I am planning on being in japan for about 1.5 - 2 months and am compiling a list of things and places I need to see. I was wondering if anyone had any great experiences to share or advice on places that are a mandatory visit in japan.
I would love any and all input on the topic.
Kyoto is the main one you really shouldn't miss as far as I'm concerned.
Other highlights for me were
- Nikko (worth staying overnight at least) - the temples are great and not being in a city was good for a change.
- Himeji Castle (not much else in the town I remember, but the castle was incredible)
- Nara (some amazing temples + deer everywhere)
Tokyo warrants quite some time as well of course.
I'm sure there are many more that I missed on my trip
I'm always surprised when discussing Japan that nobody mentions Hiroshima. It was the first place that occured to me after Tokyo.
In reality it's a very ordinary, unremarkable city, but it's one of very few places on this earth that is etched into history forever, much more significant than 9/11.
The peace museum is worth a full day of anyone's time and even our two kids (then aged 7+11) didn't get bored in the five hours we were in there.
I can recommend the Shirau Me So Ryokan for an authentic (non-english speaking) experience!
My wife and I spent 5 weeks in Japan last September/October.
You don't mention when you are going to Japan so weather would probably influence your choice of destinations.
Tokyo, Kyoto, Himeji Castle and Mt. Fuji would have to be mandatory, but there are so many other
places to see and things to do. I bought the latest LP Japan book last August and checked out the highlights noted at the front of each geographical section and went from there.
If you are spending 6-8 weeks in Japan, I would suggest a 3 week JR pass.
It currently costs 57,700YEN for 21 days but is so worth it.
My wife and I got 14 day passes which cost 45,100 YEN.
If you want to see outlying parts of Japan pretty cheaply, check out
It gives info on discount domestic airfares on JAL and ANA for overseas visitors to Japan, and it gets better if you are
flying into Japan on a 'oneworld' or 'star alliance' airline. Well worth a look.
As JAL is a member of oneworld (we flew into Japan on alliance member (QANTAS), my wife and I got one-way tickets to Naha (Okinawa) from Tokyo for about $105 Aussie dollars (10,000 Yen). I think the normal airfare would have
been about $400 AUD.
My wife and I did Tokyo-Okinawa-Miyazaki-Kagoshima-Oita/Beppu-Tokushima-Himeji (3 hour castle visit)-Kyoto-Takayama-Matsumoto-Mt. Fuji-Tokyo.
Our idea was to spend 3-4 days in Okinawa spending daytrips to Zamami and Tokashiki islands for R&R and lots of snorkelling (these islands were great!!!). Lost of WWII things to see on Okinawa if interested, along with Shuri Castle which had to be rebuilt totally after the war.
We actually managed to buy the 7 day ferry pass from Okinawa to Kagoshima but a bloody typhoon came storming over Okinawa, all ferries were cancelled and we were stuck in Naha for 3 extra days before having to flying
out to Miyazaki on ANA airline (that cost about $260 AUD each and it's only half way back to Toyko!!).
Miyazaki was a pretty cool place to stop for 2 days as we arrived in time for one of the major surfing competitions of 2007. Lovely little island of Aoshima with nice shrines beside the main Miyazai beach and the Jingu shrine is a 3 km walk from the main train station.
We then took the train from Miyazaki down to Kagoshima (I think it only cost about $25 AUD each) through the mountains and stayed there for 2 days. Ferried over to Sakurajima volcano, hired bikes and cycled around part of the volcano's base.
Wicked sculpture we came across (in my photos) and quite impressed by being that close to an active volcano.
There is a lovely old samurai garden with great views of Sakurajima right on Kagoshima Bay.
Trained from Kagoshima to Oita (north coast Kyushu) via the caldera of Mt. Aso. Stayed in Oita rather than Beppu because our boat through the Inland Sea to Matsuyama (on Shikoku) left Oita pretty early in the morning. Trained to Usuki, got free bicycles from the station master and cycled to se the Buddha statues just outside town. Really nice spot. Activated our 14 day railpasses in Oita the day before leaving by boat.
Ferry to Shikoku and trained (using railpass) from Matsuyama to Tokushima and stayed there for 3 nights. Spent one day at Naruto whirlpools and another in the Iya Valley (should have stayed overnight as only had about 4 hours to enjoy it). Really liked Tokushima (Dancing Clock and King Kong office).
Railpassed Tokushima to Himeji and stopped for about 4 hours for the castle and lunch. The castle is one of the major sights of Japan. Back on JR Shinkansen and off to Kyoto which was amazing. Did dinner in upstairs outdoors restaurant in Gion which wasn't cheap but what the hell. Next day did the LP walking tour of shrines/temples followed by the Gion walking tour at dusk and night. Next day was visiting Nijo-jo, the Golden Pavilion and the Silver Pavilion before leaving the next morning for Takayama in the Japanese Alps.
Stayed 2 nights (nice town with old architecture and some nice temples) then bussed through Alps to Matsumoto for the medieval castle (almost rivals Himeji) and the Ukiyoe museum (great).
Railpassed down to Otski and private train to Kawaguchi-ko train station at base of Fuji. Had booked the Sunnide Hotel ($130 AUD double room) but it does cheaper for backpackers (about $80 AUD, I think).
Great views of Fuji and the lake. Climbed part of Fuji which was a life-long ambition of mine. Bussed down to the coast then railpassed back to Tokyo for our remaining 3 days.
If you want any more info feel free to message me.
We spent most nights at a Toyoko Inn budget hotel. They generally go for about 80-95 AUD double room and about 50-65 AUD single.
Great value - A/C, almost always close to transport hubs (metro/train stations), breakfast included in price (rice cakes, juice, coffee, miso soup), your own toilet/bathroom (free shampoo, conditioner, razors), free internet stations in lobby, washing and drying machines behind reception and real cheap, and we even got a free evening meal (chicken curry and rice) at the Toyoko Inn in Tokushima one night. They also have free telephones for domestic calls.
Enjoy to the MAX.
P.S. You could fly Tokyo to Ishigaki and spend a few days exploring both it and Iriomote before flying to Naha, both flights at the very cheap rate. You could even ferry from Ishigaki to Taiwan, stay there for a few days then ferry back to Ishigaki before flying or ferrying to Naha.
Check out the Okinawan islands of Zamami and Tokashiki then buy the 7 day ferry pass from Okinawa to
Kagoshima, cruising slowly north to Kagoshima (Kyushu) stopping for more R&R and snorkelling on the small islands which dot the route (e.g. islands of Yoron and Tokunoshima). We would like to do that next time we are in Japan, preferably not during typhoon season.
PPS. Could someone please message Mayur and tell him about or even send him this post. He messaged me last month asking for Japan info but I'm incommunicado. Muchos gracias.
[ Edit: Edited on Jan 10, 2008, at 4:27 AM by wotthefiqh ]
I would also recommend a few days in Kyoto. As well as the temples, have a wonder round the Geisha district of Gion. I really enjoyed Hiroshima, and the peace musuem is a must see.
Did anyone message Mayur for me,and perhaps Falukozi even as it looks as though her last post was late December?
wow that sounds like an amazing trip! thanks for sharing! It my list of places I want to see is getting ever longer. I had not even thought of going to the islands so thank you for that bit.! My plans at this point are very flexible. I am not planing on going for quite some time yet and will be away for almost a year so the time I can spend in each country is flexible. from the sounds of it I am going to need more time in Japan.
as to your note on me not saying when I am going. I have not decided yet. it is going to depend on when the best time is for what I want to see. I know I want to see some of the festivals but I have not decided if I want to see the the cherry blossom festival or the fireworks festival. I am not sure I can stay for long enough to see both. so peoples opinions on this would be really useful as well.