We are landing in Sapporo for a week in Niseko snowboarding and then flying to Osaka after that. Hoping to visit some of the southern areas and eventually flying out of Tokyo. We have some initial thoughts on what we'd like to do, but any guidance would be fantastic.
Japan is a wonderful destination and extraordinary if you've never been before. Everyone has their favorites and it's very personal, but here are my tips from many trips over the years:
Japan Rail Pass
First things first, you have to buy one of these BEFORE you arrive in Japan. It’ll save you more than its cost with even one journey, but it really lets you explore Japan cost effectively as you can use it on most Shinkansen so can easily get from Hokkaido to Kyushu.
Everyone will have their own highlights of Japan, but here are a few of my favourites from over the years working North to South.
Nyuto onsen and Tae-no-yu Onsen in Akita.
If you’re up this way in the middle of winter, the snow is meters deep and if you love getting your clothes off when its below zero, this is unique & spectacular. From Tae-no-yu Onsen, walk up the road and turn right and follow the track (if you can) and you’ll come to another onsen where you have to climb down to a river, even in the middle of meters of snow, take your gear off outdoors and jump in. Spectacular.
Yamadera, Basho museum, Yamagata
Hike up to the Mountain temple.
Kamakura, near Tokyo
If you can’t get to Kyoto, Kamakura is perhaps the next best thing. An hour or so south of Tokyo, makes for a good day trip
You an easily spend weeks in Kyoto but a couple of highlights:
Find the famous bamboo walk in Arashiyama
and then my favourite zen temple Gio-ji
Kiyomizu temple on the edge of central Kyoto is often lit at night and the streets nearby are thronged and fascinating
Kanazawa was a personal favourite of mine, a coupe of hours from Kyoto. It has recently been connected via Shinkansen so is getting more discovered, but this is a little gem of a city with a ninja temple, superb zen houses and spectacular ancient gardens plus a goldsmiths street.
http://bit.ly/1H6IW3G about 4 years ago
... and part II:
Miyajima just south of Hiroshima is a tiny little island that you get to by ferry. The Tori gate there is spectacular in any weather and the climb of the mountain at the back of the temple complex is well worth it.
If you like installation art try to get to Naoshima between Honshu and Shikoku. http://bit.ly/1IX2R2s
Shikoku island is famous for its temple pilgrimage. If you get the chance climb the 1400 steps to Kompirasan. (Our children got lost here on the way down!
Matsuyama on the southern edge of Shikoku http://bit.ly/1SAz5VL has the famous Dogo Onsen http://bit.ly/1IsekEC which will look familiar if you’ve ever seen the movie ’Spirited Away'
Make your way way way down to Kagoshima at the far end of Kyushu and hire a car for a day to visit Sakurajima. http://bit.ly/1BExkTw. Furusato onsen is perched between the volcano and the ocean http://bit.ly/1FusDq2 which I would say is pretty unique, but then so many are in Japan. about 4 years ago