Before I get too deep into this I will say, if you are planning a trip that you have been planning for years but never “have the time”, go buy the ticket. Even if the “planning” has only been in your head. Buying that ticket will finally lock it in and you will figure out a way to make time and ways to make the trip work within the budget you set. Otherwise you may just be planning for a trip that never comes.
Japan for us was looking like the trip that would never be. Something was always coming up. Work, lack of work, money issues, personal problems, not enough time. The list went on and on. Since the day we met and both said we wanted to see Japan, 15 years passed. We compromised by taking other cheaper and shorter trips, but every time we got home we both asked, so when are we going to Japan?
And now, I am very happy to say, we are finally going to Japan!
We bought our tickets first, then started planning. How the tickets came to be is a story for another post. Let’s get to the goods!
36 days in Japan starting in Tokyo and working our way slowly down to Yakushima, a small island off the South coast of Japan, then up to Sendai, halfway between the northern most tip of Japan and Tokyo. We don't have everything set in stone, as we want to have the freedom to explore, but our first two weeks will be spent chasing cherry blossom blooming across the country.
Here's a cool ineractive map of our planned journey.
Landing at Nariata airport in Tokyo and chasing Cherry Blossom bloomings at the Imperial Palace, Ueno park, Asukayama Park, Koishikawa Botanical Garden and Sumida Park.
While in Tokyo we will be staying at the beautiful Peninsula Hotel Tokyo. We picked it due to it's proximity to the Imperial Palace and Tokyo Station. Also because it's pretty. ;)
Then we will hop on the Shinkansen, the high speed bullet train, from Tokyo to Kyoto.
Kyoto was once the capital of Japan and extremely old. The Shimogamo Shrine was established in Kyoto in the 6th century (501-600) and Kyoto was established as the capital in 794. The city survived years of wars, fires, and earthquakes and was removed from the atomic bomb target list in order to preserve this rich cultural city. It is one of the best preserved cities in Japan. We are hoping to see Cherry Blossoms blooming on the Philosopher's Walk, a pedestrian path in Kyoto that follows a cherry-tree-lined canal. We also plan to check out Maruyama-koen Park and pay the park a night visit to see the parks lit up weeping cherry tree.
While in Kyoto we will be staying at the very popular Hiiragiya Ryokan, established in 1818 and has been under family ownership for 6 generations.
We then hop on the trains for a trip to the mountains of Mount Koya!
After a lot of deliberation and last minute changes, (we actually had to edit this post to add this new location in!) we decided that due to the distance from Kyoto to Koyasan, and the fact that we wanted to spend as much time in Kyoto as possible, we decided it would be best to stop off at Nanten-En Ryokan in rural Osaka which is halfway between Kyoto and Koyasan.
With it's traditional Japanese garden and natural onsen nearby, we thought Nanten-en would be a nice place to stay the night before heading up into the mountains.
In Koyasan we will be staying at Shojoshin-in
, a Buddhist temple, for one night. Shojoshin-in is one of the oldest temples on Mount Koya. While there aren't many, if any, cherry blossoms in Koyasan, the opportunity to visit a mountain top Buddhist temple in spring time was too good to pass up.
After one night in Mount Koya, it is the long trip to Hiroshima.
There isn't much planned for Hiroshima, as we aren't sure how we will be feeling after all the traveling. We will mostly be catching our breath and checking out cultural sites. Miyajima, Hijiyama Park, Hiroshima Peace Park, and the Shukkeien Garden are all expected to have blooming cherry trees. Perhaps we will also be making a day trip down to Fukuoka to check out the Wisteria Flower Tunnel at Kawachi Fuji Gardens. We will also be looking around for a place to dine on Fugu, a poisonous fish that has enough toxin to kill 30 people. Why? Well, why not?
While in Hiroshima we will be staying at an Airbnb location that we will post about after our trip.
Another train ride? You betcha. Down to Kagoshima we go!
Kagoshima is our ride to Yakushima. We don't have anything planned for this area but to catch some sleep for the boat trip to the island the following day. Yoshino Park, Kotsukigawa Riverside, Sakurajima Dinosaur Park, and Senganen Garden are all expected to have blooming cherry trees. Hopefully we will have time to check them out. While in Kagoshima we will be staying at an Airbnb location that we will post about after our trip.
A boat ride to Yakushima Island is next!
Yakushima is known as an extremely magical island and was the inspiration for the Studio Ghibili film "Princess Mononoke"
Yakushima was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO. There has been no record of tree cutting a the core of the site. The wet climate brings crystal clear rivers and waterfalls, which carve through the granite bedrock of the island. The island is home to the Yaku deer and Yakushima macaque as well as the largest nesting ground for the endangered loggerhead turtles. We will be renting a car in Yakushima to get around the island quickly in the short time we are there. A lot of hiking to be done. With all that hiking and walking, we are resting our heels at...
The very gorgeous Sankara Hotel & Spa.
A side note on driving in Japan. You do need an international drivers permit, which is very easy to obtain. It cost $15 at the local AAA and requires no tests. Just two passport size photos and a valid US drivers license and you are all set!
Next up, we hop on a plane to Osaka!
Osaka concludes our cherry blossom chasing. Our time will be spent enjoying the local areas and foods, and checking out recommended locations. We will most likely make a day trip to Kobe and Nara during our short stay in Osaka. While in Osaka we will be staying at an Airbnb location that we will post about after our trip. We had an issue with our Airbnb host in Osaka, as the apartment complex tenants decided to enforce a majority vote of banning Airbnb from the building. Lucky for us, our Airbnb host has promised us that she has a new location ready for us, which we will be moving to in the same area. We will have to see how this works out.
After exploring the area we are going back to Kyoto.
While in Kyoto for the second time we will be staying at an Airbnb location that we will post about after our trip. We hope to be able to make the trip to Kiso Valley while in Kyoto. There is also a bunch of foodie spots we plan to hit which we will talk about in our next post. Then we head to Yokosuka!
The Airbnb location we are staying at was once listed as one of the top ten Airbnb locations in Japan. We will post more about it after our trip, but here's a sneak peak!
We hope to hit up Yokohama on the way and while we are there visit Kamakura. After that, it's time to head to Sendai but first we are gonna make a quick stop in Tokyo to drop all of our things off while we are away in Sendai!
A sneak peak of the view at our stop in Tokyo!
Sendai is all about the fox village. I wish I was joking, but I am not. We are making the 2.5 hour journey to Sendia, and renting a room there via Airbnb so that we can pet some foxes. I told her it was out of the way...
We ran into a bit of an issue with our Airbnb host in Sendai. When following up with him, he cancelled the reservation on us which left us in a bit of a tight spot. All decent Airbnb locations were no longer available. After a lot of discussion we decided that the best thing to do would be to rent a car in Sendai, and stay at.....
the Chikusenso Onsen Resort & Spa at Mt Zao.
After visiting the Fox Village and Sendai we head off to Isumi! We will make a quick stop in Tokyo on the way out.
I stumbled upon this Airbnb location in a magazine, or an online magazine, or maybe it was another Airbnb top ten list. I can't recall and can't find it now (it was sometime last year) but we were smitten. It reminded us of the beautiful Halemano in Maui, which is now sadly closed. We haven't been able to find a lot of info on Isumi, but we are mostly going to enjoy the coastline of Japan and reflect on our trip.
And from Isumi we head to Tokyo one last time before leaving to head back to the USA.
Back where we started, Tokyo will be where our trip comes to an end. We will have 4 nights in Tokyo before catching our plane back out. Cramming in any last minute shopping, exploring the legendary metropolis, and getting ready to head back home.
We will be staying in the very beautiful Park Hyatt Tokyo, which was the location of the film "Lost in Translation" with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.
And that concludes the plan for Japan. Curious to see how it all works out. Our next post will detail the issues we have encountered, our old Japan plan compared to the new one, and the places we hope to eat at!
If you want to make the gods laugh... tell them your plans. :/ Follow the link to read about our planning problems.