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Planning Your First Japan Trip Part 2: Planning an Itinerary

April 1, 2010

Click here for Part I

When is the best time to go? The one thing everyone seems to agree on is this: Beware of Golden Week. Other than that, July and August are hot and humid, but there are great summer festivals. June is rainy but otherwise fine. Winter is dark and cold, but airfares are low, and you can go skiing or snow boarding. Most people, myself included, like spring and fall best. But who cares? It’s your trip.

If you’re not sure where to start, here is a good destination guide. Also, try this sample itinerary chooser. also has some good suggested itineraries.

Two years ago I brought a friend along on what was her first trip to Japan. Here’s where we went on our whirlwind 12-day trip: Himeji Castle, Hiroshima and Miyajima, Kyoto, Obama, Shiraishi Island, Awashima and Shodoshima (last two islands on the Moooo! boat), Mt. Koya, and Tokyo.

Find the places you want to visit on a map of Japan, how far apart they are , and decide how much time you have. Here are some helpful rules of thumb:

If possible, spend no more than 3 or 4 hours per day traveling between destinations. You’re going to Japan to see Japan, not just ride the rails and listen to your iPod (unless of course, you came with “Train Away Tours” from Australia).

Time your travel so you’re around when the places you want to visit are open for business. I find that jet lag somehow turns me into a morning person, so I take mostly early morning trains.

When making hotel reservations, pick a late check-in time, say, 7pm. It’s OK to show up early (though you usually can’t enter the room until about 4pm), but if you’re running late, call and let them know so they don’t give away your room.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2010 11:39 pm

    additional info from your essay.
    I like Fall and Spring too. But I also agree that July and August, it has the most event of old and modern.

    You can go to the Japanese travel agency of your area or web and ask the place of interest. IACE travel, HIS, NIKONIKO Travel, Kintetsu travel, Sankei travel, amnet are some of the Japanese travel agency that are in the US.
    I always buy ticket with IACE travel. It has many branches in the US, and Japan, and it is one of the discount ticket company. Actually main office is in the US, not Japan, so it has got the best information traveling btw Japan and the US.

    Their twitter is To_Japan

    HIS has also sell discount ticket and very popular in Japan.
    My partner started buying ticket from Sankei which has also reasonal price and he found the office around the Union Square, downtown San Francisco, so it is very convenience for him.
    I think besides a guidebook travel agencies can give you a lot of information on Japan.

    I also found these site informative.
    Embassy of Japan in the USA.
    (At the bottom of this site, they have a travel information links)

    Japanese National Tourism Organization
    This is the place that they are sending tourist information to overseas.

    I think it is good to choose destination if you want to go to Tokyo and other big cities like Osaka, Nagoya.

    Or pray piece at Hiroshima, Nagasaki,

    Or go hiking to Mt. Fuji,

    Or go to the hot spring (in any parts of the country, popular at Tohoku (north part of Honshu) and Kyushyu at southern island.

    Or visit temples and old capitals at Kyoto, Nara

    Best cuisine at Osaka thus sister city with San Francisco.

    I heard that Hokkaido is now very popular from Australia about skiing with a powder snow. And there is a Native Japanese, Ainu tribe home place.

    Even there are Shinkansen (bullet train), if you go to the country side, the transportation system is not good sometime, and you need to think of the time schedule. But you can also think the other way that Japan has so many variety of kinds of train exist in Japan, and there are many train fun traveling just to ride on different trains, so to enjoy that is also a good experience. I am also an one of them called Tetsuko, (a woman who like a train).

    I have a friend/teacher who is a lonely planet writer in Berkeley. He used to come to Japan and spent about 2 weeks and traveled from Tokyo to Kyoto and then Kyushyu.

    Yes, he came with JR railway pass. I was invited to go along with him to translate, but I was busy and missed it. But he finally gave me the book of the Lonely Planet Japan with his sign on the back after I met him again last summer at the UC Berkeley.

    Me and my partner went to half of Shikoku last Feb. In Shikoku, there is the tradition of pilgrimage of 88 temples at the island. There are many temples that you can stay with reasonable price, these temples I don’t think you don’t need reservation. Because walking pilgrimage (some they take the tour) you never know when you arrive where. You just hope in and sleep on the floor with other people, or if you are lucky you get your own. Share bath, share toilet, dinner. I was surprised there are more foreign pilgrimage in Japan.


  1. Planning Your First Japan Trip, Part 3: Cheap Thrills « Humor-Us Guide to Japan

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