Some people wonder how we can cover so many places in one trip and whether we BACKPACK... ah yo, we're too old for backpacking la... think we cannot take it LOL
so it's comfort vs budget... chris always chooses comfort if he can afford it and his most important criteria for accomodation is FREE INTERNET LOL for me, i like to try different experiences, especially those with local flavour such as ryokans where the buildings are very traditional, you sleep on tatami, have nice dinners and breakfast, soak in natural hot springs and if got nice view lagi better =DD but usually, these ryokans are in not so accessible places and are very expensive so i try to limit it to one or at most two per trip. the rest of the time, business hotels near train stations are most convenient and comfortable although not really budget...
we usually base ourselves in one or two cities depending on the places of interest we want to visit and branch out from there. for example, this time round we based in nagoya and spent one night in futaminoura to explore ise shrine, meoto-iwa and mikomoto pearl island. then we came back to nagoya, spent one night there and got ready for takayama and shirakawa-go. it makes sense because to get from one leg of the trip to the other, we had to pass by nagoya anyway.
some people may think it's a bit waste time and money but while in nagoya, we checked out noritake garden, osu kannon temple and tried all their specialty foods. also, we always leave our big luggages and just carry one overnighter with change of underwear (in cold weather you don't need to change clothes everyday one... anyway go to ryokan will change into yukata le so just wear the same thing there and same thing back) but for takayama and shirakawa-go we brought a change of top too and two changes of underwear. plus it's not so siong... especially if you're bringing kiddos. imagine lugging your big luggage everywhere you go... very siong neh. we only lugged from kansai airport to kyoto, kyoto to nagoya and nagoya to chubu airport. the rest of the time, we just carried one small overnighter and tripod (chris carried his backpack with laptop and i carried my own handbag la).
and when you reach the destination, if you want to explore first then check in, you can leave your baggage in lockers which cost about JPY300-500 depending on size. very safe one la... even the Japanese do this.
if you want free and easy, you'll have to plan lor. got to plan where to leave the big luggages and avoid lugging it around as much as possible. plan the route, plan the itinerary. in our family, chris chute money i chute energy. he is v shiok one. no need to pack, no need to plan, no need to unpack, just go and see nice view, stay at nice places, eat nice food cos i did all the research LOL but i got co-pay a bit la... chris say my employer send me overseas also need to co-pay ma LOL also, chris does most of the navi while i do the conversations (with my broken Japanese and if they speak slowly LOL) so we work well together.
of cos will spend more time and money than tour groups (cos they keep your big luggage in the coach cabin everywhere you go) but for the freedom and a chance to experience local culture (go with tour group won't have chance to cheong trains one la), got to give and take lor.
but if you're bringing old people, unless they are able to carry their own luggage or you can pack their things in yours, it may be a little difficult because in some train stations, there are no elevators or escalators so you have to lug your luggage up and down stairs... and they may "complain" cos from one city to another, they have to lug the luggage lor as opposed to hopping on the tour bus and sit...
yeah, like that lor. feel free to ask me anything... i'd be glad to help if i know.