We are counting down the days (10) before we leave on our next trip. This is a big one; neither of us have been to Japan before, but it has always topped our to-visit list. The sushi, the landscapes, Tokyo at night, the people, the innovations, the temples, the fashion, the world’s best 7-Elevens… did I mention the food? The list of what excites us about this trip is endless. But perhaps most exciting: although our travel dates were determined by my university’s spring break schedule, in a divine coincidence, forecasts indicate that we’ll be in each city during its peak cherry blossom bloom! This is one of those times that I’m grateful to travel with a professional photographer. We look forward to sharing some of Daniel’s photos, especially from Yoshino, Japan’s most famous cherry blossom viewing site for centuries, where 30,000 cherry trees ascend the town’s surrounding mountainsides.
I’ll share just a few more of our most anticipated plans. Probably the coolest activity on our trip will be with a street go-cart tour throughout Tokyo dressed as Mario Kart characters. We had to get International Driving Permits for this, which we accomplished through an easy trip to our local AAA office (for a $20 USD permit fee plus $15 for photos, unless you bring your own). And on the topic of super cool forms of transportation, we can’t wait to set sail across Lake Ashi in view of the majestic Mount Fuji on a pirate ship.
We purchased our tickets though our favorite site for travel deals: https://www.travelpirates.com/ This site often has incredible deals on airfare, with the caveat that the travel date options are set. We purchased a 2-week Japan Rail Pass, which we also strongly recommend: https://www.japan-rail-pass.com/ The savings are significant, and it’s also convenient. Any JR ticket office will book advance seat reservations at no extra cost, a good idea at high travel times like cherry blossom season.
Here is our planned Japan itinerary:
3/23: Fly out of LAX
3/24: Arrive in Nagoya, by way of Beijing
3/25 – 28: Tokyo
3/29: Mt. Fuji and Hakone
3/30 – 4/2: home base in Osaka, with day trips to Kyoto, Yoshino, and possibly Kobe
4/3-4: Hiroshima City, with a day trip to visit to Saiko-ji Temple in Miyoshi, and possibly a day trip to Miyajama Island
4/5: Hiroshima to Nagoya
4/6: Leave Japan and also arrive in LAX
And in case you’d like to follow a similar path on a future trip to Japan, here’s what I found as the approximate train travel times between cities (utilizing Japan Rail Pass for bullet trains): Nagoya to Tokyo: 2 hrs 45 mins; Tokyo to Hakone (Shinjuku Station to Yomoto): 1 hr 25 mins; Hakone to Osaka: 3 hrs 15 mins; Osaka to Kyoto (by Hikari bullet train): 14 (!) mins; Osaka to Yoshino: 1 hr; Osaka to Kobe: 48 mins; Osaka to Hiroshima City: 2 hrs 35 mins; Hiroshima City to Miyoshi (by rental car): 1 hr; Hiroshima City to Miyajama Island: 1 hr 30 mins; Hiroshima to Nagoya: 3 hrs 17 mins.
We also considered many other cities we’d like to visit, such as Kanazawa, Nikko, Takamori, Nara, and Takayama (a list that does not even include more distant parts of Japan), but didn’t have enough time on this trip. We’ll have to visit again soon! Sometimes when you go to a foreign country, it can feel disappointing that it’s not as foreign (but rather too similar to home) as you had hoped… but I believe Japan will be the ultimate, full immersion into a foreign culture experience, as well as a fascinating mix between history and living in the future. Please check back in the weeks to come for our travel posts! And if you have comments or suggestions about our plans, we’d love to hear from you at email@example.com