Travel: Japan Trip 2012 (2 week) itinerary and intro


I’m not sure how in-depth I would go with such an old trip, but I figured I’d try to summarise the itinerary and maybe later go through my photos and write a little about every day. I’ve found these posts of other people’s experiences incredibly useful myself!

Previously I had visited Japan on exchange in 2006 for a couple of weeks but there was minimal travel involved. The second time I visited Japan for one week in 2011 as part of an extension of my trip to Seoul. Except for half a day in Osaka I spent the entire time exploring Tokyo as I wanted to just focus on the capital. So come 2012, it was time for my first extended trip in Japan. I designed the trip to be comfortable but also busy and fulfilling if it was a first and only visit to Japan. Typically I would break up many consecutive “tiring” days with a slightly “easier” day. It was 17 days (15 full travel days) long, and it covered all the “important tourists stops” in Japan as well as some highly rated and unique places that tourists tend not to venture to during a short first visit. I spent probably six months researching and optimising the trip, planning every day’s travel down to the minute (although often this was only guideline). Planning and executing travel in Japan to this scale was a huge learning curb (and there were minimal disasters). I do wish I had taken better travel journal notes everyday!

The plan

    Spend a lot of time in Kyoto – If there are two ways to split Japan, it would be modern Tokyo and cultural Kyoto. This time the focus would be the latter

    Prime koya (autumn foliage) time! See lots and lots of autumn foliage

    Visit Miyajima (Itsukushima), one of the nihon sankei, three most scenic views of Japan

    Visit Amanohashidate, another one of the three most scenic views of Japan – Could not fit this in

    Visit Shirakawago and see the gassho-zukuri farmhouses – Could not fit this in

    See Mt Fuji from as close as possible – I chose to go to Kawaguchiko

    See the snow monkeys at the Jogokudani Monkey Park – when better than winter time?

    Visit Himeji castle, often considered the most beautiful original castle in Japan – Was under heavy construction during this time

We flew Cathay Pacific, transiting in Hong Kong. We booked all our hotels roughly four to five months in advance. Our criteria was: convenient location and very clean. On average we spent ~6,500yen/person twin share for “business hotel” standard accommodation. We purchased the 7-day JR pass in Australia. We exchanged all our money in Australia and paid for everything in cash except hotels.

For resources, Japan-guide and Hyperdia were my best friends.

Side: Previously I had visited Yokohama (Chinatown, Minato mirai), Tokyo (Odaiba, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Meiji shrine, Harajuku, Tokyo Tower, Roppongi, Akasaka, Asakusa, Akihabara, Yoyogi park. Ebisu, Tokyo Disneyland), Osaka (Osaka castle, Umeda sky building, Dotonbori), Kyoto (Kinkakuji, Ryoanji, Kiyomizudera), Nara (Nara park).

Final itinerary

November 26 – December 12 2012

Click links to see the corresponding blog entry!

Day 01: Flight from Melbourne to Kansai Airport, late night arrival [Stay in Kyoto]
Day 02: Kyoto (Ginkakuji, Kiyomizudera, Chionin) [Stay in Kyoto]
Day 03: Nara (Nara Park), Kyoto (Fushimi Inari Taisha) [Stay in Kyoto]
Day 04: Kyoto (Kinkakuji, Ryoanji), Sagano & Arashiyama (Tenryuji), Kyoto (Eikando) [Stay in Kyoto]
Day 05: Kyoto (Nijo castle), Osaka [Stay in Kyoto]
Day 06: Day trip to Hiroshima (Peace Park) & Miyajima (Itsukushima shrine, Mt Misen) [Stay in Kyoto] *JR pass day 1*
Day 07: Travel to Hakone [Stay in Hakone]
Day 08: Hakone (Owakudani, Ashinoko); Travel to Kawaguchiko [Stay in Kawaguchiko]
Day 09: Kawaguchiko, Arakura Sengen Shrine & Chureito Pagoda [Stay in Kawaguchiko]
Day 10: Travel to Nagano [Stay in Nagano]
Day 11: Day trip to Yamanouchi (Jigokudani Monkey Park) [Stay in Nagano]
Day 12: Half-day trip to Matsumoto (Matsumoto castle), travel Nagano to Tokyo [Stay in Tokyo] *JR pass day 7*
Day 13: Tokyo (Koishikawa Korakuen, Roppongi, Odaiba) [Stay in Tokyo]
Day 14: Day trip to Yokohama (Minato mirai) [Stay in Tokyo]
Day 15: Tokyo Disney Sea [Stay in Tokyo]
Day 16: Tokyo (Tokyo Sky Tree, walk around Omotesando & Shibuya) [Stay in Tokyo]
Day 17: Morning flight from Narita Airport (to Hong Kong for a few days)

Final thoughts

Regarding the itinerary, looking back I don’t think I would have changed anything. If it was a “first and only trip to Japan”, we did as much as we could in two weeks without running ourselves to death. In the (next) recent 2016 trip, I rented a pocket wifi. Looking back, a pocket wifi would have been excellent but I didn’t think I needed one at the time. I used a travel money card in the next trip and I’m sure we would have saved some money if we hadn’t paid in local currency with our usual credit cards.