We’ve been trying to plan a trip to Japan for several years now. This fall the stars aligned and we are actually making it happen!
Brian visited Japan in 2014 for work, traveling to Tokyo, Kyoto, Utsunomiya, and Nagoya. He came back raving about the experience—the architecture, the cuisine, the hospitality, and the efficiency and ease of travel. I’ve been looking forward to having those experiences too.
We timed our upcoming, 10-day trip to (hopefully) allow us to enjoy colorful foliage, lower temperatures, and fewer fellow tourists—all of which will be much appreciated, especially in busy and crowded urban environments like Tokyo.
We used mileage and hotel points to book our direct flights and accommodations, we received our JR passes for the bullet train, and I’m now working on our itinerary. I always over plan things to do, but I thought it might work best to outline possible day trips from our home bases in Tokyo and Kyoto so we have flexible options depending on how much time we’re spending in different places and what the weather is doing. If we want to take a day trip, we will have ideas ready to go, and if we need more time where we are, we can stay put!
If we were to try and visit each place I’m researching, our itinerary would look something like this:
- Day 1-2: Travel to Tokyo (Overnight in Tokyo)
- Day 3: Travel to Kyoto / Kyoto (Overnight in Kyoto)
- Day 4: Nara and Osaka (Overnight in Kyoto)
- Day 5: Hiroshima (Overnight in Kyoto)
- Day 6: Kanazawa (Overnight in Kyoto)
- Day 7: Travel to Tokyo / Tokyo (Overnight in Tokyo)
- Day 8: Nikko (Overnight in Tokyo)
- Day 9: Hakone (Overnight in Tokyo)
- Day 10: Tokyo / Fly Home
In speaking with friends and colleagues who have spent time in Japan, I’ve received mixed feedback to this draft. Some advocate for spending more time in certain places, others say you can easily hit all the major sites in cities like Kyoto in one day and should have day trips in your back pocket. Others recommended a balance between a bustling metropolis like Toyko (not usually our thing) and areas we’re likely to commune with nature, like Nikko (more our thing).
We are used to getting up early, navigating public transportation, and walking our feet off, but we’re also realistic about getting a good night’s sleep and ensuring we’re enjoying our busy days and not wandering around in an exhausted haze. We are both on the same page about prioritizing experiences focused on food, the outdoors, history and culture, and taking time to really experience the sights and activities on our list.
I’d love your thoughts—have you been to Japan or heard of someone else’s experience that you can share? Are we trying to do too much? Do we have the right places on our list given it’s my first experience/Brian’s previous experience?