So 9 days is the firm number my sister and I are set on right now for the trip. She has to return home for work and her children and I have to return to my job as well, setting the limit on how many days we can explore Japan. Tokyo is the primary focus for us, but the city of Kyoto is something we both want to do. The only problem is, will we have enough time to see both?
The plan is to leave on a Saturday and arrive on Sunday, taking a total of 2 days to get to Japan. That first day after landing, which will probably be later in the afternoon, won’t be ideal for sightseeing due to the lack of hours left in the day and the jetlag that will follow us off the plane. So that will leave us with a full week, 5 days, to explore Tokyo. We would leave the following Saturday and return to the states on Sunday. So in those 5 days, we would have a lot of ground to cover, depending on what we wanted to see.
So if we have 5 days, is a side trip to Kyoto possible? For one, we want to see everything we have on the tops of our lists (coming soon) and not be rushed. A side trip to Kyoto would take at least a full day in order to see what we want to, taking time away from Tokyo.
We would want to stay at least one full day in Kyoto to make it worth the time, but that would require checking out of the hotel in Tokyo, lugging traffic on the bullet trains and then eventually racing back to Tokyo to make our flight to head home.
For me, I don’t want to be half way across a foreign country and have to travel all the way back to make a flight. If there was a delay or we couldn’t make it back in time for the flight, it would be a major problem and is something I want to avoid. I rather be in Tokyo, close to the airport the day before we fly out so we can minimize any delays.
My instinct is to say no to Kyoto under this 9-day model and just to enjoy Tokyo and possibly book a tour package deal to visit Hakkone (right outside of the city) or even a day trip to see Mt. Fuji. I’ve also thought about staying in Japan after my sister leaves and taking a side trip by myself to Kyoto, just to see it. I don’t have kids at home to worry about, so I could take the extra time to visit the city. But do I want to do it by myself and leave my sister on an international flight by herself? A lot to think about going forward.