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Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/7/30 21:04
I'm slowly planning our third visit to Japan, and could use some tips on what places to visit.
If Corona will let us, we will visit Japan for 3 weeks, just like our previous 2 trips in 2017 & 2019.
We haven't decided on the month yet, so could be anywhere from March - October.

We don't mind driving, flying or hiking to places that are more out of the way this time around.
Below I will list the places/attractions (north > south) we have already visited, so Wall of Text alert :)

After looking at the list below what new place, province, island, activity, etc would you recommend?

Sendai
- Matsushima bay
- Mt. Zao (Okama crater)
- Zao fox village

Nikko
- Toshogu shrines/temples
- Keigan falls

Yamagata
- Yamadera

Tokyo
- Most of the well known shrines/temples/gardens
- Imperial palace
- Tokyo Metro building
- Takeshita
- Akihabara
- Shibuya
- Ghibli Museum
- Old Tsukiji market
- Helicopter flight by night
- Disney Sea

Yokohama
- Cup Noodle museum

Kamakura
- Daibutsu statue

Kawaguchiko lake
- Ryokan stay

Nagano
- Jigokudani Monkey Park

Kanazawa
- Ninjadera
- Chaya district

Kakegawa
- Kiwi Fruits country
- Kakegawa Kachoen

Nagoya
- Sumo tournament

Kyoto
- Rented a bike
- Most of the well known shrines/temples/gardens
- Tanukidani Fudoin fire festival

Osaka
- Umeda Sky building
- Dotonbori
- Sumo tournament

Nara
- Most of the well known shrines/temples/gardens
- Omizutori/Otaimatsu ceremony

Koyasan
- Shukubo
- Okunoin graveyard

Himeji
- Himeji Castle

Iya Valley
- Ryokan stay

Okayama
- Korakuen

Kurashiki
- Canal street

Hiroshima
- Peace Museum
- Kangensai festival

Miyajima
- Ryokan stay
- Mount Misen
- Daisho-in

Nagasaki
- Gunkanjima
- Dejima "Island"
- Glover garden
- Most of the well known temples/shrines/churches
- Mount Inasayama Ropeway
- Huis ten Bosch

Beppu
- 7 Hells
- Aqua Garden + Tanayu baths (Suginoi Hotel)

by sid1920  

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/7/31 06:54
If you're going to Nagano (where you pretty much have to go to transfer for the Jigokudani Onsen), you may as well check out Zenkoji if you've not been. It's a lovely temple. I happen to really like Nagano and have also visited nearby Ueda to see the castle remains and have gone to Matsushiro to see the former samurai area. I've also gone to the former battle field at Kawanakajima.

You can get to Yamadera from Sendai. There is no reason to go all the way to Yamagata unless there are other things you want to see in the area (like Zao onsen.) Time wise it is faster to just go to and from Sendai since it has super express shinkansen. If you rented a car from Sendai, you could do a several day round trip of Zao Fox Village, Okama Crater, Zao onsen, and Yamadera. I'm not sure I would want to do that trip in March though.

Again, unless you have been, why go to Kanazawa if you're not going to Kenrokuen. And even if you have been, unless the season is the exact same as your other trips, it is worth it to go in different times of the year. I've been to Kenrokuen, Kairakuen, and Korakuen all at different times of the year and I don't think there is any season where they're not a worthwhile trip if you're in that area.

I honestly, think you will have a hard time fitting everything in with only 3 weeks. It sounds like a lot, but you have a lot of distance involved if you want to go all the way to Beppu and Nagasaki.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/7/31 07:11
@rkold, I honestly, think you will have a hard time fitting everything in with only 3 weeks. It sounds like a lot, but you have a lot of distance involved if you want to go all the way to Beppu and Nagasaki.

The problem is that the OP listed all places she/he has already seen and presumably does NOT want to see again. I must admit that this is a bit of a counterintuitive way of planning your trip by starting with all the place you do NOT want to go.

To OP, maybe you can start making a list of places you actually would like to visit, get a sample itinerary together and then run it again by this forum? I think that will yield more meaningful feedback.

Enjoy planning your trip.
by LikeBike rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/7/31 09:09
You've seen plenty but I'm not sure what you really liked.

Places I am looking forward to visiting again (and not on your list) after more than a dozen trips mainly Tokyo and west of it are Izu Peninsula (probably 4 nights there), Chichibu area (2 nights), Karuizawa area (2 - 3 days if staying at onsen town a night), Hikone (2 nights).

adding places on your list, I would also go to Takayama area and Nara area.

Where I went would depend on the temperature.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/7/31 12:05
@LikeBike, my reading comprehension skills must be failing me. Thank you for that. That does make a lot more sense.

I'm still surprised OP skipped out on Zenkoji in Nagano and Kenrokuen in Kanazawa though. It just seems odd to me. I've been to both in multiple seasons and enjoyed them.

I like big famous gardens, so would recommend Ritsuin in Takamtasu and Kairakuen in Mito. Kairakuen would be spectacular in March during the ume festival. It's pleasant in the fall when the leaves change but not as amazing.

Since I believe OP said they want to go to Japan some time between March-October, Uji between Kyoto and Nara is another possible destination. I think Uji has some lovely wisteria displays in late April and the hydrangeas in mid June are super famous. If you're not there when it's too hot, I would recommend the Yamanobe no michi trail and Asuka and Sakurai. I enjoyed 48 Falls and the ninja training.

And outside of Hikone, you can of course visit Matsumoto. There use to be some really nice bus passes between Matsumoto to Takayama to Kanazawa. You can stop off in Kamikochi depending on the season and Hirayu and the Okuhida region is a great place to visit onsen.

I'm honestly not sure where we will go when we personally go back to Japan. It will probably depend on trip length and season. Right now, I'm hoping April 2021 is a possibility in which case we might do some sakura hunting. I've been to Hiraizumi but my child has not.

If my June 2020 trip had worked out we were going to visit Karuizawa and probably Kusatsu. Chichubu is another area that I've almost done in a few itineraries.

June and July in Japan can be very hot, humid, and wet. I don't mind it much, but it can limit things. It's one reasons I keep dropping Kyushu from potential itineraries. August and early September are still hot and humid but not as rainy.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/7/31 16:00
Thanks for your answers so far, the suggestions are very helpful :)

@rkold, we only briefly stayed in Nagano on our trip from Kanazawa to Kawaguchiko, so we didnt see the temple unfortunately.
In Kanazawa we did see the Kenrokuen garden, Kanazawa castle & Oyama shrine, but forgot to mention those sorry..

Of all the places we've already visited there wasn't one thing we didn't like.
I'm more of a nature/onsen/temple/festival guy, my wife & daughter are more of the urban environment/good food/shopping types, so we always try to find a good mix of those in our trips.



by sid1920 rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/7/31 17:56
Hello,

On my way from Kanazawa to Tokyo in November 2017, I visited Takayama, Kamikochi (slept a night in Hirayu onsen) and Matsumoto. I regret staying only one night in Kamikochi. I should have spent less time in Kanazawa :)
You could start from Tokyo, and after Takayama, since you already visited Kanazawa, go to Nagoya instead, then Shizuoka and the Izu peninsula.

If you go in the summer, you might consider Hokkaido. I only spent a few days there, in Sapporo/Otaru/Lake Toya, but enjoyed it a lot.

On another topic, something I did not notice on my first trip was the "eki and temple stamps". I visited some places again (like the Meiji-jingu) just to get my notebook stamped :)
by ML (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/8/1 01:07
Among popular locations, it seems that you haven't covered the islands of Seto Inland Sea (Seto-nai-kai), Okinawa and Hokkaido.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/8/1 08:01
Covered very little.

For Kyushu you havent covered Fukuoka, Kumamoto and Kagoshima and their surrounds at a quick glance.

Just start clicking the map in destinations section of this website and start exploring.

by H (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/8/1 15:15
Helo everyone, thank you for all your tips and suggestions. I am also go to jappan now this is my 2nd trip. but, iam in confusion for going. This caron a virus rocks everywhere. i check the virus cases status of my area again and then plan for the trip.
by Astabago rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/8/1 20:44
My tip would be to stop limiting your options to the most famous places. For example, Kyoto and Nara have many hundreds of temples, shrines, and gardens that are open to the public but get extremely limited tourist traffic, and some of these are just as excellent as the more famous spots. I hear over and over again about how overtourism has "ruined" Kyoto, but I have gone there numerous times in recent years and have had many sublime experiences at phenomenal sites where there were few, if any, other people. If you are willing to put in a few hours of time doing your own research you should be able to come up with plenty of possibilities.

I'm not going to name my favorite (unfamous) places because quite frankly I don't want a bunch of people to start going there! (Selfish of me, but so be it.) However, by doing my own research I am always able to find outstanding places that appeal to me personally.

If you want starting points, I can suggest the many excellent staff travel reports on Japan Guide. I am particularly partial to Raina Ong's, but there are many other good ones. Don't be put off by the fact that some of them are "sponsored" or "advertorial" pieces. I don't think they ever cross the line as far as being baldly promotional. Read these articles and look at the photos and see what grabs you. There are also some good user reports on Japan Guide (not by staff writers), and of course loads of blogs online.

Sometimes I find places just using Google Maps. Zoom in on an area, click on places that might be interesting, and look at the pictures and/or reviews.

And even if you can't resist going to famous places, keep your eyes and your mind open along the way. Kyoto is a particularly good place for this. Before you head out for a visit to a famous spot, you can research and select some lesser known venues that are in the vicinity of your target destination, and/or simply drop in spontaneously if you pass smaller sites that are open to the public. Last year I decided to brave a visit Gioji even though it is pretty famous, because I had never been there, but I actually had a much better time at a far lesser-known temple that is right next door (I had the place to myself and the atmosphere was superb, whereas Gioji was plagued with busloads of visitors).
by Kim (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/8/2 03:21
To go along with what @Kim said, you don't even need to necessarily pick super hard to reach temples or shrines to find some that are not swarmed. I went to Kodaiji which is right in Gion, and it was just not all that crowded. But... I will also say that sometimes the crowds are part of the experience. I went to Kitano-Tenmangu and Toji on flea market days so both were a lot more crowded, particularly Kitano-Tenmangu than they would be otherwise. I enjoy temple and shrine flea markets though so the additional people were worth it to me. I also went to Mimurotoji on one of the peak days of their hydrangea festival. It was crowded, but it was also an experience. There were special desserts for sale in the tea house and on the way back to the station the local combini had tables out giving away free tea. However, I had an awful experience trying to get to a different hydrangea festival in Kyoto where we eventually just gave up.

And I guess that is the big thing... a good itinerary takes into account when you are actually traveling. Kamikochi is absolutely beautiful. It's also absolutely miserable in 2 straight days of rain when the Azusa river turns brown and starts overflowing its banks. It was completely empty while we were there, but constant buckets of rain are not that pleasant. Some places are just better than others in the rain.

I don't know the age of your child, but depending on where you pick just look into what is available for kids. I've thought about going to Naoshima with mine, but the bike rental places don't have children's bikes and being reliant on a once an hour bus in the Summer heat seemed like a bad choice for us.

Since you mentioned you like food and you went to the Ghibli Museum, if you've not gone you should try the Shirohige Cream Puff Factory. We went to the Kichijoji branch in February and I was shocked by how good the rum raisin sandwich cookie was, particularly since I do not normally like rum raisin.

Good luck!
by rkold rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/8/2 18:45
Well I hope your trip will take place.

Have a kinda feeling that, with never a vaccine, the (tourism) borders will never open again ;(
by Keini (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/8/3 07:53
Do u know
by Keini (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/8/3 12:27
Covid question have been answered elsewhere. Please dont keep asking about it.
by H (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/8/3 20:20
What do u mean "answered"?
by Keini (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/8/3 22:09
@Keini, please ask corona related questions in other dedicated threads, and keep this place clean for travel tips.
Whether or not next year will be possible or not doesn't matter to me, I can always postpone the trip.

@KimIt seems that we think alike :) One of those "Hidden" Kyoto temples that I really liked was Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, we had the place to ourselves both times for a great peaceful & quiet visit. I've also used the staff travel articles on Japan Guide for my first trip, and will do so for my third one. There should be enough new/different material this time to add some destinations.

My usual method of planning trips is making a list of every possible destination and placing a pin in a custom Google maps map for every spot. Afterwards I will try and find 1 or 2 logical routes for most of those pins and put those into a Google spreadsheet. The spreadsheet will go into more detail regarding travel time between the destinations and that's the final step in determining if the route is even possible time-wise.

This time around I will focus more attention on the north & south ends of Japan, and more on the west coast. Maybe even some island visits.

Our daughter is 16, so we mostly treat her as an adult, but I'm sure she will enjoy the Cream Puff Factory :D For example, in 2019 we visited the MORI building, Digital Art Museum expecting a kiddy exhibit, but we all really liked it.
by sid1920 rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/8/10 20:10
It would help if you gave a list of interests or places that you definitely plan to visit.

The Kumano area of Wakayama is really nice. The Kumano Sanzan, Shingu City, a variety of different onsen, and Kumano City in Mie are great. Lots of historic sites and World Heritage Sites, as well as nature and many great coastal views.

Shikoku is another obvious choice. 4 original castles, Muroto Cape, the art islands, Ritsurin Garden, etc.

You haven't explored much of Kyushu. Kagoshima, Sakurajima, the Chiran area, Takachiho, Nichinan's Obi Castle town, Ureshino Onsen, Yutoku Inari Shrine, etc. are all great.
by Rabbityama rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/8/12 11:44
July, Hokkaido. Hire a car and spend 2-3 weeks touring including Rebun and Rishiri islands.
by Sal1980 rate this post as useful

Re: Third visit to Japan, any tips? 2020/9/24 17:28
Tokyo: Tokyo National Museum, teamLab Borderless
Near Kyoto: Uji
by Ami (guest) rate this post as useful

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