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Planning first trip to Japan, August/September 2022


DanielMackay

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DanielMackay

At the encouragement of my younger son, who will join me, beginning to plan my (our) first trip to Japan. East Coast departure for me.

 

Many competing impulses, including fully hiking the Kumono Bodo, hobby shop visits, enjoying the rail network, naval history and museum ships, and contemplation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

 

Maximum three weeks for this first visit, with aspirations for a six to nine month visit upon retirement (ten years out). 

 

I'll be reading through many posts in this forum in detail and expect to reach out to a number of you with queries. But your input welcome out of the gate.

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disturbman

Three weeks is good, gives you the opportunity to escape the Tokyo to Hiroshima tourist trail and to maximize your JR pass.

Nagasaki is really something. The hikes around the hills of the city are particularly nice. My favorites are Kyushu (avoid Beppu) and the Kansai area. Fukuoka is worth the visit just for the yatai. Hobby shopping can easily be done in Osaka or Tokyo. Last time I went I avoided Tokyo altogether, people looked gray and ghostly when I went through. I would like to make it to Hokkaido and travel along the sea of Japan coast on my next trip. A friend of mine made a documentary about Sado island. Looks very nice and slightly out of the way.

The nicest is really to drift along the country, going from train to train. And plan trips only three days in advance.

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Tony Galiani

If you haven't already found it, NHK's On Demand site has quite a few travel programs in English including Train Cruise, Japan Railway Journal and many others.  Well worth checking out.

After seeing NHK Train Cruise Number 19, which features the Shimabara Railway out of Nagasaki, I have been thinking that would be a fun ride, especially if I could catch their Cafe Train.

Ciao,

Tony Galiani

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gavino200

I'd suggest a trip to Matsumoto. One on the few completely original castles. There's also a woodcut print museum, a local penal justice museum and a wasabe farm. Plus you get to ride an asuza. 

 

For a history lover with an interest in military history, I'd recommend you visit the war museum at the Yasukuni shrine. It's spectacular. (Though be advised there is some controversy surrounding it). 

 

Maglev museum in Nagoya is a must. I think it was also an excuse for a Shinkansen ride. 

 

I visited Sendai, purely as an excuse to ride the E5 and E6 but there's a good Aquarium there. 

 

In Tokyo one of the things that I enjoyed a lot was a sewage system museum. Super interesting and worth a visit. 

Edited by gavino200
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railsquid
9 hours ago, disturbman said:

. Last time I went I avoided Tokyo altogether, people looked gray and ghostly when I went through.

 

Ι resemble that remark!

 

7 hours ago, gavino200 said:

In Tokyo one of the things that I enjoyed a lot was a sewage system museum. Super interesting and worth a visit. 

 

The one in Kodaira?

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gavino200
7 hours ago, railsquid said:

The one in Kodaira?

 

Not sure. I'd have to check. It was out by the harbor in a working sewage plant. It wasn't the one where they open up a giant door and let you stand over a huge river of flowing excrement holding your nose. It was the other one. 

Edited by disturbman
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I'd like to know you sons interests aswell before commenting. No good throwing out random ideas beforehand.

Edited by katoftw
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Yavianice

I'll give some tips regarding to what @DanielMackay wrote specifically.

 

13 hours ago, DanielMackay said:

Many competing impulses, including fully hiking the Kumono Bodo

Hiking the Kumano Kodo fully in August may be very challenging due to the heat. What I did when I visited the Kumano area is to stay in Nachi, and take buses everywhere, e.g. to the Kumano Nachi Taisha / Nachi falls (featured in almost every Japan travel guide besides the fuji pagoda pic and Miyajima, see below) including walking part of the Kumano Kodo, the Kumano Hongo Taisha (with its massive Torii gate) and Kumano Hayatama Taisha in nearby Shingu and Kamikura Shrine (if you are not scared of heights that is). The train trip around the Wakayama Peninsula (Nagoya-Shingu-Osaka) is also well worth the trip; it's quite pretty (if lengthy). Then you can make your way to Koya-San and Yoshino Shrine on the other end of the Kumano Kodo, also accessible by train. Taking the train from Nagoya to Shingu also takes you relatively close to the Shima Peninsula, where the Ise Grand Shrine and Ninja Kingdom are very famous (though I have yet to visit the Shima Peninsula myself).

 

13 hours ago, DanielMackay said:

hobby shop visits

 Hobby shops can sometimes be a bit of a chore to find, but perhaps my map may help to find stores that offer plenty of N gauge (if that's your scale) stuff (and ones that don't).

 

13 hours ago, DanielMackay said:

naval history and museum ships

Since you mentioned you want to visit Hiroshima, I recommend visiting the Yamato Naval Museum 

 

13 hours ago, DanielMackay said:

and contemplation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

Hiroshima itself is a modern city and the atomic bomb park/dome is very impressive, but it does not have much else to offer. However just outside the city, Miyajima is a must visit for tourists as it is a beautiful island with beautiful shrine. 

 

Nagasaki is a very "small footprint" city (the interesting bit is very narrow as far as cities go), and has plenty to offer e.g. Dejima, Glover Garden, Chinatown to name a few, not to mention that the city itself is also quite pretty. The atomic bomb museum and remembrance hall/memorial (the latter at night) (do not miss it) is very moving (I have not visited the Hiroshima museum after its renewal).

 

I personally prefer Nagasaki over Hiroshima, but, you could visit both if well planned (e.g. 3 days in Hiroshima, 3 in Nagasaki). Note it can be quite hot in August in Kyushu.

 

13 hours ago, DanielMackay said:

Maximum three weeks for this first visit, with aspirations for a six to nine month visit upon retirement (ten years out). 

Three weeks is a great period of time to go to Japan, I usually recommend that as a minimum.

 

13 hours ago, DanielMackay said:

At the encouragement of my younger son, who will join me, beginning to plan my (our) first trip to Japan.

I usually recommend people who go to Japan for the first time to see the usual Tokyo-Kyoto-(Himeji)-Hiroshima-(Nagasaki) route, since it gives you a good impression of what Japan is all about (Tokyo being the funky new capital with plenty to do and lots of day-trip potential, Kyoto being the old historic capital, Hiroshima and Nagasaki for its history and sights). You can also make extensions/day trips to Nikko/Nara (but be careful not to be shrine/templed overdosed; I personally love visiting very many on my trips, but I can see that it's not everyones thing). If you have more specific questions or want me to help you tailor a trip, you can post it here or send me a PM; I have visited Japan 5 times so far and went all over the country (except most of Shikoku/Tottori/Matsue/Okinawa) and I frequently help people plan trips.

Edited by Yavianice
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DanielMackay

So such to parse and explore in your initial responses!

 

Agreed, August temperatures will be a factor. This trip, at this time, is planned for the gap between my son finishing a fellowship and starting a doctoral program, so we may not have much choice in the matter.

 

Kumono Bodo is a "must." I'll post the itinerary my son designed for his original plan to hike it in June 2020.

 

Nagasaki is very tempting but has seemed a stretch in terms of timing... but comments here are persuasive that it should be a focal point this first trip.

 

Daniel.

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chadbag

August is very hot and humid.  Our last trip was end of July through mid August in 2019.  We did take a 4 (or about that) day trip up to Hokkaido, as we had never been there, and it is cooler there and the cities generally are on the ocean with ocean breezes (at least the cities we visited).

 

Again, August is very hot and humid (except when a Typhoon comes in -- then it is just humid and warm).  It makes it hard to do a lot of strenuous stuff.

 

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railsquid

Nah, a typhoon blows the hot away for a few blessed hours, then it turns hot and even more humid.

 

Also August is very hot and humid, in case no-one has mentioned that :).

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