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Plan for a 2 month trip to Japan 2019/11/9 08:09
Hi everyone!

I am planning to go to Japan next year and I am seeking general advice on a couple of things, especially when it comes to planning my trip. I will spend more time on research later this year, so I don't expect anyone to write long responses to all my questions. Links to articles/blogs where I can read up on stuff is very welcome.

Let me start with the general idea.

I wanted to go to Japan for a long time and I finally decided to do it. I will be taking time off work in the second half of next year, so this is a perfect time to fulfill this dream. Ideally I would like to go there for around 2 months. I am of course interested in visiting the major cities, but I am mostly a landscape/scenery kind of person, so I would love to explore Japan rather than stick to a couple of tourist places.

The way I envision it right now is that I will fly to Tokio, stay there for 10-14 days and then go by train throughout Japan. I don't want to rush anywhere - I would love to visit some smaller towns or rural areas and if there's a festival somewhere or the weather is bad, then I will just stay there for a day or two and relax. This would by my dream trip - not to hurry anywhere, just sit back and enjoy the ride ;-)

Now that we have this part done, it's time for some questions.

1. Is 2 months enough to circle Japan in this manner? I don't need to see every little detail, but I would like to visit the major tourist attractions and still have time for wandering.

2. What would be the best time to go? I understand that not all parts of Japan have the same weather conditions and I would like to avoid winter and heavy rain. I was thinking that I could go there either at the beginning of September or October. Maybe there's a preferred route I should take to stay on the better side of the weather?

3. My Japanese is very bad at the moment. I just started taking lessons in March this year, so by the time I fly out I will have been learning Japanese for approximately 1.5 years. I am going to spend more time on learning once my work break begins (around 3 months before the trip), but I imagine my Japanese will still be lousy by the time I get there. How hard will it be realistically to get around with very basic Japanese if I am not in a major city?

4. I understand there are hostels in all major cities and some English websites where I can find a room, but what about less tourist-heavy places? I don't plan on bringing a tent with me, so I am afraid I might get stuck somewhere without a place to sleep. I strongly prefer hostels or couch surfing.

I think that if I will be able to buy food, get rail tickets, do laundry and have a place to sleep, I will be more than happy. Thank you in advance for any responses.
by Kapol (guest)  

Re: Plan for a 2 month trip to Japan 2019/11/9 09:53
What a fantastic idea!

Just chipping in on the weather point-if want to avoid the cold/rain, I'd start in Hokkaido and work down. To do that, I'd fly directly to Sapporo or even further north, and start from there.

You could then work your way south, and have some time in Tokyo, perhaps using it as a base for a week or two to break up what will likely be a fair bit of moving around. Depending whether you can choose where you fly out from, you could even choose to leave Japan from Okinawa or Kagoshima. If you must fly out of Tokyo, I'd be inclined to fly from there to your furtherest away location and work your way back.

Apart from that, just decide what you're interested in. Japan seems to attract a lot of list-making: most beautiful gardens, original castles, shrine/temple sites, food must-dos, famous sites from one of the eras of Japanese history. Maybe think about what you would like to see and do and use some of those lists as a guide. If you're able to be flexible you can pick up new favourites as you travel.

Enjoy planning!
by Who? (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Plan for a 2 month trip to Japan 2019/11/9 14:49
2. What would be the best time to go?

As suggested, I also think you should do from north to south. Hokkaido is good in September, but too cold in October. Tokyo is good in October. If you want to see autumn foliage in Kansai region including Kyoto, late November is fine. Anyway, you can't do everything fine, but you should plan carefully.

3. How hard will it be realistically to get around with very basic Japanese if I am not in a major city?

I am a Japanese living in rather rural area (south Kyushu). As far as I know most foreign tourists come with no Japanese language skill. I think if you use "sumimasen" properly, you should be an expert :). Most Japanese people do not expect Japanese skill from foreign tourists. Most Japanese can say "Thank you" and understand "Hello". If you say "sumimasen", it will be a bonus. If you go into a convenience store and take a sandwich to the casher, he/she will understand that you want to buy it.

4. I understand there are hostels in all major cities and some English websites where I can find a room, but what about less tourist-heavy places? I don't plan on bringing a tent with me, so I am afraid I might get stuck somewhere without a place to sleep. I strongly prefer hostels or couch surfing.

If you want to stay in a very rural village with 300 people, there should be no hostels in almost all cases. But at the same time I can't imagine that there is no hostel in an entire prefecture. I am living in Kagoshima prefecture, and there is no hostel in my town, but I know there are some in Kagoshima city.

Welcome to Japan. I hope you will enjoy.
by frog1954 rate this post as useful

Re: Plan for a 2 month trip to Japan 2019/11/9 19:59
Youfre planning to spend 1/4th of your trip in Tokyo, and also hoping to see something of the rest of Japan in 6 weeks.
Seems unbalanced to me.
by Winter Visitor rate this post as useful

Re: Plan for a 2 month trip to Japan 2019/11/9 20:25

Is 2 months enough to circle Japan

Purely relying on my experience, no.
2-month visit seems a lot of time, however, Japan is vast and lots of interesting places to see. Not to mention different seasons you could easily see "different Japan". Plan well, be selective, enjoy your moment!
by . (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Plan for a 2 month trip to Japan 2019/11/9 20:26
Congratulations on your plan.

Is two months enough? Well it is for sure a good start.

I did a two months cycling trip through Japan two years ago. But skipped all major cities. (As i had been there before). So for rural places, check out my blog.

http://bicycletraveljapan.blogspot.com/

I did a lot of research before ( see Section planning ), but once I was on the road I organized my hotels on a day to day basis. But always at latest the evening before.

I stayed in hotels mostly. In Japan there are many minshukus (kind of hostel) but I found them hard to search for. I mean if you know you want to go to this minshuku or that, itfs easy, but I have yet to find one webpage that has them all. ( Happy to hear from some Japanese on this webpage how to search for minshukus).

For hotel reservation I generally used Jalan webpage. I am not sure how the English part of it is.

When to go?
September through November is ideal. September and first half of October still gets Taifuns. But frankly enough a 2 month trip with one or two days that it is raining a lot and train services might be disrupted ( if you and Taifun are in the same place) isnft that bad.

I went first week of September to north Hokkaido (Wakkanai) and weather was ideal. However a bit later (probably mid/ end September ) in the higher parts of Hokkaido , koyo starts.

Today 9/November I went cycling somewhere between Osaka and Arima and I was in a sleeveless shirt all day.

On my cycling trip I really only started to use long trousers at end November in Kyushu.

If you can time it to be in Fukuoka for Sumo, thatfs probably the one Sumo event for which it is easiest to get tickets. (Tokyo is practically impossible. I tried twice already within minutes of the presale opening and was too late. )

Where to start?
Well definitely North to South. But I do get out that you want to stay first some time in Tokyo before heading out.

Japanese:
Well most foreigners donft speak any Japanese. Obviously many things are easier if you speak Japanese, but it should be doable. With google maps and google translate many things got much easier than 10-20 years ago.

My top 5 rural places:
- Sadogashima
-Tono Valley
- Osorezan
- Inner Nara prefecture
- Shimantogawa in Shikoku


Enjoy planning your trip!
by LikeBike (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Plan for a 2 month trip to Japan 2019/11/9 22:28
For me, I find that 2 months will give you a good taste of the main island of Honshu which is actually much bigger than most people think it is.

One thing to consider is how much you are willing to spend per day, how you will get around and how you will book your accommodation. If your budget is too tight - then a lot of the suggestions we might make will be out of your price range.

I've traveled Japan more than most and have a few posts on my main page. You should find a post for most places on JG and even a few new ones.

https://www.japan-guide.com/community/mfedley/

When it comes to accommodation, booking in advance can be helpful and looking at conditions can be helpful. For example - I tend to remember that Toyoko Inn's allowed you to cancel up to 4PM of the day of checkin and they are normally well priced near train stations. If you want to travel comfortably but not too expensive - then business hotels can be a godsend. I rarely stay in traditional accommodation anymore as I've been there done that. It's worth trying for a few nights to see if it's something that you like (sleeping on futons). My main problem is not sleeping on futons - but my fussiness in thin mattresses which might happen at my price range hotels.

To give you an idea of how much I spend - my winter vacation (23 nights) is costing me a little under 140,000 yen which includes a smattering of onsen hotels, a whole house on Yakushima for 4 nights, some kaseki dinners and the like. I often book through:

booking.com
https://travel.rakuten.com.sg/
https://www.japanican.com/en/

https://www.japaneseguesthouses.com/ is also good for Tsurunoyo Onsen in Nyuto

If you are in Japan for a long time - then using the Japan Pass will probably not be worth it for you. In locations such as Kansai, having a base city can work out really well as there is lots to see within day trip territory. Hiring a small apartment for 2 weeks in Kyoto or Osaka near a train station could work out reasonably economical.

There are also some good bus passes and the 18 Free Kippu which could be helpful for slow but long train travel. Another thing to ask is are you willing to drive a car? In general, I will never drive in major cities like Osaka, Tokyo or Kyoto but will hire a car in rural areas. Another slow but lovely way to travel is to catch the train north to south on the west coast of Japan. You'll be in some of the most beautiful places in Japan and prices and tourist numbers will be low due to slow travel times.

That would allow you to hit Osorenzan (Shimokita Hanto). Hirosaki, Sakata, Dewa Sanzan, Sado Island, Noto Hanto, Kanazawa, Kinosaki along with two of my favourite areas in Japan (Matsue + Hagi).

Another option is to spend 2 weeks in each general area (2 weeks Tohoku, 2 weeks Kanto/Chubu, 2 weeks Kansai, 2 weeks Chugoku. If you want to get away from the crowds and have more flexibility, then I would highly suggest both Tohoku and Chukoku as great areas.

I've already rambled enough....
by mfedley rate this post as useful

Re: Plan for a 2 month trip to Japan 2019/11/10 02:28
(1) I traveled for 2 months in Japan in 2017, and managed to visit Hokkaido to Kagoshima. So, it is definitely doable, but you may not be able to see everything you want. Japan has so much to see and experience. I went back in 2018 to see more. As the first trip, 2 months is an excellent plan.

(2) Spring and autumn are the most comfortable time in Japan. Summer is too hot and humid, winter can be too cold. Where to start depends on what you want to see. Some people want to see snow, then you have to brave the cold and schedule accordingly.

(3) For getting around by trains, Japanese language skill is not necessary (as all signs and most announcements are in both Japanese and English). Buses are not as English-friendly as trains. You cannot wait until your Japanese skill is adequate (you may be too old then), you do your best and wing the rest. Often, you will find people that can help you in English.

(4) The hardest part of 2 month trip was outlining the path (which took many many iterations), but also building in some flexibility (because things can change in the middle of the trip). Also, study the holiday calendar and know if there are major holidays during your trip (holidays can make reservations more difficult). I did reserve most of the accommodations before the trip, but did have to change a few once I got there. If your purpose is to see all of the major islands of Japan (Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu), then you do need a rough outline (otherwise you might miss a spot or two). Kyoto and Miyajima were the hardest to find "reasonable" accommodations, so you may want to reserve early.

Enjoy planning.
by trips2japan (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Plan for a 2 month trip to Japan 2019/11/10 02:51
First of all big thank you to everyone who posted an answer. Basing on the responses, I feel the best way to go will be to start in Hokkaido in September and move south. Hopefully I'll be able to get a flight to Sapporo. If not, I might start with Tokio and then go directly to Hokkaido. Later on, when travelling south, I will skip Tokio.

"Youfre planning to spend 1/4th of your trip in Tokyo, and also hoping to see something of the rest of Japan in 6 weeks.
Seems unbalanced to me."

These 10-14 days are based on an advice given to me by a friend. She visited Tokio for 10 days and said that they weren't able to see as much as they wanted. As I wrote earlier, I am not that interested in big cities, so I shouldn't have a problem cutting it down to a week or so. Also the 2 months period is not written in stone. I will have to carefully think what I want to see, but if it turns out I need 10 weeks, then so be it.

"If your budget is too tight - then a lot of the suggestions we might make will be out of your price range."
"To give you an idea of how much I spend - my winter vacation (23 nights) is costing me a little under 140,000 yen"

I hope budget won't be an issue - I have more than enough money saved up. I read a couple of blog posts about the cost of travelling in Japan and your number seems to be really small comparing to what I saw. If I remember correctly, I read that I should be ready to spend around $80 a day, which would be 260,000 yen for 30 days.

"Another thing to ask is are you willing to drive a car?"

No, not really.

"I think if you use "sumimasen" properly, you should be an expert :)"

I don't think I will be this bad :-)
After 8 months of learning I know Hiragana and Katakana and some vocabulary. I can introduce myself, ask some basic questions (e.g. age, price), say a couple of things about objects (e.g. "Where is the post office?", "This pen is mine"), tell the time and a couple of other easy things.
I still have 10 around months before leaving and I want to dedicate much more time to Japanese in the last 3 months or so (this will be the time when I start my work break). During these last 3 months I plan to focus on conversations in typical situations that I might encounter.
by Kapol (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Plan for a 2 month trip to Japan 2019/11/10 05:15
Hi, I traveled in Japan quite extensively and love in Tokyo. I also agree that 2 weeks is a little too much for Tokyo if your main area of interest is nature. For flights to Sapporo - there are low cost airlines but you can also check out Visit Japan Fare offered by ANA, which comes quite cheap for especially long flights in Japan such as Kagoshima, Okinawa or Hokkaido with USD 90 a piece. During your dates - I would also look in Kumano Kodo and also further south Yakushima - both World Heritage Sites one famous with its pilgrimage route while the other with its moss forests. I have many writings about traveling in Japan here https://bizarrejourneys.com/category/travels-in-japan and as anyone else on this forum, I would be happy to help with any specific query you may have.
by Bizarre Journeys rate this post as useful

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