Travel Life Family trip for January

Tonibell

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Oct 23, 2017
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Hi All, have been reading through and picking up a lot of tips here and there - great community and resource.

I was hoping to get some help in planning a family trip as we have no experience with Japan and not a lot with skiing - but we have, at least, travelled a bit.

So far we have booked to land in Osaka on 18 Jan and depart evening of 29 Jan.

Son, 18, is finishing HSC and is really keen on skiing - he has been a few times at Perisher. Whole trip is about skiing for him and wants to be challenged.

Son,14, is keen on skiing- plus some sightseeing etc - is OK on ski and wants to improve.

Dad, will ski but enjoys long wide easy runs in good weather etc.

Mum - will not ski and does not enjoy the cold.

Budget is OK - want to do it comfortably, but also get good value for money.

So .... just looking for some advice on :

- where to go for good skiing and sightseeing.

- should we use a package company or do it ourselves ?

- hire a car or get around by public transport ?

- passes, gear and lessons would follow.

Any suggestions - or other threads you can direct me to ?

Thanks.
 

M_G

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Given you're flying into Osaka I'd first researching on Hakuba and then take it from there.

Maybe start by looking at all the sticky threads, the Japan 2018 thread, the Hakuba threads and using the search function. All of your questions are discussed regularly.

You'll get more comments/help if you get some ideas together and then come back with those. Far too much ground to cover when you're starting at ground zero.

Welcome to the forums and good luck with the planning.
 

Heinz

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Flying in/out of Kansai does set you up well for sightseeing - get a Kansai local area rail pass for 2-3 days and get around Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Himeji.
It isn't the best entry point though for skiing - slightly longer travel. Not sure of best ski options and best access. Possibly Hakuba valley as M_G says?
 

Donzah

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Yeah Hakuba via Nagoya. Matsumoto.
It's an easy very scenic journey.
 

ojisan

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If flying in & out of Osaka, I suggest maybe hiring a car & driving up to Gifu prefecture for the snowboarding/skiing.
Plenty of choices around there, although you may not find English widely spoken in the area...
One recommended side trip if you do this is to check out Hikone castle... and if you catch it when it's snowing, its magical.
Also, if you are in the area, Shirakawa-go is an absolute must.
 
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Donzah

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If flying in & out of Osaka, I suggest maybe hiring a car & driving up to Gifu prefecture for the snowboarding/skiing.
Plenty of choices around there, although you may not find English widely spoken in the area...
One recommended side trip if you do this is to check out Hikone castle... and if you catch it when it's snowing, its magical.
Also, if you are in the area, Shirakawa-go is an absolute must.
While I agree with you.
First trip to Japan. Maybe a bit ambitious?.
 
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LMB

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Advice above is sound.
The brains trust know what they're talking about.

I'll just add:

Make sure you download the google translate app onto your smart phones.

Also download the Japanese Language pack so that you can use it even when you are offline.

It's not perfect but if you keep it to short direct questions you will get by.

And the camera/picture translate is very useful for making sure the filling in your rice balls (onigiri) is not a big surprise.
 

ojisan

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While I agree with you.
First trip to Japan. Maybe a bit ambitious?.
Yeah maybe... You can keep driving through gifu onto hakuba.. And stop off for some sightseeing on the way.
 

Tonibell

Hard Yards
Oct 23, 2017
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Thanks for all the replies - great tips.

@M_G It seems like Hakuba is what we should go for - thanks, that saves a lot of research !.

@Heinz The rail pass sounds like a good way to cover the sightseeing. Would you recommend staying in Kyoto for the couple of days - or Osaka ?

@ojisan So you suggest driving to Hakuba rather than train ? It might make sense with 4 of us. I'll read up on it a bit.

@LMB Great tip - have not used those translators before.

How important is to be near supermarkets in Hakuba - and do you get a place with a kitchen or eat out all the time ? We are a hundry lot and not sure how the food side of things will go.
 
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Donzah

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Thanks for all the replies - great tips.

@M_G It seems like Hakuba is what we should go for - thanks, that saves a lot of research !.

@Heinz The rail pass sounds like a good way to cover the sightseeing. Would you recommend staying in Kyoto for the couple of days - or Osaka ?

@ojisan So you suggest driving to Hakuba rather than train ? It might make sense with 4 of us. I'll read up on it a bit.

@LMB Great tip - have not used those translators before.

How important is to be near supermarkets in Hakuba - and do you get a place with a kitchen or eat out all the time ? We are a hundry lot and not sure how the food side of things will go.

My two cents .
We did the Osaka-Kyoto-Hakuba trip in 2011.
We picked our hire car up in Matsumoto. Which is roughly 2.1/2 hrs from Kyoto.
From matsumoto its a easy 70mins drive to Hakuba. Matsumoto is a great sightseeing town as well . Epic castle. Just don't go on a weekend.
Personally I would land in Osaka and take the Haruka train to Kyoto. Base myself there to sight see.
Then shinkansen to Nagoya, change to Shinano train to Matsumoto.

I wouldn't drive from Osaka/Nagoya (ive done it). You'll spend a snowtyre surcharge on a hire car (vs free snow tyres in snow region) plus a fortune on Tolls (about 90bucks).
 
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Heinz

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Thanks for all the replies - great tips.

@Heinz The rail pass sounds like a good way to cover the sightseeing. Would you recommend staying in Kyoto for the couple of days - or Osaka ?

Either or. Kyoto is certainly more old traditional and attractive, Osaka is more modern and busier. Osaka is a bit closer
to Kansai airport, so I stayed there partly for the convenience, but many would suggest Kyoto is nicer. I stayed in the Dotombori which is the real foodie district. Great if you want to try some Osaka specialties - Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki.
 

Donzah

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Either or. Kyoto is certainly more old traditional and attractive, Osaka is more modern and busier. Osaka is a bit closer
to Kansai airport, so I stayed there partly for the convenience, but many would suggest Kyoto is nicer. I stayed in the Dotombori which is the real foodie district. Great if you want to try some Osaka specialties - Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki.
We did the Osaka stay...but on finding that the haruka train would only take 24 mins longer to get to Kyoto...wished we had stayed there.
 
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Froff Life

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I'd stay in Kyoto and use that as your site seeing base for the region, makes it easy to access Miyajiima island, Hiroshima, Osaka and Hemiji Castle. That should definitely satisfy your Japanese site seeing needs.

Then as Donzah recommended, get the train to Matsumoto and see the excellent castle there, before driving to Hakuba for your sons skiing needs. Staying in Happo/Echoland villages should give your partner enough to do that is non-skiing related (onsens, snow monkey tour, temples), especially if you have your own wheels.
Mum - will not ski and does not enjoy the cold.
Can confirm it will be cold the entire trip though LOL
 
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LMB

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How important is to be near supermarkets in Hakuba - and do you get a place with a kitchen or eat out all the time ? We are a hundry lot and not sure how the food side of things will go.
Depends on you.

For us, over the past 12 years, coming for a week or a month we've eaten out most nights. Mainly because we are on holiday and we want to experience all the glorious food that is on offer in Japan.

But if you've got food intolerances or are on a budget you'll want to cater yourself.
 

Lucky Pete

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Having a car in Hakuba is a great idea which I suggest to anyone coming but make sure what ever you rent to bring here is AWD/4WD and has near new snow tires. Its the only practical way to get around. You will need an International Drivers Licence to for everyone that will drive - if you arrive without it you cant rent a car. Driving here is generally easy but the navigation will add a level of stress to your holiday as would any crashes etc. As an aside one beer puts you over the legal limit and if you are caught its a huge fine and most unlikely you will ever get to come back so working out who is the designated driver is key and make sure you have all the correct insurances.

On a more positive note car allows you to easily get to any of the 9 resorts in the valley and there are a lot of others within striking distance. No waiting for shuttles etc and you can bail when ever you want. You can also all go to the snow monkeys at a fraction of the cost of getting on a tour.

Accommodation wise and as Mum doesnt want to ski an AirBnb place may make a lot of sense for 4 of you as you would need two hotel rooms and at prime time that wont be easy to get affordably. It also gives you space to hang out and somewhere warm for your wife to chill out reading or watching TV etc if she decides to stay in and you all and may cook a meal or two when you are too tired to go out. There are some quite close to supermarket, train station etc if you dont end up with a car or even if you do.
 

Sandy

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Having a car in Hakuba is a great idea which I suggest to anyone coming but make sure what ever you rent to bring here is AWD/4WD and has near new snow tires. Its the only practical way to get around. You will need an International Drivers Licence to for everyone that will drive - if you arrive without it you cant rent a car. Driving here is generally easy but the navigation will add a level of stress to your holiday as would any crashes etc. As an aside one beer puts you over the legal limit and if you are caught its a huge fine and most unlikely you will ever get to come back so working out who is the designated driver is key and make sure you have all the correct insurances.

From the Driving hazards in Japan thread:

1. Driving under the influence of alcohol. Contrary to what some people say is a relaxed attitude to drink driving (particularly in Niseko), it's something you should not ignore. There are two rules:
a. Over the legal limit. This is 0.03%. The fine is up to 500,000 yen, and possibly up to 3 years in gaol. If you are above 0.08%, it's 1,000,000 yen and up to 5 years in gaol.
b. Driving while drunk(or similar meaning). This is an arbitrary judgement made by the policeman, that you are drunk, regardless of no breathalyser test. similar penalties to the 0.08%. I think the rule would be applied if you were under the influence of some drug
Refusing a breathalyser is a 500,000 yen fine.
Most expats use a "0.00% rule"; to make sure there is no problem.
Generally, 1 drink for an average woman or a smaller man, driving right afterwards, would put you close to the limit, two drinks would put you over.
 

Tonibell

Hard Yards
Oct 23, 2017
5
1
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Thanks for the replies - I've taken it all onboard.

The plan now is as follows :

  • Arrive Thursday - take train to Kyoto and stay there until Sunday afternoon (will get train pass).
  • Take train to Matsumoto and stay there until Tuesday morning.
  • Hire car and drive to Hakuba - stay in airbnb near Echoland until Monday.
  • Travel from Hakuba to Osaka on Monday to catch a late evening flight.
So far .... book flights and airbnb in Hakuba, host seems helpful and willing to assist with ski rental etc.
Using the visitacity app to research activities for Osaka, Matsumoto and Hakuba.

Going to start filling in the gaps from here.

We will hire all of the ski gear - are we better doing that in Matsumoto or Hakuba ?
We will probably drive straight to skiing on Tuesday morning.
 

Froff Life

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We will hire all of the ski gear - are we better doing that in Matsumoto or Hakuba ?
We will probably drive straight to skiing on Tuesday morning.
Cool plan!

I'd hire in Hakuba so if you need to swap anything or upgrade to powder skis if there is a big dump you can easily just duck in and swap.
 
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Donzah

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Thanks for the replies - I've taken it all onboard.

The plan now is as follows :

  • Arrive Thursday - take train to Kyoto and stay there until Sunday afternoon (will get train pass).
  • Take train to Matsumoto and stay there until Tuesday morning.
  • Hire car and drive to Hakuba - stay in airbnb near Echoland until Monday.
  • Travel from Hakuba to Osaka on Monday to catch a late evening flight.
So far .... book flights and airbnb in Hakuba, host seems helpful and willing to assist with ski rental etc.
Using the visitacity app to research activities for Osaka, Matsumoto and Hakuba.

Going to start filling in the gaps from here.

We will hire all of the ski gear - are we better doing that in Matsumoto or Hakuba ?
We will probably drive straight to skiing on Tuesday morning.
Yeah hire in Hakuba for sure. Matsumoto isn't really a ski town.
Remind me a bit closer to the event and i'll give you the best route to take in the morning (to avoid the commuting traffic).
 

Budgiesmuggler

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There is also a thread on here for discount lift tickets so keep an eye on that.

Food - in my experience the Japanese breakfast isn’t brilliant. But lunch and dinner it’s easy to find something everyone wants to eat as there is always rice and noodles!
 

Crispy013

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Thanks for the replies - I've taken it all onboard.

The plan now is as follows :

  • Arrive Thursday - take train to Kyoto and stay there until Sunday afternoon (will get train pass).
  • Take train to Matsumoto and stay there until Tuesday morning.
  • Hire car and drive to Hakuba - stay in airbnb near Echoland until Monday.
  • Travel from Hakuba to Osaka on Monday to catch a late evening flight.
So far .... book flights and airbnb in Hakuba, host seems helpful and willing to assist with ski rental etc.
Using the visitacity app to research activities for Osaka, Matsumoto and Hakuba.

Going to start filling in the gaps from here.

We will hire all of the ski gear - are we better doing that in Matsumoto or Hakuba ?
We will probably drive straight to skiing on Tuesday morning.
Did something similar last season. Coming from Kyoto, caught the shinkansen up to Nagoya, then transferred to the local shinano wide view which takes you up the valley to Matsumoto. Matsumoto is a cool little town - castle, shops, etc. Then picked up car from there - drive to Hakuba is only about 60km or so, but takes a good hour as you are driving pretty much through townships for the most part - so, get to used to mass traffic lights!

Anyways, its not too bad. We also dropped into a local sports store and picked up a snowboard set for the +1 for about Y20,000 which was probably cheaper than a full week's hire. Depending on if that interests you or not, worth considering because ski hire can be exxy.

But, ski rental in Hakuba for sure. Lots more choice and easier to make adjustments.

BTW, what train pass are you looking at for the journey?
 
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Sandy

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Did something similar last season. Coming from Kyoto, caught the shinkansen up to Nagoya, then transferred to the local shinano wide view which takes you up the valley to Matsumoto. Matsumoto is a cool little town - castle, shops, etc. Then picked up car from there - drive to Hakuba is only about 60km or so, but takes a good hour as you are driving pretty much through townships for the most part - so, get to used to mass traffic lights!
You can use the bypass road to miss all of those traffic lights between Matsumoto and Hakuba! It goes past the Wasabi farm, and just on the west side of the river.

https://www.google.com.au/maps/dir/...5aeb1b3513!2m2!1d137.8618501!2d36.6981801!3e0
 
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Donzah

Formerly know as Aldi whorehouse.
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Did something similar last season. Coming from Kyoto, caught the shinkansen up to Nagoya, then transferred to the local shinano wide view which takes you up the valley to Matsumoto. Matsumoto is a cool little town - castle, shops, etc. Then picked up car from there - drive to Hakuba is only about 60km or so, but takes a good hour as you are driving pretty much through townships for the most part - so, get to used to mass traffic lights!

Anyways, its not too bad. We also dropped into a local sports store and picked up a snowboard set for the +1 for about Y20,000 which was probably cheaper than a full week's hire. Depending on if that interests you or not, worth considering because ski hire can be exxy.

But, ski rental in Hakuba for sure. Lots more choice and easier to make adjustments.

BTW, what train pass are you looking at for the journey?
Yeah we did that trip in 2011. Learnt the quicker way to Hakuba later. Though its hard to confuse tthe GPS to take you the quicker way. The best way to do it is to turn into Royal host resturant . Then it will recalculate.
There is a sports Alpen on the way, at azumino . However it doesn't open until 10am. A better option may be shopping at night in Matsumoto. Cause yeah hire is expensive for ski and snowboard gear especially. between 16,000 to 24,000 yen for 5 days.
 

Wiliam Lambert

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Yeah I agree with Hakuba!! Also, for sightseeing though if you are in Osaka it's really close to Kyoto so i would definitely recommend going to Kyoto!!!! You will not regret going!! It's an amazing place!!!
 

Heinz

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BTW, what train pass are you looking at for the journey?

Presumably this one for the 2 days local travel around Kyoto.

Kansai area pass is good value. Includes train from Kansai and gets you to Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Himeji etc. It doesn't include Shinkansens, but generally you are only traveling short distances so not necessary. Would be a good option for 3/4 days. http://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/ticket/pass/kansai/

I would assume the trips between Osaka & Hakuba would be individual tickets. No passes really cover that.
 
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