscraper too, but I think it's only on the seventh floor.)

Day 5 - Himeji and Kyoto and then Tokyo all in one day is very ambitious - maybe check out Nijo castle in Kyoto instead of Himeji.

Day 7 - As someone posted upthread, Tsukiji isn't very tourist friendly. Also the kids (and probably you) are going to be very bored waiting on line for sushi for two hours. If you do insist on seeing Tsukiji Market, go earlier in your trip when you're still jet-lagged and waking up early, and eat someplace in the outer market where you don't have to wait two hours. The branch of Zanmai with the conveyor belt is a reasonably good choice, and might be fun for the kids. The Outer Market is also fun to visit on its own, and much more visitor-friendly.

Yabusame - mounted archery - I'm no expert, but I've only seen this take place one day a year in Tokyo (I think October 10), up in Waseda. This isn't something you're going to just run into at some random time of year.

Re the Ghibli Museum - as far as I know, you need to get tickets well in advance - it might be something that your hotel concierge can help with if you ask ahead of time. Edo Museum is a nice choice, and convenient to your Ryogoku stop.

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And following up, Hibikiin Roppongi might be a good substitute for Inakaya - they have very good charcoal-grilled meats, and it's not as tourist-oriented as Inakaya. (Robatayaki in general are very 1980s - they've been replaced by modern charcoal-grill specialists.)

Another favorite of mine in the Roppongi area is called Honmura An, an upscale soba shop that also has a full seasonal Japanese menu. If you ask your hotel to arrange things in advance, I think you can get a special tasting menu starting at around Y5000 per person; otherwise just order a la carte. The owner used to run a very good restaurant in New York City.

For Day 6, En in Shiodome might be a good choice for after (or instead of) the World Trade Center Building - it's a very nice upscale modern izakaya with excellent food and a nice 40th-floor view. It's one stop away from Hamamatsucho (WTC Building) and one the same subway line that will take you back to Roppongi.

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Back in Tokyo, you should visit Edo-Tokyo museum as well as the other museums around it if you find the time (there's a large cluster of them around a huge park, and several important shrines and temples within short walking distance).

I think you're confusing the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku with the Shitamachi museum in Ueno, which is where the huge park and other museums are located. Both are pretty interesting.

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Last time I went to Himeji, the castle was under major repair. There is nothing to see since the whole castle is pretty much protected by a gigantic box and this should go on until 2014.


My blog about food in Japan

Foodie Topography

www.foodietopography.com

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Do you know what month you will be here? That can help find events you might be interested in. Catching a yabusame tournament will be difficult, Kamakura's Hachimangu Shrine has festivals twice a year in April and September. Kamakura's is a great side trip and for such a short trip I would recommend skipping Kyoto and visit some of the closer areas.

Disneyland and DisneySea require separate tickets and trying to see both in one day wouldn't really let you be able to see either. I've been on the Pooh ride and maybe I'm not easily impressed but it's nothing I would wait more than 15 minutes more. If possible avoid a Friday for Disney and try to hit it mid week, unless you are here during a holiday.

Meijijingu, in itself is not that much to look at ( again I guess I'm not easily impressed) but if you go on a Sunday there is a chance you will see a wedding or some other sort of ceremony. The walk to it is quite nice though. If you head here on a Sunday you can get the double whammy of Harajuku on a Sunday, there aren't as many people out in cosplay as there used to be but a Sunday is your best chance of seeing them.

The Edo Toyo Musuem in Ryogoku is one of my favorites, the kids should really like it. Definitely stop by if you are in the area to see sumo.

Tsukiji is a nice oe time experience ( the actual fish market part) but hold on to the kids because the people driving those funky carts will not heed for you. The area with the restaurants is crowded all the time, but I have had decent meals with little wait. I don't really see any reason to go there so early, I usually head there mid morning. If you do want to do the 6am thing, I would definitely do your first morning here if you are coming from an area that will leave you jet lagged. I also recommend the Zanmai restaurant with the conveyer belt, this was probably the best meals I've had in the area. Just be careful because there are a couple Sushi Zanmai shops in the area but I believe only one is revolving sushi.


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Japanesegeek,

I work in Japan, but I am not very familiar with Tokyo.

You are most likely to be seriously jet lagged when you arrive in Japan. I would take it easy on the first day or two. May I suggest a Hato Bus tour of Tokyo, I've actually taken my mom on such a tour 2 years ago and it was not a complete waste of time. You get to see a lot of Tokyo while sitting down in a comfy bus. Tokyo is a big city and I feel I understand the city a bit better after taking the tour. I live in Hiroshima, so I don't get to visit Tokyo that often.

Kappabashi Dori is a mecca for cooks, but it might be a bit boring for kids. The area of Asakusa which is quite near might be interesting to them. You would also get a really good view of the new Tokyo Sky Tree.

Shibuya crossing is a very impressive experience for anybody visiting Tokyo.

http://www.hatobus.com/en/index.html

Eating at a kaiten sushi, even a cheap one should be a lot of fun for the kids. I teach elementary school and the kids LOVE conveyor belt sushi, ramen, udon and okonomiyaki.

Sounds like you will have a very busy trip!


My blog about food in Japan

Foodie Topography

www.foodietopography.com

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Thanks everyone for their advice so far, it really helps. Will definitely go to Meijijingu on a Sunday, and replace Himeji castle with Nijojo/Nijo Castle, among other things.

Current thinking is we'll go to Japan the latter portion of August in order to catch the Sumida River Fireworks Festival on August 27th (to fulfill my nephew's request for a festival to which he can wear a yukata, I'm assuming (and hoping) it would be appropriate for everyone in the group to wear one for this festival).

As far as time goes, I've think we've pretty much settled on three weeks for the trip (with six days penciled in so far for Singapore) so trying to add a week's worth of activities in Japan to my above itinerary so any suggestions would definitely be appreciated.

Any great, kid friendly okonomiyaki restaurants, would be great as well. And any good brunch spots near Meijijingu? And any good places for ice cream and coffee (either separately or together).


Edited by japanesegeek (log)

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And any good brunch spots near Meijijingu?

After extensive research, I have found that the best brunch in Tokyo is at Beacon, about a twenty-minute walk from Meiji-Jingu. They have a nice outdoor terrace, although in late August you might be more comfortable inside.

And any good places for ice cream

I would recommend Namja Town in Ikebukuro. It's a strange two-story game arcade that includes Gyoza Stadium, where you can satisfy your cravings for street food by trying twelve shops serving different kinds of gyoza dumplings. When you're ready for dessert, head upstairs to Ice Cream Village, where they serve over a hundred flavors of ice cream, including odd flavors like wasabi and octopus.

While you're in the Ikebukuro neighborhood you can also check out the Sunshine City Aquarium, the cat cafe inside Tokyu Hands (Nekobukuro), Amlux (the theme-park-like Toyota showroom), two very large department stores with good food floors (Seibu and Tobu), and the Japan Traditional Crafts Center. The neighborhood also has a couple of very large electronics stores that rival those in Akihabara.


Edited by thelobster (log)

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Second draft of my itinerary. All feedback appreciated.

Day 1 (for discussion sake assuming this is a Thursday just so I can separate activities that are better done on weekends or week days).

Land at Narita airport

Take Airport Limosuine (actually a bus) to Park Hyatt Tokyo.

Hato Bus tour of Tokyo

Dinner at Gonpachi

Day 2 (Friday)

Tokyo DisneySea

Dinner at Sailing Day Buffet

Day 3 (Saturday).

Tour Ginza. Buy yukatas for later in the trip.

Eat at lunch Chikuyōtei (竹葉亭), Ginza 8-14-7 (Higashi-Ginza stn), ☎ +8103-3542-0789, an eel restaurant.

Dinner at Kozue at the Park Hyatt

Go to Ice Cream Village for dessert

Day 4 (Sunday)

Brunch at Beacon

Go to the Meiji Jingū (明治神宮) shrine.  Combine with a walking tour from Harajuku station up Omotesando to Aoyama-dori, then down to Shibuya.

Dinner at Serina Honten - http://www.seryna.co.jp/en/restaurants/honten/index.html

Day 5 (Monday)

Head to Kyoto via the Nomino shinkansen.

Go to a geisha run teahouse.

Stay at Tamayara Ryokan.

Day 6 (Tuesday)

Visit Nijojo/Nijo Castle.

Visit Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion).

Back to Tokyo.

Have dinner at Roku Roku (六禄) at the Grand Hyatt.

Day 7 (Wednesday)

Either go to a sumo match (if there is one to go to during the trip or attend a practice match at the Isenoumi Stable

Eat lunch at Chanko Tomoegata (巴潟), 2-17-6 Ryogoku (3 min south from JR Ryogoku West exit), ☎ 03-3632-5600, [6].

Take a boat ride on the Sumida River from Asakusa.

Top of the World Trade Center Building at dusk for great view.

Day 8 (Thursday)

Tour Studio Giblhi Museum

Lunch at soba place across the street from museum

Tour Kappabashi-dori (aka "Kitchen Town")

Dinner at Ten-Ichi (天一) for Tempura

Day 9 (Friday)

Tour Edo-Tokyo Museum

Tour Akihabara, the gadget/anime district.

Sushi dinner at Fukuzushi, 5-7-8, Roppongi (behind Hard Rock Cafe), ☎+8103-3402-4116.

Day 10 (Saturday)

Sumida River Festival

Dinner at Jap Cho Ok for Korean food

Day 11 (Sunday)

Brunch at New York Grill at Park Hyatt

Dinner at Gindako (takoyaki) in Ginza

Day 12 (Monday)

Take train to Kamakura

Tour Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine and other sites

Eat lunch at Kamakura Oboro, a tofu restaurant

Back to Tokyo


Edited by japanesegeek (log)

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I see you added the Ghibli museum. I think it'll be a high point of the trip for the kids. :smile:

As someone else posted, you have to buy tickets well ahead of time. A local friend did it for us on our trip. Not sure if you can do it online or perhaps through your hotel.

If I understand correctly you're traveling with a friend and their children. If it was me I'd let the family take in the amusement park by themselves and use that day to tour Akibahara and/or Kappabashi-dori. Serious shopping/nerding out isn't very entertaining for third parties, even adult ones. I don't know if that's viable or desirable in your situation.

Back in Tokyo, you should visit Edo-Tokyo museum as well as the other museums around it if you find the time (there's a large cluster of them around a huge park, and several important shrines and temples within short walking distance).

I think you're confusing the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Ryogoku with the Shitamachi museum in Ueno, which is where the huge park and other museums are located. Both are pretty interesting.

Well spotted. It was several years ago so I didn't quite remember it correctly offhand.

If I'm remembering things correctly -this- time, the kids should love Edo-Tokyo museum. It has a lot of interactive exhibits. It's also been a while since I had to deal with kids but IIRC they get bored and rowdy or cranky if they only get to look at things.


This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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If you want to add a week. Go to Hiroshima by Shinkensen and stop on the way in Okayama where you can visit Kurashiki city. Kurashiki city is a small, but it has one of the best historical center in the country. It's a 5 min walk from the station and will give you an idea of what Japan looked like before the war. You could easily sleep in Okayama and make it a day trip. Okayama has a castle too and a famous Japanese garden.

In Hiroshima, you can visit Peace Park and make a day trip to Miyajima. If you want to eat okonomiyaki, no better place than Hiroshima! There is an okonomiyaki building right in the heart of the city. Hiroshima ain't that far by Shinkensen and it's quite tourist friendly.

http://wikitravel.org/en/Kurashiki#b

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okonomi-mura


Edited by Foodietopo (log)

My blog about food in Japan

Foodie Topography

www.foodietopography.com

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Day 1 (for discussion sake assuming this is a Thursday just so I can separate activities that are better done on weekends or week days).

Land at Narita airport

Take Airport Limosuine (actually a bus) to Park Hyatt Tokyo.

Hato Bus tour of Tokyo

Dinner at Gonpachi

Are you flying from the US or are you coming from Singapore?

Most flights from the US arrive mid to late afternoon. Even if you arrived at 2pm after getting through immigration, waiting for the next airport limousine and then the 100 minute trip into Tokyo, you'd be lucky to be checked in by 6pm. Most bus tours are either morning or early afternoon. As someone who takes international trip with 3 kids 2 or more times a year, I would suggest a dinner as close to the hotel as possible and then call it a night.

I don't like to plan tours the day the of arrival as there are just too many things that can go wrong before you even arrive. Flight cancellations, delays, lost luggage, incredible traffic jams, the list goes on. I would plan an early tour for the next day. Adults can force themselves to adjust to the time differences but kids have a much harder time. If you are coming from the US expect them to lose their steam around 4pm. I would plan pretty simple things for the first couple days and keep the 'must sees' for later in the trip.

Another thing to remember is that August can be unbearably hot, 90+ and dangerously high humidity. So you might not be able to stay outside for very long periods.

I noticed your second Sunday is open, a wonderful thing that is only offered on Sunday that my kids love are free bicycle rentals around the Imperial Palace. On Sundays only from 10 to 3, you are only allowed on a specified course around the outside of the temple but you are allowed to go around as many times as you'd like and then can wander to the inner grounds on foot afterwards (or before).


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I second Kristin on Japan being really hot at the end of August. It's often too hot to think in August, let along play tourist. My wife refuses to do any serious exploring in the summer, just too humid.

If you are in Kyoto, get a knife at Aritsugu in Nishiki market. You can get your name engraved on the blade too!


My blog about food in Japan

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Oops I forgot to add my favorite day trip, the Hakone Loop. This is one of the first things I do whenever someone visits me. Rather then explain it I found this one guys description complete with pictures:

Hakone Loop

Since I'm in Yokohama, I don't start in Shinjuku but normally drive to Odawara and start from there. Odawara also has a nice castle complete with an elephant in front...it makes a nice starting point. There is so much to see in the area that I would recommend making a an overnight trip out of it. The kids would also love Yunnesun a bathing suit required hot spring with over 25 different kids of baths. Including wine, coffee, green tea,sake, etc. My kids can spend the entire day there.

Yunnesun

Another side note, end of August is still summer vacation so any place you go will be packed with kids. Although September 1 is normally the official start of school, the schools in my area start back on August 29. If at all possible I recommend going to kid heavy places (Disney Sea, Yunnesun) after those dates for a much more pleasurable experience.


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Day 7 (Wednesday)

Either go to a sumo match (if there is one to go to during the trip or attend a practice match at the Isenoumi Stable

Eat lunch at Chanko Tomoegata (巴潟), 2-17-6 Ryogoku (3 min south from JR Ryogoku West exit), ☎ 03-3632-5600, [6].

Take a boat ride on the Sumida River from Asakusa.

Top of the World Trade Center Building at dusk for great view.

Day 9 (Friday)

Tour Edo-Tokyo Museum

Tour Akihabara, the gadget/anime district.

Sushi dinner at Fukuzushi, 5-7-8, Roppongi (behind Hard Rock Cafe), ☎+8103-3402-4116.

Just a comment on your Day 7 and Day 9, the Edo-Tokyo Museum is also in Ryogoku, so I would combine it with a trip to the stables/chanko restaurant.

For the boat ride on the river I highly recommend Himiko, the kids will love this boat. It goes between Asakusa and Odaiba, an area the kids will also love. You could make a full day of this. Spend the morning wandering around the Asakusa area board the boat and head to Odaiba. You get let off at Odaiba Seaside Park and the kids may enjoy walking the "beach". Then you can head to one of the shopping malls dotting the area. There is also a ferris wheel, 2 museums, a Sega Joypolis, a Toyota exhibition Hall where the kids can "drive" a hybrid. It is all walkable but there is also a monorail that connects everything. If you stay until evening you can get some beautiful views of Rainbow bridge lit up.

A little more about Odaiba

Information about the Himiko boat

It's under Odaiba Seaside Park

The Palace cycling course I mentioned earlier


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I was going to suggest Daiba actually. The Decks Tokyo Beach Shopping Mall, besides having a large game center, also has a section called Daiba Itchome Shotengai, which has old-fashioned shops simulating 1950's-era Tokyo, and another section called Little Hong Kong which simulates Hong Kong of the same period. There are also a lot of other family-friendly attractions like a Maritime Museum and Fuji TV studios.

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If you want to add a week. Go to Hiroshima by Shinkensen and stop on the way in Okayama where you can visit Kurashiki city. Kurashiki city is a small, but it has one of the best historical center in the country. It's a 5 min walk from the station and will give you an idea of what Japan looked like before the war. You could easily sleep in Okayama and make it a day trip. Okayama has a castle too and a famous Japanese garden.

In Hiroshima, you can visit Peace Park and make a day trip to Miyajima. If you want to eat okonomiyaki, no better place than Hiroshima! There is an okonomiyaki building right in the heart of the city. Hiroshima ain't that far by Shinkensen and it's quite tourist friendly.

I, on the other hand, would strongly suggest skipping Hiroshima, Okayama and Kurashiki. August is incredibly hot - a miserable time to travel in Japan in general - and you're traveling with a large group including kids, and 12 days is barely enough time to really see Tokyo. There's really a lot to see in Tokyo, and you could easily fill the extra days with sights that are much more interesting, fun, educational, rewarding, and memorable.

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Day 3 (Saturday).

Tour Ginza. Buy yukatas for later in the trip.

Eat at lunch Chikuyōtei (竹葉亭), Ginza 8-14-7 (Higashi-Ginza stn), ☎ +8103-3542-0789, an eel restaurant.

Dinner at Kozue at the Park Hyatt

Go to Ice Cream Village for dessert

Even if you take taxis (and you'll need two each way for your group), that's really an awfully long trip to go just for novelty ice cream after your dinner at Kozue. And it's cutting it rather close in terms of timing too - a meal at Kozue takes some time, and is rather filling. Ice Cream Village closes at ten I think; I'm not sure when last admission is but it might be 9 or 9:30pm.

I would combine Ice Cream Village (and the adjacent Dessert Park) with some of the four or five other things I suggested in Ikebukuro.

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And just a general comment - you might want to look at a map of Tokyo and plot out some of your major destinations. Tokyo is very spread out, so it makes sense to schedule things that are near each other on the same day.

For example the day you go to the Sumida River Festival, you might want to make that one of your street-food-appreciation days, or at least schedule a late dinner over on that side of town. There are literally millions of people there that day, and the fireworks are scheduled to last until 8:30pm. Which means you won't be taking a subway at 8:35 out of there because a million other people will have the same idea.

Also I'd suggest getting a nice Tokyo-centered guidebook like Time Out or Rough Guide for sightseeing ideas - there's more than enough here to fill up two weeks.

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I'm pretty sure the Sumida River Fireworks Festival is a nighttime event. I not think it is a typical all day long kind of festival. I would plan for an early dinner before the fireworks rather than after. In those crowds a 15 minute train ride can turn to 2 hours. One tip I have is that if you plan on buying train tickets (rather than using a pass) is to buy your return ticket before for you leave the station as the lines after the fireworks will be nothing like you have ever seen. I onthave words to describe the crowds you will experience that night. I've done it once and will never do it again.


Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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It's hot everywhere in August. It's probably hotter in Tokyo than anywhere else in the country. Do you get a feel of Japan just from visiting Tokyo and Kyoto? There is plenty of stuff to do outside of Tokyo and the shinkensen makes the whole country easy to explore.

Sorry, I don't see Japan from the perspective of Tokyo, I live in a small mountain village in the North of Hiroshima and I spend all my weekends in Kurashiki where my wife family is from.

I have been to Osaka and Fukuoka more often than Tokyo in the last 3 years. Tokyo is still a great city, no doubt about it.

If you want to add a week. Go to Hiroshima by Shinkensen and stop on the way in Okayama where you can visit Kurashiki city. Kurashiki city is a small, but it has one of the best historical center in the country. It's a 5 min walk from the station and will give you an idea of what Japan looked like before the war. You could easily sleep in Okayama and make it a day trip. Okayama has a castle too and a famous Japanese garden.

In Hiroshima, you can visit Peace Park and make a day trip to Miyajima. If you want to eat okonomiyaki, no better place than Hiroshima! There is an okonomiyaki building right in the heart of the city. Hiroshima ain't that far by Shinkensen and it's quite tourist friendly.

I, on the other hand, would strongly suggest skipping Hiroshima, Okayama and Kurashiki. August is incredibly hot - a miserable time to travel in Japan in general - and you're traveling with a large group including kids, and 12 days is barely enough time to really see Tokyo. There's really a lot to see in Tokyo, and you could easily fill the extra days with sights that are much more interesting, fun, educational, rewarding, and memorable.


My blog about food in Japan

Foodie Topography

www.foodietopography.com

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It's hot everywhere in August. It's probably hotter in Tokyo than anywhere else in the country....the shinkensen makes the whole country easy to explore.

I thought I was quite clear that I was saying the heat of August makes it miserable to travel around Japan in general, not that Tokyo is somehow exempt from that. But moving around from city to city, from hotel to hotel, with luggage in hand and two young children in tow, is far more difficult than simply taking air-conditioned taxis or subways within one city. The shinkansen doesn't make exploring the whole country in August easy, it makes it doable.

Do you get a feel of Japan just from visiting Tokyo and Kyoto?

The OP didn't ask to get a feel of Japan, he asked us to review his itinerary of restaurants and sights in Tokyo and Kyoto. Judging from their choice of restaurants alone, I think they'll find far more of what they're looking for in Tokyo and Kyoto than in Hiroshima or Kurashiki.

(And, no offense, even if OP did ask for advice on how to "get a feel for Japan," those locations would be pretty far down on my own list of suggestions.)


Edited by thelobster (log)

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