This post has been a tough one to write. With so many interesting options, I’m having a hard time deciding where to begin. So, once I get to Japan, what do I want to do? Everything! But, alas, I’ll only have two weeks to work with, so I’ll have to choose wisely. I narrowed my list to 5, possibly 6, cities to visit on this trip. I will most likely pick only a few cities to stay in, then ride a train on day trips to places that are close. I’ll separate my list by the cities I plan to stay in, and then list the city and activities within that group. Let’s see what I have so far.
Tokyo is the first, and last, stop on my first trip to Japan. Since it’s packed full of things to see, my initial plan is to stay in the city for 8 days total, but split them up. I’ll stay for 4 days when I get there and 4 days before I leave. This should give me plenty of opportunity to see and do as much as I can in the city. I’ll try to keep this section short with some key places I’d like to see, and in no particular order.
For the first 3 days of my trip, I will be staying in Shinjuku, somewhere near the train station, most likely in a capsule hotel. This way getting around will be less of a challenge. My intent is to cover the western half of Tokyo on my first 4 days, and Shinjuku is relatively close to everything I want to do.
Shinjuku Station is the worlds busiest train station with 5 different railways serving 53 platforms to move an average of 3.6 million of Tokyo’s citizens per day. This could be a rail fans dream, or a complete nightmare. Most of my travel around Tokyo will begin here.
No trip to Tokyo is complete without taking in the organized chaos that is Shibuya Crossing. It’s one of those places I’ve seen in books, film and YouTube videos, and while it’s hectic at its busy times, it is on my list to at least get a photo of the scene.
Mt. Fuji is probably going to be one of the first places I see. I may even attempt the climb up to see the sunrise. But I’ll be just as happy to get within range to take some photos. I’m interested in picking up a Hakone Free Pass to tour the Hakone area, and take one of the tour buses to Gotemba to get close. The cost of the pass is 5140 yen and would depart from Shinjuku, and it includes 2 days of unlimited rides on 8 different modes of transport.
I’m still a big kid at heart, and Akihabara is a must see for me. I’ll save this stop for the second half of my trip so if I do much shopping, I won’t have to drag it all across Japan. While I’m somewhat of a new fan of manga and anime, I’ve always been a fan of video games, electronics and gadgets. Maybe I’ll find the rest of the Initial D series I’ve been looking for.
Imperial Palace and Gardens
Edo Tokyo Museum
I’m into history, and the Edo Tokyo Museum has been on my list of places to visit to soak in world history. I am also a former architecture major and I like to explore museums that are also seen as works of art.
Shrines and Temples
It would probably take a few hours to plan out all of the temples and shrines I’d like to see. But, to make it simple, I do have a few must see iconic locations on my list.
- Senso-ji Temple
- Meiji Shrine
- Yasukuni Shrine
Tsukiji Fish Market
Last, but not least, is a visit to the Tsukiji Fish Market. The market is set to be moved, but the original location is supposed to stay open until October, from what I have read. So, I’d like to see it before it moves.
I’ll have to do more research, but I believe there is a sumo event going on about the time I’ll be in Tokyo, so if I can do it, I’d like to check it out.
Kyoto & Osaka
I have not made the decision if I want to combine my visit to Kyoto and Osaka in the same stop, or split it up with my stop in Hiroshima. But, nonetheless I have quite a bit I want to see and do while I’m in the area.
The temples and shrines of Kyoto are probably a priority of attractions on my list. Of those, ones I am most excited to see are Kinkaku-ji, Fushimi-Inari Taisha and Tō-Ji. The bamboo grove of Arashiyama, and gardens of Sanzen-in & Ginkaku-Ji will fill a couple days with nature walks around the grounds.
To get my museum fix, I plan to stop in the Kyoto Railway Museum. I’ve had a love for trains since I was a kid and this should be a fascinating experience. The Kyoto International Manga Museum looks to be unique and full of manga history. I’m relatively new to manga, but I used to collect US comic books and appreciate the art and stories that go into these books, so I’d love to dig deeper into the history.
There is a Southern Higashiyama Walking Tour that I found in a tour book that looks interesting. It starts at the Gojo-zaka bus stop and heads north to the Jingū-michi bus stop. While this walk takes you to some popular attractions, I’m most interested in taking a slight detour through Gion and catching a glimpse of the Geisha and maiko heading to and from their appointments. I’ll have to do some more research and see if there is a public performance while I’m there. I would like to see if I can also see a kabuki performance while I’m there as well.
Most of my tour through Osaka will involve a ton of museums. I can’t help it, I might have a sickness! Think I may just keep a list on my phone or iPad and as I walk around exploring the city, if I’m close to a museum on the list then I’ll check it out. But, I do have a few I’d like to see.
The National Museum of Art, Osaka is an underground art museum with post war art, and will have an exhibit during my stay with pre-Impressionism landscape paintings that I’d like to see.
In the Osaka Science Museum, they have a planetarium show and exhibits that remind me of COSI in Columbus, OH. The museum may be geared more towards kids, but I’m okay with that. It still looks like it would be a fun place for an afternoon.
For a look into the history of Osaka, I’ll visit the Osaka History Museum that’s full of exhibits and artifacts from the Edo Period to the present day. The permanent collection takes up 4 floors of the 10 floor building.
To finish off my tour of Osaka, I’d like to visit Osaka Castle. The castle has, you guessed it, another museum, as well as an almost 107 hectare park.
One addition to this leg of my trip will have to be the Nara Park, some time during my stay in Kyoto or Osaka. I apparently have the need to be harassed by a herd of hungry deer looking to bow for a treat, and I’m also apparently okay with that. Seriously though, from the videos I’ve seen, it looks like a fun place to hang out for a little bit. And more museums, yay!
There is an automotive museum I’d like to see near Nagoya, the Toyota Automobile Museum. As a car guy, and Toyota/Lexus owner and fan, I really want to try to get out here to see the museum. I may have to make it a stop on my way between Tokyo and Kyoto though, since it’s not really close to either. But, the museum has cars from Toyota and some other manufacturers. There is also a Mazda museum in Japan, but I’ll probably skip it this trip.
My stay in Hiroshima will be short, but packed with history. My primary goal when visiting is to see the sites significant to WWII. The A Bomb Dome and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and park are on the top of my list, followed by the Atomic Bomb Victoms Memorial and A Bomb cenotaph. I will also try to get to the Hiroshima Castle Ruins and Museum of Art.
Sendai is about 90 minutes north of Tokyo on the bullet train. I may head up here before going back to Tokyo. While in Sendai, I’d like to arrange a trip to Ebisu Circuit and watch some drifting, and possibly drive, if that’s an option.
It’s going to be a busy two weeks…
Well, this post took much longer to put together, mostly because I couldn’t decide from the thousands of things I want to see and do in Japan. Granted, there are a lot of museums, and I may skip a few depending on time and if I found other interesting things to do. And what I listed doesn’t even scratch the surface of what I might throw in the mix. So, we’ll see how it all pans out.
If you have suggestions on other places to check out, or maybe to avoid, post in the comments below, send me an email, or connect with me on any of my socials on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Stay tuned for Part 4 and a shorter post covering what kind of accommodations I plan to stay in, and the general area they will be located in.
Until next time, enjoy YOUR journey!